Freedom. We’ve always been a denomination clinging to this word.
Five essential freedoms have come to define who we are: freedom of all races to worship together, freedom of women to be treated as equal in the church and at home, freedom of the poor to have dignity in church and in the world, freedom of the laity to have authority, and the freedom of the Holy Spirit to move in worship.
The Free Methodism we practice today stands on these principles.
We trace our heritage back to original Methodism as led by its founder, John Wesley. Methodism came to America, and, in 1860, the Free Methodist Church came into being.
Slavery was an important issue from the start. While our mother church, the Methodist Episcopal Church, did not take a stand, those who took the name "Free" Methodist opposed slavery. Another defining issue was the widespread practice of renting and selling church pews, relegating the poor to benches in the back of the sanctuary. "Free" Methodists called for free seats for all and emphasized tithes and offerings to support the church's ministries.
The Free Methodist Church also felt that all people are equal and can be called into ministry. We therefore ordain both men and women into ministerial leadership of all races, classes and backgrounds. We also claimed freedom in worship: the ability to express our love for God in very personal and direct ways.
These freedoms from slavery, from formal worship, from gender discrimination as well as racial and class discrimination, is where we celebrate our "Free" Methodist heritage.
Since our founding, we have become a truly global denomination. Free Methodists have a Christian presence in nearly 70 countries, and 93% of Free Methodists live outside of the United States. We have become diverse on both the global and local levels, worshiping in over 26 languages even just in America. As one body of Christ, we rejoice in this diversity and claim belonging to each other.
As Free Methodists, we rely on the inspired, authoritative Word of God as the basis of our faith, and we endeavor to live according to its teachings (James 1:22-25). We claim spiritual birth through faith in Jesus Christ, as explained by Jesus to Nicodemus in John 3:1-17. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, described his own conversion by saying that when Christ came into his life, "My heart was strangely warmed." The life-changing miracle of spiritual birth makes a Free Methodist, or any other believer, "a new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
As a people, Free Methodists seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), exhibit the fruit of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) - and live disciplined lives in accord with the Bible's teachings. The goal of Free Methodists is to represent Jesus Christ in our daily living. We seek to be humble and winsome in showing forth Christ through our lives and lips.
"The mission of the Free Methodist Church is to make known to all people everywhere God's call to wholeness through forgiveness and holiness in Jesus Christ, and to invite into membership and equip for ministry all who respond in faith."
Read about Free Methodist Santa Barbara's unique history in the midst of this larger history here.