Methodist Church of Canada

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Methodist Church of Canada
Classification Protestant
Orientation MainlineArminian
Polity Presbyterian
Associations Canadian Council of Churches; World Communion of Reformed Churches; World Council of Churches; World Methodist Council
Region Canada (plus Bermuda)
Origin 1884

The Methodist Church of Canada was formed in 1884 and comprised Methodist denominations in Canada[1] including some that had been active along Canada's eastern coast and north of the St. Lawrence River as early as the 18th century.

It soon responded to overtures for further denominational union from the recently also united and somewhat larger Presbyterian Church in Canada, formed in 1875. These discussions in due course led to the formation in 1925 of the United Church of Canada, which was and remains the largest Protestant denomination in Canada despite a recent and sharp decline in membership.

Early history[edit]

Laurence Coughlan was a lay preacher of the British Methodist movement. He arrived in Newfoundland in 1766 and began working among Protestant English and Irish settlers. In 1779[2] William Black, born in England but raised in Nova Scotia was converted to Methodism and commenced evangelizing in the Maritimes, his work falling under the supervision of British Wesleyans in 1800. In 1855 this body formed the Wesleyan Methodist Conference of Eastern British America.

Under the leadership of William Losee, meanwhile, the Methodist Episcopal Church (U.S.A.), established on Christmas Day in 1784, began work in 1791 among British immigrants to Upper Canada. By 1828 the Methodist Episcopal work in Canada had formally severed ties with the U.S.A. In 1833 most of it joined with the British Wesleyans to form the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Canada, adding to itself the Methodist people of Lower Canada in 1854. That part of it which absented itself from the union re-formed into the Methodist Episcopal Church of Canada (1834), eventually growing into the second largest Methodist body in Canada.

In turn the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Canada and the Wesleyan Methodist Conference of Eastern British America united in 1874, annexing as well the Methodist New Connexion Church in Canada (itself an amalgam of several small groups), thereby forming the Methodist Church of Canada.

In 1884 this body joined with the Methodist Episcopal Church in Canada, together with the Bible Christian Church of Canada and the Primitive Methodist Church in Canada, bringing to birth the Methodist Church (Canada, Newfoundland and Bermuda.) This lattermost union made the Methodist Church the largest Protestant denomination in Canada. It now included all Canadian Methodists with the exception of several very small groups: the British Methodist Episcopal Church (a development of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, serving chiefly people of colour), two German-speaking bodies (the Evangelical Association and the United Brethren in Christ), and the Free Methodist Church (a body that had begun in New York State in 1860 and extended itself into Canada.)

Merger with United Church[edit]

In 1925 the Methodist Church united with 70% of the Presbyterian Church in Canada and 96% of the Congregational Union of Canada to form The United Church of Canada. The Methodist Church with its notable benefactors the Eaton and Massey families was the sponsor of Victoria College at the University of Toronto, once and still a mainstay of intellectual rigour at that university and the alma mater of many of Canada's leaders and most famous thinkers.

Although Methodists were never a majority of anglophone Canadians or even Torontonians, their political and social influence in southern Ontario generally and Toronto particularly earned Toronto its longstanding semi-facetious sobriquet "the Methodist Rome" and Metropolitan Methodist Church in Toronto that of "the Cathedral of Methodism." Many of the causes espoused by and associated with the United Church in the 20th century were, although also associated with other Evangelical Protestant denominations, especially Methodist ones, in particular sabbatarianism, temperance, the rights of women and missions to the aboriginal peoples of Canada.[3]

Although Methodism in Canada abandoned that label in 1925[4] — many United Church people in Canada are entirely unaware of the term — the foremost Canadian Methodist, Egerton Ryerson, is amply commemorated and widely known through the many Canadian institutions which bear his name, including Ryerson University, the former Ryerson Press (the United Church publishing house, ultimately sold to McGraw-Hill) and numerous Ryerson United Churches across the country.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Victor Shepherd (2001), "The Methodist Tradition in Canada." Retrieved 26 November 2007.
  2. ^ Cornish, George H (1881). Cyclopaedia of Methodism in Canada. Toronto: Methodist Book and Pub House. p. 14. 
  3. ^ Shepherd.
  4. ^ Unlike the label "Presbyterian," as to which the United Church contended with the continuing or "non-concurring" Presbyterians for many years after Church Union.


  • Platt, Harriet Louise The Story Of The Years: A History Of The Woman's Missionary Society Of The Methodist Church, Canada, From 1881 To 1906 Nabu Press; August 9, 2010
  • Smith, Thomas Watson History of the Methodist Church Within the Territories Embraced in the Late Conference of Eastern British America: Including Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Bermuda, Volume 1 BiblioLife; January 12, 2010
  • Webster, Thomas History of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Canada Hamilton, Printed at the Canada Christan Advocate, BiblioLife, April 6, 2010