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Bible Christian Church

William O'Bryan
Arreton Methodist Church on the Isle of Wight was originally Bible Christian.
This foundation stone at Arreton is inscribed bible christian chapel.

The Bible Christian Church was a Methodist denomination founded by William O’Bryan, a Wesleyan Methodist local preacher, on 18 October 1815 in North Cornwall, with the first society, just 22 members, meeting at Lake Farm in Shebbear, Devon.[1]

Early history

Primarily concentrated in Cornwall and Devon, the church sent missionaries all over England.[2] By 1820, missions had been established in the Channel Islands and in Kent. They were also strong in the Isle of Wight amongst farm labourers, largely due to the inspirational teachings of Mary Toms of Tintagel, Cornwall. The vicar of Brighstone, Samuel Wilberforce, urged that their influence be countered by having their adherents sacked from their jobs and turned out from their cottages, resulting in their sometimes meeting in a chalk pit. There are several chapels in rural areas of the Island which have the title "Bible Christian Chapel" over the doorway (e.g. Apse Heath, Arreton).

By 1831, ministers were being sent to Prince Edward Island and Ontario, and a mission was established in Canada in 1845. Many of the emigrants from Devon and Cornwall to Canada and the United States in the 1830s were 'Bible Christians', further encouraging the spread of the church in those countries.

Australia was a favourite destination for missionaries by 1850.[3][1][4] Other missionaries worked in New Zealand by 1878, and in China by 1885.

Members of the Bible Christian Church were sometimes known as Bryanites after their founder. The church made extensive use of female preachers like Ann Freeman,[5] and O'Bryan's wife Catherine.[6]

Later history

While being only a small denomination the Bible Christians grew faster than the British population throughout their existence.

The Bible Christians recognised the ministry of women, calling then 'Female Special Agents'. A number of women appear on the stations – the places ministers were appointed to by the Bible Christian Conference. There were less than five of these women ministers in 1907 when the separate existence of the Bible Christians came to an end.

In 1907, the Bible Christian Church in England was amalgamated with the United Methodist Free Churches and the Methodist New Connexion, to form the United Methodist Church. In Canada, the Bible Christian Church had already been amalgamated, in 1884, into the Methodist Church of Canada, which later became part of the United Church of Canada.[7] In Australia, it merged into the Methodist Church of Australasia on 1 January 1902.[8]

See also


  1. ^ a b Wikisource Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bible Christians" . Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  2. ^ H. B. Workman (2012). Methodism. Cambridge UP. p. 97. ISBN 9781107626584.
  3. ^ Glen O'Brien; Hilary M. Carey (2016). Methodism in Australia: A History. Routledge. p. 62. ISBN 9781317097099.
  4. ^ Hunt, Arnold D. (Arnold Dudley) (1985), This side of Heaven: a history of Methodism in South Australia, Lutheran Publishing House, ISBN 978-0-85910-346-6 p. 63
  5. ^ Amy Culley, ‘Freeman, Ann (1797–1826)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Oct 2009 accessed 4 Feb 2017
  6. ^ Who were the Bible Christians?, mybiblechristians, Retrieved 5 Feb 2017
  7. ^ The Bible Christian Project
  8. ^ "METHODIST CHURCH OF AUSTRALASIA". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 1 January 1902. p. 5. Retrieved 28 January 2016.

See also Lloyd (2010) Women and the shaping of British Methodism

Further reading