Many times in casual conversations we are asked, “What’s the difference between the Evangelical Methodist Church and the United Methodist Church?” This question comes from the merely curious as well as those who are sincerely seeking to learn more about the EMC and want to know if we are “really” Methodist. History shows us that both denominations share roots in the 18th century English Methodist movement of John Wesley’s day, as well as in the later U.S. Methodism of Francis Asbury, Thomas Coke and the tireless circuit riders of the 1800’s. The “old fashioned” Methodism grew rapidly, largely because of its Bible based emphasis on “free will” and on individual personal responsibility before God for everyone. Camp meetings and missions’ emphasis gave it a lively vitality and inspired adherents to share their faith to the lost of the whole world. Methodism was on the march and became a true worldwide divine blessing.
In the 20th century, things began to change. Slowly the revival fire that had driven the robust expansion of U. S. Methodism began to die out. Methodist leadership, literature and educational institutions became increasingly liberal and humanistic. The message being declared was no longer a consistent church-wide declaration of the infallible authority of the Bible nor of the deity of Christ, His virgin birth, sinless life, bodily resurrection and second coming. The imperative of a personal religious experience, including the “new birth” and “sanctification” [the spirit filled life], was quietly dropped as a requisite for church membership or even leadership. Methodism in the USA stagnated and no longer grew as a church.
In such a dismal spiritual climate the Evangelical Methodist Church, an authentic Methodist movement, was born in 1946. Most of our early leaders were from the Methodist Church and for their insistence that true Methodism be proclaimed; they paid with their pulpits, pensions and church property. The EMC preaches the Biblical imperatives of true Methodism, including the beliefs summarized above and more.
The Evangelical Methodist Church’s distinctive includes a congregational and connectional system of church government, although hierarchical, affords a great degree of freedom for the local church. Each church sets its own budget, makes the final decision to call a EMC credentialed pastor from the recommendation(s) of the Conference Superintendent and operates its own local ministries free from any coercive hierarchical pressure. Churches are expected to participate and support missional priorities set by the General Conferences.
The denomination is hierarchical meaning we are connectional in government by a Discipline, which brings order to the function and vision of the local Evangelical Methodist Church and ministry of the clergy. Standards of professional ministry are carefully maintained and jealously guarded so that every EMC pastor or conference official can be counted on to believe and preach the timeless Bible based truths believed and lived out by Rev. John Wesley and early American Methodism. The heresy of liberalism and the unscriptural excesses and practices of spiritual phenomena in churches today are rejected in favor of a Bible-based view of God, man, sin and salvation. People who consider themselves true to historic Methodism and who find the gospel message central to life and eternity, who are tired of the Bible being relegated to second place in church life, who weary of a singular diet of social action issues, who believe in Jesus, His sinless birth and life, atoning death, literal resurrection and return, and who have a passion and heart for world evangelization and participation in the harvest will find a welcome home in their local Evangelical Methodist Church.
The words of our Methodist founder John Wesley reverberate into the 21st century and ring in the ears of the Evangelical Methodist Church:
“I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.” John Wesley, Evangelist