Free Methodists trace our roots to an 18th-century spiritual revival in England led by an Anglican priest named John Wesley. People who came to Christ and became a part of the church were labeled "Methodists" for the methods Wesley used to help them grow in Christlikeness -- daily prayer, meeting in small accountability groups, studying the Bible, seeking to be holy, and serving the poor. Whereas 18th-century France had a bloody revolution, the spiritual revival in England that Wesley helped lead resulted in reform of prisons, child labor and crime laws, and more. The Methodists also became effective in fanning the flame of vibrant Christian faith on America's rugged frontier.
The "Free" Methodist Church emerged out of a burning desire among some 19th-century American Methodists to stay true to the principles of the Wesleyan revival. Led by Benjamin Titus Roberts, these Methodists believed in a strong emphasis on the Biblical call to live a holy life and to serve the poor. At a time in which church buildings were being supported by wealthy church-goers who bought and reserved their own pews to sit in (thus relegating the poor to the back of the church or out completely), these Methodists advocated for "free" churches. They also opposed slavery, advocating for freedom for all people. In addition, they wanted the church to be "free" from formalism in its worship.
When it became clear to these Methodists that the Methodist Church at that time was not going to embrace these freedoms, and after several of their leading spokespersons were dismissed by the mother church, the Free Methodist Church began August 23, 1860 in Pekin, New York. The Free Methodists sought to maintain the heritage of original Methodism with its warm-hearted, biblical message and lifestyle.
B. T. Roberts, an outspoken and gifted Methodist pastor, became the first Bishop of the Free Methodist Church. Roberts led the Free Methodist Church to grow into a flourishing connection of local congregations committed to proclaiming (1) freedom from sin through the grace and power of Jesus Christ, (2) freedom for all persons by advocating for just laws, (3) freedom in worship, and (4) free pews symbolizing for open access to--and signaling God's preference for--the poorest of the poor.
Free Methodist doctrine includes the standard beliefs of evangelical, Arminian-Protestantism, with distinctive emphasis on the teaching of sanctification of John Wesley. Other Free Methodist doctrinal distinctive include the ordination of women for ministry, and the practice of both infant and adult “believers” baptism.
One of the lasting legacies of the Free Methodist Church is its academic institutions, including Seattle Pacific University, which began in 1891. Free Methodists here in the Pacific Northwest also started the ministries of Warm Beach Camp and Warm Beach Senior Community.
In 1952, people from Free Methodist churches in Seattle, Ballard and Green Lake came together to plant the North City Free Methodist Church in Shoreline. In the years that followed a building was constructed on the SE corner of 175th and 5th (what is now the Seventh-Day Adventist Church). In 1980 the two congregations exchanged properties. When the City of Shoreline was incorporated in 1997, our church changed its name to Shoreline Free Methodist Church.
For more information on the Free Methodist denomination, go to fmcusa.org.