General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns
The General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns addresses the interreligious and ecumenical concerns of The United Methodist Church. The GCCUIC's office is located at The Interchurch Center in New York City; the Commission's President is Bishop Mary Ann Swenson and the General Secretary is Rev. Dr. Stephen J. Sidorak, Jr.. The Ecumenical Officer of the Council of Bishops is Bishop Sharon Zimmerman Rader and serves as the corporate ecumenical officer of The United Methodist Church, working in collaboration with GCCUIC; this organization is the United Methodist Church's face in the ecumenical community developing relationships with other church bodies and is diligently seeking relationships with other faith bodies such as Muslim, Hindu and Jewish communities to manifest the unity God has given and for which Christ prayed. It diligently seeks relationships with other faith bodies, heeding the prophets’ and Jesus’ call to live lives of compassion, peace and stewardship of our natural world.
The GCCUIC’s leadership role in ecumenism extends to facilitating deeper relationships and understandings within the United Methodist connection and with other churches in the Methodist family. For example, the GCCUIC and United Methodist Communications developed a DVD/CD, Can We Talk? Christian Conversations About Homosexuality, that facilitates the building of understanding among United Methodist Church members who may disagree on the controversial issue of homosexuality; the resource does not advocate a position, but teaches methods of holy conferencing around divisive issues and provides material for church groups to explore their positions within theological and biblical parameters. The Commission’s relationships with other Methodist bodies are facilitated through its membership in the World Methodist Council and the Pan-Methodist Commission; the GCCUIC has engaged in bilateral dialogues to further United Methodist relationships with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Episcopal Church, the Roman Catholic Church.
The UMC and ELCA are now in full communion. An agreement of Interim Eucharistic Sharing has been reached between the UMC and the Episcopal Church. A statement with a study manual, Make Us One With Christ, has been distributed for joint study in local congregations. Dialogues with the Catholic Church included a visit to Vatican City in April 2006, where Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Walter Kasper of the Pontifical Council for the Promoting Christian Unity received an official United Methodist delegation and discussed aspects of dialogue and relationship and the global nature of the two communions. In addition, GCCUIC continues to pursue dialogues with other faith communities; the United Methodist Church’s relationships with other church bodies are strengthened through the GCCUIC’s membership in the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America and the World Council of Churches. NCCCUSA initiatives have included a focus on addressing poverty and church development through the Special Commission for the Just Rebuilding of the Gulf Coast.
Plus, the eradication of poverty, HIV-AIDS has been a focus of the WCC. Interfaith relations have been addressed by affiliations with the NCCCUSA’s Interfaith Relations Commission, Religions for Peace, as well as several Muslim and Jewish organizations; the Interfaith Relations Commission has developed print and electronic educational and resource materials to be used by local congregations and regional groups for interfaith encounters. The Commission prints resources for its congregations, including “Basic Facts About Islam”, “Guidelines for Interfaith Dialogue”, a study guide entitled The Holocaust: A Christian Reckoning of the Soul, Yom HaShoah worship materials; the GCCUIC is committed to ecumenism, interfaith dialogue, unity within The United Methodist Church. It is unified through the one body and one Spirit to witness to “one Lord, one faith, one baptism”. Working to discover how divine grace is evident in other faith communities, the Commission helps discern how to be Christian neighbors and witnesses.
As a result, the GCCUIC commits to representing The United Methodist Church in fulfilling Christ’s mission. General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns Pan-Methodist Commission
John Wesley was an English cleric and evangelist, a leader of a revival movement within the Church of England known as Methodism. The societies he founded became the dominant form of the independent Methodist movement that continues to present. Educated at Charterhouse and Christ Church, Wesley was elected a fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford in 1726 and ordained as an Anglican priest two years later, he led the "Holy Club", a society formed for the purpose of study and the pursuit of a devout Christian life. After an unsuccessful ministry of two years at Savannah in the Georgia Colony, Wesley returned to London and joined a religious society led by Moravian Christians. On 24 May 1738 he experienced what has come to be called his evangelical conversion, when he felt his "heart strangely warmed", he subsequently left the Moravians. A key step in the development of Wesley's ministry was, like Whitefield, to travel and preach outdoors. In contrast to Whitefield's Calvinism, Wesley embraced Arminian doctrines.
Moving across Great Britain and Ireland, he helped form and organise small Christian groups that developed intensive and personal accountability and religious instruction. Under Wesley's direction, Methodists became leaders in many social issues of the day, including prison reform and the abolition of slavery. Although he was not a systematic theologian, Wesley argued for the notion of Christian perfection and against Calvinism—and, in particular, against its doctrine of predestination, he held that, in this life, Christians could achieve a state where the love of God "reigned supreme in their hearts", giving them outward holiness. His evangelicalism grounded in sacramental theology, maintained that means of grace were the manner by which God sanctifies and transforms the believer, encouraging people to experience Jesus Christ personally, his teachings are collectively known as Wesleyanism. Throughout his life, Wesley remained within the established Church of England, insisting that the Methodist movement lay well within its tradition.
In his early ministry, Wesley was barred from preaching in many parish churches and the Methodists were persecuted. In 2002, he was placed at number 50 in the BBC's poll of the 100 Greatest Britons. John Wesley was born in 1703 in Epworth, 23 miles north-west of Lincoln, as the fifteenth child of Samuel Wesley and his wife Susanna Wesley. Samuel Wesley was a graduate of the University of Oxford and a poet who, from 1696, was rector of Epworth, he married Susanna, the twenty-fifth child of Samuel Annesley, a dissenting minister, in 1689. She bore nineteen children, of which nine lived beyond infancy, she and Samuel Wesley had become members of the Church of England as young adults. As in many families at the time, Wesley's parents gave their children their early education; each child, including the girls, was taught to read as soon as they could talk. They were expected to become proficient in Latin and Greek and to have learned major portions of the New Testament by heart. Susanna Wesley examined each child before evening prayers.
The children were not allowed to eat between meals and were interviewed singly by their mother one evening each week for the purpose of intensive spiritual instruction. In 1714, at age 11, Wesley was sent to the Charterhouse School in London, where he lived the studious, methodical and, for a while, religious life in which he had been trained at home. Apart from his disciplined upbringing, a rectory fire which occurred on 9 February 1708, when Wesley was five years old, left an indelible impression; some time after 11:00 pm, the rectory roof caught on fire. Sparks falling on the children's beds and cries of "fire" from the street roused the Wesleys who managed to shepherd all their children out of the house except for John, left stranded on an upper floor. With stairs aflame and the roof about to collapse, Wesley was lifted out of a window by a parishioner standing on another man's shoulders. Wesley used the phrase, "a brand plucked out of the fire", quoting Zechariah 3:2, to describe the incident.
This childhood deliverance subsequently became part of the Wesley legend, attesting to his special destiny and extraordinary work. In June 1720, Wesley entered Oxford. In 1724, he decided to pursue a Master of Arts degree, he was ordained a deacon on 25 September 1725—holy orders being a necessary step toward becoming a fellow and tutor at the university. In the year of his ordination he read Thomas à Kempis and Jeremy Taylor, showed his interest in mysticism, began to seek the religious truths which underlay the great revival of the 18th century; the reading of William Law's Christian Perfection and A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life gave him, he said, a more sublime view of the law of God. He pursued a rigidly methodical and abstemious life, studied the Scriptures, performed his religious duties diligently, depriving himself so that he would have alms to give, he began to seek after holiness of life. In March 1726, Wesley was unanimously elected a fellow of Oxford; this carried with it the right to a room at regular salary.
While continuing his s
United Methodist Church
The United Methodist Church is a mainline Protestant denomination and a major part of Methodism. In the 19th century, its main predecessor, the Methodist Episcopal Church, was a leader in evangelicalism; the present denomination was founded in 1968 in Dallas, Texas, by union of The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church. The UMC traces its roots back to the revival movement of John and Charles Wesley in England, as well as the Great Awakening in the United States; as such, the church's theological orientation is decidedly Wesleyan. It embraces both evangelical elements; the United Methodist Church has a connectional polity, a typical feature of a number of Methodist denominations. It is organized into conferences; the highest level is called the General Conference and is the only organization which may speak for the UMC. The church is a member of the World Council of Churches, the World Methodist Council, other religious associations. With at least 12 million members as of 2014, the UMC is the largest denomination within the wider Methodist movement of 80 million people across the world.
In the United States, the UMC ranks as the largest mainline Protestant denomination, the largest Protestant church after the Southern Baptist Convention, the third largest Christian denomination. In 2014, its worldwide membership was distributed as follows: 7 million in the United States, 4.4 million in Africa and Europe. In 2015, Pew Research estimated that 3.6 percent of the US population, or 9 million adult adherents, self-identify with the United Methodist Church revealing a much larger number of adherents than registered membership. The movement, which would become the United Methodist Church, began in the mid-18th century within the Church of England. A small group of students, including John Wesley, Charles Wesley and George Whitefield, met at Oxford University, they living a holy life. Other students mocked them, saying they were the "Holy Club" and "the Methodists", being methodical and exceptionally detailed in their Bible study and disciplined lifestyle; the so-called Methodists started individual societies or classes for members of the Church of England who wanted to live a more religious life.
In 1735, John and Charles Wesley went to America, hoping to teach the gospel to the American Indians in the colony of Georgia. Instead, John became vicar of the church in Savannah, his preaching was legalistic and full of harsh rules, the congregation rejected him. After two years in America, he returned to England dejected and confused. On his journey to America, he had been impressed with the faith of the German Moravians on board, when he returned to England he spent time with a German Moravian, passing through England, Peter Böhler. Peter believed a person is saved through the grace of God and not by works, John had many conversations with Peter about this topic. On May 25, 1738, after listening to a reading of Martin Luther's preface to Romans, John came to the understanding that his good works could not save him and he could rest in God's grace for salvation. For the first time in his life, he felt the assurance of salvation. In less than two years, the "Holy Club" disbanded. John Wesley met with a group of clergy.
He said "they appeared to be of one heart, as well as of one judgment, resolved to be Bible-Christians at all events. The ministers retained their membership in the Church of England. Though not always emphasized or appreciated in the Anglican churches of their day, their teaching emphasized salvation by God's grace, acquired through faith in Christ. Three teachings they saw as the foundation of Christian faith were: People are all by nature dead in sin and children of wrath, they are justified by faith alone. Faith produces outward holiness; these clergy became popular, attracting large congregations. The nickname students had used against the Wesleys was revived; the English preacher Francis Asbury arrived in America in 1771. He became a "circuit rider", taking the gospel to the furthest reaches of the new frontier as he had done as a preacher in England; the first official organization in the United States occurred in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1784, with the formation of the Methodist Episcopal Church at the Christmas Conference with Francis Asbury and Thomas Coke as the leaders.
Though John Wesley wanted the Methodists to stay within the Church of England, the American Revolution decisively separated the Methodists in the American colonies from the life and sacraments of the Anglican Church. In 1784, after unsuccessful attempts to have the Church of England send a bishop to start a new church in the colonies, Wesley decisively appointed fellow priest Thomas Coke as superintendent to organize a separate Methodist Society. Together with Coke, Wesley sent a revision of the Anglican Prayerbook and the Articles of Religion which were received and adopted by the Baltimore Christmas Conference of 1784 establishing the Methodist Episcopal Church; the conference was held at the Lovely Lane Methodist Church, considered the Mother Church of American Methodism. The new church grew in the young country as it employed circuit riders, many of whom were laymen, to travel the rural nation by horseback to preach the Gospel and to establish churches until there was scarcely any village in the United States without a Methodist presence.
With 4,000 circuit riders by 1844, the Methodist Episcopal Church became the largest Protestant denomination in the
General Conference (United Methodist Church)
The General Conference of the United Methodist Church is the denomination's top legislative body for all matters affecting the United Methodist connection. The Book of Discipline and constitution of The United Methodist Church define the composition of the General Conference as no less than 600 and no more 1,000 delegates, half laity and half clergy; these delegates are elected by the Annual Conferences and several other specialized bodies within the structure of The United Methodist Church. The General Conference meets on a quadrennial basis. Special sessions may be called by the Council of Bishops. Petitions are assigned to legislative committees based on their content. Legislative committees elect committee leadership and break into subcommittees to review and refine legislation. Subcommittees bring petitions before the entire committee with the recommendation to reject, adopt, or adopt as amended. During consideration by the entire committee, additional amendments may be made; the entire committee votes to recommend to the General Conference what action should be taken on the legislation.
No action is final. Church and Society 1: This committee will receive all petitions and resolutions relating to the work and concerns of the Board of Church and Society and the Social Principles, with the exception of paragraphs in The Book of Discipline dealing with the nurturing community and the social community. Church and Society 2: All petitions and resolutions relating to the nurturing community and the social community sections of the Social Principles will be referred to this committee. Conferences: This committee shall receive all petitions and resolutions relating to the composition and activities of the General, annual, provisional and district conferences. Discipleship: All petitions and resolutions relating to the work and concerns of the Board of Discipleship shall be referred to this committee. Faith and Order: All petitions relating to "Doctrinal Standards and Our Theological Task," "The Ministry of All Christians" and the meaning of ordination and conference membership will be referred to this committee.
Financial Administration: This committee shall receive all petitions and resolutions relating to the work and concerns of the Council on Finance and Administration, the Board of Pension and Health Benefits, the United Methodist Publishing House. The budget and recommendations prepared by the General Council on Finance and Administration shall be submitted to this committee for study and review. Thereafter, when the General Council on Finance and Administration presents its report to the General Conference for action, the committee shall present its recommendations and may propose amendments. General Administration: Petitions and resolutions relating to the work and concerns of the Connectional Table shall be referred to this committee; the report of the Connectional Table shall be submitted to this committee for review. After the Connectional Table presents its report to the General Conference for action, the committee shall present its recommendations and may propose amendments. Global Ministries: All petitions and resolutions relating to the work and concerns of the Board of Global Ministries shall be referred to this committee.
Independent Commissions: This committee shall receive all petitions and resolutions relating to commissions and ecumenical concerns. The commissions include Archives and History, Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, Communications and Race, the Status and Role of Women, United Methodist Men. Ecumenical concerns relate to the denomination’s membership in or relationship with the World Methodist Council, the National Council of Churches, other councils and consultations of churches, the American Bible Society. Judicial Administration: All petitions and resolutions relating to judiciary concerns and investigations and appeals are handled by this committee. Local Church: This committee will receive all petitions and resolutions relating to the organization of the local church and its membership, boards, councils and committees; the committee will consider petitions relating to local church property. Ministry and Higher Education: All petitions and resolutions relating to the work and concerns of ordained ministries, higher education and the Division of Chaplaincy and Related Ministries of the Board of Higher Education and Ministry shall be referred to this committee.
Superintendency: Petitions and resolutions relating to the work and concerns of superintendents shall be referred to this committee. In addition, a Commission on Central Conference Affairs will handle legislative proposals affecting central conferences. Conferences of the United Methodist Church Jurisdictional Conferences Central Conferences List of bishops of the United Methodist Church Episcopal area
Francis Asbury was one of the first two bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States. As a young man in October 1771, the Englishman traveled to America and, during his 45 years there, he devoted his life to ministry, traveling on horseback and by carriage thousands of miles to those living on the frontier. Asbury spread Methodism in America, as part of the Second Great Awakening, he founded several schools during his lifetime, although his own formal education was limited. His journal is valuable to scholars for its account of frontier society, with references to many towns and villages in Colonial America. Francis Asbury was born at Hamstead Bridge, England on August 20 or 21, 1745, to Elizabeth and Joseph Asbury; the family moved to a cottage at Great Barr, the next year. His boyhood home still is open as Bishop Asbury Cottage museum. Soon after moving to Great Barr in May 1748 Asbury's older sister, died, when he was just two years and nine months, his mother, who Francis wrote was "very much a woman of the world", "sank into deep distress....from which she was not relieved for many years" and living "in a dark, dark and place".
However, a few years she found a renewed Christian faith as itinerant preachers, either Baptist or Methodists, visited Barr. From on she began to read the Bible everyday and encouraged her son to do so as well. Eliza's deep faith may not hot have been shared by her husband, who seemed to have problems drink or gambling; however Francis Asbury described him as "industrious" and he supported his wife in her faith and witness allowing Methodist meetings to be held each Sunday in the cottage. During Asbury's childhood the West Midlands was undergoing massive changes as the industrial revolution swept through the area. There was vast migration into the area to provide labour for the growing factories and workshops in Birmingham and the Black Country; the Asbury's lived in a cottage tied to a public house on a main route between the mines and the factories. They would have been aware of the drinking, gambling and poor behaviour prevalent in the area. Francis Asbury attended a local endowed school in Snail's Green a nearby hamlet.
He did not get on well with his fellow pupils who ridiculed him because of his mother's religious beliefs. During the 1740s there had been widespread anti-Methodist rioting in Wednesbury and the surrounding area, into the 1750s a great deal of persecution. Nor did he like his teacher and left school at the first opportunity. Asbury took a keen interest in religion, having "felt something of God as early as the age of seven", he lived not far from All Saint's Church, which under the patronage of the Methodist Earl of Dartmouth provided a living for the Evangelical minister Edward Stillingfleet. He was well connected and secured as visiting preachers some of the foremost preachers and theologians of the day; these included John Ryland, Henry Venn, John Cennick and Benjamin Ingham. His mother encouraged Francis to meet with the Methodists in Wednesbury joining a "band" with four other young men who would meet and pray together. For them a typical Sunday would be a preaching meeting at 5.00 am, communion at the parish church mid morning, preaching again at 5.00 pm.
Asbury's first steps into the world of work. He went into service for local gentry, who were "one of the most unGodly families in the parish"; however he soon moved on and is believed to have worked for Thomas Foxall, at the Old Forge Farm, where he made metal goods. He became great friends with Henry Foxall. A friendship which continued when Henry migrated to Colonial America, continued working with metal and established the Foundry Church in Washington D. C.. Asbury took his first steps as a local preacher becoming an itinerant preacher on behalf of the Methodist cause. Asbury's preaching ministry in England is detailed in the section below "Asbury's circuits in England" At age 22, John Wesley appointed him as a traveling preacher. In 1771 he volunteered to travel to America. Ashbury's first sermon in the Colonies took place with the Methodist congregation in Woodrow, Staten Island. Within the first 17 days of being in the colonies, Asbury had preached in New York. During the first year he was Wesley's preached in 25 different settlements.
When the American Revolutionary War broke out in 1776, he and James Dempster were the only Methodist ministers to remain in America."During his early years in North America, Asbury devoted his attention to followers living on the eastern shore between the Delaware River and the Chesapeake Bay. Bishop Asbury was their guest many times on his rounds; when the American revolution severed the traditional ties between the American Thirteen Colonies and Great Britain, Bishop Asbury, in the interest of his religious tenets and principles and in an attempt to remain aloof from the political and military fervor that swept the country, announced he would, to keep the embryonic Methodist congregations neutral, refrain from endorsing either Great Britain or the newly formed United States of America government and urged all his followers to do the same. This request placed all of his followers those living in Maryland, in an untenable position; the State of Maryland had enacted a law requiring all citizens to take an Oath of Allegiance to the newly formed American Congress.
It addition to this, it stipulated all non-residents within its boundaries had to take and sign an Oath of Allegiance. Those refusing were summarily incarcerated for treason. Asbury, after proclaiming his neutr
Methodist Episcopal Church, South
The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, or Methodist Episcopal Church South, was the Methodist denomination resulting from the 19th-century split over the issue of slavery in the Methodist Episcopal Church. Disagreement on this issue had been increasing in strength for decades between churches of the North and South; this body maintained its own polity for nearly 100 years. It did not reunite with the elder Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Protestant Church until 1939 formed the Methodist Church; the national denomination merged in 1968 with the Evangelical United Brethren Church, to form the United Methodist Church, now one of the largest and most spread religious denominations in America. In 1940, some more theologically conservative MEC,S congregations, which dissented from the 1939 merger forming the Southern Methodist Church. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was appalled by slavery in the British colonies; when the Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in the United States at the famous "Christmas Conference" in Baltimore with the synod/meeting of ministers at small plain Lovely Lane Chapel in the city's waterfront district on Lovely Lane, off German Street in December 1784, the denomination opposed slavery early.
Numerous Methodist missionaries toured the South in the "Great Awakening" and tried to convince slaveholders to manumit their slaves. In the first two decades after the American Revolutionary War, a number did free their slaves; the number of free blacks increased markedly at this time in the Upper South. During the early nineteenth century and Baptists in the South began to modify their approach in order to gain support from common planters and slaves, they began to argue for better treatment of slaves, saying that the Bible acknowledged slavery but that Christianity had a paternalistic role to improve conditions. The invention of the cotton gin had enabled profitable cultivation of cotton in new areas of the South, increasing the demand for slaves. Manumissions nearly ceased and, after slave rebellions, the states made them difficult to accomplish. Northern Methodist congregations opposed slavery, some members began to be active in the abolitionist movement; the southern church accommodated it as part of a legal system.
But in the South, Methodist clergy were not supposed to own slaves. In 1840, the Rev. James Osgood Andrew, a bishop living in Oxford, bought a slave. Fearing that she would end up with an inhumane owner if sold, Andrew kept her but let her work independently; the 1840 MEC General Conference did not expel Andrew. Four years Andrew married a woman who owned a slave inherited from her mother, making the bishop the owner of two slaves; as bishop, he was considered to have obligations both in the North and South and was criticized for holding slaves. The 1844 General Conference voted to suspend Bishop Andrew from exercising his episcopal office until he gave up the slaves. Southern delegates to the conference disputed the authority of a General Conference to discipline bishops; the cultural differences that had divided the nation during the mid-19th century were dividing the Methodist Episcopal Church. The 1844 dispute led Methodists in the South to break off and form a separate denomination, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.
The statistics for 1859 showed the MEC,S had as enrolled members some 511,601 whites and 197,000 blacks, 4,200 Indians. In 1858 MEC, S operated 106 colleges; the American Civil War resulted in widespread destruction of property, including church buildings and institutions, but it was marked by a series of strong revivals that began in General Robert E. Lee's army and spread throughout the region. Chaplains tended the wounded after the battles. John Berry McFerrin recalled: At Chickamauga, the slaughter was tremendous on both sides, but the Confederates held the field. I remained on the battlefield eleven days, nursing the sick, ministering to the wounded, praying for the dying; the sight was awful. Thousands of men wounded, they lay thick all around, shot in every possible manner, the wounded dying every day. Among the wounded were many Federal soldiers. To these I ministered, prayed with them, wrote letters by flag of truce to their friends in the North. After the Civil War, when African American slaves gained freedom, many left the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.
They joined either the independent black denominations of the African Methodist Episcopal Church founded in Philadelphia or the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church founded in New York, but some joined the Methodist Episcopal Church, which planted new congregations in the South. The two independent black denominations both sent missionaries to the South after the war to aid freedmen, attracted hundreds of thousands of new members, from both Baptists and Methodists, new converts to Christianity. Out of 200,000 African-American members in the MEC,S in 1860, by 1866 only 49,000 remained. In 1870, most of the remaining African-American members of the MEC,S split off on friendly terms with white colleagues to form the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church, now the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, taking with them $1.5 million in buildings and properties. The new denomination avoided the Republican politics of the AME Zion congregations, it had more than 3,000 churches, more than 1,200 traveling preachers, 2,500 church-based preachers, about 140,000 me
Methodist Episcopal Church
The Methodist Episcopal Church was the oldest and largest Methodist denomination in the United States from its founding in 1784 until 1939. It was the first religious denomination in the US to organize itself on a national basis. In 1939, the MEC reunited with two breakaway Methodist denominations to form the Methodist Church. In 1968, the Methodist Church merged with the Evangelical United Brethren Church to form the United Methodist Church; the MEC's origins lie in the First Great Awakening when Methodism emerged as an evangelical revival movement within the Church of England that stressed the necessity of being born again and the possibility of attaining Christian perfection. By the 1760s, Methodism had spread to the Thirteen Colonies, Methodist societies were formed under the oversight of John Wesley; as in England, American Methodists remained affiliated with the Church of England, but this state of affairs became untenable after the American Revolution. In response, Wesley ordained the first Methodist elders for America in 1784.
Under the leadership of its first bishops, Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury, the Methodist Episcopal Church adopted episcopal polity and an itinerant model of ministry that saw circuit riders provide for the religious needs of a widespread and mobile population. Early Methodism was countercultural in that it was anti-elitist and anti-slavery, appealing to African Americans and women. While critics derided Methodists as fanatics, the Methodist Episcopal Church continued to grow during the Second Great Awakening in which Methodist revivalism and camp meetings left its imprint on American culture. In the early 19th century, the MEC became the largest and most influential religious denomination in the United States. With growth came greater institutionalization and respectability, this led some within the church to complain that Methodism was losing its vitality and commitment to Wesleyan teachings, such as the belief in Christian perfection and opposition to slavery; as Methodism took hold in the Southern United States, church leaders became less willing to condemn the practice of slavery or to grant African American preachers and congregations the same privileges as their white counterparts.
A number of black churches were formed as African Americans withdrew from the MEC, including the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. By the 1830s, however, a renewed abolitionist movement within the MEC made keeping a neutral position on slavery impossible; the church divided along regional lines in 1844 when pro-slavery Methodists in the South formed their own Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Around the same time, the holiness movement took shape as a renewal movement within the MEC focused on the experience of Christian perfection, but it led a number of splinter groups to break away from the church. Due to large-scale immigration of Catholics, the Catholic Church displaced the MEC as the largest US denomination by the end of the 19th century; the Methodist Episcopal Church originated from the spread of Methodism outside of England to the Thirteen Colonies in the 1760s. Earlier, Methodism had grown out of the ministry of John Wesley, a priest in the Church of England who preached an evangelical message centered on justification by faith, the possibility of having assurance of salvation, the doctrine of Christian perfection.
Wesley was loyal to the Anglican Church, he organized his followers into parachurch societies and classes with the goal of promoting spiritual revival within the Church of England. Members of Methodist societies were expected to attend and receive Holy Communion in their local parish church, but Wesley recruited and supervised lay preachers for itinerant or traveling ministry. Around fifteen or twenty societies formed a circuit. Anywhere from two to four itinerant preachers would be assigned to a circuit on a yearly basis to preach and supervise the societies within their circuit. One itinerant preacher in each circuit would be made the "assistant", he would direct the activities of the other itinerant preachers in the circuit, who were called "helpers". Wesley gave out preaching assignments at an annual conference. In 1769, Wesley sent itinerants Robert Williams, Richard Boardman, Joseph Pilmore to oversee Methodists in America after learning that societies had been organized there as early as 1766 by Philip Embury, Robert Strawbridge, Thomas Webb.
In 1773, Wesley appointed Thomas Rankin general assistant, placing him in charge of all the Methodist preachers and societies in America. On July 4, 1773, Rankin presided over the first annual conference on American soil at Philadelphia. At that time there were 1,160 Methodists in America led by ten lay preachers. Itinerant Methodist preachers would become known as circuit riders. Methodist societies in America operated within the Church of England. There were several Anglican priests who supported the work of the Methodists, attending Methodist meetings and administering the sacraments to Methodists; these included Charles Pettigrew of North Carolina, Samuel Magaw of Dover and Philadelphia, Uzel Ogden of New Jersey. Anglican clergyman Devereux Jarratt was a active supporter, founding Methodist societies in Virginia and North Carolina; the American Revolution left America's Anglican Church in disarray. Due to the scarcity of Anglican ministers, Methodists in the United States were unable to receive the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion.
On September 1, 1784, Wesley responded to this situation by ordaining two Methodists a