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.