May 15: Welsh Calvinistic Methodism

When Methodists Became Presbyterians
by Rev.David T. Myers

The chart on America’s Pictorial history of Presbyterians  has always been somewhat confusing to this writer.  Yes, one can see the history of how Reformed and evangelical  Presbyterians have developed into what they are today. But all the additions and separations down through the ages since 1706 in America still causes one to wonder  about them.  An example of this is  the 1920’s union of the  Welsh Calvinistic Methodists with the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

With the former, we are taken back to the church in Wales in the eighteenth century.  An early leader Howell Harris from Wales studied at England’s Oxford University.  While there, he was influenced by the infant Methodist movement with its emphasis on study, devotions and visitation.  Returning to Wales in 1735,  he began to preach in the Methodist manner of ministry.  Joined by Daniel Rowland and George Whitefield, they began to shape the early church in that land of Wales.  George Whitefield’s emphasis on the teachings of John Calvin swung the church toward Calvinism so that the Protestant church on that island came to be known as the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Church. 

Like the early Presbyterians in Scotland, immigrants from Wales emigrated to the American colonies, like Pennsylvania, New York, and later Kansas.  By 1828, they were organized into six “presbyteries” with a general assembly every three years.  Their confession of faith was modeled after the Westminster Confession of Faith.

Discussion with the Presbyterian Church took place in the eighteen hundreds, but no talk of merger was successful.  It  was not until – and here we have to guess the month and the day –  May 15, 1920, that the smaller Welsh Presbyterian church  merged into the Presbyterian church in the United States of America by a vote of  99 to 20. Their Calvinistic theology as well as their confession built upon the Westminster Confession of Faith made this union to possible.  They brought 14,000 members, and six missionaries serving in India into the union.

Words to Live By:
Unions of like minded bodies are not foreign to American Presbyterian history.  And local names in our states like a Welsh Presbyterian Church reflect this union.  We rejoice in such Biblical unions.  It is only where unions wind up giving up solid Biblical doctrines that the Bible believer must reject all  such unions.  Our basis must always be the Reformed faith, the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, and the Great Commission of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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