Primitive Methodist Church

The Primitive Methodist Church is a body of Holiness Christians within the Methodist tradition, which began in England in the early 19th century, with the influence of American evangelist Lorenzo Dow (1777–1834).

Primitive Methodist Church
AssociationsWorld Federation of Primitive Methodists
Christian Holiness Partnership[1]
National Association of Evangelicals
Separated fromWesleyan Methodist Church

In the United States, the Primitive Methodist Church had eighty-three parishes and 8,487 members in 1996.[2] In Great Britain and Australia, the Primitive Methodist Church merged with other denominations, to form the Methodist Church of Great Britain in 1932 and the Methodist Church of Australasia in 1901. The latter subsequently merged into the Uniting Church in Australia in 1977.[3]


The Primitive Methodist Church recognizes the dominical sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, as well as other rites, such as Holy Matrimony.[4]


United Kingdom

The leaders who originated Primitive Methodism were attempting to restore a spirit of revivalism as they felt was found in the ministry of John Wesley, with no intent of forming a new church. Hugh Bourne (1772–1852) and William Clowes (1780–1851), preachers in the Wesleyan Methodist Church, heard of the results of American camp meetings. They held a camp meeting on May 31, 1807 at Mow Cop in Cheshire which resulted in many converts. But the Wesleyan Church refused to admit these converts to the church, and reprimanded Bourne and Clowes. Refusing to cease holding open-air meetings, they were dismissed from the church. After waiting two years for readmittance to the church, they founded the Primitive Methodists in the year of 1810, and in February 1812 in Tunstall took the name The Society of the Primitive Methodists. The name is meant to indicate they were conducting themselves in the way of Wesley and the "original" Methodists, particularly in reference to open-air meetings. They are part of the denomination, yet originally made up of converts denied admittance into the church.

Primitive Methodist workers played an important role in the formative phase of the Trade Union movement in England. They were always the most working class of the main Methodist bodies in Great Britain. They also used women at an early date as ministers ("itinerants") and preachers, a notable development in women's emancipation.

The Primitive Methodist Church formed one of the three streams of Methodism then extant in England. In 1932 it merged with the Wesleyan Methodist Church and the United Methodists to form the Methodist Church of Great Britain.

United States

The first missionaries to America arrived in Brooklyn, New York in 1829. The societies founded in the United States were under the control of the British Primitive Methodist Conference until 1840, when the "American Primitive Methodist Church" was established on September 16. A combining of various organizational structures occurred in May 1975, and the current (2004) official name — The Primitive Methodist Church in the United States of America — was chosen.

The denomination holds an annual conference. A president, elected every four years, is the chief leader of the denomination and their headquarters are located in his home. In 2000 the American body had 79 congregations with 4502 members.


Primitive Methodist congregations were also established in Australia. In 1902 the Primitive Methodist Church, Wesleyan Methodist Church, Bible Christians and the United Methodist Free Churches formed the Methodist Church of Australasia. In 1977 the Methodist Church of Australasia joined with the Congregational Union of Australia and Presbyterian Church of Australia to form the Uniting Church in Australia.


The Primitive Methodist Church in the United States has missions in Spain, Guatemala and other countries throughout the world.[1] Its mission work in Africa dates back to 1897 and its mission work in Guatemala was started in 1921.[5]

Ecumenical relations

The Primitive Methodist Church in the United States, with respect to ecumenism, is a member of the Christian Holiness Partnership, an organization of churches in the WesleyanArminian tradition, and a member of the National Association of Evangelicals.[1]

See also


  1. Hillerbrand, Hans J. (2 August 2004). Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Routledge. p. 1898. ISBN 9781135960285.
  2. Balmer, Randall Herbert (2002). Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism. Westminster John Knox Press. p. 468. ISBN 9780664224097. Retrieved 30 May 2017.
  3. Trickler, C. Jack (2010). A Layman's Guide To: Why Are There So Many Christian Denominations?. p. 177. ISBN 9781449045784. In 1932 the British part of the Primitive Methodist Church merged with the British Wesleyan Church and the British United Methodists to form the Methodist Church of Great Britain.
  4. Acornley, John Holmes (1909). A History of the Primitive Methodist Church in the United States of America from Its Origin and the Landing of the First Missionaries in 1829 to the Present Time. B. R. Acornley. p. 256. Resolved: That no person holding a Local Preacher's Annual License, shall perform the sacraments, either of baptism, Lord's Supper, or marriage, excepting during the absence of, or by request of, the minister in charge.
  5. Kostlevy, William (1 April 2010). The A to Z of the Holiness Movement. Scarecrow Press. p. 241. ISBN 9781461731801.

Further reading

  • Handbook of Denominations in the United States, 11th Edition, Frank S. Mead, Samuel S. Hill & Craig D. Atwood ISBN 0687165717
  • Religious Congregations & Membership in the United States 2000, ASARB & Glenmary Research Center ISBN 0-914422-26-X
  • Young, D. M., The great River: Primitive Methodism till 1868 (Stoke-on-Trent: Tentmaker Publications 2016)
  • Young, D. M., Change and Decay: Primitive Methodism from late Victorian Times till World War 1 (Stoke-on-Trent: Tentmaker Publications 2017)
  • Young, D. M., The Primitive Methodist Mission to North Wales (Wesley Historical Society, Wales, in association with Tentmaker Publications, Stoke-on-Trent 2016)
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