The Free Methodist Church was organized in Pekin, New York,
in 1860. The principal founder, Benjamin Titus Roberts,
was a young Methodist pastor who had been expelled from the Methodist
Episcopal Church because of his calls for reform and renewal.
Roberts, a graduate of Wesleyan University, had been a successful
Methodist pastor and in 1860 founded a monthly magazine, The Earnest
The denomination adopted the name 'Free Methodist' to signify free
seats for all (a protest against pew rental), freedom from slavery and
slave-holding, and freedom of the Spirit in worship and in daily living.
The Free Methodist Church is committed to the doctrines of
historic Methodism as represented in the ministry of John Wesley in
eighteenth-century England. Its polity is similar to that of other
Methodist churches, though from the beginning it has provided for equal
'lay' and 'clergy' representation in church government -- a reform when
the denomination was organized in 1860.
The denomination grew rapidly during its first three decades, spread
across much of the Midwest and to the West Coast, and established
foreign mission work in several countries. Free Methodists founded a
number of schools, including Roberts Wesleyan College, Spring Arbor
College, Greenville College, Central Christian College, and Seattle
Pacific University. SOURCE