The Origin of the Wesleyan Movement
“The Wesleyan movement centers around the scriptural truth concerning the doctrine and experience of holiness, which declares that the atonement in Christ provides not only for the regeneration of sinners but for the entire sanctification of believers. A revival of these scriptural truths concerning Christian perfection and scriptural holiness took place under the leadership of John Wesley in the eighteenth century, and continues in various ways until the present.”
The Wesleyan Church is named in honor of John Wesley, a priest in the Church of England who was the inspiration and founder of the Methodist movement. John Wesley had a passion for reform. He was an early opponent of slavery, when few seemed concerned about it. He took up the causes of the poor. He inspired John Howard to bring awareness to abuses in the brutal prison system. In a nation addicted to gin, John Wesley led the fight against the distilleries. He elevated the role of women.
A Brief History of the Wesleyan Methodist Church
When a group, led by Orange Scott, began to agitate anew for the abolition of slavery, the bishops and others in the church sought to silence them lest the peace of the church be disturbed. This led to a series of withdrawal of churches and ministers from the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1843, the Wesleyan Methodist Connection of America was formed free from episcopacy, slavery and all involvements with intoxicating liquors.
With the crusade against slavery carried to ta conclusion in the Civil War, many felt there was no reason for the Connection to continue, and returned to the larger Methodist bodies. Others felt, as was expressed by the 1867 General Conference, that the effects of slavery were not yet eradicated, and that the historic stand against intoxicating liquors, and the increasingly firm stand against lodges and secret societies, could only be maintained by the continued existence and activity of the Connection.
At its first General Conference in 1844, the Connection had adopted an article of religion on “Sanctification,” becoming the first denomination to do so. But the doctrine and experience suffered neglect and decline among all branches of Methodism in the mid-nineteenth century. To renew them, God raised up a revival of holiness promoted through literature, evangelistic meetings, and camp meetings that swept throughout Methodism and across denominational lines leading to new holiness denominations.
In 1947, the name was changed to The Wesleyan Methodist Church of America. In 1957, the denominational. headquarters was moved from Syracuse, New York, where it had been for over a century, to Marion, Indiana. Various Ministers and local churches affiliated themselves with The Wesleyan Methodist Church at different times throughout its history. But its home base and missionary work were appreciably augmented by the affiliation of three organizations: (1) The Hephzibah Faith Missionary Society, (2) The Missionary Bands of the World, and (3) The Alliance of the Reformed Baptist Church of Canada. The Wesleyan Methodist Church became international with its spread to Canada, and mission fields in Sierra Leone and 14 other countries.
A Brief History of the Pilgrim Holiness Church
As a product of many prior mergers. The Pilgrim Holiness Church came into being in 1917 as a reault of the revival of scriptural holiness that swept across the various denominations in America in the last half of the nineteenth century, the same awakening that had rechanneled the energies of the Wesleyan Methodist Connection from social and political reform to holiness evangelism. A fourfold emphasis was declared concerning the regeneration of sinners. the entire sanctification of believers, the premillennial and imminent return of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the evangelization of the world.
The original purpose of the founders of The Pilgrim Holiness Church to promote worldwide holiness evangelism remained an indelible characteristics. Missionary work was carried on in many lands beyond the United States and Canada.
The Formation of the Wesleyan Church
“One – That the World May Believe”
Merger between The Pilgrim Holiness Church and The Wesleyan Church of America was proposed at various times, and was voted upon by the General Conferences of the two bodies in 1958 and 1959, failing to pass in the Wesleyan Methodist General Conference by a margin of a single vote. The Wesleyan Methodist Church and the Pilgrim Holiness Church each adopted The Basis for Merger and Constitution, on June 15, 1966 and June 16, 1966, respectively. The Pilgrim Holiness Church and the Wesleyan Methodist Church of America were united to form The Wesleyan Church on June 26, 1968.