The Wesleyan Church was founded in 1968 when the Wesleyan Methodist Church and the Pilgrim Holiness Church merged. The new denomination was shaped by the Wesleyan Methodists’ appreciation for structure combining with the Pilgrims’ entrepreneurial spirit.
Our earliest beginnings, however, were in 1843 when our leaders organized to address social issues through The Wesleyan Methodist Connection of America. Those issues included slavery, women’s rights and child labor atrocities. We were one of the first denominations in America to ordain women and were at the forefront of giving laity significant roles in church leadership.
John Wesley, a Church of England priest, was the inspiration and founder of the Methodist movement. Our name “Wesleyan” honors him. Wesley was an outstanding Oxford scholar, yet regarded himself as “a man of one book,” the Bible. It was while studying the Bible that Wesley received assurance of his salvation through faith. It was the Bible that motivated his vision for offering Christ to the common people of England and which eventually led to the nation’s greatest spiritual revival.
Biblical truth inspired Wesley to develop a school for orphans, job programs and medical assistance for the poor, efforts to reform inhumane prisons and arguments for the abolition of slavery. Confidence in the Bible as “the only and sufficient rule for Christian faith and practice” (to use Wesley’s own words) remains a hallmark of The Wesleyan Church today.