Jabez Bunting

Jabez Bunting (13 May 1779 – 16 June 1858), English Methodist preacher was born of humble parentage at Manchester. He was the most prominent Methodist after John Wesley's death in 1791. He preached successful revivals until 1802, when he saw revivals leading to dissension and division. He then became dedicated to church order and discipline, and vehemently opposed revivalism. He was a popular preacher in numerous cities. He held numerous senior positions as administrator. He watched budgets very closely. He and his allies centralized power by making the conference the final arbiter of Methodism, and giving it the power to reassign preachers and select district superintendents. He favored the extension of lay power in committees, and was particularly zealous in the cause of foreign missions. Politically, he was conservative, as were most Methodist leaders.


He was educated at Manchester Grammar School, and at the age of nineteen began to preach, being received into full Connexion (i.e., becoming a fully ordained minister) in 1803. He continued to minister for upwards of fifty-seven years in Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, Liverpool, London and elsewhere.

In 1835, he was appointed president of the first Wesleyan theological college (at Hoxton), and in this position he succeeded in materially raising the standard of education among Wesleyan ministers. He was four times chosen to be President of the Conference (the ruling body of Wesleyan church), was repeatedly secretary of the Legal Hundred, and for eighteen years was secretary to the Wesleyan Missionary Society. Under him Methodism ceased to be tied to the established Church of England and became wholly separate. He favored the extension of lay power in committees, and was particularly zealous in the cause of foreign missions. Politically, he was conservative: for example, as President of the Conference, he supported the transportation of the Tolpuddle martyrs[1] despite the fact that they were closely linked to Methodism, their leaders being local preachers.

In 1849, the Wesleyan Reform Union broke away from the Wesleyan Church following the expulsion of James Everett, William Griffith and Samuel Dunn, critics of Bunting's leadership, from the Wesleyan Church's Manchester Conference.[2]

Bunting was a popular preacher, and an effective platform speaker; in 1818 he was given the degree of M.A. by the University of Aberdeen, and in 1834 that of D.D. by Wesleyan University of Middletown, Connecticut, United States.

His eldest son, William Maclardie Bunting (1805–1866), was also a distinguished Wesleyan minister; and his grandson Sir Percy William Bunting (1836-1911), son of T. P. Bunting, became prominent as a liberal nonconformist and editor of the Contemporary Review.

He died in 1858 and was interred in Wesley's Chapel, London.


  1. Kent, J. (1977), Methodism and social change in Britain. In T. Runyon (Ed.), Sanctification and liberation, pp. 83-101. Nashville TN: Abingdon Press.
  2. David Barton, "By Schisms Rent Usunder": The Wesleyan Reform Movement in Derbyshire, Proceedings of the Wesley Historical Society, May 1999

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bunting, Jabez". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

Further reading

  • Karl, J. H. S. "The Interpretation of Jabez Bunting", Proceedings of the Wesley Historical Society (1958) 31#6 pp 125-132' (1958) 31#7 pp 150-154 and (1959) 32#1 pp 13-17.
  • Ward, W. R. "Bunting, Jabez (1779–1858)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2007 accessed 1 Oct 2016 doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/3947

Primary sources

  • Hayes, Alan, and David Gowland, eds. Scottish Methodism in the Early Victorian period: The Scottish Correspondence of the Rev. Jabez Bunting, 1800-1857 (1981).
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