Evangelical Methodist Church

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Evangelical Methodist Church
New EMC logo.jpg
Evangelical Methodist Church International logo
Classification Protestant (Methodist)
Orientation Evangelical, Holiness
Polity Congregational-Connectional
Associations Christian Holiness Partnership, National Association of Evangelicals
Region Worldwide: North American Conference divided into two Districts (USA and Canada) and Mexico Missions Conference.
Origin 1946
Separated from The Methodist Church
Merge of The People's Methodist Church (1962), Evangel Church (1960)
Separations Evangelical (Independent) Methodist Churches (1953), Bethel Methodist Church (1989), National Association of Wesleyan Evangelicals (2010)
Congregations Worldwide 232
Members Approx. 16,150

The Evangelical Methodist Church (EMC) is a Christian denomination headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana. The denomination reports 232 churches in the United States, Mexico, Burma/Myanmar, Canada, Philippines and several European and African nations. The EMC claims a total of 16,150 members worldwide with 8,600 of them in the United States.


The EMC describes itself as a culturally conservative, evangelical church that is "orthodox in belief, missionary in outlook, evangelistic in endeavor, cooperative in spirit, and Wesleyan in doctrine."[1]

Theologically, the EMC teaches a non-legalist Holiness message, emphasizing the inerrancy of the Bible and the power of the Holy Spirit to cleanse a Christian from sin and to keep him or her from falling back into a sinful lifestyle. The EMC believes in salvation through faith by grace. While this "prevenient grace" of God allows every person to make a choice in response to the gospel, apart from grace man cannot freely choose to follow Christ and be saved from God's future judgment. The saved Christian will grow in Christ-likeness throughout life via progressive sanctification. There is also the experience of entire sanctification -- a "second, crisis experience" in which a believer's heart is cleansed of self-centered ambition replaced by a perfect love for God and other people. A fully sanctified Christian is expected by the EMC to live a holy lifestyle that reflects the character of Christ to the world.


The Evangelical Methodist Church was established in May 9, 1946 as the result of a prayer meeting where Methodist clergy and lay-people gathered in Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. J.H. Hamblen was elected chairman of the meeting and the first General Superintendent of the new denomination.[2]

Reaction to Liberalism[edit]

The EMC emerged during a time when many began to believe that The Methodist Church, from which most of the original members came, was becoming a more liberal and humanistic organization, specifically with its denial of the accuracy, authority and all-sufficiency of the Bible. As a result of these theological changes in the mainline Methodist Church (now the United Methodist Church), the EMC was formed in order to revive what it considered the original principles of the founders of Methodism.

Both the EMC and the denomination from whence it sprang share roots in the 18th century English Methodist movement pioneered by John Wesley. They also trace their lineage to the missions of Francis Asbury, Thomas Coke and other, tireless circuit riders of the 19th century. The "old fashioned" Methodism that they preached grew rapidly as they enthusiastically preached a Bible-based message with an emphasis on free will and on individual personal responsibility before God. Through local congregations and missions, Methodism inspired an evangelistic push in North America among many denominations to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with those they considered spiritually lost or "sin-sick."

However, some doctrinal differences began to emerge among Methodists in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The EMC Book of Discipline's 1966–70 edition recalled: "With a firm conviction that the gulf that separates conservative and liberal thought in the church is an ever-widening chasm which can never be healed, the Evangelical Methodist Church came into being to preserve the distinctive Biblical doctrines of primitive methodism."[3]

The formation of the EMC represented a double-protest, as it also rejected the episcopalian structure of most Methodist denominations. The EMC ordained no bishops and gave local congregations the power to hold property and call its own ministers.


In its second decade, the EMC merged with two denominations which shared its belief in entire sanctification and the importance of evangelism.

  • On June 4, 1960, the Evangel Church, Inc., in session at its annual conference, voted to unite with the Evangelical Methodist Church and thus become a part of the California District. Formerly known as the Evangelistic Tabernacles and founded by Dr. William Kirby and Dr. Cornelius P. Haggard, the denomination dates back to March 27, 1933. At the time of merger there were 8 churches and about 675 enrolled in Sunday school, with Rev. R. Lloyd Wilson serving as president of the organization. This merger was approved by the Western Annual Conference of the Evangelical Methodist Church on June 22, 1960.[2]
  • On July 3, 1962, the General Conference of the Evangelical Methodist Church voted to merge with the People's Methodist Church, formerly known as the People's Christian Movement, which came into being on January 1, 1938, with Rev. Jim H. Green[3] as the first General Superintendent. The merger was finalized by vote of the People's Methodist Church at a subsequent conference in the summer of 1962. Rev. J. Neal Anderson, General Superintendent at the time of the merger, was elected Superintendent of the Virginia-North Carolina District.[4]
Dr. J.H. Hamblen (left), founder of the EMC, converses with Ezekiel Vargas (right) of Mexico in this undated photo.

At the first EMC conference in 1948, delegates wholeheartedly approved a plan presented by circuit-riding preacher Dr. Ezequiel B. Vargas, superintendent of the Mexican Evangelistic Mission (MEM), that his missions group become a part of the Evangelical Methodist Church. Dr. Vargas and Dr. Hamblen maintained a strong friendship and working relationship. A Bible institute in Torreón, Mexico, Instituto Bíblico Vida y Verdad[5], is the result of this work.[4]

A mention was made at the 2006 General Conference of talks with the Evangelical Church regarding a possible merger.[6]

The Churches of Christ in Christian Union[7] is referred to as a "sister denomination" to the EMC and sends an observer to its general conferences. That denomination is itself a fusion of several denominations including the Christian Union and the holiness Churches of Christ, and later the Reformed Methodist Church's Northeast District.


A small denomination, the Bethel Methodist Church[8], sprung from a theological disagreement in the Mid-States District regarding district ministers' stand on free will on March 24, 1989.[5] The group claims four congregations, all in Texas.

Another offshoot, the National Association of Wesleyan Evangelicals[9] is composed of several former Southern District EMC churches. It was formed in the wake of the consolidation of EMC districts in 2010 and subsequent Christian conciliation against dissenting Southern District congregations by the EMC General Conference.


The EMC is headquartered in the Hamblen-Bruner Headquarters Building in Indianapolis, Indiana. It maintains a congregational-connectional form of church polity, which has been significantly amended in recent years.

The Evangelical Methodist Youth logo (2008).

Local churches in the U.S. are gathered into regions within the North America Conference. Districts include the U.S., Canada, and the Mexican Evangelistic Mission. (This "one conference model" replaced the longstanding practice of several, self-governing district conferences within the U.S. and separate missions conferences abroad, i.e. Mexico, Bolivia, and Myanmar/Burma.)

Conference-licensed orders of ministry include: Local Preachers, Elders, Deacons and Deaconesses. Historically, the EMC has recognized Song Evangelists and Lay Exhorters as orders appointed by the local church.

Departments include: Prayer, Stewardship, Pensions, Publications and Multicultural Ministries. Auxiliaries of the denomination include Men, Women and Youth organizations.

Local church administrative structures vary, but the Book of Discipline calls for a board of Stewards and a board of Trustees to work in conjunction with the senior pastor. The senior pastor is responsible for oversight of the local church's ministries and other ministers.

General Superintendents[edit]

Elected MEM Gen. Superintendent
1946 Ezekiel Vargas
1965 Eduardo Salido
1970 Constantine Cardenas
1994 Brother Augustine
2002 Constantine Cardenas
2012 Ausencio Saenz
Elected Myanmar Gen. Superintendent
2000 Dar Ro Thanga
2010 Lal Sawi Vela
Elected U.S. Gen. Superintendent
1946 J.H. Hamblen
1966 Ralph Vanderwood
1974 Lloyd Garrett
1978 John Kunkle
1986 Clyde Zehr
1994 Jack Wease
1998 Edward Williamson
Elected Int'l Gen. Superintendent
2010 Edward Williamson

General Superintendents are elected by a quadrennial international general conference. The terms General Superintendent and Bishop are considered synonymous -- multicultural churches and mission conferences are advised to use either title that aligns with their traditions. There are superintendents for each of the missions conferences and world areas, as well as an international general superintendent [6] At the 2010 General Conference, the title of U.S. General Superintendent was changed to International General Superintendent.


Worshippers in local churches may become members via the usual Methodist manner: by consulting with the local pastor, making a profession of faith, and taking a vow of membership. Candidates must have been previously baptized with water.

The North American Conference (Canada, Mexico and the United States) has the largest amount of local churches with 149 congregations -- 112 of those are in the United States. As of 2012, United States membership is approximately 8,600 people, which is about half of worldwide membership.

As of 2005, there were 108 churches and 7,348 members in the United States,[7]

Congregations are located in 23 U.S. states, and they have a presence in 20 other countries through various missions organizations. The EMC claims 232 total churches worldwide and approximately 16,150 members.


In March 2010 the 30th General Conference adopted a two-district conference model, called the North America Conference, which included USA, Mexico and Canada. The model called for two districts, USA and Canada. The USA district was allotted four Conference Superintendents and Canada one Conference Superintendent. The streamlined conference structure reduced the number of boards with similar functions from 27 to 7, reducing financial overhead. There were no changes made in local church structure, powers and descriptions of the superintendents, or doctrinal standards.

This came as a result of decades of dispute over whether the "congregational-connectional" EMC was to be more congregational or more connectional in its polity.

In September 11-14, 1984, in Duncanville, Texas a "Forum on the Future" of the denomination was held. General Superintendent Rev. John Kunkle, delivered the main address. In his opening remarks he said,

"... Unfortunately, a widespread distinctive of the Evangelical Methodist Church today is an overemphasis on congregationalism. Some go so far as to state that 'we are a congregational church,' which of course is not true. We are a congregational-connectional church and that makes a world of difference. Without the 'connectional' aspect we cannot even be a true denomination. The 'connectional' relationship that must prevail if any church is be a real denomination is clearly delineated in our Discipline' and bylaws. These rules and regulations clearly supersede and overrule pure congregationalism. Our failure in many places and many cases to accept this fact accounts for most of the problems we face today. Congregationalism rejects, repulses, and ultimately refuses to accept any rule, control, or disciplinary action outside of it's won self-centered body. To build a genuine denomination under such conditions is an impossibility. Paul (Apostle) did not father congregationalism, nor did he found congregational churches. Even under the difficult travel and communication problems he faced, there was a connectionalism that remained in control. There was a General Conference which ruled on all serious issues and their rulings were binding on all congregations. When there were serious problems in local churches, Paul did not just tell them to carry on the best they could until he got there and he would then let the congregation vote and decide the issue. This did not happen, and though widely separated in distance and time, the connection was there, sharp and clear. If it was important to them as widely scattered as they were, how much more so is it important for us in these days when we have marvelous communications and travel possibilities." [8]

Reorganization discussions continued as exemplified in the annual reports of General Superintendent Clyde Zehr and Atlantic District Superintendent Dr. Charles Church. During this time the number of districts were reduced from nine to seven. General Superintendent Edward Williamson in 2000 began a ten year study and "S.W.O.T. analysis" of the structure and discussed possibilities yearly at the annual district conferences in his reports. Former General Superintendent Lucian Smith, one the EMC's founders, stated that the EMC took the Methodist Episcopal "Book of Discipline" and adapted it for the EMC at two points -- property ownership by the local congregation and the call of the pastor. All of the historic Methodist connectional aspects remained, according to Smith.[9]

In September 2007, the General Council unanimously proposed that the U.S. districts be changed into regions and merged into a single conference. This plan, called the "One Conference Model" and part of the CSP (Comprehensive Strategic Plan), was proposed to delegates at the Special General Conference in July 2008. [10]According to the plan, The General Conference would be held every three or four years and in-between General Conference years, two annual convocations would be held on the east and west coasts. The General Council pointed to the current level of independence of the various districts and deviation from the denomination's "Methodist moorings" of connectionalism. The motion to adopt the reorganization plan failed to gain the two-thirds support necessary, with 157-100 delegate votes (61.1 to 39.9%).[11] In Spring 2008, 5 of the 6 District Conferences supported the presentation of the one-conference model to the 2010 General Conference.

Other EMCs[edit]

There are many local, independent congregations with a similar heritage which retain the name "Evangelical Methodist Church." There is at least one "other EMC" association:

Evangelical (Independent) Methodist Churches

Though it contained Holiness and non-Holiness Fundamentalists in its beginning, the Evangelical Methodist Church experienced a schism early in its history in regard to the Wesleyan doctrine of sanctification. A faction led by W.W. Breckbill (a founder from the earliest days of the EMC [10]) became known as either the Evangelical (Independent) Methodist Churches, the Fellowship of Evangelical Methodist Churches, the Evangelical Methodist Conference, or simply the Evangelical Methodist Church [11]. The connection was established in 1953 by dissenting members of the EMC. They operate Breckbill Bible College [12] in Max Meadows, Virginia, named for its preferred founder. This smaller EMC group is more into cultural separatism than the original denomination and does not teach the doctrine of Entire Sanctification as a crisis experience. They are strictly congregationalist in polity. They have more things in common with the distinctly Fundamentalist Conservative Holiness Movement than does the larger EMC body. Dr. James B. Fields is the general superintendent of this group, which claims churches in Suriname, Jamaica, Chile, Nigeria, France, Kenya and Malawi in addition to the United States.

According to an observer, this schism mirrors a trend among many Protestant denominations:

"The history of the Evangelical Methodist Church illustrates the tensions inherent in a Fundamentalist-Holiness relationship. Founded in 1946 as a protest against growing liberalism in the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Methodist Church contained both Holiness and non-Holiness factions. Eventually, the tension grew too great, and in 1952 the denomination split over the issue of entire sanctification. The non-Holiness segment, led by W. W. (William Wallace) Breckbill, took the more ardently Fundamentalist position, aligning itself with the American Council of Christian Churches, a Fundamentalist alliance. In this case, mutual opposition to liberalism was not sufficient to make up for deep differences over the doctrine of sanctification. Once the split took place, those opposed to entire sanctification found themselves more comfortable in the Fundamentalist camp. This story reproduces in miniature the general outline of Fundamentalist-Holiness interaction.[12][13]


  1. ^ Evangelical Methodist Church » What We Believe
  2. ^ https://books.google.com/books?id=lk8_ARNz-dYC&lpg=PA317&ots=008aYDUhMT&dq=%22Evangelical%20Methodist%20Church%22%20history%20%22J.H.%20Hamblen%22&pg=PA317#v=onepage&q=%22Evangelical%20Methodist%20Church%22%20history%20%22J.H.%20Hamblen%22&f=false Evangelical Methodist Church". The Encyclopedia of Cults, Sects, and New Religions. ISBN 1-57392-888-7, Prometheus Books. James R. Lewis.
  3. ^ "Discipline of the Evangelical Methodist Church: 1966–1970," (1966) Driggers, Ronald D., editor; Evangelical Methodist Church International Headquarters, Wichita, Kansas.
  4. ^ http://www.memar.org/www.memar.org/Instituto_Biblico.html Life and Truth Bible Institute
  5. ^ http://www.bethelmethodist.com/discipline/index2.htm
  6. ^ "EMC Discipline 2014" [1]
  7. ^ "2008 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches". The National Council of Churches. Retrieved 2009-12-08. 
  8. ^ Archives of the EMC HQ. www.emchurch.org
  9. ^ Archives of the EMC HQ. www.emchurch.org
  10. ^ Evangelical Methodist Church » Addendum for the Superintendents' CSP Report
  11. ^ http://emchurch.org/downloads/Special%20Called%20General%20Conference/MINUTES%20General%20Conf%202008.pdf
  12. ^ "The Conservative Holiness Movement: A Fundamentalism File Research Report;" Mark Sidwell, Bob Jones University (copyright and date unknown).

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