- The Wesleyan Church was founded in 1968 by the merger of two American Holiness denominations, the Wesleyan Methodist Church and the Pilgrim Holiness Church.The Wesleyan Methodist Church was born in the crucible of the conflict over slavery in the Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC). The MEC had been strongly antislavery at its founding, but had gradually moderated its views as the practice spread in the south. The rise of abolitionism encouraged some Northern members to demand a stronger stand. Most of the church was against slavery, but also opposed its immediate end.The crisis came to a head in the 1840s and eventually split the church when Northern members were unwilling to allow a slaveholder to become a BISHOP. Nevertheless, abolitionists became the object of attack throughout the MEC, and resolutions against abolitionism were passed in many conferences. In reaction, former MEC ministers Orange Scott (1800-47), Lucius Mat-lack (1816-83), and Luther Lee (1800-89) founded the Wesleyan Methodist Connection in 1843. Besides its strong stand against slavery, the group became identified with the emerging Holiness movement in American Methodism and added a statement on Wesleyan sanctification to the Methodist Articles of Religion (otherwise adopted whole).One of the first Holiness associations to form outside the MEC was the Holiness Christian Church (1889), which grew to become the international Apostolic Holiness Church. In 1922, that group, under the leadership of Martin Wells Knapp (1853-1901), merged with another Holiness group, the Pilgrim Church of California, founded in 1917 by Seth C. Rees (1854-1933), to form the Pilgrim Holiness Church. Over the next half century, additional groups would merge into both the Wesleyan Methodist and the Pilgrim Holiness Church.Some of the constituent churches had begun missionary work quite early. In 1889, the Wes-leyan Methodists sent George and Mary Lane Clarke and a small group of missionaries to Sierra Leone.Today (2004), the Wesleyan Church has a worldwide membership of approximately 270,000 in some 3,600 churches located in 40 countries, about half of which are in North America. Headquarters are in indianapolis, indiana. The church sponsors an international radio ministry, The Wesleyan Hour. It is a member of the Christian Holiness Partnership.Further reading:■ Keith Drury, Holiness for Ordinary People (Indianapolis, Ind.: Wesley Press, 1994)■ Lee Haines and Paul William Thomas, An Outline History of the Wesleyan Church (Indianapolis, Ind.: Wesley Press, 1985)■ Ira Ford McLister and Roy S. Nicholson, History of the Wesleyan Methodist Church (Marion, Ind.: Wesley Press, 1959)■ Paul Westphal Thomas and Paul William Thomas, The Days of Our Pilgrimage (Marion, Ind.: Wesley Press, 1976).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.
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