On June 6, 1967, representatives of twenty-eight Wesleyan Methodist
churches met at Camp Eden, Alabama, to organize themselves into The Bible
Methodist Connection of Churches. Since no written history exists which
details either the events surrounding the secession from Wesleyan Methodism
and the formation of Bible Methodism or its subsequent development, this
history is in many ways suggestive rather than exhaustive. The thesis
developed here is that Bible Methodism is essentially Wesleyan Methodism
renamed. The reasons for the Bible Methodist secession parallel in many
respects those of the Wesleyan Methodists in their secession from the
Methodist Episcopal Church in 1843. This history begins with a brief sketch
of the beginnings of Methodism under
John Wesley and its subsequent planting
in America. Next, the secession of the Wesleyan Methodists from the
Methodist Episcopal Church as it provides a backdrop to Bible Methodism is
discussed. The third section surveys the secession of Bible Methodism from
the Wesleyan Methodist Church. In the fourth section, contemporary Bible
Methodism, particularly the Alabama Bible Methodist Conference, is examined,
and the final section offers an analysis and critique of some of the
positive and negative elements of Bible Methodism.
John Wesley and American Methodism
While “no man is an island entire of itself,” the impress of some men’s
lives spans both their time and continent. John Wesley is such a man.
Educated at Oxford University, Wesley vainly sought peace with God and
assurance of salvation through methodical practice of holy living. As he
labored to find soul satisfaction, God was seeking him. The process of God’s
providence may be seen in the several journeys which brought Wesley through
Georgia, over the Atlantic with Moravian Peter Böhler, and down Aldersgate
Street one spring evening in May of 1738 to saving faith in Christ alone.
Despite a flickering initial faith, God molded Wesley into an instrument for
His reviving of England. When Wesley died he had imparted to the world the
revived doctrine of the assurance of salvation, the practical doctrine of
Christian perfection, and a vibrant Wesleyan Methodism.
The planting of Methodism in America took place through a few Methodist
laymen whose hearts were ablaze with a zeal for God and a passion for souls.
Methodist societies were established in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New
York. By 1768, they were in need of experienced pastors to nurture and
direct the new works that had sprung to life. Wesley sent several ministers
for this purpose over the course of the next several years. Francis Asbury
and Thomas Cokes were two of the most significant leaders in the formation
of American Methodism.
In 1784, the Methodist Episcopal Church came into being, uniting the
sundry societies under the direction of Francis Asbury as general
superintendent. As its name indicates, the church polity was Episcopal.
Wesley felt very strongly that the responsibility for the oversight of the
societies lay upon the clergy and not the laity. He wrote in 1790, “As long
as I live the people shall have no share in choosing either stewards or
leaders among the Methodists. We have not and never had any such custom. We
are no republicans, and never intend to be.”
The American Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) grew rapidly in the years
following its inception. The revivals of the late 18th and early 19th
centuries resulted in a great swelling of Methodist ranks. However, the
thorny issue of slavery which was beginning to work its way into the nerves
of American society in general, became a rancorous issue within the ranks of
the American Methodist Episcopal Church.
Slavery, Episcopacy, and Wesleyan Methodism
By the 1830’s there was a growing sentiment in the North against slavery.
A strong abolitionist element became increasingly vocal within the AME
through the publication of Zion’s Watchman. The official response of the AME
Church was that neutrality on the issue was the proper position. As the
abolitionists continued to raise their voices, sentiment actually turned
more and more toward a pro-slavery position. Abolitionists were debarred
from membership, censured, and sometimes expelled for their outcry against
slavery. Feeling that “the Bishops were arbitrary in their methods of
favoring pro-slavery resolutions and articles, and in opposing and hindering
any and all abolition resolutions,” they announced their intention to
withdraw from the AME Church in the first issue of the True Wesleyan:
We wish it to be distinctly understood that we do not withdraw from
anything essential to pure Wesleyan Methodism. We only dissolve our
connection with Episcopacy and Slavery. These we believe to be
anti-Scriptural, and well calculated to sustain each other.
So it was that in 1843, “while everybody was watching with bated breath,
hoping the unreconciled Southerners would not bolt and sunder the church,
[the abolitionists] marched out in the other direction.” Orange Scott and La
Roy Sunderland along with a “small band of preachers and followers withdrew
from the Methodist Episcopal Church.” The key issues driving this withdrawal
were the social issue of slavery and episcopal church polity. While slavery
was the dominant issue of the times, it was not actually the propulsive
reason for withdrawal. The unjust treatment of the abolitionists which
episcopal polity made possible was the effective cause. This same social
issue-church polity combination reemerges as the underlying cause of Bible
Methodism some 120 years later.
The Wesleyan Methodist solution to this problem of polity is reflected in
the name of the new organization: The Wesleyan Methodist Connection of
America. The Episcopal form of government inherited from Wesley and
Anglicanism, was replaced with a loose connection of societies or churches
which characterized the Methodist movement in its earliest days.
Essentially, Wesleyan Methodism established a congregational republican
polity. The primary differences between the Methodist Episcopal Discipline
and the newly created Wesleyan Methodist Discipline were “the form of the
government and in its attitude toward certain moral questions.”
The subsequent history of the Wesleyan Methodist Connection is a long and
rich one. However, only those points which serve to elucidate the background
of Bible Methodism will be noted. The Wesleyan Methodists became
progressively conservative both practically and theologically throughout the
19th century. The doctrine of entire sanctification, so intimately connected
with Methodism, was further refined in the General Conference of 1891,
evidencing the influence of the burgeoning Holiness Movement. Wesleyan
Methodism was closely associated with the Fundamentalist movement in the
early part of the 20th century. Nicholson, writing in the 1930’s, states
“The Wesleyan Methodist doctrines are distinctively allied with the group
known as ‘Fundamentalists.’”
Worldliness, Episcopacy, and Bible Methodism
The years following World War II were in many ways turbulent ones for the
Wesleyan Methodist Church. Nicholson describes the national attitude as one
of “indifference toward spiritual values.” In the face of a growing tendency
toward independence on the part of the local churches and the Annual
Conferences, the General Conference began moving to strengthen its
supervision of both the Annual Conferences and the local churches. In 1943
the General Conference recommended the development of a stronger, “central
supervisory authority to oversee the work of our Church.” This
recommendation was adopted by the 1947 General Conference along with the
change of the name of the denomination from The Wesleyan Methodist
Connection of America to The Wesleyan Methodist Church of America. Although
these two changes were slow in coming, they reflect a monumental reversal of
the very ecclesiological and church polity principles which were at the
heart of the creation of The Wesleyan Methodist Connection.
“The foment which the [WM] Church experienced over the next twenty-one
years revolved about the quest for a proper balance between the rights and
responsibilities of the individual, the authority and the responsibility of
the annual conference, and the power of the General Conference.”
Accompanying this movement toward greater centralization was a trend away
from the standards of separation from the world which had previously
characterized Wesleyan Methodism.
Another background factor in the process that lead to the creation of
Bible Methodism that is completely unrecognized by Nicholson is the
influence The Inter-Church Holiness Convention (IHC). The IHC was created in
1952 as a means of bringing together the conservative element of the
Holiness movement in one place for mutual edification and support. The
Convention was a tremendous success and was regularly attended by thousands
of holiness people. During the 1950’s and early 1960’s, Communism was
thought to be the forerunner of the Anti-Christ, and an indication of the
imminent return of Christ. The National Council of Churches and the World
Council of Churches were considered by many to be front organizations for
Communism. Much of the preaching of this era communicated the belief that
these world-encompassing groups were soon to take over the world, that the
believer should guard against any encroachment of worldliness, and that he
should separate from those who were “going worldly.” This focus gradually
developed into a powerful emphasis on, in Trouten’s words, “come-outism.”
Issues and Conflict
Several issues which were crucial in the formation of Bible Methodism
clearly emerge from this period: 1) the question of merger, first with the
Free Methodist Church, and then with the Pilgrim Holiness Church, 2) the
continued strengthening of the General Conference’s authority over the
Annual Conferences, and 3) the growing concern over “worldliness,” viz., the
use of the Television, dress standards, and the wedding ring.
Concern over an encroaching worldliness led the
Ohio Conference to adopt
a resolution in 1951 which gave greater specificity to the Wesleyan
Methodist Discipline’s requirement of its members to have “left off the
wearing of gold.” The resolution specified that the wedding band was
included in this prohibition. In the 1955 General Conference, the Conference
President, Dr. Roy S. Nicholson, ruled that such an interpretation was
unconstitutional. His ruling was appealed, and the Board of Review sustained
his ruling. The Tennessee Conference passed a similar resolution concerning
TV, which, when appealed by certain members of the Tennessee Conference, was
overruled by the 1959 General Conference.
Concurrent with these issues was the question of merger. The first merger
attempt with the Free Methodist Church met great opposition primarily
because the Free Methodist Church was episcopal in government. A 96 to 62
vote defeated the merger proposal in 1955. The second merger proposal
concerned the Pilgrim Holiness Church. This proposal was eventually adopted
in 1966 despite strong opposition, and the merger was scheduled for 1968.
All of these issues together provided the impetus for the secessions that
followed the 1966 General Conference.
Secession and Establishment
The stated reasons for secession from the Wesleyan Methodist Church
differ among the conferences which seceded. The
Ohio Conference was the
first conference to withdraw. Rev. Edsel Trouten, the leader and spokesman
for the Ohio group, was adamantly opposed to the purposeful shift within
Wesleyan Methodism toward a more centralized church government. “The primary
issue was never standards [worldliness]; it was always government.” Roy
Nicholson offers an insightful analysis of the underlying reasons for the
It is not without significance that some of the most active agitators in
the schismatic efforts were not originally members of The Wesleyan Methodist
Church. ...Also some had not been trained in Wesleyan Methodist principles
and polity by Wesleyan Methodist teachers in Wesleyan Methodist
E. R. Trouten was trained at God’s Bible School (GBS) in Cincinnati,
Ohio. While Trouten was at GBS, a non-denominational holiness Bible college,
the book which most profoundly affected his understanding of ecclesiology
was The Doctrine of the Church in these Times by Chester Tulga, a
Conservative Baptist fundamentalist. Thus it was Baptist fundamentalism
which provided the initial foundation for the polity of the man most
instrumental in articulating the reasons for the withdrawal. Trouten
authored The Manifesto and Constitution of the Society for the Preservation
of Primitive Wesleyan Methodism which served as a rallying point for both
the conservatives within the Ohio Conference and the Alabama Conference.
This Manifesto primarily focuses upon the opposition of the conservatives to
“the relentless move to a centralized and arbitrary character of government,
that in our own historical context was considered to be justifiable grounds
for separation from the parent body.” The stated purpose of the Manifesto
was the creation of a society within the Wesleyan Methodist Church for the
preservation of Primitive Wesleyan Methodism. It was not originally intended
to be a statement of withdrawal. Once formed, the Society resurrected the
original organ of Wesleyan Methodism, The True Wesleyan, as a means to call
the Wesleyan Methodist Church back to its roots.
Approximately six months after the creation of this society, dialogue
with Leslie D. Wilcox, the Ohio Annual Conference President, revealed that
the differences between the purpose of the newly formed society and the
direction of the Wesleyan Methodist Church were irreconcilable. On June 7,
1966, the pastors of the Society who were withdrawing from the
Wesleyan-Methodist Church met with the Ohio Conference trustees to discuss
the settlement of the church property problem. Trouten comments, “These men
worked fairly and equitably with all the withdrawing churches.” On June 9th
the society adopted the name Wesleyan Connection of Churches and ratified a
revised edition of the Wesleyan Methodist constitution which Trouten had
The Alabama Conference waited until its official Annual Conference in
1967 to withdraw from the WMC. The issues cited in “A Brief History of The
Bible Methodist Connection of Churches,” a prologue to the Minutes of the
First Annual Conference of Bible Methodist Connection of Churches, were “(1)
The wearing of the wedding band by members of the church; (2) TV ownership
and viewing by ministers and laymen;” (3) “Worldly trends which were making
inroads into our area college [Central College];” (4) Opposition “to any
connection whatever with the National Council of Churches;” (5) Opposition
“to the increasing trend toward centralized government in the General Church
[WMC].” “These issues, however, climaxed in the issue of church merger.” The
approval of union with the Pilgrim Holiness Church by the 1966 Wesleyan
Methodist General Conference was the spark that lit the powder keg.
In 1968, while the Pilgrim Holiness Church and the Wesleyan Methodist
Church were merging, the Ohio Wesleyan Connection of Churches was meeting
with the Alabama Bible Methodists to see if a union of these two like-minded
groups could be effected. Eighteen months later, in May, 1970, the First
General Conference of the Bible Methodist Connection of Churches met on the
campus of God’s Bible School to officially unite these two groups as the
Bible Methodist Connection of Churches with a total membership of 794
persons. The official Declaration of Purpose reads as follows:
Recognizing from past histories of holiness bodies that a decline in
emphasis upon personal holiness seems to coincide with the increase of
emphasis upon organization, centralization of authority and the machinery of
church life, the Bible Methodist Connection of Churches wishes to state that
the whole and sole cause and purpose of this connection of churches is to
spread scriptural (second blessing) holiness over the lands, building up a
holy and separated people for the first resurrection.
Bible Methodism Today
Doctrine and Practice
The Articles of Faith of Bible Methodism come directly from the 1959
Discipline of the Wesleyan Methodist Church which appears to be unaltered
since the 1891 General Conference. The theological perspective of Bible
Methodism is classic Wesleyan-Arminianism. It is fundamentalist in
character, though the very “connectional” nature of its organization allows
for a diversity in application of the doctrine of separation. Its doctrinal
distinctive is primarily the belief that Christ’s atonement provided for
salvation in this life from both sin as a practice and sin as an inherited
principle. The Discipline defines Entire Sanctification as:
that work of the
Holy Spirit by which the child of God is cleansed from
all inbred sin through faith in Jesus Christ. It is subsequent to
regeneration and is wrought when the believer presents himself a living
sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, and is thus enabled through grace
to love God with all the heart and to walk in His holy commandments
That this is not teaching a sinless perfectionism is clearly seen in the
statement under the heading “XII. Sin after Justification”:
After we have received the Holy Ghost, we may depart from grace given and
fall into sin and by the grace of God rise again to amend our lives.
Therefore, they are to be condemned who say they can no more sin as along as
they live here or deny the place of forgiveness to such as re-pent [italics
The mode of baptism is not addressed the Discipline, and, while immersion
is the normal practice, the other modes of baptism are not criticized.
Practical separation from the world continues to be a major emphasis of
Bible Methodism. However, Bible Methodism evidences a good balance between
the twin truths of external separation from the world and the absolute
necessity for those standards to come from a heart motivated to please God,
rather than from conformity to a standard for the sake of outward
Declension and Expansion
Bible Methodism began with 794 members in 36 churches. In 1993 total
membership was 534, in 1994 the total membership was 578, and in 1995 the
total membership was 623. Although the author does not have a continuous
record of membership totals, both oral interviews and personal observation
indicate that a sharp declension in membership occurred during the first ten
years following the withdrawal. This was, in many cases, the loss of those
who were children during the withdrawal and were disenchanted by the
withdrawal and the attitudes of certain participants in the withdrawal.
Within its thirty years of history, this declension appears to have reached
its nadir and is beginning to be reversed. The reasons for this reversal are
not clear at present.
Currently the Presidents of the three major colleges of the Conservative
Holiness Movement, Hobe Sound Bible College, God’s Bible School, and Union
Bible College, are all members of the Bible Methodist Connection of
Churches. There is a renewed emphasis on the necessity of educational
preparation for the ministry. Young men are actively being recruited to
serve in pioneer works with in Bible Methodism.
Elementary and Secondary Christian education has a significant role in
Bible Methodism. As of 1995, six Christian day schools are owned and
operated by the Bible Methodists.
Analysis and Conclusion
Negative Elements within Bible Methodism
Bible Methodism lost its focus on aggressive lay evangelism in the
process of the secession. This is a result largely of a inadequate
appropriation of its Wesleyan heritage.
John Wesley was a man of one
passion: “I have nothing to do but save souls.” The full implications of his
statement include both an aggressive evangelism and a clear call to living a
holy life. The believer was to pursue entire sanctification with methodical
focus, and, if attaining to this grace, was to continue seeking to grow in
his love for God and his fellow man. The theological development of
Wesleyanism since Wesley placed the emphasis on attaining entire
sanctification. Throughout the 19th century and well into the 20th century
this dual emphasis continued to be the rallying cry of conservative
Methodism. However, beginning in the 40’s the focus on external
manifestations of holiness began to choke the life out of the evangelistic
part. When Bible Methodism came out of Wesleyan Methodism, though for
Trouten and those first Ohio secessionists the primary motivation was
polity concerns, for the majority of the ministers and laity, the greater
concern was worldliness. This concern developed into a “hold the fort”
mentality which created suspicion of anyone or anything that might dilute
the conservatism of Bible Methodism. Hence, the churches turned inward and
lost sight of the greater issues and needs of their world.
Bible Methodism lost a clear Biblical presentation of the doctrine of
entire sanctification, and consequently this doctrine has been largely
unpreached, particularly by the second generation. Where it was preached,
the lack of clarity both in oral presentation and living representation
generated more confusion than clarity. The doctrine was not abandoned, but
was unpossessed by many of those who grew up within Bible Methodism. This
lack of clarity resulted to some degree from the leftover elements of
unbiblical terminology from the Holiness Movement which began in the last
century. The Holiness Movement was dominated by godly, but uneducated
preachers whose colloquial expressions of their personal experience became
the standard terminology for theological definition and expression (e.g.
second blessing holiness). The terminology, while not Biblically wrong, is
not Biblical in origin and has tended to be both misdefined and
Bible Methodism lost the personal accountability that was so
characteristic of Wesleyanism, and consequently lost the dynamic which had
constantly propelled Wesleyans on in their pursuit of holy living. The
decline of the “class meeting” became most prominent during the years
1940-1960. By the late 60’s it was largely a relic of a bygone era,
practiced by few.
Positive Elements in Bible Methodism
Like the tender green leaves of Spring, some positive trends are becoming
increasingly visible within Bible Methodism. The primary areas of this
resurgence are in missions and church planting. At present Bible Methodism
has more churches on mission fields than any of its separate Annual
Conferences have. Its primary field is in the Philippines where it has some
40 churches and a Bible College operating under national leadership. The
Philippine work is organized with its own National Conference with four
Annual Conferences. In Mexico, the Bible Methodist Churches were organized
into a National Conference in 1992. There the Latin American Bible Institute
is operating, with intermittent struggles from lack of faculty and
non-cooperative Mexican authorities, on the Mexico-Texas border to train
Mexican laymen and pastors to do the work of the ministry. In 1992, two men
from South Africa came to the United States seeking for a Methodist Church
to affiliate their pioneer work in that country. After traveling throughout
the States meeting with various denominations they found Bible Methodism,
with its conservative lifestyle and emphasis on holiness, to be the most
compatible with their own beliefs. Subsequently, they joined Bible Methodism
and become an arm of Bible Methodist missions operating in South Africa.
Home Missions, or church planting, was a dead issue in Bible Methodism
until the last seven years. The results of the ingrown focus were isolation
and stagnation. However, with the entrance of aggressive leadership in this
area, Bible Methodists are beginning to see the potential for evangelizing
their communities. Beyond this, at least two new daughter churches are being
pioneered, with the evident blessing of God.
While this history leaves many gaps in the history and development of
Bible Methodism, it is hoped that enough evidence has been presented to
confirm the general thesis that Bible Methodism is Wesleyan Methodism
revived. Its doctrine, polity, and standards of personal holiness
distinctively mark it as a child of Wesleyan Methodism
Hilson, James Benjamin. History of South Carolina Conference: Wesleyan
Methodist Church of America. Winona Lake, Indiana: Light and Life Press,
McLeister, Ira F and Roy S. Nicholson. Conscience and Commitment: History
of the Wesleyan Methodist Church of America. 4th rev. ed. Marion, Indiana:
The Wesley Press, 1976.
Nicholson, Roy S. Wesleyan Methodism in the South. Syracuse, N.Y.: The
Wesleyan Methodist Publishing House, 1933.
Norwood, Frederick A. The Story of American Methodism. New York: Abington
Trouten, Edsel R. Manifesto and Constitution of the Society for the
Preservation of Primitive Wesleyan Methodism. Pamphlet. Self-Published, Feb.
Watson, Philip S. Anatomy of a Conversion: The Message and Mission of
John & Charles Wesley. Grand Rapids: Frances Asbury Press of Zondervan
Publishing House, 1984.
Bible Methodist Publications
Alabama Annual Conference Minutes. Twenty-ninth Annual Session. 1995
Discipline of the Bible Methodist Connection of Churches. Published by
The General Conference, 1991.
Minutes of the Bible Methodist Connection of Churches. First General
Minutes of the Bible Methodist Connection of Churches. First Annual
Quadrennial Report of the General Missionary Secretary to the Seventh
General Conference. June 15, 1994.
Brush, Norman, former Bible Methodist Pastor (1963-68), presently in Hobe
Sound, Florida. Interview by the author, 13 April 1996, Greenville, SC.
Littleton, Curt, Alabama Bible Methodist Home Missions secretary, Lawley,
AL. Interviewed by the author, 17 April 1996, Greenville, SC. Telephone
Parker, John, Pastor of Easley Bible Methodist Church. Interview by the
author, 14 April 1996, Easley SC. Personal interview.
Trouten, Edsel, former Bible Methodist pastor and spokesman for the Bible
Methodist secession, presently in Barberton, Ohio. Interview by the author.
15 April 1996, Greenville, SC. Telephone interview.
Trouten, Edsel, R. Chapter 1 - Society for the Preservation of Primitive
Wesleyan Methodism. Handwritten manuscript recording the formation of the
Society for the Preservation of Primitive Wesleyan Methodism and the events
leading up to and just following the formation of the Ohio Wesleyan
Connection of Churches, subsequently the
Ohio Bible Methodists. [no date].
________. “Why the ... True Wesleyan?” Unpublished paper. [no date].
Gives the reason for the creation of the publication, True Wesleyan, by the
Wesleyan Connection of Churches.
________. Discipline of the Wesleyan Connection. 1966. Handwritten-typed
original manuscript revision of the 1964 Wesleyan Methodist Discipline for
the creation of the Discipline of the Wesleyan Connection.
Roy S. Nicholson presents elements of these events in his discussion of
the Wesleyan Methodist transition to superintendence and the merger with the
Pilgrim holiness in his history, Wesleyan Methodism in the South. (Syracuse,
N.Y.: The Wesleyan Methodist Publishing House, 1933), chs. 16-17. However,
his presentation, though accurate as far as it goes, is spotty and naturally
one-sided in its perspective (he was General Conference president of the
Wesleyan Methodists during this period). No mention of the pivotal
significance of the Inter-Church Holiness Convention is made or of the
subsequent development of Bible Methodism. While Rev. E. R. Trouten, one of
the leaders of the Bible Methodist “come-out” movement has collected much of
the pertinent material, he has not had time to leave the pastorate to pursue
a doctoral dissertation or to write on this subject, Edsel R. Trouten,
Telephone interview, 14 April 1966.
The lack of a history of the subsequent development of Bible Methodism
stems from the relative recentness of this movement. Although Trouten
specifically disavowed any appeal to history as judge of the propriety of
this secession at the time of the merger, such an appeal was made by the
early leadership of the Alabama Conference, Minutes of the Bible Methodist
Connection of Churches. “A Brief History of The Bible Methodist Connection
of Churches.” (First Annual Conference, 1967), 1-2. Enough time has now
passed for such a judgment to begin to be formed.
One of the most prominent lay preachers in American was Robert
Strawbridge. He planted societies throughout Maryland and Virginia. Captain
Thomas Webb was “active in lay preaching in New York, Long Island,
Pennsylvania and other centers. Frederick A. Norwood, The Story of American
Methodism, (New York: Abington Press, 1974), 67.
In the Quadrennial Assembly of 1836 the bishops’ Episcopal Address
stated, “From every view of the subject [slavery] which we have been able to
take, and from the most calm and dispassionate survey of the whole ground,
we have come to the solemn conviction that the one safe, scriptural, and
prudent way for us, both as ministers and people, to take, is wholly to
refrain from the agitating the subject.” Norwood, 194.
Nicholson, Roy S. Wesleyan Methodism in the South. (Syracuse, N.Y.: The
Wesleyan Methodist Publishing House, 1933), 9-12.
The reasons for withdrawal were cleared stated as follows: “The Methodist
Episcopal church is not only a slave-holding , but slavery defending Church.
The Methodist Episcopal Church Government contains principles not laid down
in the Scriptures, nor recognized in the usage of the primitive church--
principles which are subversive of the rights, both of ministers and
laymen.” Nicholson, 11.
Luther Lee, one of the founding Wesleyan Methodists, commenting of the
name given to this new church states, “...the term “Connection” was approved
by all, as it expresses a principle. Single Christian congregations are held
to be Churches, in a New Testament sense, and that all these Christian
congregations, collectively, are not a Church. All the Wesleyan Methodist
churches in America, are not a Church, but being connected by a central
organization, they are a connection of Churches, hence we call ourselves,
“The Wesleyan Methodist Connection of America.” Ira F. McLeister and Roy S.
Nicholson, Conscience and Commitment: The History of the Wesleyan Methodist
Church of America, 4th rev. ed. (Marion, Indiana: The Wesley Press, 1976),
In summary: the AME allowed the use of intoxicating drinks without
restriction whereas the WMC prohibited completely the social uses of
alcohol; the AME permitted the buying and selling of slaves whereas the WMC
forbad it entirely; in the AME the General Conference consisted only of
ministers elected by ministers at the Annual Conferences whereas in the WMC
the General Conference consisted of an equal number of ministers and laymen
elected by the ministers and laymen at the Annual Conference. McLeister, 32.
It was not until 1930 that the Wesleyan Methodists prohibited the use of
tobacco by their members. Norman Brush, Telephone interview.
McLeister, 270, ftnt. 9.
Nicholson fails to give the reasons for the proposed merger in his
discussion of this issue. The basic reasons for the merger are given in the
Merger Proposal recommended to the Wesleyan Methodist General Board by the
Pilgrim Holiness Church Commission on Merger which was presented at the 1966
International Conference. In summary the reasoning was: 1) Merger should
enable the churches to do united what they could not do separately; 2)
Through merger, the churches should be better able to do together the things
which they were not doing separately; 3) Merger became a strategic
opportunity to correct weaknesses in both churches, to utilize their
strengths to greater advantage, and to find new and better ways to
communicate to this generation, and 4) merger will bring both the discipline
and the delight of wider fellowship.
It is perhaps worthy of mention that out of the desired merger of two
churches to form one united body, six distinct denominational bodies came
into being: the Allegheny Wesleyan Methodist Connection, Bible Methodism,
the Tennessee Bible Methodists, the New York Pilgrims, the Midwest Pilgrims,
and the Wesleyan Church. The merger resulted in the loss of 10-13% of the
members of the Wesleyan Methodist Church alone. McLeister, 310-311.
A group of 13+ pastor from the
Edsel Trouten, Manifesto and Constitution of the Society for the
Preservation of Primitive Wesleyan Methodism, Self-Published Pamphlet. Feb.,
The presence of H.E. Schmul, the Executive Secretary of the Inter-Church
Holiness Convention, as the speaker at the first meeting of the “Society for
the Preservation of Primitive Wesleyan Methodism” may reflect the influence
he had in all of these events. Edsel Trouten, Personal notes, p. 4.
[Post-class notes from Trouten: Schmul’s influence should be studied. The
influence of IHC on the come-out movement was profound. Schmul insisted that
the IHC was not designed to start a new church. The creation of Bible
Methodism along the lines of Wesleyan Methodism was to accommodate people
like Wilcox and Gale who were strongly Wesleyan Methodism. ERT]
Edsel Trouten, “Why the ... True Wesleyan?” Unpublished paper.
Trouten’s personal notes from a phone call with the Conference President,
L. D. Wilcox, record Wilcox’s official response to the Society after meeting
with the Conference Advisory Board: “If after further careful and prayerful
consideration you still feel strongly that you are committed to the support
of the Manifesto, we recommend that you take step to withdraw from the
Church (Wesleyan Methodist Church), since we foresee no possibility of
accomplishing the objectives named in the Manifesto.”
Trouten, personal notes.
Minutes of the Bible Methodist Connection of Churches. (First Annual
Bible Methodist Discipline, 7.
Bible Methodist Discipline, 12. It is noteworthy that this is the exact
definition adopted by the 1891 General Conference of the Wesleyan Methodist
Bible Methodist Discipline, 11.
From: Thomas McCasland <Thomas_McCasland@BAYLOR.EDU>
To: "A. Philip Brown" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sunday, November 16, 1997 8:18 pm
Subject: Re: Your project
Thank you for the paper. \I found it fascinating. Like I said, I do not
know much about this era of our history. One point that my research has
pointed in directions other than what you indicate regards Thomas Coke. You
write "Francis Asbury and Thomas Cokes were two of the most significant
leaders in the formation of American Methodism." While Coke certainly had
the important role of being Wesley's proxy in ordaining Asbury, he had a
fairly limited role in the formation of American Methodism since he spent so
much time in England. The following excerpt from my thesis indicates the
general opinion of the American Methodist regarding Coke.
During one of the General Conferences, Bishop Coke introduced a proposal
that impressed some of the preachers as dictatorial. Matthews, an itinerant
who had converted from Roman Catholicism, leaped to his feet and cried out,
"Popery, Popery, Popery." Dr. Coke silenced him with a rebuke, but then
seized the written proposal and began tearing it to shreds. "Do you think
yourselves equal to me?" he haughtily inquired of the preachers. Nelson
Reed, an itinerant for some twenty years, rose to his feet and addressed
Asbury, "Dr. Coke has asked whether we think ourselves equal to him—I
answer, yes, we do think ourselves equal to him, notwithstanding he was
educated at Oxford, and has been honored with the degree of Doctor of
Laws and more than that, we think ourselves equal to Dr. Coke's King." Dr.
Coke, at a loss for words, turned to Asbury and said, "He is hard on me."
Asbury replied, "I told you that our preachers are not blockheads."
I will stay in touch as the project develops. Thank you for sharing. Two
questions, what is the date of the paper? Is it available for citing? May
God's blessing be with you. Continuing
Under the mercy,