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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

The Methodist Church

Leaving ChurchThe Methodist Church was founded by John Wesley, a priest in the Church of England; his brother, Charles Wesley; and George Whitefield. The three men formed a study group and developed the name Methodism as a means of referring to their methodical manner of studying.

In 1739, the Methodists split from the Church of England over theological issues. Methodists believe that the Church is not a necessary intervention for an individual relationship with God, and, unlike the Church of England, Methodists are very evangelical, meaning they are more fundamentalist and more activist; they emphasize salvation through faith, and they actively seek to convert others to their faith. The Methodist Church spread first to Canada before it came to the United States. In the United States, the church was split over the issue of slavery, and, because its members were ardently opposed to slavery, the Wesleyan Church broke off from the Methodist Church.

A Black Methodist Church was first introduced in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Although Blacks had already been adherents to the Methodist Church in the United States, they were never allowed to have their own private worship services and Whites had to oversee their meetings. In 1787, the mixed-congregation St. George Methodist Church in Philadelphia pushed Blacks to the back of the church. As a result, the Black churchgoers rebelled and formed their own church, the Bethel African Methodist Church. Under Black preacher Richard Allen, these church members formed the Free African Society, dedicated to abolishing slavery. In 1816, the church was officially recognized as the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), and Allen was named Bishop.

Black Methodists wanted their own church because they had a unique way of worshipping: their services were generally more emotional and incorporated music, singing, and dancing. Allen believed that the Methodist Church was ideal for Black Americans for many reasons, including the church’s stance against slavery. Its founder, John Wesley, was an abolitionist. Also, the Methodist Church allowed Black people to participate in ministry.

Half of the Black Americans who immigrated to Alberta in the early 20th century were Methodists and belonged to the African Methodist Episcopal Church. There were already several AME churches in Eastern Canada. Along with the Shiloh Baptist Church, the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church of Edmonton, built in 1921, was an important part of the Edmonton’s Black community until the 1950s; it provided a spiritual home and hosted a variety of social events.

There were also many Methodists in Amber Valley. Black Methodists worshipped in services at the Toles School and at the multi-denominational church, before forming their own church in Amber Valley.

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