Local preachers continue to serve an indispensable role in the Methodist Church of Great Britain, in which the majority of church services are led by lay people."Local preachers" have been a part of Methodism from its beginnings as a revival movement in 18th century England.'And at such times it is hard to pay attention to those beyond us.But it is precisely at those times that we have things to offer each other.' Methodism began as a revivalist movement inside the Church of England among followers of the great preacher John Wesley, who spoke in the open air and refused to be bound by the parish system.Wesley was annoyed by this and returned to London in order to confront Maxfield.However, his mother, Susanna Wesley, persuaded him to hear Maxfield out, suggesting that he had as much right to preach as Wesley.These began to function as alternative churches, often depending on the attitude of the local Anglican clergy.
'In other words, we are prepared to be changed and to cease having a separate existence as a church if that will serve the needs of the Kingdom.' His speech - the first time a Methodist president has addressed the Synod since 1993 - foresaw a deepening of the 'covenant' agreed by the two churches in 2003 to reunite and affirm each others' orders and sacraments.
However in recent years, the church has suffered as the industrial working class has declined and its institutions fallen on hard times.
Leaders have espoused radical thinking - their prayer books refer to God as 'Mother' and at one- stage non-believers were even invited to attend its services. Methodist church is now one of that country's leading denominations.
Mr Gamble said: 'Both of our churches are part of world communions where we have influence and history, but where churches in other parts of the world are growing rapidly in size and importance, and sometimes see things very differently.
'As churches and communions, we're both struggling with how we can cohere in a post-modern word, with learning how to live with contradictory convictions.