New Zealand Methodist Church OnLine History
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Morley, A Man for his Time - Wesley Historical Society


WILLIAM MORLEY - Foreword Rev. Donald Phillipps

WILLIAM MORLEY - Lecture for the AGM of the Wesley Historical Society 2003 - William FF Thomas

WILLIAM MORLEY - Address to the Friends of Queen's College Library 2004 - William FF Thomas

Biographical Information - Bill Thomas

Bibliography of Morley's works

A Companion to Morley's History - Rev. Donald Phillipps


It was said, with more than a hint of animosity, of Jabez Bunting, the powerbroker of Wesleyan Methodism for most of the first half of the 19th century, that the whole of Conference was buttoned up in one pair of breeches.' The lives of both Bunting and of William Morley are clear evidence of the timelessness of Francis Bacons dictum: 'Knowledge itself is power.'

Mr Thomas's two biographical studies, elaborating on the life of William Morley, are a more than welcome addition to our understanding of this key figure in the history of New Zealand Methodism. Maybe it could be said the key figure. Bernard Gadds brief life was published over 40 years ago and he did not have access to some of the material Mr Thomas has used. The fact the Morley was considered worthy of an entry in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography makes it all the more important that a major study should be made available.

Mr Thomas's research into the details of his great-grandfather s life has been exemplary in its thoroughness, and he has brought out the extraordinary breadth of Morley s life and work. In fact it would not be inappropriate to use the term 'polymath' of Morley. His formal schooling may have been confined to his years in a Wesleyan day-school in his home village, where he stayed on as a pupil-teacher, but his education, in another sense, continued throughout his life. On the evidence of his relatively few published works he must have been a remarkably widely-read man. From what can be gleaned from his History of Methodism in New Zealand he shows acquaintance with a dozen, or even a score, of New Zealand authors, in addition to his obvious familiarity with a host of early and contemporary writers on general Methodist history and doctrine.

In a Church which, at that time, laid relatively little stress on academic training, Morley was an acknowledged intellectual leader. Some of his younger colleagues had had the advantage of formal theological training at institutions such as Richmond and Didsbury Colleges in England. Morley held his own with these bright young men who became leaders of the Church in their own time.

The purpose of the knowledge he acquired was two-fold He surely would have agreed that its primary purpose was to inform and illustrate his preaching of the Gospel. But its secondary purpose was to 'know' his Church, and to 'know' the society in which it was set. Morley was better placed than anyone else in the Connexion in respect to the latter.

Mr Thomas quotes Morley s use of the word 'culture', and suggests it had a different meaning to that in common use today. lam not entirely convinced that this is so. He used the phrase 'modem culture 'and I have the strong feeling that Morley saw the place of the Church, and of Methodism in particular, as being within society, not standing at a distance from it. This was not the usual stance of the Connexion which, with its English background in mind and its long struggle with the 'Established Church 'had an excessive fear, it might be said, of what we would call social involvement. Morley was ahead of his time in seeing that New Zealand Methodism was apart of contemporary culture, as it were.

This did not make him a worldly man, but it did make him a 'man of the world', and it was this characteristic that doubtless enabled him to establish sound relationships with the rising generation of successful Methodist businessmen in Auckland and Christchurch in particular. He admired many of them for what he termed their 'broad sympathies', a term which might now be paralleled by that of 'liberalism'. His drive and vision, and their acumen and resources, turned the Church around during Morley s time as Secretary of the Church Building and Loan Fund and then as Connexional Secretary.

If I have one small reservation it is that Mr Thomas did not attempt a larger appraisal of Morley as an administrator. One of Morley s successors spoke of administration being 'sacramental'. I think Morley would have agreed warmly with this. It was Morley the administrator who brought together all these other aspects of his ministry - theologian, educationist, historian, writer, preacher, and statesman. Without his administrative skills, his organisation of his time, his ability to carry an enormous work-load, and his obvious grasp of financial management, he would never have been able to carry out all these other roles.

Morley s record as a Church leader has never been equalled in the Methodist Church of New Zealand. Mr Thomas has given us all we need to know why this is so. What he has shared with us is eminently readable, and he deserves both our commendation for what he has written and our time in reading it.

- Donald Phillipps