the free methodist church in canada

Our History

John Wesley founded the Methodist movement in the 1700s. Wesley believed that all people could know the incredible love of God, experience His life-transforming power and serve the marginalised and vulnerable. He also believed that it was up to Jesus’ followers to get this word out. The Methodist movement found its way from England to North America, and in 1860, B.T Roberts and other Methodists founded the Free Methodist church in an effort to renew Wesley’s vision.

Around the same time in Canada, Methodists were fractured into seven different denominations, and attempts to unite them bothered some including Robert Loveless, a member of a Methodist church in Toronto, Ontario. In 1873, Loveless found a copy of B.T. Roberts’ Earnest Christian magazine in a post office. He was moved by what he read about the passion and vision of the Free Methodist Church, and he invited Roberts to speak in Toronto. 

Three years later, B.T. Roberts sent Charles Sage as a missionary to Canada. Sage was joined by Daniel Marstin, in 1878, and their work for the next several years involved meeting with Canadian Methodists who were troubled by the move away from John Wesley’s fundamental teachings. These discontented Methodists formed new Free Methodists congregations throughout Southwestern Ontario. 

In 1880, B.T. Roberts held a meeting in Galt, ON to organize the Canadian Annual Conference, and three years later, Reverend Albert Simms was appointed as the first Canadian Superintendent overseeing the work of the Free Methodist Church in Canada. Other early conference appointments included both men and women.

Over the next forty years, more Annual Conferences spread across the country. In 1920, Canadian leaders gathered in Sarnia, Ontario where a new Canadian identity emerged. New goals included the development of the Canadian Free Methodist Herald magazine, founding Canadian pastoral training schools, and the establishment of a Canadian executive board.

The next forty years were dedicated to fulfilling these new goals. In 1974, the Canadian Jurisdictional Conference was approved, and Bishop Donald Bastian was elected as Canada’s first Bishop. Bastian led the Free Methodist Church in Canada for twenty years through growth, leadership development and organizational maturity. Sixteen years later, the Canadian Jurisdictional Conference became the Canadian General Conference.

At the 1993 General Conference, a motion was put forward for a thorough study of denominational structures and procedures. This became newly elected Bishop Gary Walsh’s key assignment for the next several years. What emerged from this process was a renewed emphasis on the pivotal role of local churches in advancing the gospel in communities across Canada. 

Bishop Keith Elford continued the process of implementing the new structure and systems which included the creation of a network. All pastors meet in regional networks for mutual support, fellowship, and connection.

In 2017, the FMCiC elected Bishop Cliff Fletcher with a mandate to understand, “what kind of church does Canada need?” In response to this question, the FMCiC has committed to developing a friendship with our indigenous brothers and sisters. Our Intercultural Engagement Team has also pointed us to new Canadians, by partnering with international student ministries. We continue to minister in Sri Lanka, Ghana, India, as well as partnering with International Child Care, and Tearfund. The FMCiC has also decided to appoint Regional Coaches, in order to have more pastoral contact and local church support. We have formed task forces to consider racial justice and ethnic equity, and the FMCiC’s relationship with the LGBTQ2S+ community. We have created a team to mobilize churches in their ministry to family and children. All of these initiatives and more like them, are about positioning the FMCiC to introduce people to Jesus, change the world one person at a time, and alleviate all forms of injustice.. 

We still are free.