Freedom's Hill Church, ca. 1848 - Artist Rendering
This reform movement found its primary focus in the issue of abolishing human slavery. Leaders and members of various denominations; including the Methodist Church, the home church of the early Wesleyans; feared that this issue might bring division within the church and the nation, and refused to address these concerns.
Rev. Orange Scott, one of the early leaders of what is now The Wesleyan Church, became a champion in the abolition of slavery. Others followed his example. This resulted in a number of churches leaving their denominational connection as well as the formation of a significant number of independent churches.
These churches were bound together by a common theological perspective and outspoken opposition to slavery. In 1843, a convention of pastors and people from these churches was held at Utica, New York. This group solidified and united their efforts by forming the Wesleyan Methodist Connection.
At the close of the Civil War some of the leaders of the movement felt that the issue of slavery had been settled and that there was no need for the continuation of the movement. Several of these reformers returned to their former denominational connections.
Other issues had not been resolved, however, and these issues were vigorously supported among those who did not return to their previous church affiliations. Over time the union took on the characteristics of a denomination and eventually became known as the Wesleyan Methodist Church. continued...