As I explained earlier (see After Cambridge), I had ceased to be a Baptist and now attended a Methodist Church (Hinde Street, W.1) whilst teaching at Dorking Grammar School (1968). It was here that I met my wife, Kathy. I had grasped as a result of my Cambridge theological education the individualist character of so-called 'believers' baptism that ignored the corporate aspect of salvation and the mystical Body of Christ (Cambridge: Theology). The theological reason for joining this Central London Church with its great circle of friends was the ecumenism of the 1960s and the conviction that Methodism was in process of returning to the Church of England, the church of its fathers and of Wesley's ordation. It seemed to me that membership of the Methodist Church was the painless way for someone from a free Church background like me back to a growing Christian unity which would not stop there but conclude with final re-union with the Catholic Church. The Second Vatican Council, with the Decree on Ecumenism, had taken place, and ARCIC was in progress (1967-). Everything was in a state of change in which all things seemed possible. My hopes were to be frustrated when, in 1972 the Church of England rejected the covenant that would have lead to Anglican Methodist reunion with a mutual recognition of Orders and sacraments, albeit through an act of episcopal reconciliation requiring the imposition of hands: Anglo catholicism was clearly still a force in the Church of England before the return of large numbers to the unity of the Catholic Church had left the present Anglo catholic rump.
I was however to remain a Methodist post 1972. I joined the Methodist Sacramental Fellowship, and entered more fully into the Methodist experience. For the Newman of the Apologia the Church of England had been the Via Media between the 'heresy of Protestants' such as Luther and Calvin, and the 'corruptions' of Rome, Newman by 1845 had found in his personal experiences the 'paper theory' crumbling apart in his hands. But at this point in my life, I realised that the historiography that arose on the basis of such an idea amongst Newman's Anglican successors was falsified by my Methodist experience. Wesley did not found a traditional Non-Conformist Church as the successors of the 16th century Puritans crying in the words of a Scottish protagonist, 'Full reformation without tarrying for any.' A traditional Non-Conformist body would have been committed to a Calvinism or Lutheranism that believed in a predestined elect who alone, whether many or few, would at the last be saved. They would also, despite Luther's careful qualification, have tended to believe in a purely symbolic view of the sacraments of Baptism and Lord's Supper, as a version of what Weber called the 'disentchantment of the world' as the process creating a secular society and a mechanistic world view from which most miracles were excluded (not however the god-like miracle of grace of the 'hour I first believed- the one remaining miracle). But neither applied to Methodist which firmly asserted that the Saviour died for all, and produced a so-called 'high' view of the sacraments, much to the surprise of 'evangelical' Anglican participants in the ill fated negotions for the Anglican Methodist Covenant. Thus the concept of ecclesiastical reality in which if you went in the denominational spectrum more 'low church' than the conservative evangelicals you met the Non Conformists, and if you went 'higher' than the Anglo Catholics you reached Rome was a gross distortion of the empirical and phenomenological facts. Methodism did not fit into the spectrum and so did not give the Church of England any position as a via media. As Charles Wesley wrote:
The world he suffered to redeem,
He hath for all the Atonement made,
For those who will not come to him,
The Ransom of his life he paid
Thine undistinguishing regard,
Was cast on Adam's fallen race,
For all Thou has in Christ prepared,
Sufficient, sovreign, saving grace.
Come Holy Ghost thine influence shed,
And realize the sign,
Thy Life infuse into the bread,
Thy power into the vine.
But when we arrived in Australia in 1980 we found that the Methodist Church that we had known had been subsumed into a somewhat amorphous Uniting Church along with Prebyterians and Congregationalists, in a union that seemed to me to deny Methodist history and the profound spiritual experience that I had been given from it.