British Methodism

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British Methodism


Methodist Church, Canada


(The Methodist Church, Canada no longer exists as a separate entity. It is now a constituent part of the United Church of Canada.) The Methodist Church, Canada (1884-1925) was formed by the merger of the Methodist Church of Canada with three smaller Methodist bodies, two of which had been transported to Canada by representatives of the various divisions of British Methodism (the Primitive Methodist Connection of Canada and the Bible Christian Church), the third a product of a schism within Canadian Methodism in 1833 (the Methodist Episcopal Church of Canada (1833-1884)). The Methodist Church of Canada was formed in 1874 by the merger of several Methodist bodies, the result of American and British Methodists who had completed their efforts to unite.

Methodism in Canada had been taken under the guidance and leadership of the Methodist Episcopal Church as soon as that church emerged as a separate entity in 1784. Itinerants were initially sent to Nova Scotia, but in 1791 William Losee was sent to Kingston, Ontario by the New York Conference and work developed in the Western Provinces under the New York and later the Genesee (Western New York) Conferences. In 1828 this work became independent as the Methodist Episcopal Church in Canada (1828-1833). In 1833 a merger of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Canada (1828-1833) and the British Wesleyan Connection, then still directly tied to the British headquarters, was accomplished. A minority of those formerly associated with the Methodist Episcopal Church in Canada (1828-1833) rejected the merger and reorganized as the Methodist Episcopal Church in Canada (1833-1884). They wanted an independent Canadian church, free of control from England, and they wanted to keep the episcopal polity. (The British had not developed an episcopacy as had the American Methodists.)

An initial conference of the dissenting ministers was held in 1834 and a general conference the following year at which a bishop was selected and the new jurisdiction formally organized. Since most of the meeting halls and members had been lost in the merger, the new church began with almost nothing, but by 1837 reported over 3,500 members. By 1843 there were over 8,000 members, and the single conference was divided into two conferences. A third conference was designated in 1875.

The Primitive Methodist Church of Canada had roots similar to those of the Primitive Methodist Church in the United States, begun in the 1820s. It grew out of the Primitive Methodist Connection in England, a group of Methodists attached to revival and camp meetings and generally known for the emotional displays at their gatherings. In 1829, at about the same time the Primitive Methodist Church began work in New York and Pennsylvania, William Lawson and his family arrived in Toronto. Lawson had been a local preacher in the Wesleyan Methodist Connection, but had been expelled and joined the Primitive Methodists. In Toronto, Lawson organized a class and preached to a small gathering. In 1830 Rev. William Watkins was sent from England to assist in the work. He was replaced a year later by William Summersides, one of the original missionaries sent to America. The Primitive Methodists in Canada formed their conference in 1854. Lawson became the first secretary. The church grew slowly but steadily through the next generation, but welcomed the prospect of union with the rest of Canadian Methodism.

The Bible Christians began in England in the second decade of the nineteenth century out of the work of William O'Bryan, a Methodist local preacher, who continually found himself at odds with his superiors and was twice expelled from the Wesleyan Connection for his operating outside of the discipline of the church. He was an effective preacher, and raised a following in some areas of Cornwall and Devon not otherwise touched by Methodism. O'Bryan organized the first Bible Christian society in October 1815. The first quarterly conference in January 1816 reported 11 societies in the fellowship. At the first conference of the Connection in 1819 16 male and 14 female itinerant preachers were reported, with a following of 2000.

In 1831 the Connection sent two missionaries to Canada to work among Cornish immigrants: John Hicks Eynon to Upper Canada and Francis Metherall to Prince Edward Island. From these small beginnings, other missionaries came and the church grew rapidly. There were over 1,000 members at the first district meeting in 1844. The church slowly became self-supporting and by the time the Canadian conference was organized in 1855, had freed itself from British support. From the time of the formation of the conference until the merger in 1884, the church more than doubled its membership.

Membership: At the time of their merger in 1884, the four uniting churches reported as follows: Methodist Church in Canada, 128,644 members; Methodist Episcopal Church in Canada, 25,671 members; Primitive Methodist Church, 8,090 members; Bible Christian Church, 7,398 members.


Centennial of Canadian Methodism. Toronto: William Briggs, 1891.

Davies, Rupert, A. Raymond George, and Gordon Rupp, eds. A History of the Methodist Church in Great Britain. Vol. 2. London: Epworth Press, 1978.

Sanderson, J. E. Methodism in Canada. 2 vols. Toronto: William Briggs, 1910.

Shaw, Thomas. The Bible Christians, 1815-1907. London: Epworth Press, 1965.

Silcox, Claris Edwin. Church Union in Canada. New York: Institute of Social and Religious Research, 1933.


Methodist Church in Canada


(The Methodist Church in Canada no longer exists as a separate entity. It is now a constituent part of the United Church of Canada.) The Methodist Church in Canada was formed in 1874 by the merger of the Wesleyan Conference of Eastern British North America, the Conference of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Canada, and the Methodist New Connexion Church in Canada.

The Wesleyan Conference of Eastern British North America continued the earliest Methodist work in Canada. In 1772 a group of Methodists from Yorkshire settled in Cumberland County, Nova Scotia, an area familiar with revivals. In the 1780s it became the site of one initiated by Congregationalist minister Henry Alline, which had split the older Congregational churches and produced a set of rival Separatist congregations. Among the Methodists, 19-year-old William Black, Jr. emerged as a preacher who began to travel through the county and then all of Nova Scotia, organizing small groups of believers. In 1784 he traveled to Maryland to attend the founding conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church and to ask their assistance in the work he had begun. The prospects for Methodism in the Maritime Provinces were enhanced by the migration of many American colonists still loyal to the British government. The first conference was held in 1786.

The work in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick came under the care of the New York Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, which appointed ministers throughout the 1790s. However, these ministers experienced open rebuke for their disloyalty to the British government, and the last departed in 1799. That same year Black traveled to England and appealed to the Wesleyan Connexion for ministers. Four returned with him in 1800, others followed. The work spread through the Maritime Provinces. In 1790 a mission in Bermuda was inspired by the efforts of John Stephenson. Until 1855 the work was under the direct supervision of the English Wesleyans and was administered by its London Missionary committee. In that year the work was organized into affiliated conferences and designated the Wesleyan Methodist Connexion of Eastern British America. The British Connexion, besides continuing financial support, retained the right of ratifying the election of the conference president and vetoing actions of the conference. This relationship (tied to the British but independent of efforts further west) remained until 1874.

The Wesleyan Methodist Church in Canada originated with the movement of Methodism into what is today Quebec and Ontario (designated Upper and Lower Canada in the late 1700s). Methodist work began in 1780 with the arrival of a British officer by the name of Tuffey in Quebec. Tuffey was also a Methodist preacher. Six years later Major George Neal, also a Methodist preacher, began preaching in the Niagara area. Their work was taken into an area of Canada organized by former American colonists still loyal to the British government. Among the immigrants were Paul Heck and his wife Barbara Heck, loyalists who had been instrumental in the founding of Methodism in New York prior to the Revolution. They formed a class in Augusta (Ontario) in 1788. The first itinerant, William Losee, arrived in 1790, and in 1791 he led in the organization of a number of classes.

A decade later the Canadian work had grown to become a separate district. In 1810, western New York was separated from the New York Conference and designated the Genesee Conference. The Canadian work was transferred to the Genesee Conference and was also divided into two districts, Upper and Lower Canada. The work was disrupted during the War of 1812, when the area became a battlefield. After the war, the work resumed. The New England Conference developed two charges across the border in Quebec. In 1824 the General Conference separated the Canadian work from the Genesee Conference, and created a new Canada Conference. By this time many of the ministers, including leading minister and presiding elder Henry Ryan, were firmly convinced that full independence of the Canadian Methodists was in order. They worked for that independence during the next four years and in 1828 the General Conference granted it: the Canadian Conference became the Methodist Episcopal Church in Canada. No bishop was ever elected to head the church, which existed only five years.

As the War of 1812 was drawing to a close, the British Methodists appointed a missionary to Canada. John B. Strong arrived in Quebec in 1814 to begin the growth of a rival to the American-based effort. Its growth was augmented by the movement of many Methodists with anti-American sentiments into the new jurisdiction. Competition between and duplication of efforts by the two conferences were somewhat lessened in 1820, when a division of territory was agreed upon. The Americans concentrated on Upper Canada, the British on Lower Canada. In 1833, five years after the Methodist Episcopal Church conference had become independent, a merger between the two finalized. The new Canadian Wesleyan Conference remained in close relationship with the British Methodists, and its polity (which had no bishop) was accepted. The union proved unsatisfactory to many; those commited to an episcopal polity withdrew and formed the Methodist Episcopal Church in Canada (1833-1884).

Of intense concern after the 1833 merger was the reception by the British Methodists of Canadian government funds which were to be used to underwrite Indian missions and to stop the political activities of the Canadian Methodists. The Canadian Methodists were, on the other hand, opponents of state aid to religion. The issues led to a break between the groups in the 1840s. As that break proceeded, some independent efforts developed in Quebec as the Eastern District Meeting. This independent effort merged with the reunited Wesleyans to form the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Canada in 1854. That church continued until 1874. The Methodist New Connexion emerged after the death of John Wesley (1703-1791) in a dispute over the status of Methodism as a dissenting movement. Under Wesley and his immediate successors, Methodists considered themselves Anglicans. They would not schedule meetings to conflict with parish worship, advised their members to have their babies baptized by the local Anglican priest, and encouraged members to receive their sacrament at the local Church of England. William Thom (1751-1811) and Alexander Kilham (1762-1798) disagreed and argued that Methodism should become a dissenting movement and offer the sacraments directly to its members. They also argued for a variety of lay rights in the choice of class leaders (then exclusively the perogative of the preachers) and representation at the annual conference. In 1797 they led in the formation of the Methodist New Connexion.

The Methodist New Connexion Church in Canada began in the 1820s after a wealthy layman, William Ridgeway, visited it and reported its needs to the British Connexion. A short time later a retired minister settled there and began to preach. In 1832 Joseph Clementson traveled to Toronto, only to return and report on the continued needs of the population. Finally, in 1837 John Addyman was sent to formally institute a mission. He was followed two years later by Henry O. Crofts. The work made an immediate advance by its encounter and subsequent merger in 1841 with a small group, the Canadian Wesleyan Methodist Church.

The Canadian Wesleyan Methodist Church was formed in 1829 by Rev. Henry Ryan (1775-1833). Ryan had been a presiding elder working in Canada in the Genesee Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. After the War of 1812, he was among the loudest voices appealing for independence for Canadian Methodism from American control. Impatient with the slow process, Ryan became a severe critic of the conference, so much so that after independence was declared in 1828, he led a schismatic movement of several hundred members to the formation of the Canadian Wesleyan Methodist Church. It had grown to approximately 2,000 members when it united with the New Connexion.

The merged church became known as the Canadian Wesleyan Methodist New Connexion, with a direct link to the New Connexion Missionary Society in England through a superintendent appointed by the British leaders. In 1843 the Connexion absorbed the small body of Methodist Protestants, a Canadian conference affiliated with the Methodist Protestant Church which had been organized in 1836. At that time the Methodist Protestants had less than 600 members. In 1864 the Connexion changed its name to the Methodist New Connexion Church in Canada, the name it carried into the union of 1874.

In 1884, the Methodist Church of Canada merged with the Bible Christian Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church in Canada, and the Primitive Methodist Church in Canada to become the Methodist Church, Canada.


Centennial of Canadian Methodism. Toronto: William Briggs, 1891.

Davies, Rupert, A. Raymond George, and Gordon Rupp, eds. A History of the Methodist Church in Great Britain. Vol. 2. London: Epworth Press, 1978.

Sanderson, J. E. The First Century of Methodism in Canada. 2 vols. Toronto: William Briggs, 1908.

Silcox, Claris Edwin. Church Union in Canada. New York: Institute of Social and Religious Research, 1933.


Primitive Methodist Church

1045 Laurel Run Rd.
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702

The Primitive Methodist Church is one of the two Methodist bodies in the United States which does not trace its history to the Methodist Episcopal Church, an American church, but to the British Wesleyan Methodist tradition. The Primitive Methodist Church grew from the work of two English ministers, the Revs. Hugh Bourne and William Clowes. Out of their evangelistic efforts the new church itself developed in England. Both men became influenced by the great success of the American camp meeting. Under their leadership a camp meeting was held on May 31, 1807. As a result of this meeting and some other camp meetings, both men were dismissed from the Wesleyan Methodist Connection. Since those converted were not welcomed into the Wesleyan Church, Bourne and Clowes found a place of meeting in 1810. Growth was such that in 1812 in Tunstall, they became officially organized as The Society of the Primitive Methodists. The church accepted the polity of the Wesleyan Methodists and did not create bishops.

By 1829 the call for ministers by Primitive Methodists who had migrated to the United States was heard. Four missionaries were sent–William Summersides, Thomas Morris, Ruth Watkins, and William Knowles. Growth was slow and at first confined to New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. In 1840, the American group separated itself from its British parent but kept fraternal relations. Growth increased, particularly in the Pennsylvania coal fields. In 1842, a Primitive Methodist Church was founded in Galena, Illinois, and became the base for a second conference in the Midwest. The conferences existed in close relation but operated autonomously until 1889 when the General Conference was organized and three conferences, Eastern, Western, and Pennsylvania joined and became the legislative body with the conferences remaining as the administrative branches. In 1975, both the annual and general conferences were combined. This combined both the legislative and administrative powers into one conference which meets annually. It is composed of ministers and lay delegates from the six districts. It has direct oversight of all boards and committees. The districts provide administrative guidance along with the district and local church quarterly conference. The conference is presided over by the president, who is elected to a four-year term. There is equal representation of clergy and laity at all levels of administration. There is one full-time officer, the president. The main mission work is carried on in Guatemala, working in conjunction with the Primitive Methodist National Conference of Guatemala, and in Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

The church is a member of the National Association of Evangelicals and, though not a member, cooperates with the Christian Holiness Association.

Membership: In 2000, there were 79 churches, 4,799 members, and 66 ministers.


Primary Helps and Biblical Instruction for Primitive Methodists. N.p., [1958].

Werner, Julia Stewart. The Primitive Connection. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1984.

Wert, Paul R., J. Allan Ranck, and William C. F. Hayes. The Christian Way. Dayton, OH: Otterbein Press, 1950.


United Wesleyan Methodist Church of America

℅ David S. Bruno
270 W. 126th St.
New York, NY 10027

The United Wesleyan Methodist Church of America was formed in 1905 by Methodists who immigrated to the United States from the West Indies and wished to carry on the tradition of the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas, a Wesleyan church with historical ties to British Methodists. Their doctrine is Wesleyan, and their polity is like its West Indian counterpart (nonepiscopal). A general conference meets biennially. In 1976 the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas entered into a concordant with the United Methodist Church which aligned their work and led to a number of jointly sponsored projects in the Islands. The church is a member of both the World Council of Churches and the Caribbean Conference of Churches.

Membership: In 1978 there were 4 congregations, all in New York City. In 1982, the church in the West Indies reported 68,898 members.


Bessil-Watson, Lisa, comp. Handbook of the Churches in the Caribbean. Bridgetown, Barbados: Cedar Press, 1982.

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