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Methodist Churches.

1. History. Meth. chs. owe their origin to the religious experiences of J. Wesley,* C. Wesley,* and their co-workers. Spiritual indifference prevailed in the Angl. Ch., but the Wesleys were concerned with personal piety. C. Wesley helped organize the Holy Club at Oxford, Eng., 1729. The miss. activity of the Wesleys and their co-workers resulted in great revival (see Great Awakening in England and America). Their unconventional methods, esp. field preaching, watch-night meetings, and use of lay preachers, did not appeal to Angl. clergy. At first the Wesleys did not intend to form a new ch., but Angl. opposition led to organization of “methodists” into socs. under tutorship of lay preachers. Several such congs. were placed under the care of 1 lay preacher. In 1744 J. Wesley called a conf. of lay preachers; later the conf. became an annual event. In 1784 the Conf. was legally defined in a deed of declaration. Secessions included Meth. New Connection 1797; in 1805 Meths. mainly in N Eng. who later became Indep. Meths.; 2 groups in 1810 who joined 1811 to form the Primitive Meths.; Bible* Christians 1815; Wesleyan Meth. Assoc. 1835; those excluded by the 1849 Manchester Conf. who then formed the Wesleyan Reformers. These groups gradually reunited into larger groups: the Wesleyan Meth. Assoc. and the Wesleyan Reformers united 1857 to form the United Meth. Free Chs.; the Meth. New Connection, Bible Christians, and United Meth. Free Chs. joined 1907 to form the United Meth. Ch. In 1932 the original (“Wesleyan”) Meth. Ch., the Primitive Meths., and the United Meth. Ch. joined to form the United Conf. of Meth. Chs.

Methodism in Can. lost its identity in the United Ch. of Can. (see Canada, C). See also Union Movements, 5.

Methodism had its greatest expansion in the US The 1st annual Am. Meth. Conf. was held Philadelphia 1773. At the 1784 Christmas Conf., regarded as founding the M. E. Ch. as an ecclesiastical organization, F. Asbury* was ordained supt. In the late 1780s the term “bp.” came to replace “supt.” This led to schisms: J. O'Kelly* organized the Rep. Meth. Ch. 1792; the Meth. Prot. Ch. was organized Baltimore, Maryland, 1830. Lay delegates were elected to the Gen. Conf. 1870 for the 1st time. J. Wesley opposed slavery; James Osgood Andrew (1794–1871; bp. 1832; worked chiefly in the S confs.) was a slaveholder; this led to crisis 1844 resulting in the M. E. Ch., S, organized Louisville, Kentucky, 1845 (1st Gen. Conf. at Petersburg, Virginia, 1846). The M. E. Ch., the Meth. Prot. Ch., and the M. E. Ch., S, united 1939 to form The Methodist* Ch., which merged 1968 Dallas, Texas, with The Evangelical* United Brethren Ch. to form The United Meth. Ch. See also Bible Protestant Church; Evangelical Church of North America, The.

2. Doctrine. J. Wesley's theol. was a modified Arminianism.* He and his followers stressed Christian activity. The 25 arts. he prepared as a doctrinal guide are patterned after the Thirty-nine Arts. of the Angls. (see Anglican Confessions, 6). It is significant, however, that the real standards of Meth. doctrine are Wesley's “preached sermons,” in which great emphasis is laid on sanctification (see Democratic Declarations of Faith, 6). Christian perfection may be viewed as the cen. doctrine of Methodism. Wesley differed from J. Calvin* in holding that Christ died for all (universal salvation). He held that all men who are obedient to the Gospel acc. to the measure of light given them are in God's kingdom. Man is free to reject or, by the grace of God, to accept salvation (free salvation). The Holy Spirit assures man of his salvation directly (sure salvation). The real heart of Wesley's theol. was the doctrine of the pure heart. Christian perfection in Meth. theol. is man's ability to overcome evil and reach perfection (full salvation). In the 1st quarter of the 20th c. large sections of Methodism became modernist (see Modernism). The transition from Wesley's individual perfection to modernism's soc. perfection was comparatively simple. The Meth. Fed. for Soc. Service was formed 1907. The Gen. Conf. of the M. E. Ch. adopted the Soc. Creed of Methodism 1908. Doctrines and Discipline of The Methodist Church 1944 and The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 1968 make it the duty of the ch. to help soc. solve such problems as class tensions, racial inequality, agricultural problems, economic insecurity, industrial accidents, liquor traffic, internat. strife. See also Social Gospel.

3. Polity. The gen. lines laid down by J. Wesley developed in different directions in Eng. and Am. In Eng. the conf. remained supreme; in Am. the superintendency became an episcopacy. When the episc. form of govt. was adopted by the 1st Annual Conf. 1784, govt. by conferences was not abrogated, but actually made an integral part of the episc. system. The Meth. system operates under conferences: the Gen. Conf. for the whole ch.; Jurisdictional Confs. for the ch. in the US and Can.; Cen. Confs. for the ch. outside the US and Can.; Annual Confs. as the fundamental bodies of the ch. and, if necessary, Provisional Annual Confs.; a Charge Conf. for each ch. or charge. The ordained ministry of the United Meth. Ch. consists of elders and deacons; qualified laymen may be licensed to perform certain pastoral functions; bps. are elected by resp. Jurisdictional and Cen. Confs. and consecrated in the hist. manner. The Council of Bps. consists of all bps. of the United Meth. Ch.

4. Separate Bodies. (a) The United Meth. Ch. (see par. 1).

(b) Ref. Meth. Ch.; founded 1814 Readsboro, Vermont, in protest against episcopacy; by the middle of the 19th c. most of its socs. merged with the Meth. Prot. Ch. (see par. 1); what remained in 1952 merged in that yr. with the Churches* of Christ in Christian Union. The Wesleyan Meth. Ch. of Am.; founded 1843 at Utica, New York, in protest against slavery and episcopacy; merged 1968 with Pilgrim Holiness Ch. to form The Wesleyan* Church. Primitive Meth. Ch., U. S. (A.); est. 1812 in Eng. after Lorenzo Dow (1777–1834; b. Coventry, Connecticut; M. E. Ch. preacher; on his own initiative made several trips to Ireland and Eng. beginning ca. 1799) introd. Am. type camp meetings; brought to Am. by immigrants by 1829; Gen. Conf. organized 1889. Congregational Meth. Ch.; organized 1852 in protest against polity and itinerancy of the M. E. Ch., South. (First) Cong. Meth. Ch. of the USA; organized Forsythe, Georgia, 1852. New Cong. Meth. Ch.; separated from M. E. Ch., S, 1881, as result of conflict over consolidation of some rural chs. in Florida and Georgia; includes footwashing. Free Meth. Ch. of N. Am.; organized 1860 Pekin, New York, by B. T. Roberts*; fundamentalist; emotional in worship. Holiness Meth. Ch.; organized 1909 Grand Forks, North Dakota, as Constitution Northwestern Holiness Assoc.; name changed 1920. Fundamental Meth. Ch., Inc.; withdrew from The Methodist* Ch. in protest against modernism; formed 1942 Ash Grove, Missouri, as Indep. Fundamental Meth. Ch.; name changed 1956. Southern Meth. Ch.; organized 1939 by a small group in dissent against the merger that produced The Methodist Ch. and as continuation of the M. E. Ch., South. Cumberland Meth. Ch.; withdrew from Cong. Meth. Ch. in protest against certain features of doctrine and polity; organized 1950 Laager, Grundy Co., Tennessee. Ev. Meth. Ch.; organized 1946 Memphis, Tennessee, in protest against episcopacy and modernism. Bible Prot. Ch.; organized after some mems. of the E Conf. of the Meth. Prot. Ch. withdrew 1939 in protest against the merger that resulted in The Meth. Ch.; name adopted 1940.

(c) The African* M. E. Ch. was organized 1816. A. M. E. Zion Ch. is the name adopted 1848 by a ch. that traces its beginning to 1796 (when some Negroes withdrew from John St. Meth. Ch., NYC) and that held its 1st annual conf. 1821 under the name A. M. E. Ch. in Am. Christian M. E. Ch.; organized 1870 Jackson, Tennessee, as Colored M. E. Ch. in Am.; parallel of M. E. Ch., S.; present name adopted 1954/56. Union Am. M. E. Ch.; traces its roots to the beginning of the 19th c., its organization to 1875. Ref. Zion Union Apostolic Ch.; broke from the A. M. E. Zion Ch.; organized 1869 Boydton, Virginia, as Zion Union Apostolic Ch.; disrupted 1874; reorganized 1881/82 under present name. Ref. Meth. Union Episc. Ch.; broke from A. M. E. Ch. over disputed elections of Gen. Conf. delegates; organized 1885 Georgetown, South Carolina; adopted episc. and connectional polity 1896. Afr. Union 1st Colored Meth. Prot. Ch., Inc.; also known as Afr. Union Meth. Prot. Ch.; traced its beginnings to the Ezion M. E. Ch. erected 1805 by Negrees at Wilmington, Delaware,; after several divisions and realignments the Afr. Union First Colored Meth. Prot. Ch. of the U. S. of Am. or Elsewhere was formed 1865/66 at Baltimore; apparently ceased to exist ca. 1969. The United Wesleyan Meth. Ch. of Am.; founded 1905.

(d) Lumber River Annual Conf. of the Holiness Meth. Ch. See Evangelistic Associations, 9. FEM

See also Holiness Churches; Itinerancy; Ranters, 2; Whitefield, George.

See Religious Bodies (US), Bibliography of.

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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