|The Wesleyan Church|
|Associations||Christian Holiness Partnership, National Association of Evangelicals, World Methodist Council|
Utica, New York
|Separated from||Methodist Episcopal Church|
|Separations||Allegheny Wesleyan Methodist Connection (1968)|
Bible Methodist Connection of Churches (1968)
Bible Methodist Connection of Tennessee (1968)
Pilgrim Holiness Church of the Midwest (1970)
|Congregations||5,800 (1,731 in North America)|
|Members||516,203 (231,339 in North America)|
The Wesleyan Church, also known as the Wesleyan Methodist Church and Wesleyan Holiness Church depending on the region, is a holiness Protestant Christian denomination in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Indonesia, Asia, and Australia. The church is part of the holiness movement and has roots in the teachings of John Wesley. It is Wesleyan and Arminian in doctrine.
Near the end of 2014, the Wesleyan Church had grown to an average of 516,203 adherents weekly in around 5,800 churches worldwide and is active in almost 100 nations. In 2017, there were 140,954 members in 1,607 congregations in North America, and an average worship attendance of 239,842. The growing statistics for 2015 reveals the church has around 1 million members worldwide.
Wesleyan Life is the official publication. Global Partners is the official nonprofit missions organization. The Wesleyan Church world headquarters are in Fishers, Indiana.
The Wesleyan Methodist Connection was officially formed in 1843 at an organizing conference in Utica, New York, by a group of ministers and laymen splitting from the Methodist Episcopal Church. The split was primarily over their objections to slavery, though they had secondary issues as well, such as ecclesiastical polity. Orange Scott presided as the meeting formed a federation of churches at first calling themselves the Wesleyan Methodist Connection, a name chosen to emphasize the primacy of the local church, and the intended nature of the denomination as a connection of churches. Other leaders at the organizing conference were LaRoy Sunderland, who had been tried and defrocked for his antislavery writings, Lucious C. Matlack, and Luther Lee, a minister who later operated an Underground Railroad station in Syracuse, New York.
The denomination sponsored traveling preachers on the frontier and into Canada, where they appealed to workingmen and farmers. Typical was Rev. James Caughey, an American sent to Ontario by the Wesleyan Methodist Church from the 1840s through 1864. He brought in converts by the score, most notably in the revivals in Canada West 1851-53. His technique combined restrained emotionalism with a clear call for personal commitment, coupled with follow-up action to organize support from converts. It was a time when the Holiness Movement caught fire, with the revitalized interest of men and women in Christian perfection. Caughey successfully bridged the gap between the style of earlier camp meetings and the needs of more sophisticated Methodist congregations in the emerging cities.
In addition to advocating for abolitionism, the early Wesleyan Methodists championed the rights of women. In 1848, the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls, New York, hosted the Seneca Falls Convention, the first women's rights convention. It is commemorated by the Women's Rights National Historical Park in the village today. Luther Lee, General President in 1856, preached at the ordination service of Antoinette Brown (Blackwell), the very first woman ordained to the Christian ministry in the United States. The Alliance of Reformed Baptists of Canada ordained the very first woman to the ministry in Canada in the late 1800s. At General Conference in 1867, a resolution was adopted favoring the right of women to vote (as well as the right of freedmen—blacks). This was 44 years before the US constitution was amended to ensure women voting privileges.
In 1966 the Wesleyan Methodist Church merged with the Alliance of Reformed Baptists of Canada and in 1968 with the Pilgrim Holiness Church. It spread through revivals emphasizing a deepening experience with God called holiness or sanctification. Heart purity was a central theme. During this period of time, many small churches developed through revivals and the emphasis of entire sanctification (taught by John Wesley, but not emphasized by some mainline Methodists). As many as 25 or 30 small denominations were formed and eventually merged with other groups to enlarge the church. The church was strong in missionary and revival emphasis. The merger took place in 1968 at Anderson University, Anderson, Indiana. Some conferences and local churches of the Wesleyan Methodist Church objected to the merger, thus resulting in a schism of the Allegheny Wesleyan Methodist Connection with the Wesleyan Church, as well as the creation of the Bible Methodist Connection of Churches and Bible Methodist Connection of Tennessee around 1968. The Pilgrim Holiness Church of New York (formed in 1963) and Pilgrim Holiness Church of the Midwest (formed in 1970) were also established around this time, with the former in response to the tendency of centralization of the larger Pilgrim Holiness Church and the latter in response to the merger.
The Wesleyan Church has the following core values:
In addition, the Wesleyan Church holds to the following articles of religion:
There is one true God, united in three persons: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
God the Father created all things, and that all humans are created in the image of God. God, in love, seeks out and receives penitent sinners.
Jesus Christ is the Son of God, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, fully God and fully man. He died on the cross and was buried as a sacrifice both for original sin and all human transgression and to reconcile us to God. He was raised bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven, and intercedes at the Father's right hand, until he returns to judge all humanity.
The Old and New Testaments are the inspired and infallible Word of God, inerrant in their original manuscripts, superior to any human authority and sufficient for all things necessary to salvation. The Bible has been transmitted to the present without corruption of any essential doctrine.
The divine law is summarized in the commands to love God with all one's heart and to love one's neighbor as oneself. All persons, therefore, ought to seek to obey God and to preserve and promote for others the exercise of every natural right.
People are made in the image of God. Marriage is designed by God as a metaphor for His relationship with His covenant people. Therefore, human sexuality ought only to be expressed in heterosexual monogamy. Marriage has the highest priority among social organizations, and was divinely designed for reproduction. Extramarital and same-sex relationships are immoral and sinful.
Humans were created with the ability to choose between right and wrong. But, since the fall, humans cannot choose right on their own, because of original sin. Humans are inclined toward sin and cannot, on their own, call on God or exercise faith. But God, through Christ, provides to each person prevenient grace, allowing each to choose salvation.
All of creation suffers the consequences of Adam and Eve's disobedience and groans for redemption. Each person is born with a bent toward sinning, which manifests itself in outward acts of unrighteousness. Failures in judgment and involuntary flaws are not to be equated with willful sin but still require the atonement of Christ for forgiveness. Willful sin is when a free moral agent volitionally chooses to transgress a known law of God. Such sin will result in a loss of fellowship with God, self-absorption, an inability to live righteously, and, ultimately, eternal separation from God. The atonement of Christ is the only remedy for sin, whether original, willful or involuntary.
Christ's crucifixion allows redemption for the whole world. It is the only foundation of salvation from sin. The atonement covers those who mentally cannot choose salvation, but individuals who are mentally accountable must accept the gift of salvation of their own free will.
Local churches are organized into a network of districts with equal representation of clergy and laity at their annual conferences. Each has an elected administrator known as the district superintendent and has a district board of administration with both lay and clergy serving. National and multi-national networks are called general conferences with strong national leadership and meet every four years. The North American General Conference has one General Superintendent, Dr. Wayne Schmidt.
Currently, general conferences exist in the Philippines, the Caribbean, and North America, though The Wesleyan Church has recently begun a process of "internationalization" in which areas and regions of the world have the opportunity to form their own general conferences. Though it is too early to predict which general conferences will be formed in the coming years, the eventual shift is inevitable. The overarching goal of the internationalization process is to create a global network of partnership and not a "top-down" leadership structure within the worldwide church.
According to the 2012 Wesleyan Church Discipline, the official name of the denomination is The Wesleyan Church. However, different names may be used by different units of the church for practicality and localization. The following are the official names of the denomination, for the various organizational units:
The Wesleyan Church is a part of the holiness movement, and as such, follows many of the same teachings as similar denominations that follow Wesleyan traditions. At times in its history, it has sought merger with both the Church of the Nazarene and the Free Methodist Church, both of which practice very similar doctrine.
The Wesleyan Church is a member of the following organizations:
The Wesleyan Church runs its own publishing house located in Indianapolis, Indiana. Its mission is to "be a leader in communicating the message of holiness through the publication of quality resources for local churches and ministries around the world."
The Wesleyan Church in North America is organized in the following 26 districts:
John Augustus Abayomi-Cole, a creole from Freetown attended the 1887 General Conference of the Wesleyan Methodist Church of the United States. He implored the Connection to send missionaries to Sierra Leone. This led to a small mission led by Rev. Henry Johnston being dispatched there in 1889. This was the first step towards the foundation of the Wesleyan Church of Sierra Leone.
The merger between the Wesleyan methodist Church and the Pilgrim Holiness Church passed unanimously. The newly formed denomination took the name 'The Wesleyan Church.' The Allegheny Conference refused to join the merged group.
The Bible Methodist Connection of Tennessee, the Bible Holiness Church, and the Bible Methodist Connection of Churches were formed as a result of the opposition to the merger of the Wesleyan Methodist Church and the Pilgrim Holiness Church into the Wesleyan Church (1968).