Frequently Asked Questions about Methodism and the Methodist History Center

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Questions about Methodism

How many United Methodists are there?

The latest membership statistics from 2016 show 10.1 million United Methodists worldwide, with 7.2 million United Methodists in the United States. For a historical survey of U.S. Methodist membership since 1790, see http://gcah.org/history/united-methodist-membership-statistics.

Why are Methodists called “Methodists?”

Methodism has its roots in a group organized in 1729 by brothers John and Charles Wesley at Oxford, known as the Holy Club. Members of the group pledged to be disciplined about their spiritual lives and also to perform works of social service such as visiting prisons and the poor. Because they were so methodical in how they went about these activities, other students called them “Methodists” as an insult. However, they soon adopted this term as a badge of honor, and used it to describe the wider spiritual movement which they founded after having transforming religious experiences in 1738.

When was Methodism founded?

Methodism began in Britain due to the activities of John and Charles Wesley described above. The Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States was founded in December 1784 at a meeting in Baltimore, MD known as the “Christmas Conference.” Click here for more on the story.

What is the meaning of The United Methodist Church’s cross and flame symbol?

A history and explanation of this symbol can be found here.

Do you have a timeline of Methodist history?

See a timeline of historic people and events related to Methodism.

See a timeline of the different denominations of Methodism in the US.

What is a circuit rider?

See http://gcah.org/history/circuit-riders.

Questions About The United Methodist Archives and History Center

How do I get a copy of an obituary?

Contact the Methodist Library Associate (973-408-3590) for more information.

I am interested in the records of a local church. Where can I find them?

We do not keep the records of local churches at The United Methodist Archives and History Center. If the church is still open, the records are probably still at that church. When a church closes, it is required to turn over its historical records, including baptism and membership records, to the archives of the Annual Conference where the church is located. For a list of conference archives and contact information for conference archivists and historians, see http://gcah.org/research/local-church-records.

Do you do genealogical searches?

Yes; contact our genealogical researcher, Frances Lyons-Bristol or fill out the Genealogical Research Request Form.

Can someone come to my church to talk about Wesley or Methodist history?

The Methodist Librarian accepts limited speaking engagements, with priority given to United Methodist churches and organizations. Please contact methodist@drew.edu to make arrangements.

I would like to use a picture from the 200 Years of United Methodism book which is online at your website. How do I get permission?

Send an email to the methodist@drew.edu stating the use you plan to make of the picture. The majority of the images are in public domain, except for those in the last chapter. The images in public domain do not require a permission form, but if you need us to make a high-quality photographic or electronic copy of the image, there will be a fee of $10. All images in the last chapter are covered by copyright. For these images, you will need to fill out a permission form which we will send you, and pay a fee of $10 (for non-profit and United Methodist uses) or $40 (for commercial and trade publications). Regardless of the copyright status of the picture, you need to give credit in your publication or presentation to the Methodist collections of Drew University Library as the source for the image.

Do you accept donations of books and manuscripts?

We are always interested in donations, particularly of manuscript items. Please send a list of the items you would like to donate to methodist@drew.edu.

I’m confused–you seem to have two organizations in your building. What is the difference between the Drew University Methodist Library and the General Commission on Archives and History? How do I know who to contact?

The United Methodist Archives and History Center is a collaborative effort between Drew University Library and The United Methodist Church. The Drew University Methodist Library maintains a collection of books, periodicals and historical newspapers dealing with the history of global Methodism and related traditions. The General Commission on Archives and History is an official agency of The United Methodist Church and is charged with keeping the archival records of the denomination. The two organizations share a building and collaborate in providing service to patrons, and the resources of both are available to those who visit us on-site or ask questions via phone and email.

You can always contact methodist@drew.edu or 973-408-3590 and you will be directed to the person who can best answer your question.

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