Reformed Methodist Church
Reformed Methodist Church an American offspring of the Methodist Episcopal Church, had its origin in 1814, and was started by a body of local preachers and exhorters, the most prominent and influential of whom was the Rev. Elijah Bailey, an ordained local preacher in the Vermont Conference. They had become dissatisfied with the polity of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and especially that part of it which relates to the powers and prerogatives of the episcopacy. They asserted that a leaning towards prelacy as it exists in the Roman Catholic hierarchy was developing in the Methodist Episcopal Church, and, their fears not receiving that general guard for which they prayed, they at length concluded to separate themselves from the old Church and found a new and reformed body. For the purpose of gaining a large number of ready, active laborers for their new organization, they resorted to the formation of a community of goods on a farm which they purchased at Bennington, Vt., and sustained for about two years. But the attempt to maintain themselves as a community proved abortive, and the members of it soon scattered to different parts of the states of Vermont and New York, and to Upper Canada. In the British territory they succeeded in raising up a number of Reformed societies. In the States, however, their success was small. The dispersion of the community above alluded to operated favorably to the interests of the Church as a whole, as, after that period, they were favored from time to time with gracious revivals of religion. Thousands, no doubt, in following years have been converted to God through the instrumentality of the preachers of this Church. As a denomination, however, they did not prosper like other organized orthodox churches. They suffered much from dissensions in their own ranks and important secessions from their numbers. About half of their iministers and many of their most flourishing societies left them and joined the Protestant Methodists; and at one time an entire conference of Reformed preachers went over to that denomination.
At the time of their greatest prosperity they had five annual conferences and about seventv-five ministers and preachers, and from three to four thousand members. After the organization of another Methodistic branch in the United States (the Wesleyan), most of the ministers and members of the Reformed Church became identified with that branch, and finally the body was merged into the so-called Methodist Church.
Doctrines. — In all matters of theology the "Reformers" are, or were, Methodistic, if we except their belief in the gift of healing, by which physical maladies might be removed through the power of faith. This belief had gained for the Reformers the names of fanatics and enthusiasts; but they have returned the compliment by accusing their calumniators of scepticism and infidelity.
Church Government. — The form of Church government selected by the Reformers was strictly congregational, admitting of lay representation in their general and annual conferences; the former body not meeting periodically, but only at the call of the latter bodies. Their general rules are similar to those of the parent body, with the addition of some forbidding war, slavery, etc.
The only periodical published under the auspices of this Church at any time was the Luminary and Reformer, edited by Mr. Bailey, a son of the founder of the Church. The paper, however, has for years been discontinued. SEE METHODISM (20).