The Free Methodist Church, is a denomination of broader Methodism. It is considered to be Evangelical and Protestant, and its theology is similar to that of the Wesleyan Church, the Church of the Nazarene, the Church of God (Anderson) and other Holiness churches, being largely Arminian with Moravian Church influences, touting free will. The Free Methodist Church's highest governing body is the World Conference, which is composed of representatives, both lay and clergy, from all countries with a Free Methodist General Conference.
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 Ontario and 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 meeting and 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 conservative and 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 church ministries, denominational support is at times incongruent with stated planting objectives in the [Book of Discipline]
"Formation of New Churches ¶ 6800 A. The fulfillment of the Great Commission and the mission of 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 and multiple styles of ministry are required."
Some Conferences have focused instead on a "mega" (large) Church format which follows the "[Saddleback] " and, or, [Nelson Searcy's Journey Church] model. This model differs from historical Methodism & Free Methodism, which focused primarily upon [small group worship & study] 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 This has met with limited success, as membership remains flat.
In addition, the Free Methodist Church is one of several denominations supporting Azusa Pacific University(Azusa, CA). Wessington Springs College is a former, now closed institution which was located in South Dakota. Internationally, there is Osaka Christian College of the Japanese Free Methodist Church, Hope Africa University, a recently founded school in Bujumbura, Burundi, and the Faculdade Teológica Metodista Livre, São Paulo, Brazil.
Through the 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:
|AFRICA||ASIA||EUROPE||LATIN AMERICA||NORTH AMERICA|
|Democratic Republic of Congo||India||Hungary||Bolivia|
|Malawi||Sri Lanka||United Kingdom||El Salvador|
|Middle East||Taiwan||French Guiana|
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 Cadillac luxury automobile. Some saw this act by leadership as inconsistent with the Book of Discipline (a manual of conduct) , and cite:
"Self Discipline: ¶3350 One attribute of the Spirit’s indwelling presence is self-control [(Galatians 5:23)] The Scriptures instruct us to honor the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit ([1 Corinthians 6:19-20] ). As Christians we desire to be characterized by balance and moderation. 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 disciplined style of life, we attempt to avoid selfish indulgence in the pleasures of this world. It is our wish to live simply in service 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
Interview: Irene Elizabeth Stroud discusses being convicted by the United Methodist Church for being a practicing homosexual
Dec 06, 2004; ALEX CHADWICK NPR Special 12-06-2004 Interview: Irene Elizabeth Stroud discusses being convicted by the United Methodist Church...