PENN FREE METHODIST CHURCH : OUR STANCE AND BACKGROUND
We endeavour as a church to maintain the Scripture-based position of the founders and early leaders of 18th century Methodism, men such as John Wesley, George Whitefield, Charles Wesley and John Fletcher.
Whitefield was the great pioneer of open air preaching, and it was he who encouraged his friend John Wesley to do the same. Wesley gradually appointed other men to help him in the task of taking the Gospel to vast numbers of previously unreached people. These ‘lay’ preachers’ were men called of God to proclaim salvation in Christ. They travelled around the country, preaching under an open sky in fields and town centres. Through their endeavours, along with the work of a small number of evangelical clergy with ministries in fixed locations, England, by the grace of God, was gradually re-awakened in the 18th century to the truth of the Christian Gospel.
Historically, therefore, Methodism represents a mighty revival of true Christianity. PFMC was founded in 1808 as a fruit of this re-awakening. Some of the preachers who first ministered to the congregation at Penn had been personally appointed by John Wesley.
The early Methodist preachers very rightly centred upon the individual’s need for salvation through faith alone in Christ (not through merit-earning works). They had a total dependence on the Holy Spirit to convict their hearers of the sinfulness of their hearts and to draw them into a personal trust in Christ for mercy, cleansing and everlasting life. Even secular historians acknowledge that their Bible-based preaching helped to rescue England from violent social upheaval and revolution, such as occurred in France in 1789.
John Wesley wrote in his Journal on 8th April, 1750: “I preached morning, afternoon and evening, and then exhorted the society to stand fast in the good old Bible way, and not to move from it, to the right hand or to the left”.
This total reliance on the Bible as the direct revelation of God and as our sole authority continues to be the stance of PFMC today. We thus go to Scripture, God’s word, to determine all matters of faith and practice. We continue to proclaim what the early Methodist preachers proclaimed, namely the Biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ crucified and risen again that men might know salvation and everlasting life.
PENN FREE METHODIST CHURCH : A BRIEF HISTORY
PFMC was founded in 1808 as part of John Wesley’s Methodist Connexion, one of its first trustees being the Wesleyan minister, John Aikenhead. At least two preachers personally appointed by John Wesley preached at Penn in the first quarter of the 19th century, namely William Holmes and John Furness.
PFMC left the main Wesleyan connexion in 1850, not for any fundamental theological reasons, but out of a desire for congregational independence. In 1858 it joined the association of independent Methodist churches known as the Wesleyan Reform Union (WRU).
From 1858 to 1951, the pulpit at Penn would have been supplied by WRU Circuit Ministers, who were not resident at any one church, by WRU accredited local preachers, and, if there were proven evidence of a true calling of God to preach, one or two gifted men from within the congregation itself.
Between 1934 and 1950 PFMC shared the pastoral oversight of WRU Ministers with other local Free Methodist chapels - those at Beaconsfield, Wycombe Marsh and Farnham Common. In the second half of the 20th century PFMC followed a more independent course, consistently appointing its own minsiters from outside of the ranks of the WRU.
In the mid 1990s, the minister and members felt that total non-association (on a formal level) would better fit the church’s profile, and so PFMC amicably left the WRU in 1996, whilst retaining its adherance to the doctrinal position of historic Methodism, namely Protestant, evangelical, upholding Scripture as the sole authority in all matters of faith and practice and as being the infallible and inerrant word of God.
We continue today to proclaim the glorious gospel which the early Methodists proclaimed, namely, the necessity of the new birth, salvation by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone, and the necessity of holy living as the essential evidence of having beeen justified by faith.
Today PFMC enjoys fellowship with various Bible-believing evangelical churches, including Reformed Baptists and the Church of England Continuing. Indeed, we will fellowship with any church which upholds the absolute authority of Scripture, which adheres to reverent, non-entertainment, forms of worship and which shuns the doctrinal compromise of liberalism and the ecumenical movement. In all kinds of churches up and down the land today God still has His faithful remnant who maintain the old paths of the Biblical faith, and in this we rejoice