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The Primitive Methodist Church is a body of evangelical Christians within the Methodist denomination, which began in England in the early 1800s, with the influence of American evangelist Lorenzo Dow (1777–1834).

In Great Britain

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 Church, heard of the results of American camp meetings. They held a camp meeting on May 31, 1807 at Mow Copmarker, 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 They are part of the denomination, yet originally made up of converts denied admittance into the church.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 Church and the United Methodists to form the Methodist Church of Great Britain.

In the United States

The first missionaries to America arrived in Brooklyn, New Yorkmarker 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.

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

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