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The Wesleyan Church is a Holiness Methodist Christian denomination in the United States, Canada, South Africa, Namibia and Australia. The Church is part of the Holiness Movement and has roots in the teachings of John Wesley. The Church believes in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and is Wesleyan-Arminian in doctrine.

The Wesleyan Church has over 411,000 adherents in over 5,000 churches worldwide and is active in almost 100 nations. Wesleyan Life is the official publication. The Wesleyan Church World Headquarters is in Fishers, Indianamarker.



Wesleyan Methodist Connection was officially formed in 1843 at an organizing conference in Utica, New Yorkmarker, by a group of ministers and laymen splitting from the Methodist Episcopal Church. The split was primarily over their objections to slavery, though they had secondary issues as well. Orange Scott presided as the meeting formed a federation of churches at first calling themselves the Wesleyan Methodist Connection, a name chosen to distinguish themselves from the British Wesleyan Methodists. Other leaders at the organizing conference were LaRoy Sunderland, who had been tried and defrocked for his antislavery writings, Lucious C. Matlack, and Luther Lee, a minister who later operated an Underground Railroad station in Syracuse, New Yorkmarker.

In 1966 the denomination merged with the Alliance of Reformed Baptists of Canada and 1968 with the Pilgrim Holiness Church. It spread through revivals emphasizing a deepening experience with God called holiness or sanctification. Heart purity was a central theme. During this period of time, many small churches developed through revivals and the emphasis of sanctification (taught by John Wesley, but not emphasized by many Methodists). As many as 25 or 30 small denominations were formed and eventually merged with other groups to enlarge the church. The church was strong in missionary and revival emphasis. The Wesleyan merger took place in 1968 at Anderson University, Anderson, Indiana.

In addition to anti-slavery, the early Wesleyan Methodists championed the rights of women. The Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls, New York hosted the first Women's Rights Convention in 1848, also known as the Seneca Falls Convention. It is commemorated by the Women's Rights National Historical Park in the village today. Luther Lee, General President in 1856, preached at the ordination service of Antoinette Brown the very first woman ordained to the Christian ministry in the United States. The Alliance of Reformed Baptists of Canada ordained the very first woman to the ministry in Canada in the late 1800s. At the General Conference in 1867, a resolution was adopted favoring the right of women to vote (as well as the right of freedmen — blacks). This was 44 years before the U.S. constitution was amended to allow women voting privileges.


Local churches are organized into a network of districts with equal representation of clergy and laity at their annual conferences. Each has an elected administrator known as the District Superintendent and has a district board of administration with both lay and clergy serving. National and multi-national networks are called General Conferences with very strong national leadership and meet every four years. The North American General Conference has three General Superintendents and each of them have about a third of the church under their administrative oversight.

Currently, General Conferences exist in the Philippines, the Caribbean, and North America, though the Wesleyan church has recently begun a process of "internationalization" in which areas and regions of the world have the opportunity to form their own general conferences. Though it is too early to predict which general conferences will be formed in the coming years, the eventual shift is inevitable. The overarching goal of the internationalization process is to create a global network of partnership and not a "top-down" leadership structure within the worldwide church.

Schools in the United States and Canada

Wesley Seminary

Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University is an evangelical Christian theological seminary affiliated with the Wesleyan Church that is also associated with Indiana Wesleyan University and located on its campus in Marion, Indianamarker.

In 2008, IWU administrators and the Board of Trustees endorsed the concept of the seminary and set aside funding for it. On April 3, 2009 the Board of Trustees unanimously approved the proposal after the seminary was accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The seminary opened for the fall 2009 semester.

On October 2, 2009, during IWU's Homecoming Chapel, university president Dr. Henry Smith announced that the Board of Trustees had officially voted to name the seminary Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University and had chosen Dr. Wayne Schmidt to be the seminary's first Vice President.

Wesley is the first officially affiliated seminary in the history of the denomination, which is one of the only evangelical denominations that does not currently require pastors to hold a seminary degree for ordination. Currently, only about 15 percent of Wesleyan pastors have seminary degrees. Denominational leaders hope the new seminary will double that number. The seminary currently offers an innovative Master of Divinity degree program, along with other graduate theology degrees, offered in on-site and online formats. Wesley will eventually have its own building and housing for students on campus.

Notable people

  • Bart Hall - pastor extraordinaire at Central Wesleyan Church of Jackson, Michigan


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