by Jeff Finley (Light + Life Magazine, November 2016)
Free Methodists played a key role as more than 1,200 people gathered Nov. 1–3 at NorthWood Church near Dallas, Texas, for the Mosaix Multiethnic Church Conference. The Free Methodist Church – USA was a gold sponsor of the conference that occurs every three years.
Matthew Thomas shared a brief history of the Free Methodist Church. While some participating denominations had to repent of past support for slavery and segregation, Thomas told how Free Methodists have a long history as a “multicultural, multiracial movement” supporting freedom, equality and unity. “We were birthed as an abolition movement,” he said.
Some of the conference’s participating denominations continue to exclude women from pastoral ministry, and their speakers discussed racial and ethnic equality without mentioning gender. In contrast, Thomas said, “The founder of the Free Methodist Church back in the late 1800s wrote a book that was very unique for its time. The title of the book was ‘Ordaining Women.’ There was a lot of controversy behind it, but it created that kind of multiculture, multigender, multiethnic type of feel and then started empowering lay people to go out into all the world, plant churches, start small groups, and they did that in groups called lay Pentecost bands. So by the turn of the 1900s, we had about as many people overseas as we did here.”
Thomas shared that 94% of Free Methodists churches currently are outside the United States, and this nation’s Free Methodists are increasingly diverse.
“In the Free Methodist Church in the United States, 28 languages are spoken,” the bishop said. “Our churches are becoming more and more multiethnic, multicultural, and we’re grateful to be a part of what’s going on in the world. We’ve got a long way to go, but things are really going well on many fronts.”