Promoting historic links between Oxford Brookes University and the Methodist Church through archives, artworks, publications and research.
Since February 2016 I have been hand-listing the Centre’s collection of papers and correspondence relating to Professor Kingsley Barrett, the National Liaison Committee, and the failed attempt at Anglican-Methodist [re]union which spanned the middle years of the twentieth century. While Barrett was possibly the finest Methodist New Testament scholar of his generation, he gathered other Methodist intellectuals around him, all of whom were intent on protecting the Protestant nature of Methodism from episcopacy and other aspects of establishment religion. One such was Dr Franz Hildebrandt, a pastor who had fled from Nazi Germany to embrace the Methodist ministry until the position taken by many of the Methodist-Conference hierarchy during the union debates led him to abandon Methodism for the Church of Scotland. Others who supported Barrett’s dissentient view became equally despondent.
As a Church historian, I am fascinated by the responses of individuals and groups to new and unappealing orthodoxies imposed upon them from above. My book on parish magazines: Subscribing to Faith? The Anglican Parish Magazine 1859-1929 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), and my latest journal article: ‘Scrapping at Carlisle: the battle for Christ Church 1895-1929’ (Local Historian July 2016), both discuss clerical enthusiasm for change and an associated congregational dismay during a period in the Church of England when Anglo-Catholicism appeared unstoppable. Therefore, my interest in the Kingsley Barrett collection lies in its revelation of often stark contrasts between outward form and interior faith, the opinion of the orthodox majority versus the resolute belief of the individual, and the distress which may be caused when orthodoxy is imposed on the believer. There is, of course, much more to the collection. It offers insights on contrasts between town and village Methodism; the mistrust felt by various Methodist groups towards one another, despite the fact that their letters often addressed one another as ‘brother’; the apparent dominance of contemporary male Methodist opinion, and the fissiparous nature of Protestantism, as Methodism prepared literally to tear itself apart should union have occurred.