Methodist Learning Project

This is a theological action research project involving the University of Roehampton, the Susanna Wesley Foundation and the Methodist Church in Britain, which looks at the ways the learning and transmission of faith is experienced on the ground in a variety of settings. Sponsored by the Susanna Wesley Foundation, Principal Investigator Dr. Clare Watkins and Post-doctoral Researcher Dr. James Butler , with their co-researcher practitioners, have explored various sites of learning within British Methodism, using participative qualitative research methods, and methods of reflecting on data developed in theological action research. The research seeks to understand the experiences on the ground of how people learn and hand on their faith, how we grow in that faith, and how such growth as a disciple – a learner – is best enabled. Attending to the realities of community, learning, church and mission in real and focused contexts, and bringing together theological traditions and theological thought with the practices of these learning communities, is the hallmark of this project.

Research has been carried out in eight different communities within the Methodist Church: two congregations, a regional learning network, two training institutions, a learning circuit, a rural learning organisation, and the new Methodist local preachers’ and worship leaders’ training programme.

Various themes have emerged: theological questions around agency, and the relationships between human work and God’s work in learning; the complex dynamics at play in how people learn; and the limited effectiveness of course and resources. Whilst these latter seem to be the primary way in which churches and organisations look to encourage learning, they do not appear to be the primary way people actually learn. Probably the most constant theme is the importance of deep conversation. Rather, participants have regularly highlighted open conversations as being a key place where they have learnt.


Research flyer for starting conversations: In the spirit of our findings, we want to continue the conversation – and the flyer is an invitation.

James Butler, “The Long and Winding Road of Faith”, Practical Theology Feb, 2020. 

Clare Watkins and James Butler, Call No-one Teacher. a practice-engaged theology for ecclesial learning. Forthcoming