Free Methodist Church of North America
- The Free Methodist Church was founded in an attempt to bring American Methodists back to their roots, by emphasizing modest living and sanctification. The church was formally organized in Pekin, New York, in 1860, but its origins can be traced back to a decade-old call for reform within the Genesee Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church (now a constituent part of the United Methodist Church). Ministers such as Benjamin Titus Roberts (1823-93) called for a renewed emphasis on traditional Methodist doctrines such as sanctification, and an end to the worldliness they saw among the increasingly affluent Methodists. They rejected the selling of pews, denounced secret societies, and advocated abolitionism, which most Methodists saw as an unworkable solution to the slavery question.Roberts and others were expelled from the conference, and following an unsuccessful appeal to the 1860 General Conference, they moved to set up the Free Methodist Church. one of the first congregations was in St. Louis, Missouri, then in slaveholding territory.in the decades after the Civil War, the church was an enthusiastic supporter of the Holiness movement. It added an article on entire sanctification to the common Articles of Religion used by most Methodist groups. In 1874, the church adopted a new doctrinal statement. The church found its greatest strength in the Midwest, and also planted churches on the West coast. By the 1880s, it was ready to join the world Protestant missionary movement, and in 1881 the first Free Methodist missionaries, Rev. and Mrs. E. F Ward, established work in India. subsequently, work has been established in more than 35 countries. The Free Methodists are unusual for their affiliated work in Egypt, a predominantly Muslim country. The work originated in 1899, when Herbert E. Randall, a canadian missionary with the Holiness Movement Church, settled in Asyut, Egypt. In 1959, the Holiness Movement church merged into the Free Methodist Church, bringing the Egyptian conference with it.The Free Methodist Church is headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana. As the new century began, the church reported 74,170 members in 900 congregations in the United states, and a total world membership of 400,000. The church is a member of the Christian Holiness Partnership.Further reading:■ Wilson T. Hogue, History of the Free Methodist Church (Chicago: Free Methodist Publishing House, 1915)■ David L. McKenna, A Future with a History (Indianapolis, Ind.: Light and Life Communications, 1997)■ Leslie Marston, From Age to Age a Living Witness (Winona Lake, Ind.: Life and Light Press, 1960)■ Louis A. Mussio, "The Origins and Nature of the Holiness Movement Church: A Study in Religious Populism," Journal of the Canadian Historical Association, New series 7 (1996).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.
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