Wesleyan Church

"Wesleyan" has been used in the title of a number of historic and current denominations, although the subject of this article is the denomination titled "The Wesleyan Church". For a list of other denominations with Wesleyan in their title, please see Wesleyan Church (disambiguation).
The Wesleyan Church
Classification Protestant
Orientation Holiness
Polity Connexionalism
Associations Christian Holiness Partnership, National Association of Evangelicals, World Methodist Council
Region Worldwide
Headquarters Fishers, Indiana
Founder Orange Scott
Origin 1843
Utica, New York
Separated from Methodist Episcopal Church
Congregations 5,800 (1,731 North America)
Members worldwide: 516,203 (231,339 North America)
Official website www.wesleyan.org

The Wesleyan Church is a holiness Christian denomination in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, South Africa, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Indonesia, Asia and Australia. The church is part of the holiness movement and has roots in the teachings of John Wesley. The church is Wesleyan and Arminian in doctrine.

Near the end of 2014, the Wesleyan Church had grown to an average of 516,203 adherents weekly in around 5,800 churches worldwide and is active in almost 100 nations. In North America alone there were 146,996 members in 1,700 congregations, with an average worship attendance of 231,339.[1] The growing statistics for 2015 reveals the church is now around 1 million strong worldwide.

Wesleyan Life is the official publication. Global Partners is the official nonprofit missions organization. The Wesleyan Church world headquarters are in Fishers, Indiana.


Background to formation of The Wesleyan Church

The Wesleyan Methodist Connection was officially formed in 1843 at an organizing conference in Utica, New York, by a group of ministers and laymen splitting from the Methodist Episcopal Church. The split was primarily over their objections to slavery, though they had secondary issues as well. Orange Scott presided as the meeting formed a federation of churches at first calling themselves the Wesleyan Methodist Connection, a name chosen to emphasize the primacy of the local church, and the intended nature of the denomination as an association of churches.[2] Other leaders at the organizing conference were LaRoy Sunderland, who had been tried and defrocked for his antislavery writings, Lucious C. Matlack, and Luther Lee, a minister who later operated an Underground Railroad station in Syracuse, New York.

The denomination sponsored traveling preachers on the frontier and into Canada, where they appealed to workingmen and farmers. Typical was Rev. James Caughey, an American sent to Ontario by the Wesleyan Methodist Church from the 1840s through 1864. He brought in the converts by the score, most notably in the revivals in Canada West 1851–53. His technique combined restrained emotionalism with a clear call for personal commitment, coupled with follow-up action to organize support from converts. It was a time when the Holiness Movement caught fire, with the revitalized interest of men and women in Christian perfection. Caughey successfully bridged the gap between the style of earlier camp meetings and the needs of more sophisticated Methodist congregations in the emerging cities.[3]

In 1966 the denomination merged with the Alliance of Reformed Baptists of Canada and 1968 with the Pilgrim Holiness Church. It spread through revivals emphasizing a deepening experience with God called holiness or sanctification. Heart purity was a central theme. During this period of time, many small churches developed through revivals and the emphasis of sanctification (taught by John Wesley, but not emphasized by many Methodists). As many as 25 or 30 small denominations were formed and eventually merged with other groups to enlarge the church. The church was strong in missionary and revival emphasis. The merger took place in 1968 at Anderson University, Anderson, Indiana.[4]

First Wesleyan Church in Huntington, West Virginia.

In addition to anti-slavery, the early Wesleyan Methodists championed the rights of women. In 1848, the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls, New York, hosted the Seneca Falls Convention, the first women's rights convention. It is commemorated by the Women's Rights National Historical Park in the village today. Luther Lee, General President in 1856, preached at the ordination service of Antoinette Brown (Blackwell), the very first woman ordained to the Christian ministry in the United States. The Alliance of Reformed Baptists of Canada ordained the very first woman to the ministry in Canada in the late 1800s. At General Conference in 1867, a resolution was adopted favoring the right of women to vote (as well as the right of freedmenblacks). This was 44 years before the US constitution was amended to ensure women voting privileges.[5]


The Wesleyan Church believes in the following core values:[6]

In addition, they believe in the following articles of religion:

  1. Faith in the Holy Trinity
  2. The sufficiency and full authority of the Holy Scriptures for salvation
    This article asserts the following beliefs:
  3. God's Purpose for Humanity
    This article asserts that everyone should order their entire lives around what Jesus identified as the two greatest commandments (Matt. 22: 36 - 40):
    • Love the Lord your God with all your heart (Deut. 6:5)
    • Love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18)
  4. Marriage and the Family
    • Reasserts that man is made in the image of God
    • Asserts marriage as designed by God as a metaphor for God's relationship with His covenant people
    • Asserts chastity before marriage, fidelity within marriage
    • Asserts marriages only between one man and one woman
    • Asserts marriage as the intended structure for bearing and raising children
    • No indication is given in the article of any gender hierarchy in marriage
      Rather, it is asserted that both partners submit themselves to the larger whole
  5. Personal Choice
    • Asserts individual choice in making moral decisions. Thus asserts the Arminian belief in free will and opposes the Calvinist belief in predestination
    • Asserts that free will also implies moral responsibility for the choices we make
    • Asserts that after the fall, humans cannot choose right on their own. This view of total depravity is common to Arminian tradition
    • Asserts that every person receives prevenient grace, allowing each to choose salvation
      This Arminian doctrine that the individual chooses salvation is opposed to the Calvinist doctrine of irresistible grace
  6. The Atonement
    • Asserts the Arminian view that Christ's crucifixion allows redemption for the whole world
      This doctrine negates the Calvinist doctrine of limited atonement
    • Asserts the Protestant belief in solus Christus, that salvation is only found in Christ's death and resurrection
    • Asserts that the atonement covers those who mentally cannot choose salvation
    • Individuals who are mentally accountable must accept the gift of salvation of their own free will
  7. Repentance and Faith
  8. Justification, Regeneration, and Adoption
    • Asserts that when one repents and has saving faith in Christ, in that same moment that person is:
      • Justified- Granted full pardon for all sin, guilt, and penalty of sins.
      • Regenerated- Reborn spiritual life in Christ with a distinct capacity for love and obedience to God.
      • Adopted- Given full rights, privileges, and responsibilities of a child of God.
  9. Good Works
  10. Sin after Regeneration
    • Affirms it is possible for a believer to sin after regeneration in salvation.
    • Affirms there is grace and forgiveness for repentant believers.
  11. Sanctification
    • Initial- The work of the Holy Spirit in the moment of conversion in a new believer to be separated from sin to God.
    • Progressive- The continual work of the Holy Spirit to grow the believer in love and more perfect obedience.
    • Entire- The perfecting of the believer in love and empowerment for service. It follows in lifelong growth in grace and knowledge.
  12. The Gifts of the Spirit
    • Asserts that the Holy Spirit gives gifts to people, for the benefit of the Church, but that the Holy Spirit himself is the most desirable gift.
  13. The Church
    • The Christian Church is the entire body of believers (both living and those died and in heaven). Jesus Christ is the founder and only head of the Church. The Church is called to preach the Word of God, administer the sacraments, and live in obedience to Christ. A local church is a body of believers formally organized for the purposes of evangelism, discipleship, and worship. The Wesleyan Church is a denomination within the greater Church.
  14. The Sacraments
    • Baptism
      • Baptism is a sacrament commanded by our Lord and administered to believers. It works as a symbol and as part of the new covenant of grace.
    • The Lord's Supper
      • the Lord's Supper is a sacrament of our redemption by Christ's death, our hope in his return, and a sign of Christian love for one another.
  15. The Second Coming of Christ
  16. The Resurrection of the Dead
    • Asserts that all will be raised from dead at Christ's return
    • Asserts damnation for the lost and life for the saved
    • Asserts that the resurrection body will be a spiritual body, but still personally recognizable
  17. The judgment of All Persons
    • Asserts a final judgment for all humans before God, regardless of the individual's beliefs
    • Asserts God's omniscience and eternal justice
  18. Destiny
    • Asserts that Scripture teaches there is life after death, and the fate of each person is determined by God's grace and their individual response, evidenced through moral character rather than arbitrary decree of God. Heaven and Christ's presence is the place for those who choose God's salvation given through Christ, but hell and separation from Christ is the resulting place for those who neglect the great salvation.

Organizations and relations

Local churches are organized into a network of districts with equal representation of clergy and laity at their annual conferences. Each has an elected administrator known as the district superintendent and has a district board of administration with both lay and clergy serving. National and multi-national networks are called general conferences with strong national leadership and meet every four years. The North American General Conference has one General Superintendent, Dr. Jo Anne Lyon. An ordained Wesleyan minister, Dr. Lyon is the founder of World Hope International, the official Christian relief and development partner of The Wesleyan Church.

Currently, general conferences exist in the Philippines, the Caribbean, and North America, though The Wesleyan Church has recently begun a process of "internationalization" in which areas and regions of the world have the opportunity to form their own general conferences. Though it is too early to predict which general conferences will be formed in the coming years, the eventual shift is inevitable. The overarching goal of the internationalization process is to create a global network of partnership and not a "top-down" leadership structure within the worldwide church.

Official names by region

According to the 2012 Wesleyan Church Discipline, the official name of the denomination is The Wesleyan Church. However, different names may be used by different units of the church for practicality and localization. The following are the official names of the denomination, for the various organizational units:[7]

Sister denominations and fraternal relations

Main article: Holiness movement

The Wesleyan Church is a part of the holiness movement, and as such, follows many of the same teachings as similar denominations that follow Wesleyan traditions. At times in its history, it has sought merger with both the Church of the Nazarene and the Free Methodist Church, both of which practice very similar doctrine.

The Wesleyan Church is a member of the following organizations:

Theological seminaries

Universities, colleges, and schools in the U.S. and Canada

Wesleyan Publishing House

The Wesleyan Church runs its own publishing house located in Indianapolis, Indiana. Its mission is to "be a leader in communicating the message of holiness through the publication of quality resources for local churches and ministries around the world." [8]

Districts within the United States and Canada

The Wesleyan Church in North America is organized in the following 32 districts:[9]

Notable people






Scientists and inventors

Singers and musicians


  1. "Church Statistics". The Wesleyan Church. Retrieved 2015-06-29.
  2. Haines, Lee M; Thomas, Paul William (2000). "History of the Wesleyan Methodist Church of America, 1843–1968". An Outline History of the Wesleyan Church. Wesleyan Publishing House. p. 72. ISBN 0-89827-223-8.
  3. Peter Bush, "The Reverend James Caughey and Wesleyan Methodist Revivalism in Canada West, 1851–1856", Ontario History, Sept 1987, Vol. 79 Issue 3, pp 231-250
  4. An Outline History of the Wesleyan Church 5th revised edition, (2000) by L.M. and Thomas, P.W. Haines
  5. Caldwell, Wayne E. ed. Reformers and Revivals: History of the Wesleyan Church. Indianapolis, Indiana: Wesley Press, 1992
  6. "Our Core Values and Beliefs". www.wesleyan.org. Retrieved 2010-01-17.
  7. "The Discipline of the Wesleyan Church 2004" (PDF). The Wesleyan Publishing House. 2005. Retrieved 2010-01-30., p. 80
  8. "About Us: The Wesleyan Publishing House". The Wesleyan Church. Retrieved 2010-11-10.
  9. "Districts of the Wesleyan Church". The Wesleyan Church. Retrieved 2010-11-10.
  10. "Brandon Beachy Stats, Bio, Photos, Highlights | braves.com: Team". Braves.com: Team." The Official Site of The Atlanta Braves. Braves.com: Homepage. Retrieved 4 April 2011.
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