Methodists taking to drink?

by Richard on May 23, 2005

The Daily Telegraph is in a stew over the news that British Methodism’s Westminster Central Hall has applied for an alcohol licence

The application for a licence for the building’s public cafe and its function rooms, which are available for hire, has sparked written objections from more than 60 Methodists who say that the application is in defiance of Church rules which prohibit the serving of alcohol on Methodist Church premises. They point out that the Westminster building which holds regular services in its chapel and great hall is a Methodist church.
Dick Arnold, a retired solicitor in Dorset, said that the Church was putting “money before mission”. He said that it had already made a large amount of money from renting out buildings for events such as the Bloody Sunday inquiry and there was no need to start selling drinks. He said: “The provision of alcohol is a slippery slope. What next? Lap dancing? Where do you stop?”

I do sort of understand the problem, but the Westminster Central Hall is hardly an ordinary church building. Occupying a prime site in Central London and with many different groups using the building for conferences and meetings, I don’t see that allowing those visitors to allow a glass of wine or beer on the premises as a denial of our Methodist heritage. Mr Wesley described wine as “one of the noblest cordials in nature”. He was less keen on other beverages: “Coffee and tea are extremely hurtful to persons who have weak nerves.”

The misuse of alcohol is a huge problem in our society, but demonizing the stuff will not help. There is no slippery slope here. The Methodist people, in Britain at least, already overwhelmingly accept that taking alcohol in moderation is not in itself a sin.

It would be better to put our efforts into addressing the culture of binge drinking than worrying about the mealtime glass of Merlot.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }


Sarah 05.23.05 at 11:44 pm

Hear hear! While drinking to excess is never a good idea and can undoubtedly lead to people hurting themselves and those around them, making it into an evil force about to destroy the church is hardly helpful. And there is a clear distinction between the two, which it is possible to define, rather than ruling it out altogether.


Olive Morgan 05.24.05 at 12:53 am

I had just returned from a Church Council meeting when I read this posting. When the subject of redecorating our hall came up, it was suggested that it would be more welcoming if it were decorated and furnished like an airport lounge and that led to a plea from one member that we apply for a licence to sell alcohol. He argued that if Westminster Central Hall can have one, so can we. He was quickly disillusioned about that one!


John 05.24.05 at 3:34 am

Before some church council meetings, I feel like I could use a good stiff drink.


Richard 05.24.05 at 9:20 am

And after! ;)

Olive - I hope your Church Councils don’t take until after midnight!
I agree with you, and when my church and circuit discussed the changes to Standing Orders on licensing, we didn’t think that the ‘across the board’ change was justifiable. But there might be one or two places, of which WCH would be one, where the change would make sense.


Toby 05.25.05 at 11:43 am

A couple of things. First, this matter was debated and passed by Conference last year. That was the time for people to make their voices heard, and it has not been helpful for those who lost the debate to try and fight it again through the media.
Second, WCH was built to be used as a public meeting space as well as a church, and the money that comes from doing so makes a contribution to the mission of the church. The change to standing orders only allows alcohol to be served to those who are attending a conference on the premises: at any othet time, alcohol is barred as in any other Methodist church.



Richard 05.25.05 at 6:15 pm

Quite so, Toby.


Ron 04.30.06 at 5:50 pm

I understand alcohol is barred from any Methodist church.
Is that still the case under sharing agreements and local ecumenical partnerships in a church which was built as a Methodist church?

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