Articles

Sep 25 2018

Pastor Mike at Aztec Methodist Church

These articles have detailed the splits in the American Methodist movement from its origin in 1784 through the 1880’s. There was also a British strand of Methodism. When the Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in a newly independent America, the Methodists in Britain remained a Society within the Church of England. After Wesley’s death in 1791, the societies decided to form the Wesleyan Methodist Church in 1795, which was independent of the Church of England. As with their American counterparts, there were soon divisions: The Methodist New Connexion broke off in 1797, the Primitive Methodists in 1811, the Bible Christians in 1815, and the United Methodist Free churches in 1857. These breaks were over various doctrinal and organizational issues, especially the authority of the superintendents. 

In the late 1800’s there began to be some movement toward healing the divisions throughout the Methodists worldwide. The first ray of hope came from the Ecumenical Methodist Conference, which brought together representatives from most of the various Methodist Churches in England and America to discuss the possibilities of at least talking to one another regularly and maybe even working together in outreach to the world. Such meetings continued sporadically until the formation of the World Methodist Council which meets every 3 years.

There was to be one more split in American Methodism in the 1890’s. In 1891 divisions in the Evangelical Association led to two separate general conferences being held (one in Indianapolis, one in Philadelphia). The issues were the use of the German Language in worship and Church business, the authority of bishops, and conservative versus liberal theology. The division became formalized with the establishment of the United Evangelical Church in 1894.

As of 1900 Methodist membership (that I have been able to find) was as follows:

Methodist Episcopal Church 2,930,000
Methodist Episcopal Church South 1,482,000
Methodist Protestant Church 209,000
African Methodist Episcopal, Zion 536,000
African Methodist Episcopal 688,000
Colored Methodist Episcopal 205,000
Wesleyan Methodist Church 15,000
Congregational Methodist Church 21,000
Evangelical Association 166,000
Union American Methodist Episcopal 16,000
United Brethren 241,000
Wesleyan Methodist (British 450,000
Free Methodist Church 29,000

 

In the meantime co-operation continued growing. In 1898 the ME and ME South formed committees on Federation which met jointly, hoping to pave the way for a reunion. In 1905 these two churches also published a single hymnal, which was used in both denominations. This was the most formal hymnal since Wesley’s day including a Psalter and a lectionary (a list of bible readings for each Sunday). The ME church was also working on reuniting with the Methodist Protestants. In 1908 the MP’s rejected this proposal, saying they wanted to wait until the Southern church was included as well.