1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Methodism

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METHODISM a term[1] denoting the religious organizations which trace their origin to the evangelistic teaching of John Wesley. The name “Methodist” was given in derision to those Oxford students who in company with the Wesleys used to meet together for spiritual fellowship; and later on when John Wesley had organized his followers into “societies” the name was applied to them in the same spirit. It was however accepted by him, and in official documents he usually styles them “the people called Methodists.” The fact that standards of Methodist doctrine are laid down as consisting of “Mr Wesley’s Notes on the New Testament and the 1st Series of his Sermons” (fifty-three in number), might seem to indicate a departure from existing systems, but it was not so. He fully accepted the recognized teaching of the Church of England, and publicly appealed to the Prayer Book and the Thirty-nine Articles in justification of the doctrines he preached. Methodism began in a revival of personal religion, and it professed to have but one aim, viz. “to spread Scriptural holiness over the land.” Its doctrines were in no sense new. It was the zeal with which they were taught, the clear distinction which they drew between the profession of godliness and the enjoyment of its power—added to the emphasis they laid upon the immediate influence of the Holy Spirit on the consciousness of the Christian—which attracted attention, gave them distinction, and even aroused ridicule and opposition. Wesley and his helpers, finding the Anglican churches closed against them, took to preaching in the open air; and this method is still followed, more or less, in the aggressive evangelistic work of all the Methodist Churches. As followers rapidly increased they were compelled to hold their own Sunday services, and this naturally led them to appoint as preachers godly laymen possessing the gift of exhortation. These followed their ordinary avocations on week-days, but on Sundays preached to congregations in their own immediate neighbourhood, and hence were called local preachers as distinguished from travelling preachers. The extent to which the employment of the local preacher is characteristic of Methodism may be seen from the fact that in the United Kingdom while there are only about 5000 Methodist ministers, there are more than 18,000 congregations; some 13,000 congregations, chiefly in the villages, are dependent on local preachers.

In the organization adopted to foster spiritual life the very characteristic “Class-meetings for Christian fellowship” take a prominent place. Membership in the church depends solely upon being enrolled as a member of one of these meetings for Christian fellowship, and thus placing oneself under pastoral oversight.

The Wesleyan Methodists now represent the original body as founded by John Wesley in Great Britain and Ireland; but in America those who looked upon him as their founder adopted the episcopal mode of Church government after the War of Independence, and have since that time been known as Episcopal Methodists (see below). It should be noted that the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists are only slightly connected with the original body. They were indirectly the outcome of the evangelistic efforts of Howell Harris and Rowlands. Their work received the sympathy of Wesley and liberal financial help from the Countess of Huntingdon (see Calvinistic Methodists). For a time Whitefield was leader, and we find a reference to the “Whitefieldian and Wesleyan Methodists” in the Supplement to the Gentleman’s Magazine for 1747, p. 619. The theological views of these teachers proved quite incompatible with the Arminianism of Wesley, and a definite breach between them and him took place in 1770. The Welsh Calvinistic Methodists are now a branch of the Presbyterian Church. Other divisions have been formed at various times by secessions from the Wesleyan Methodists (see separate articles). They are: Methodist New Connexion (founded 1797–1798); Bible Christians (1815); United Methodist Free Churches[2] (about 1836); Primitive Methodists (founded 1807–1810); Independent Methodist Churches (about 1806); Wesleyan Reform Union (1850, reorganized 1859). These bodies have separated solely on matters of Church government and not on points of doctrine. The Primitive Methodists in Ireland were a small body who in 1817 seceded because they wished to maintain that close connexion with the Church of England which existed at the time of Wesley’s death, but in 1878 they rejoined the parent body. Methodism has always been aggressive, and her children on emigrating have taken with them their evangelistic methods. (For the American branches see below.)

The statistics given in the following table (not including Junior Society Classes) are from the Minutes of the Conference of the Wesleyan Methodist Church for 1909. At the death of Wesley the figures were: 313 preachers, 119 circuits and mission stations and 76,968 members. In the United States: 97 circuits, 198 preachers and 43,265 members.

In 1837 the membership in Great Britain and Ireland was 318,716; in foreign mission stations, 66,007; in Upper Canada, 14,000; while the American Conferences had charge of 650,678 members. Total for the world: 1,049,401, with 4478 ministers.

Three Oecumenical Conferences have been held—two at City Road, London, in 1881 and 1901, and one at Washington in 1891. The statistics presented at the last showed that the Church during the preceding decade had gained about a million members and three million adherents. At the same time there has been a steadily growing feeling in favour of union. Canada and Australasia led the way, for in these countries the Methodist Church was undivided, and the sentiment was greatly strengthened by the formation in the United Kingdom of the United Methodist Church in 1907.

See A New History of Methodism, ed. W. J. Townsend, H. B. Workman, George Eayrs (2 vols., London, 1909).  (J. A. V.*) 

Members and 
Wesleyan Methodists:—
 Great Britain.
2,454 19,826 520,868 7,589 132,186 987,953 8,606[3]
 Ireland246 621 29,531 353 2,557 25,969 414[4]
 Foreign Missions617 4,965 143,467 1,754 7,651 91,113 3,502 
 French Conference35 89 1,675 70[5]142 1,996 127 
 South African Conference253 5,797 117,146 788 2,893 39,329 3,930 
Primitive Methodists1,178 16,158 212,168 4,155 59,557 465,531 5,148 
United Methodist Church891 6,183 186,905 2,404 43,169 323,675 3,188 
Wesleyan Reform Union21 527 8,489 181 2,762 22,312 196 
Independent Methodist Churches424 — 9,442 153 3,041 27,219 156 
Australasian Methodist Church975 4,576 150,751 3,973 24,322 231,553 6,418 
United States:—
 Methodist Episcopal[6]
19,421 14,743 3,376,888 34,619 361,667 3,068,248 29,765 
 Union American Methodist Episcopal 138 — 18,500 — — — 255 
 African Methodist Episcopal6,070 15,885 850,000 — — — 6,815 
 African Union Methodist Protestant200 750 4,000 350 900 2,770 125 
 African Methodist Episcopal Zion.3,912 1,520 578,310 2,034 14,404 122,467 3,241 
 Methodist Protestant1,551 1,135 183,894 2,034 16,680 126,031 2,242 
 Wesleyan Methodist524 — 19,064 465 — 18,344 598 
 Methodist Episcopal (South)6,978 4,800 1,673,892 14,892 111,137 1,084,238 15,496 
Congregational Methodist415 — 24,000 — — — 425 
Congregational Methodist (coloured)5 — 319 — — — 5 
 New Congregational Methodist238 — 4,022 — — — 417 
 Zion Union Apostolic30 — 2,346 — — — 32 
 Coloured Methodist Episcopal2,673 2,786 219,739 4,007 7,098 79,876 2,619 
 Primitive Methodist72 138 7,013 108 — 11,754 104 
 Free Methodist1,126 1,299 31,435 1,175 7,376 40,660 1,117 
 Independent Methodist8 — 2,569 — — — 15 
 Evangelistic Missionary92 27 5,014 — — 1,200 47 
Canadian Methodist Church2,384 3,809 329,904 3,556 35,323 305,649 3,789 
Japan Methodist Church[7]47 35 4,083 121 544 11,136 28 
Totals52,978 105,669 8,715,434 84,781 833,409 7,089,023 98,820 

Methodism in the United States

There are in the United States sixteen distinct Methodist denominations, all agreeing essentially in doctrine. John Wesley had been conducting his United Societies for more than twenty years before the movement took root in North America.

A.—Episcopal Methodist Churches.

Philip Embury (1729–1775), a Wesleyan local preacher, emigrated in 1760 from Limerick to New York. Robert Strawbridge (?–1781), a local preacher and native of Ireland, settled in Maryland. In 1766 Embury was stimulated by his relative, Mrs Barbara Heck, to begin Methodist preaching, and a society was soon formed, which grew rapidly. Embury was reinforced by the arrival of Thomas Webb (1724–1796), an English local preacher and a captain in the British army. Webb and Thomas Taylor, a layman of superior ability, appealed to Wesley to send over missionaries, and the 26th annual British Conference, held in 1768, sent to the society in New York, £50 and furnished passage money for two missionaries, Richard Boardman and Joseph Pilmoor (1739–1825). Three years later Francis Asbury was sent over, and was made assistant superintendent. Meanwhile Strawbridge had been preaching with success in Maryland and in Virginia.

These “advance agents” of this spiritual propaganda brought with them Wesley’s Arminian Theology. They brought also “the means of grace” on which Wesley placed the greatest stress; such as personal testimony in private and public, class and prayer meetings, watch-nights, love-feasts, the direct and fervent preaching of the Gospel and the singing of Wesleyan hymns, carried on by means of circuits and stations, exhorters, local and travelling preachers, and the organization of local societies with class leaders, stewards and trustees. The intention was to make American Methodism a facsimile of that in England, subject to Wesley and the British Conference—a society and not a Church. Pilmoor and others objected to Asbury’s strict discipline, and Wesley, hearing of the disagreement, in 1773 appointed Thomas Rankin (c. 1738–1810) superintendent of the entire work of Methodism in America.

The First American Conference.—The first American Conference was held in 1773, and consisted of ten preachers, all of whom were born in England or Ireland. Asbury came to America to remain permanently; but Rankin, unable to identify himself with its people, to take the test oaths required in the Revolution, or to sympathize with the colonies, returned to England, as did all the English preachers except Asbury. By May 1776 there were 24 preachers and 4921 members; but in the first year of the Revolution there was a loss of 7 preachers and nearly 1000 members. The next year saw extensive revivals, in sections removed from the seat of war, which added more than 2600 to the number of members.

The preachers in the South determined upon administration of the sacraments, and a committee was chosen whose members ordained themselves and others. The Northern preachers opposed this step and for several years the Connexion was on the verge of disruption. An agreement was finally made to suspend the administration until Wesley’s desires and judgment could be ascertained. He perceived that the society would disintegrate unless effective measures were speedily taken, and, aided by two presbyters of the Church of England, early in 1784 he ordained Thomas Coke (1747–1814), already a presbyter of that Church, as superintendent. He likewise ordained two of his lay preachers as deacons and elders, to accompany Coke, whom Wesley sent to America as his commissioner to establish, for the Methodist Society, a system of Church government, which should include the administration of Baptism and of the Lord’s Supper. Coke was furnished by Wesley with a document setting forth the grounds on which he had taken this step. Wesley also appointed Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury “to be joint superintendents over our brethren in North America.” Soon after Coke and his companions arrived they met Asbury and fifteen preachers, and a special conference was called, which opened on the 24th of December 1784, in the suburbs of Baltimore, Maryland. This convention organized itself into a Methodist Episcopal Church, in which the liturgy sent by Wesley should be read, and the sacraments should be administered by superintendents, elders and deacons, these elders and deacons to be ordained by a presbytery using the episcopal form. Coke and Asbury were unanimously elected superintendents, Coke, aided by his clerical companions from England, ordaining Asbury as deacon and elder and formally consecrating him a general superintendent. Several elders were ordained. This convention adopted the first Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church. It adopted the existing doctrinal standards, consisting chiefly of Wesley’s Sermons and his Notes on the New Testament; also twenty-five of the Articles of Religion of the Church of England, modified so as to eradicate all trace of High Church ritualism, Anglican or Roman, and the distinctive doctrines of Calvinism.

The Church thus established began its ecclesiastical career with 18,000 members, 104 travelling preachers, about the same number of local preachers, and more than 200 licensed exporters. There were 60 chapels and 800 regular preaching places.

The energy of Asbury, and the position of Coke in the Church of England, his wealth, culture, and preaching power, greatly reinforced the efforts of the preachers. The administration of the sacraments brought peace; and many who would not unite with the “Society” asked admission to the Church. Within five years the number of preachers swelled to 227, and the members to 45,949 (white) and 11,682 (coloured).

To bind the whole body the existing method required the concurrence of each Annual Conference with every proposition. This was inconvenient and occasioned much loss of time; therefore a General Conference was established to meet once in four years. The first was held in 1792, and therein arose a sharp conflict. James O’Kelly (1735–1826), a Presiding Elder in control of a large district, proposed that, when the list of appointments was read in the Conference, if any preacher was not pleased with his assignment he might appeal to the Conference. The motion being lost, O’Kelly and several other preachers seceded. The Conference in 1804 limited the power of the Bishops by forbidding them to appoint any pastor for more than two consecutive years in charge of the same church. As all “travelling preachers” were eligible, Without election, to seats in General Conferences, widespread dissatisfaction prevailed among the distant Conferences. The era of the steamboat and the railway not having arrived, it was possible for two Annual Conferences, adjacent to the seat of the General Conference, to out-vote all others combined. This led to a demand for the substitution of a delegated General Conference, which was conceded by the Conference of 1808 to take effect four years later. The office then known as the Presiding Eldership had become powerful: Bishops appointed the pastors to churches, Presiding Elders to districts; but it was the purpose of the majority to transfer to the Annual Conferences the power of appointing Presiding Elders. The change, though discussed for many years, has not been accomplished.

Several issues had been settled; but one, that of slavery, had to be faced. The storm burst on the Conference of 1844. Bishop James Osgood Andrew (1794–1871), a native of the South, had, by inheritance and marriage, become a slaveholder. After debates of many days, he was requested “to desist from the exercise of the office of Bishop while this impediment remained.” The Southern members declared that the infliction of such a stigma upon Bishop Andrew would make it impossible for them to maintain the influence of Methodism in the South, and a tentative plan of separation was adopted by the Conference by an almost unanimous vote. The result was that the Methodist Episcopal Church was bisected, and when the General Conference of 1848 convened it represented 780 travelling preachers and 532,290 members fewer than it had numbered four years before.

After the Civil War the increase in membership was noteworthy. The quadrennial Conference of 1868 represented 222,687 members more than its predecessor; of this gain 117,326 were in the Southern States. In 1872 lay representatives were admitted, the Constitution having been amended so as to make it legal. It was not, however, an equal representation, for though ministerial Conferences were represented according to their number, in no circumstances could there be more than two lay representatives from one Annual Conference. Not till 1900 were lay and clerical representation equalized. In 1864 the time limit of pastorates was lengthened to three years, and in 1888 to five years. This limit was taken off in 1900, and pastors can be reappointed at the will of the Bishop.

Five women presented credentials as lay delegates in 1888. Their eligibility was questioned; and they were denied admission. For the next four General Conferences the struggle for the admission of women recurred. In 1900–1904 a general revision of the Constitution took place, and the words “lay members” were substituted for “laymen” in that part of the Constitution which deals with the eligibility of delegates to the General Conference.

The General Conference has power to make rules and regulations for the Church, subject only to restrictions which protect the Standards of Doctrine, the General Rules, the disposition of the property of the Book Concern and its income, the income of the Chartered Fund, and the right of ministers to trial before a jury of their peers, an appeal, and similar rights of the laity. By a two-thirds vote of a General Conference, and two-thirds votes of the members of the Annual Conference, and of the members of the Lay Electoral Conferences, present and voting, what is said in these “Restrictive Rules” can be altered or repealed, except that which deals with the Articles of Religion and “the present existing and established Standards of Doctrine.” In the Annual Conferences the Bishop is the sole interpreter of law, subject to appeal to the General Conference. When presiding in the General Conference, a Bishop has no authority to decide questions of law, but may decide questions of order subject to an appeal to the body. The district superintendent visits each charge several times annually, presiding in the Quarterly Conference, the highest local authority in the Church, and he is expected to conserve the unity of the denomination and a regard for laws enacted by the supreme body. In the absence of a Bishop the district superintendent represents him, and may transfer any ministers within the bounds of his district.

Connexional Institutions.—The Book Concern, established in 1789, publishes the necessary devotional books of the Church, such as hymnal, discipline, theological works, religious experience, and numerous magazines and papers.

The Board of Foreign Missions carries on extensive operations in China, Japan, Korea, India and Malaysia, Italy, South America and Mexico. It assists the Methodist Churches organized in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Germany and Switzerland, and has recently established missions in Russia and France.

The Board of Home Missions and Church Extension supplies the foreign peoples domiciled in the United States with ministers of their own tongue. It assists all English-speaking churches in need of help, and secures, by gifts and time loans, the erection of churches wherever needed. Invaluable coadjutors of these Boards are the Women’s Foreign Missionary and the Women’s Home Missionary societies.

The Board of Education, with the aid of a University Senate, assists young people to obtain education, and raises the standard of seminaries, colleges and universities. The Church, in the United States, supports 54 colleges and universities and 10 theological seminaries. The Freedmen’s Aid Society is devoted to the educational needs of the negro race in the United States, in which work it has been very successful.

The Sunday School Union, Epworth League, Methodist Brotherhood, hospitals, homes for the aged, deaconess homes and children’s institutions are maintained by an increasing army of workers.

The whole number of ministers (exclusive of foreign missions) in 1907, was 17,694; churches, 27,691; communicants, 2,984,261.

The Methodist Episcopal Church South.—After the adjournment of the General Conference of 1844, the representatives of thirteen Conferences covering the states holding slaves appealed to their constituents to determine what should be done to prevent Methodism in the South from being deprived of its influence over the whites and of the privilege, till then fully accorded, of preaching the Gospel and teaching its precepts to slaves. In 1845 a representative Convention was called; this body, with the approval and participation of Bishop Andrew, organized the Methodist Episcopal Church South. At its first General Conference, in 1846, the senior Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Joshua Soule (1781–1867), offered himself to the Church, which accepted him in his episcopal capacity. William Capers (1790–1855) and Robert Paine (1799–1882) were elected to the Episcopacy. The Church thus founded began with 460,000 members, of which 2972 were Indians, 124,961 coloured, and 1519 travelling ministers.

A difficulty arose on the division of the property of the Book Concerns, which the Methodist Episcopal Church maintained involved a change in the Constitution. A vote to authorize the division failed, and the Methodist Episcopal Church South, hopeless of relief, brought two suits, one against the Book Concern in New York, and the other against the Book Concern in Cincinnati. The former was decided in favour of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, and the latter in favour of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In the latter case an appeal was taken by the Methodist Episcopal Church South to the Supreme Court of the United States, which body unanimously decided that the Methodist Episcopal Church South was an integral part of the Methodist Episcopal Church which owned the Book Concerns, and ordered that the Southern Church should receive a proportionate part of the property of both Book Concerns. The amount ordered by the Court was in due time received.

The membership of the Church in 1860 was more than three-quarters of a million; but the Church was doomed to feel the force of the destructive elements of the Civil War. In April 1862 New Orleans was in possession of the Federal Government, rendering it impossible to hold the General Conference due at that time and place.

At the close of the war the Missionary Society of the Church was $60,000 in debt, the Publishing House practically in ruins, and of the more than 200,000 coloured members in 1860 there remained fewer than 50,000. The Conference of 1866 convened in New Orleans. Radical changes in polity were effected. Attendance upon class meetings, which, from the origin of the Church had been obligatory, was made voluntary, and the rule was repealed which required a probation of six months before admission into full membership. The time limit on the continuation of pastorates was extended from two to four years. The most radical change was the introduction into the General Conference of a number of lay representatives equal to the number of clerical, and the admission into each Annual Conference of four lay delegates for each Presiding Elder’s district.

The coloured people, with the consent of the Church, withdrew in 1870, and formed a new Church called the Coloured Methodist Episcopal Church.

The most striking denominational effort in its history was the maintenance of the solvency of the Publishing House, which was seized by the Federal Troops, and used as a United States printing office; with the damage done, and debts incurred in rebuilding, after a fire, interest, &c., the liabilities were $35,000, with debts $125,000 in excess of assets. The concern was declared insolvent; but the necessary funds were forthcoming, and the honour of the Church was maintained.

Education has received unceasing attention. The titles to 175 institutions are held by the Church, and the list of colleges and their character is a credit to the denomination. The most important is Vanderbilt University, at Nashville, Tennessee, founded in 1872, and largely endowed by members of the family whose name it bears. The chief foreign missions are in China, Mexico, Brazil, Japan, Korea and Cuba. Its mission in Japan and the mission of the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Church of Canada were united in 1907 in a new organization entitled the Methodist Church of Japan. A distinguishing feature of this church is a practical veto power possessed by the bishops, to be exercised when the conference adopts any measure which in their opinion is unconstitutional. They have the right to present written objections and should the General Conference, by two-thirds vote adhere to its action, the proposal is sent down to the Annual Conference for ratification; otherwise it is void. Fraternal relations between the two great Episcopal Methodist Churches were fully established in 1876, and have broadened in spirit and scope from that time.

The Methodist Episcopal Church South in 1907 had 6774 ministers, 16,156 churches and 1,631,379 communicants.

The African Methodist Episcopal Church.—This body originated in strained relations between the white and coloured Methodists of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the result of which was, that the coloured people organized themselves, in 1816, into an independent body. hey adopted as their standards the doctrines of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and, with a few modifications, its form of government. The Church steadily prospered, but for several years not proportionately in the department of education. Daniel Alexander Payne (1811–1893), who had studied in the Gettysburg Theological Seminary, led a reform, which involved a marked elevation of the qualifications for ministers, and from that time the body has constantly risen in public estimation. One of its peculiarities is that the bishops are members of the General Conference. It sustains Wilberforce University (at Wilberforce, Ohio) and other educational institutions, and has missions in Africa, South America, the West Indies and Hawaii. Notable orators have risen up among its members, who have added greatly to the respect felt for their race and Church. The African Methodist Episcopal Church, the largest Christian denomination consisting wholly of the Negro race, in 1907 comprised 6190 ministers, 5321 churches, and 842,023 communicants.

The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.—Some of the coloured people in the city of New York, “feeling themselves oppressed by caste prejudice, and suffering the deprivation of Church privileges permitted to others,” organized among themselves, in 1796, and in the year 1800 built a church and named it Zion. For twenty years the Methodist Episcopal Church supplied this church with pastors. Then the members induced three white ministers to ordain as elders three of their brethren, already deacons. Since they had Methodist precedents for such ordination, these proceeded to ordain others, and established churches in Philadelphia and New Hampshire. The elders ordained one of their number a bishop. As late as 1863 the Church had only 92 ministers and 5000 members, but in twelve years it doubled its membership more than five times. In this Church the sexes are equally eligible to all positions. Its educational operations at first were failures, but gradually became successful. Its foreign missions were made a separate department in 1884; This Church had, in 1907, 3871 ministers, 3206 churches and 573,107 communicants.

The Coloured Methodist Episcopal Church.—In 1866 the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church South authorized the bishops to organize its coloured members into an independent ecclesiastical body, if it should appear that they desired it. The bishops formed a number of Annual Conferences, consisting wholly of coloured preachers, and in 1870 these Conferences requested the appointment of five commissioners of the Caucasian part of the Church to meet five of their own number to create an independent Church. Two Bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church South presided, and ordained to the Episcopacy two coloured elders, selected by the eight coloured conferences. The coloured people by vote named the organization the Coloured Methodist Episcopal Church.

The Union American Methodist Episcopal Church agrees in doctrines and usages with other Methodist bodies. It is divided into Conferences and elects its Bishops for life. It had in 1907, 18,500 members, 138 ministers and 255 churches.

B.—Non-Episcopal Methodist Churches.

The Methodist Protestant Church.—In 1821 ministers and laymen of the Methodist Episcopal Church began to criticize its polity, and when their utterances became aggressive the adherents to the regular order replied with equal vigour. During the General Conference of 1824, held in Baltimore, a Convention of “Reformers” met, and established a periodical entitled The Mutual Rights of the Ministers and Members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and made arrangements to organize Union Societies. Travelling and local ministers and laymen were expelled for schism and spreading incendiary publications; Prior to the Conference those expelled, and their sympathizers, formed themselves into a society named “Associate Methodist Reformers.” These sent memorials to the General Conference of 1828, and issued addresses to the public. After a powerful and painful discussion, the appeals of the expelled members of Conferences were rejected. The controversy centred upon lay representation, the episcopacy and the presiding eldership.

A General Convention was held on the 2nd of November 1830, a Constitution was adopted, and a new organization was established, styled the Methodist Protestant Church. Within eight years it had accumulated 50,000 members, the majority of whom were in the South and bordering states. The Methodist Protestant Church has a presbyterial form of government, the powers being in the Conference. There is no episcopal office or General Superintendent; each Annual Conference elects its own chairman. Its General Conference meets once in four years. Ministers and laymen equal in number are elected by the Annual Conferences, in a ratio of one delegate for 1000 members. The General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church of 1908 sent delegates to the Conference of the Methodist Protestant Church, making overtures toward an organic union, but formal negotiations have not been instituted. This Church had, in 1907, 1551 ministers, 2242 churches and 183,894 communicants.

The Wesleyan Methodist Connection or Church of America.—In the Methodist Episcopal Church slavery was always a cause of contention. In 1842 certain Methodist abolitionists conferred as to the wisdom of seceding. Among the leaders were Orange Scott (1800–1847), Jotham Horton and Le Roy Sunderland (1802–1885) and in a paper, which they had established, known as The True Wesleyan, they announced their withdrawal from the Church, and issued a call for a convention of all like-minded, which met on the 31st of May 1843, at Utica, New York, and founded the Wesleyan Methodist Connection or Church of America. The enterprise started with 6000 laymen and 22 travelling ministers of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and nearly as many more from the Methodist Protestant Church and other small bodies of Methodist antecedents. Its General Conference has an equal number of ministers and laymen. In less than eighteen months this body had gained in members 250%; but as the Methodist Episcopal Church had purged itself from slavery in 1844, and slavery itself was abolished in 1862, a large number of ministers and thousands of communicants, connected with this body, returned to the Methodist Episcopal Church. It had in 1907 539 ministers, 609 churches and 18,587 communicants.

The Congregational Methodists originated in Georgia in 1852; but in polity they are not strictly Congregational. Appeals from the decision of the Lower Church may be taken to a District Conference, thence to the State Conference, and ultimately to the General Conference. This Church had, in 1907, chiefly in Southern states, 24,000 members, 415 ministers and 425 churches.

The Free Methodist Church.—This body was organized in August 1860, and was the result of ten years of agitation. A number of ministers and members within the bounds of the Genesee Conference, in Western New York, in 1850, began to deplore and denounce the decline of spirituality in the Methodist Episcopal Church. The Rev. B. T. Roberts, the ablest among them, was reprimanded by the Bishop presiding in the Annual Conference, and next year he was expelled. Similar proceedings were taken against others, who appealed to the General Conference of 1860, but their expulsion was confirmed. It was the purpose of the founders to conserve the usage and the spirit of primitive Methodism. The government of the Church is simple, in all but the Episcopacy and its adjuncts resembling that of the Church whence it sprang. The Free Methodist Church had, in 1907, 1032 ministers, 1106 churches, and 31,376 communicants.

Minor Methodist Churches.—The Primitive Methodist Church, as it exists in the United States, came from England. In 1907 it reported 7013 communicants. The Independent Methodists are composed of congregations in Maryland, Tennessee and the District of Columbia. They had fewer than 3000 members in 1907. The Evangelist Missionary Church comprises ministers and members in Ohio, who in 1886 withdrew from the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. They had in 1907 about 5000 members. The New Congregational Methodists in 1881 withdrew from the Methodist Episcopal Church South, in Georgia. They had 4022 members in 1907. The African Union Methodist Protestant Church dates from 1816, and differed from the African Methodist Episcopal Church in opposing itinerancy, “paid ministers,” and episcopacy. In 1907 it had 3867 members in eight states. The Zion Union Apostolic Church was organized in 1869. in Virginia. It was reported in 1890 to have 2346 communicants, and shows no gain at the present time.

Bibliography.—Gross Alexander, History of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (New York, 1894), being vol. xi. of the “American Church History Series”; John Atkinson, Centennial History of American Methodism (New York, 1884); Francis Asbury, Journal (3 vols., New York, 1852); Nathan Bangs, A History of the Methodist Episcopal Church from its Origin in 1776 to the General Conference of 1840 (4 vols., New York, 1839–1842); Henry B. Bascom, Methodism and Slavery (Nashville); A. H. Bassett, History of the Methodist Protestant Church (Pittsburg, 1878, revised, 1882, 1887); Thomas E. Bond, Economy of Methodism, Illustrated and Defended; J. M. Buckley, History of Methodism in the United States (1897); H. K. Carroll, Religious Forces of the United States (New York, 2nd ed. 1896); David W. Clark, Life and Times of Elijah Hedding (New York, 1855); Daniel Dorchester, Christianity in the United States (New York, 1895); Edward J. Drinkhouse, History of Methodist Reform 2 vols., Baltimore, 1899); Robert Emory, History of the Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church (New York, 1843); William L. Harris, Constitutional Powers of the General Conference (1860); J. W. Hood, One Hundred Years of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (New York, 1895); Jesse Lee, A Short History of the Methodists in the United States of America (Baltimore, 1810); John Lednum, History of the Rise and Progress of Methodism in America (1859); Alexander McCaine, History and Mystery of Methodist Episcopacy (Baltimore, 1829); Holland N. McTyeire, A History of Methodism (Nashville, 1884); Joel Martin, The Wesleyan Manual, or History of Wesleyan Methodism (Syracuse, N.Y., 1889); Lucius C. Matlack, Anti-Slavery Struggle and Triumph in the Methodist Episcopal Church (New York, 1881); Stephen M. Merrill, A Digest of Methodist Law (New York, revised ed., 1888); Thomas D. Neely, A History of the Origin and Development of the Governing Conference in Methodism (New York, 1892); id. The Evolution of Episcopacy and Organic Methodism (New York, 1888); Robert Paine, Life and Times of William McKendree (2 vols., Nashville, 1869; revised, 1874); Daniel A. Payne, History of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (1891); James Porter, Comprehensive History of Methodism (New York, 1876); A. H. Redford, History of the Organization of the Methodist Episcopal Church South (Nashville, 1871); J. M. Reid, Missions and Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church (New York, 1895), revised by J. T. Gracey; David Sherman, History of the Revisions of the Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church (New York, 3rd ed., 1890); Abel Stevens, History of Methodism (3 vols., New York, 1858); id. History of the Methodist Episcopal Church (4 vols., New York, 1864); id. The Centenary of American Methodism (New York, 1866); John J. Tigert, A Constitutional History of American Episcopal Methodism (Nashville, 1894); J. B. Wakeley, Lost Chapters Recovered from the Early History of American Methodism (New York, 1858); Thomas Ware, Sketches of His Own Life and Travels (New York, 1839); and the Discipline and Journals of the various American Methodist Churches. And the Proceedings of the Centennial Methodist Conference (1884); of the First Ecumenical Conference (1881); of the second Ecumenical Conference (1891); and of the third Ecumenical Conference (1901).  (J. M. Bu.) 

  1. “Methodism” is derived from “method” (Gr. μέθοδος), a rule. A “Methodist” is one who follows a “method,” the term being applied not only to the Wesleyan body, but earlier to the Amvraldists, and in the 17th century to certain Roman Catholic apologists.
  2. These first three were joined in 1907 under the name of the United Methodist Church.
  3. Seating accommodation, 2,374,425.
  4. Other preaching-places, 1561.
  5. Sunday and Thursday Schools.
  6. Methodism is also represented in several European countries by Conferences and Missions affiliated to the Methodist Episcopal Church of America, and their membership is included in the figures given above. The 1908 returns are: Bulgaria, 546 members; Denmark, 3771; Finland and St Petersburg, 1367; France, 221; Italy, 3669; North Germany, 12,886; Norway, 60545 South Germany, 11,808; Sweden, 15,430; Switzerland, 9419.
  7. Western inference only.