Free Methodist Church History
The Free Methodist church began August 23, 1860 in Pekin, New York, in response to a growing desire for a church denomination that would stay true to the principles of the Wesleyan revival, particularly regarding, the work of the Holy Spirit, the way of holiness and the necessity of ministry to the poor.
The founder, Benjamin Titus Roberts, was an outspoken critic of many current practices of the Methodist Episcopal church, including pew rental and other discriminatory practices that favored rich over the poor, the failure of the Methodist church to stand against slavery, and the increasing “formalism” in worship, including the hiring of professional musicians.
In addition he joined a number of other exponents of the necessity of a “second work” of grace beyond salvation during which a believer was thoroughly sanctified, made holy, and set apart to serve God with a whole heart, mind and strength.
This “radical optimism” concerning just how thoroughly transformed and how victorious over sin a person could be made by the power of God gave Roberts, though reluctant to start a new denomination, the motivation to do whatever was necessary to revive the message of entire sanctification. This message referred to as”scriptural holiness.” When Roberts no longer had a way to influence the Methodist Episcopal church with this message, he gave his energies to the founding of the Free Methodist church with its central mission of spreading scriptural holiness across the land and ministering the gospel to the poor.