The Free Methodist Equivalant of Little House on the Prarie: The Freelands’

Out in the vast, rugged Dakota Territory a pioneer family settled on their claim. No, I’m not talking about Laura Ingalls’ Wilder, but the Freeland family of South Dakota. They settled in the Dakota Territory a few years after the Ingalls’ family (around the mid 1880s whereas the Ingalls were 1879/1880). When we think of nineteenth century missionaries we often think of individuals who sailed on ships to unexplored areas of Asia and Africa and expected to face almost certain death for their faith. What we don’t think about are home missionaries – like the Freelands in South Dakota. Those … Continue reading The Free Methodist Equivalant of Little House on the Prarie: The Freelands’

Mariet Hardy Freeland: A Trailblazer for Women’s Preaching and Public Speaking

I’m beginning an exploration of the life and ministry of Mariet Hardy Freeland. While Clara Wetherald and Ida Gage were influential in the debates on ordaining women, Mariet helped pave the way for later evangelists like Wetherald and Gage. Biographical information is taken from the book Mariet Hardy Freeland: A Faithful Witness by Emma Freeland Shay. Mariet Hardy Freeland was a trailblazer for women evangelists in the Free Methodist Church. Born in New York in 1829, she was the youngest of 10 children.  While there is a vast archive of Mariet’s original writings (which I still need to dig into), … Continue reading Mariet Hardy Freeland: A Trailblazer for Women’s Preaching and Public Speaking

Clara Wetherald A Methodist, Then a Free Methodist and Finally a Congregationalist

I lost Clara Wetherald last year. One day she is at the 1890 Free Methodist General Conference passionately defending her right to ordination, and then the next day she disappears. She briefly returns in 1891 to preach at a Free Methodist revival in the Holly/Germany Michigan area, and then, once again, she is gone. At first I thought she had died. Then that theory was thrown out when I found her obit in 1921. So, where did she disappear to for thirty years? I have solved the mystery with the help of an amazing group of descendants and friends who … Continue reading Clara Wetherald A Methodist, Then a Free Methodist and Finally a Congregationalist

John and Clara Wetherald’s Last Years of Life and Ministry

“But now you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life” (Romans 6:22 ESV).  The Rev. F.J. Calkins from the East Michigan Free Methodist Conference stands in front of a crowd of mourners reciting the verse from Romans. He is conducting for John Wetherald’s funeral service. It’s 1902. John passed away on October 12.  His final years were filled with heartbreak, financial difficulties, health issues and divorce.  Calkins wrote John Wetherald’s obit and notes “On account of financial embarrassment and throat troubles Brother Wetherald … Continue reading John and Clara Wetherald’s Last Years of Life and Ministry

Ida Gage’s Life: As Told by Her Grandson Glenn V. Tingley

Over the past month I have made some amazing discoveries about both Clara Wetherald and Ida Gage and for the next few posts I’m going to share more of their stories. The more I find out about these women the more humbled I become. They were amazing, amazing people. Ida Gage converted to Christianity when she was 23. She had married Charles Gage before she became a believer; by 25 she felt a call to preach. What first attracted me to Ida Gage was her address at the 1890 Free Methodist General Conference. She wasn’t even a delegate, just attending … Continue reading Ida Gage’s Life: As Told by Her Grandson Glenn V. Tingley

Debating Biblical Gender Roles Then and Now

It’s easy to believe that the debates about gender roles in evangelical culture are a recent development. Yet, looking through Free Methodist Magazine archives from over a hundred years ago, it’s clear that the debate on Biblical gender roles goes back centuries. Perhaps, I can justify the tension regarding women’s roles the nineteenth and early twentieth century Free Methodist Church somewhat, but I cannot justify nor understand why this debate still continues. As is always the case we too often forget history and do not learn from the past. In the early twentieth century America was in the midst of … Continue reading Debating Biblical Gender Roles Then and Now

Who is Ida Gage?

Ida Gage is one of many forgotten Free Methodist women evangelists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. However, while Ida might have been overlooked in the larger denominational histories, her legacy lives on through her speech at the 1890 General Conference and the debate on ordaining women. In 1890 Ida wasn’t a licensed evangelist. She was just a member of the denomination who had previous experience preaching in Michigan, and was responding to a call to serve within the Free Methodist denomination. By 1892 she was “on supply,” meaning she was traveling and preaching for the Ohio Free … Continue reading Who is Ida Gage?

Cultural Influences in the 1890 General Conference Debates

Sometimes even Christians are wrong. Shocker! Christians can have wrong opinions? Yes, we’re only human, and in the case of the 1890 Free Methodist General Conference some of the denomination’s Godly leaders were wrong. I’ve struggle the past few months with how to critique the debate on women’s ordination in the denomination, particularly the 1890 General Conference when the debate was incredibly heated and intense. Yet, I don’t want to say that these men, who were clearly dedicated to their faith and had a heart for service, were evil men. They weren’t evil. What I’ve come to see is that … Continue reading Cultural Influences in the 1890 General Conference Debates

Fighting for Gender Equality in the 1880s “Free Methodist”

B.T. Roberts, the founder of the Free Methodist Church, served as editor of the denominational magazine The Free Methodist from 1887-1890. During that time period he featured women’s original articles, ministry reports and testimonials. Even prior to the denomination officially buying the magazine at the 1886 General Conference it was not unusual to see women’s writings featured in the publication. However, with Roberts as editor I can’t help but feel he specifically featured some articles to promote his platform of Biblical gender equality and women’s ordination. His tenure as the magazine’s editor was during a crucial time. The 1890 General … Continue reading Fighting for Gender Equality in the 1880s “Free Methodist”