This essay compares and contrasts two church denominations. The essay looks deeply into the origins of the primitive Methodist church and the Methodist Episcopal church. It further explores the similarities and differences in their beliefs and practices. Conclusively, this essay establishes that save the Methodist Episcopal Church is more polished and sophisticated in their approach to practice e.g., sermon delivery and dressing, the core beliefs and doctrines held by believers in the two denominations are not very divergent.
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Methodist Episcopal Church was founded by John Wesley, an Anglican by birth. It spread fast due to the formation of societies and involvement in small gatherings for bible study and encouragements (Hempton 2006, 53). These societies were connected to a chain of other groups by itinerant riders. In America, Methodism developed into a congregation separate from the Church of England and was led by bishops. The early movement and developments in Methodism emanate from its roots as a pietistic wave (Hempton 2006, 58). A pietistic wave is one that encouraged personal experience of faith rather than doctrine. This kind of disposition resulted from the influence of Moravians on John Wesley, an influence that continually transformed early Methodism.
Before the Methodist revival swept over the United States of America, different people had mixed issues and reactions with regard to the evangelization of Methodism that was taking place in colonies. Even in colonies that already had established Anglican parishes, the breakaway Anglican clergy went in as Methodists. In North Carolina, for example, Anglican clergy doing evangelization between 1733 and 1801 founded Methodist communities and somehow rejected what was considered as the mother church i.e., the Anglican Church (Hempton 2006, 62).
In the beginning, people considered the Methodist revolution as a mere or kind of Para/ sub church organization. However, as many more immigrants from England positioned themselves as Methodist and not Anglicans arrived in America, the foundation of distinct Methodist congregation was a requisite. The early Methodists in America were women who were more than men and members from middle-class trade
Primitive Methodist Church began in England in the early 1800s, as a way of restoring the Methodist Revival (Chadwick 2003, 114). The proponent of this revival was John Wesley. In the United States of America, Methodist preachers came up with a contemporary form of evangelization called the Camp Meeting. Preachers like, Lorenzo Dow, made visits to England where the Methodist revival was strong (Hempton 2006, 103). While in England, Dow experienced forms of camp meeting; he also heard stories of many new conversions to the Lord coming from these meetings.
What he experienced, witnessed, and heard made him a great admirer of John Wesley and his evangelization style. Other Preachers such as Hugh Bourne and William Clowes got interested in the mission, and by 1807, these leaders aggressively stepped up the Camp Meeting as a model of evangelization (Buckley 2009, 117). The camp meetings were characterized by prayers, preaching events, and songs. Many conversions to Christ happened at those meetings that are nowadays referred to as “Mow Cop” (Buckley 2009, 120).
John Wesley converted many people to Christ by preaching outdoors. However, the leaders of the church of that time didn’t find this way of preaching bearable. They refused to accommodate Mow Cop converts to be part of their churches. Hugh Bourne and William Clowes were dismissed because of their innovative or creative ways of preaching that were unconventional and thus not permitted (Chadwick 2003, 158).
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Two years passed for these zealous converts, who waited in eagerly for acceptance by the established Church. Finally, disappointed at the mainstream church’s stand against them, they opted to start their own society. They called it “The Society of Primitive Methodists” (Chadwick 2003, 97). The reason for calling it so is that they wanted to remain part of the bigger Methodist movement. In 1829, many missionaries came in America to preach to English and Welsh Immigrants residing in the industrial and mining areas (Hempton 2006, 78). Their missions blossomed, and their Churches increased. In 1840, the American Primitive Methodist Church was established.
There are many similarities between the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Primitive Methodist church. The discernible similarities are in the common beliefs and practices that they share. Primarily, both the churches believe in the witness of the Holy Spirit. They believe it is the inner certainty which individual Christian can have, the conviction that God is at work, and He sees his children.
Living in perfection is an ongoing process for all Christians. Both denominations believe that although sin is inevitable, it is possible that everyone can live to perfection by creating a sinless environment (Petty 1864, 119). The sinless atmosphere or environment is achieved or attained by striving to live a perfect life. Adherents in both denominations believe that every Christian should work towards perfection.
In both denominations, it is believed that when Jesus died on the cross, he brought universal redemption to all mankind, and not the selected few; salvation is attainable by all people (Petty 1864, 55). Both belief in the bible; the bible is a holy scripture i.e., was written by people inspired by God, and it gives the map or how Christian life should be lived. Both denominations, it is believed that every Christian can live in a way that he/she ought to by graces conferred him/her by God. Finally, the central doctrine of both denominations is faith. They believe that every Christian is bound to have faith; one is saved by faith through the grace of Jesus Christ.
Conclusively, there are no major doctrinal differences between the two denominations. However, whereas Episcopal Methodist preachers lived lavishly, Primitive Methodist preachers were poor and revivalist. The major disparity between the two denominations was in terms of wealth. Episcopal Methodists drew their wealth and material support from middle-class Christian, whereas the Primitive Methodists relied on small farmers or agricultural laborers, so this didn’t allow them to have more wealth (Petty 1864, 109).
Buckley, J. Monroe. 2009. A History of Methodists in the United State. Charleston: BiblioBazaar, LLC.
Chadwick, Owen. 2003. The Early Reformation on the Continent. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hempton, David. 2006. Methodism: Empire of the Spirit. Connecticut: Yale University Press.
Petty, John. 1864. The History of the Primitive Methodist Connexion. Michigan: R. Davies.