The Free Methodist Deaconess Order Part Two

The 1907 Free Methodist General Conference was largely supportive of establishing a deaconess order, and unlike women’s ordination, the idea was met with little backlash from the more conservative leaders of the denomination. However, there was one point contention– should the Free Methodist deaconess have a required uniform? Some Free Methodists worried a uniform would be perceived by the public as a pro-Catholic endorsement and seen as too similar to the habit worn by nuns.[i] Yet, supporters of a uniform argued that by requiring deaconesses to wear a specific outfit or certain colors, the public would be able to easily … Continue reading The Free Methodist Deaconess Order Part Two

The History of the Free Methodist Deaconess Order Part One

One of the most under-researched areas of Free Methodist women’s history is the Free Methodist Deaconess Order. I have not been able to confirm an end date for the order, but it was approved by the 1907 General Conference and was in place well into the late twentieth-century (if anyone knows when the order ended I would love to hear from you). Established as a way to counter what was seen as a rising Catholic threat, the Free Methodist Church and other Protestant denominations began deaconess orders in the mid to late ninteenth century to provide a range of social … Continue reading The History of the Free Methodist Deaconess Order Part One

Shifting Narratives on Gender Part Three: The 1907 Free Methodist General Conference

When the resolution to approve a deaconess order came to the floor at the 1907 General Conference, the idea was met with enthusiastic support, passing through committee with thirty-five in favor and only seven opposed before coming to the floor for a conference vote.[i] Very few concerns were raised, but among the topics discussed were governance, mission, and uniforms for the order. Speaking in favor of the order, Free Methodist editor Charles Ebey reminded delegates there were already churches with such orders, and the need for a Free Methodist order was great. Reflecting on his personal experiences with deaconesses, Ebey … Continue reading Shifting Narratives on Gender Part Three: The 1907 Free Methodist General Conference

The Shifting Rhetorical Narrative of Gender: 1894-1911 Part One

I’ve written a lot on this blog about the 1890 and 1894 Free Methodist General Conference debates on women’s ordination. (I even have transcripts here if you would like to read the debates). However, the discussion did not end in 1894. Despite the 1894 General Conference choosing not to ordain women as elders or even deacons, more women, not less, became evangelists over the next decade. In 1894 there were 48 licensed women evangelists in the Free Methodist Church, and by 1904 there were 307. However, the number of women evangelists appointed to a circuit did not significantly increase. In … Continue reading The Shifting Rhetorical Narrative of Gender: 1894-1911 Part One

Ada Hall: One of the First Female Deacons

The 1911 Free Methodist General Conference took steps to finally allow women some form of ordination. Now, women could become ordained deacons at the annual conference level, but with the cavet that “this ordination of women shall not be considered a step towards ordination as an elder.”1 I’ll write about all five women at some point, but Ada Hall is by far my favorite. I feel a kindered spirit in her writing and passion for what she believed important enough to fight for. Prior to being ordained a deacon, Hall had been appointed to circuits in the Minnesota and Northern … Continue reading Ada Hall: One of the First Female Deacons

Blanche and Christopher Stamp: Superstar Free Methodist Evangelists

A few more pieces about the Stamp family have come into place this week. Christopher Stamp was an early convert to Free Methodism. About ten years after the denomination was founded (1860), he heard Free Methodists preach in Seattle. A teenager at the time, he was greatly influenced by two Free Methodists, Rev. Peter Griggs and Hiram Pease, who were preaching in the Northwest United States. According to his 1930 obituary in The Free Methodist, he first converted to Free Methodism, and then a few days later, during the same revival, experienced sanctification. Because Seattle didn’t have an established Free … Continue reading Blanche and Christopher Stamp: Superstar Free Methodist Evangelists

Eliza Witherspoon: Early 20th Century Evangelist in Southern Missouri

In the July 8, 1895, issue of The Free Methodist, an Eliza Witherspoon sends a ministry report from Virginia, Missouri noting that she, her mother, and sister had been “advocating the principles of Free Methodism” in that part of the country for the past seventeen years. Eliza tells readers her family is the lone Free Methodist family in the area and had spent the past three weeks holding meetings where “God sent us help and souls were converted to God– more than twenty souls.” Far from being a single report, Eliza Witherspoon begins appearing regularly in The Free Methodist over … Continue reading Eliza Witherspoon: Early 20th Century Evangelist in Southern Missouri

Anna Grant Pastor of San Diego Free Methodist 1912-1913

Dr. Sarah Anne Grant served as an evangelist in Northren Indiana, Iowa and Oklahoma for the Free Methodist Church. While she appears as a licensed evangelist for the Northern Indiana Conference in 1890 and 1891, her ministry in Iowa and Oklahoma appears to have been more informal (or else annual conference minutes aren’t incredibly accurate and didn’t report all licensed evangelists). She turns in regular ministry reports while working in Iowa and in Oklahoma. The Grant family appears to encourage Free Methodist elders to come and hold revivals where Sarah would assist.1 She again appears as a licensed evangelist in … Continue reading Anna Grant Pastor of San Diego Free Methodist 1912-1913

Dr. Anna Grant Oklahoma Pioneer and California Minister

In March 1903, W.G. Hammer visited the Grant family in Granite and sent an update to The Free Methodist. At that time, Granite had 1500 residents, several large mercantile, four churches, and according to Hammer, the largest public school building in the state. Hammer noted the Grant family’s philosophy was to take evangelistic work with them wherever they moved. Continue reading Dr. Anna Grant Oklahoma Pioneer and California Minister