Simpson and Roberts on the Beginnings of Free Methodism
This chapter connects Matthew Simpson and B.T. Roberts and shows why they should be seen as representative figures of the initial theological fragmentation in American Methodism. Simpson’s role as presiding bishop at the Genesee Annual Conference after Roberts was expelled, and the additional expulsions of “Nazarites” that happened at the 1859 Conference are discussed. The most in-depth focus is on the entry “Free Methodists” in The Cyclopaedia of Methodism, which Simpson edited. The Free Methodists disagreed strongly with the content of this one-page article. The result was the commissioning of B.T. Roberts, now a General Superintendent in the Free Methodist Church, to write a formal response. Roberts wrote a book-length rebuttal, Why Another Sect. The initial fragmentation of American Methodism is explored through the ways that Simpson and Roberts were connected from Roberts’s expulsion through the first decades of Free Methodism.
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