United Methodist Church
The Methodist Church began in 1729, at the University of Oxford in England. A group of students met to study Christian religious subjects. They followed a very methodical manner to celebrate their faith, and critics referred to them as Methodists as a result. One of the members of this group of students was John Wesley. Most people credit Wesley with founding the Methodist faith. Wesley believed that by living in a Christian manner and truly believing in God, a person would gain salvation. Upon Wesley's death in 1791, the Methodist faith divided into a number of denominations, with each one believing in its own slightly different version of Wesley's message. The two main denominations were the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Protestants.
The Methodist Church arrived in British North America before the American Revolution. Methodist missionary Francis Asbury receives the most credit for spreading the Methodist message to North America. The Methodists actively sought new converts and sent missionaries from town to town to give sermons to anyone who would listen. Methodism advanced westward almost as quickly as the people who settled the land and was one of the earliest Christian faiths to arrive in Ohio. Its relatively democratic message -- that all people could obtain salvation – was appealing to people struggling to survive on the frontier. Several prominent Ohioans belonged to the Methodist Church. These people included Thomas Worthington, one of Ohio's first United States Senators, and Edward Tiffin, Ohio's first governor. By 1850, Methodism was the largest faith in Ohio. It had twice as many followers as the Presbyterians, who were the second-largest religious group in the state.
Despite its large numbers, the Methodist Church faced problems during the early 1800s. In addition to differing about interpretations of John Wesley's message, many Methodists disagreed about slavery. Although the Methodist Church initially condemned slavery, many of its white members favored the institution of slavery. Some African-American members broke with the Methodist Church in 1816 and established the African Methodist Episcopal Church because of this racism. The Methodist Episcopal Church split again prior to the American Civil War over the issue of slavery into the Northern Methodist Episcopal Church and the Southern Methodist Episcopal Church. Both Southern and Northern Methodist Episcopal Churches existed in Ohio.
Methodists remained divided until 1939. In that year, the Northern Methodist Episcopal Church, the Southern Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Methodist Protestants reunited. In 1968, the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church joined together as the United Methodist Church. In 2004, more than 450,000 Ohioans belonged to the United Methodist Church.