† The Historic Church in the Pullman National Monument †
Opening Our Doors & Reaching Out
To Our Community & Neighbors!
The movement which would become The United Methodist Church began in the mid-18th century within the Church of England. A small group of students, including John Wesley, Charles Wesley and George Whitefield, met on the Oxford University campus. They focused on Bible study, methodical study of scripture and living a holy life. Other students mocked them, saying they were the “Holy Club” and “the Methodists”, being methodical and exceptionally detailed in their Bible study, opinions and disciplined lifestyle. Eventually, the so-called Methodists started individual societies or classes for members of the Church of England who wanted to live a more religious life. In 1735, John and Charles Wesley went to America to teach the gospel to the Native Americans in the colony of Georgia. In less than two years, the “Holy Club” disbanded. John Wesley returned to England and met with a group of clergymen he respected. He said “they appeared to be of one heart, as well as of one judgment, resolved to be Bible-Christians at all events; and, wherever they were, to preach with all their might plain, old, Bible Christianity”. The ministers retained their membership in the Church of England. Though not always emphasized or appreciated in the Anglican churches of their day, their teaching emphasized salvation by God’s grace, acquired through faith in Christ. Three teachings they saw as the foundation of Christian faith were:
- People are all, by nature, “dead in sin,” and, consequently, “children of wrath.”
- They are “justified by faith alone.”
- Faith produces inward and outward holiness.
Very quickly, these clergymen became popular, attracting large congregations. The nickname students had used against the Wesley’s was revived; they and their followers became known as Methodists. The first official organization in the United States occurred in Baltimore Maryland, in 1784, with the formation of the Methodist Episcopal Church at the Christmas Conference with Francis Asbury and Thomas Coke as the leaders. Though John Wesley originally wanted the Methodists to stay within the Church of England, the American Revelution decisively separated the Methodists in the American colonies from the life and sacraments of the Anglican Church. In 1784, after unsuccessful attempts to have the Church of England send a bishop to start a new church in the colonies, Wesley decisively appointed fellow priest Thomas Coke as superintendent (bishop) to organize a separate Methodist Society. Together with Coke, Wesley sent a revision of the Anglican Prayerbook and the Articles of Religion which were received and adopted by the Baltimore Christmas Conference of 1784, officially establishing the Methodist Episcopal Church. The conference was held at the Lovely Lane Methodist Church, considered the Mother Church of American Methodism. The new church grew rapidly in the young country as it employed circuit riders, many of whom were laymen, to travel the mostly rural nation by horseback to preach the Gospel and to establish churches until there was scarcely any village in the United States without a Methodist presence. With 4000 circuit riders by 1844, the Methodist Episcopal Church rapidly became the largest Protestant denomination in the country. St. George’s United Methodist Church, located at the corner of 4th and New Streets, in the Old City neighborhood of Philadelphia, is the oldest Methodist church in continuous use in the United States, beginning in 1769. The congregation was founded in 1767, meeting initially in a sail loft on Dock Street, and in 1769 it purchased the shell of a building which had been erected in 1763 by a German Reformed congregation. At this time, Methodists had not yet broken away from the Anglican Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church was not founded until 1784. Richard Allen and Absalom Jones became the first African Americans ordained by the Methodist Church. They were licensed by St. George’s Church in 1784. Three years later, protesting racial segregation in the worship services, Allen led most of the black members out of St. George’s; eventually they founded the Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church and the African Methodist Episcopal denomination. Absalom Jones became an Episcopal priest. In 1836, the church’s basement was excavated to make room for a Sunday School. In the 1920s a court case saved the church from being demolished to make way for the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. The case resulted in the bridge being relocated. Historic St Georges welcomes visitors and is home to archives and a museumon Methodism. In the more than 220 years since 1784, Methodism in the United States, like many other Protestant denominations, has seen a number of divisions and mergers. In 1830, the Methodist Protestant Church split from the Methodist Episcopal Church over the issue of laity having a voice and vote in the administration of the church, insisting that clergy should not be the only ones to have any determination in how the church was to be operated. In 1844, the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church split into two conferences because of tensions over slavery and the power of bishops in the denomination. The two general conferences, Methodist Episcopal Church (the northern section) and Methodist Episcopal Church South remained separate until 1939. That year, the northern and southern Methodist Episcopal Churches and the Methodist Protestant Church merged to create The Methodist Church. The uniting conference took place at First Methodist Church (now First United Methodist Church) of Marion Indiana. The United Methodist Church (UMC) is a Methodist–Christian denomination that is mainline Protestant today. In the 19th century its main predecessor was a leader in Evangelicalism. Founded in 1968 by the union of the Methodist Church (USA)and the Evangelical United Brethren Church, the UMC traces its roots back to the revival movement of John and Charles Wesley in England as well as the Great Awakening in the United States. As such, the church’s theological orientation is decidedly Wesleyan. It embraces both liturgical and evangelical elements. The United Methodist Church is the largest denomination within the wider Methodist movement, which has approximately 80 million adherents across the world. In the United States, the UMC ranks as the largest mainline Protestant denomination, the largest Protestant church after the Southern Baptist Convention, and the third largest Christian denomination. As of 2009, worldwide membership was about 12 million: 7.7 million in the United States, and 4.4 million in Africa, Asia and Europe.It is a member of the World Council of Churches, the World Methodist Council, and other religious associations.