- Free Methodist Church
The Free Methodist Church, is a denomination of broader
Methodism. It is considered to be Evangelical and Protestant, and its theologyis similar to that of the Wesleyan Church, the Church of the Nazarene, the Church of God (Anderson)and other Holiness churches, being largely Arminianwith Moravian Churchinfluences, touting free will. The Free Methodist Church's highest governing body is the World Conference, [ [http://www.freemethodistworld.org World Conference] ] which is composed of representatives, both lay and clergy, from all countries with a Free Methodist General Conference.
The Free Methodist Church was founded in
1860in New York's Burned-over districtby a group, led by B. T. Roberts, who was defrocked in the Methodist Episcopal Churchfor criticisms of the supposed spiritual laxness of the church hierarchy. The Free Methodists are so named because they believed it was improper to charge for better seats in pews closer to the pulpit. They opposed slavery, supporting freedom for all slaves in the United States. Many members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South at the time did not actively voice opposition to slavery. Free Methodists supported the equality of women in ordinationand laity in church leadership. However, female ordination did not widely exist before the latter part of the 20th century. The participation of laity varies widely between individual churches. Beyond that, they advocated "freedom" from "secret" societies such as the Freemasons.
At first the church consisted of many former Methodist Episcopals who had been actively involved in the
Underground Railroad. A few of the stations are still centers of Free Methodist activity today, such as North Chili, New York, site of present-day Roberts Wesleyan College, a Free Methodist school named after the founder, and NorthEastern Seminary. From there fugitive slaves were taken to Lake Ontarioand boated across to Canada. Another Underground Railroad site was Pekin, New York, near the Niagara River, where escaping slaves also crossed. This was the site of a Holiness camp meetingand the site of the organizational conference of the church in 1860. The denomination also has numerous churches in the Midwest, some of the oldest ones also being in communities that were abolitionist centers and Underground Railroad stops along the southern shore of Lake Michigan.
The denomination is more
conservativeand significantly smaller than the United Methodist Church(politically and theologically) with regards to drinking, smoking, gambling, jewelry and modern dancing. Contrasting liberal aspects of its doctrine (eg. female ordination) differ widely when compared to historical ( pre-industrial) Protestantism, Catholicism and Orthodox Christians, who hold that it is contrary to the Bible.
While some (North American) church planters are starting
emerging churchministries, denominational support is at times incongruent with stated planting objectives in the [Book of Discipline] [http://www.freemethodistchurch.org/PDF%20Files/Resources/2003_BOD/Contents.pdf]
"Formation of New Churches¶ 6800 A. The fulfillment of the
Great Commissionand the missionof the Free Methodist Church requires larger,growing and more effective local churches as well as more and varied churches. Reaching unreached people is the motive for the planting of new churches. Each church should be eager and open to win all people to Christ and incorporate them into membership. Yet within each population group there are persons who,because of geographic distance or language or cultural differences, can more readily be reached by new churches than by existing ones. Creative strategies andmultiple styles of ministry are required."
Some Conferences have focused instead on a "mega" (large) Church format which follows the " [Saddleback] [http://saddleback.com/flash/] " and, or, [Nelson Searcy's Journey Church] [http://www.journeymetro.com/] model. This model differs from historical Methodism & Free Methodism, which focused primarily upon [small group worship & study] [http://www.ctlibrary.com/ch/2001/Issue69/6.28.html] . In this sense, the cultural and doctrinal distinctives of this small denomination have been shed in an effort to reach a more mainstream audience in the North American Church. Related article [http://www.marston.freemethodistchurch.org/_pdfs/searching.pdf] .This has met with limited success, as membership remains flat.
Free Methodist headquarters were located in
Winona Lake, Indianauntil 1990 when the denomination moved its headquarters to Indianapolis. [http://www.freemethodistchurch.org/users/marston/]
Free Methodist Communications is the publishing division of the Free Methodist Church. Publications may also be printed or distributed under the name Light & Life Communications.
* "Light and Life" is the official
magazineof the Free Methodist Church in the United States and is also available online [ [http://www.freemethodistchurch.org/Magazine/index.htm Light & Life] ] .
* "Free Methodist World Mission People" is a quarterly magazine about world missions offered free of charge upon request [ [http://www.fmwm.org/missionary/magazine/index.php World Mission People] ] .
* "Free Methodist Ministries Today" is a monthly publication about news items within the church.
* "FM Communicator" is quarterly newsletter [ [http://www.llcom.net/FM%20Communicator%202005-Summer-2.pdf FM Communicator] ] .
Membership and church attendance
The Church has about 77,000 members citation needed in the United States and an average attendance of [107,000] [http://www.freemethodistchurch.org/sections/about_us/stats/home.shtml] at its Sunday services. Worldwide its membership is over 800,000 with large segments of membership in the Democratic Republic of Congo, India, and Rwanda. As the church in each country develops, its status progresses from Mission District to Annual Conference to General Conference. There are currently 14 General Conferences in the world, which are linked together through the articles of religion and common constitution of the first two chapters of the Book of Discipline and the World Conference. [ [http://www.fmwm.org/about/index/facts.php membership] ] .
The denomination currently maintains a relationship with the following educational institutions:
Central Christian College, McPherson, KS
Greenville College, Greenville, IL
Roberts Wesleyan College, Rochester, NY
Spring Arbor University, Spring Arbor, MI
Seattle Pacific University, Seattle, WA
In addition, the Free Methodist Church is one of several denominations supporting
Azusa Pacific University( Azusa, CA). Wessington Springs Collegeis a former, now closed institution which was located in South Dakota. Internationally, there is Osaka Christian Collegeof the Japanese Free Methodist Church, Hope Africa University, [ [http://www.hopeafricauniversity.org/ Hope Africa University] ] a recently founded school in Bujumbura, Burundi, and the Faculdade Teológica Metodista Livre, São Paulo, Brazil.
Through the [http://www.freemethodistchurch.org/users/leadership/resource.html#john John Wesley Seminary Foundation(JWSF)] graduate students who are preparing for full time ministry in the Free Methodist Church are provided a grant/loan at the following (JWSF) affiliated schools:
Asbury Theological Seminary– Wilmore, KYand Orlando, FLcampuses
* Azusa Pacific University/Graduate School of Theology, Azusa, CA
* George Fox Evangelical Seminary,
* Northeastern Seminary at Roberts Wesleyan College, Rochester, NY
Wesley Biblical Seminary, Jackson, MS
The church currently has ministry in 72 countries around the world. These are:
* [http://www.freemethodistchurch.org/ Official site]
* [http://www.fmwm.org/ Free Methodist World Missions]
[348 churches were closed 1996-2006 see section 6] [http://www.fmnetwork.org/Files/Free%20Methodist%20Judicial%20Reform.doc]
Known for their frugality and austerity, controversy arose in a facet of the membership upon the recent retirement of the North American Eastern Zone Bishop when he was gifted a new General Motors
Cadillacluxury automobile. Some saw this act by leadership as inconsistent with the Book of Discipline (a manual of conduct) [http://www.freemethodistchurch.org/pdfs/resources/2003_BOD/Contents.pdf] , and cite:
"Self Discipline:¶3350 One attribute of the Spirit’s indwelling presence is self-control [(Galatians 5:23)] [http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?book_id=55&chapter=5&version=9] . The Scriptures instruct us to honor the bodyas the temple of the Holy Spirit ( [1 Corinthians 6:19-20] [http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Corinthians%206:19-20&version=31] ).As Christians we desire to be characterized by balance andmoderation. We seek to avoid extreme patterns of conduct.We also seek to keep ourselves free from addictions or compulsions.Since Christians are to be characterized by a disciplinedstyle of life, we attempt to avoid selfish indulgence in thepleasures of this world. It is our wish to live simply inservice to others, and to practice stewardship of health,time, and other God-given resources."
A recent evangelical movement titled "One more soul" was abandoned when the copyright owner of the phrase issued a cease a desist order.
Misc Procedural complaints
* [http://www.fmnetwork.org/Files/Free%20Methodist%20Judicial%20Reform.doc] [http://www.fmnetwork.org/FMTRC.htm]
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