Orange Scott forms the Wesleyan Methodists

Orange Scott was born on February 13, 1800 at Brookfield, Vermont. The eldest of eight children, he grew up in Vermont, USA, in an “extremely poor family”. He had little schooling; 13 months in all! Nor did he have any “Sunday” clothes … so he never went to church.

But at the age of 21 he attended a camp meeting at Barre, Vermont, was converted, and joined the Methodist Episcopal Church. (That branch of American Methodism had ‘bishops’, hence the word ‘episcopal’ in the name of the denomination.)

He was licensed as a local preacher in 1822. He was the presiding elder of the Springfield district, Massachusetts, from 1830-1834 and of the Providence (Rhode Island) district in 1834-35.

Before long Orange Scott was “a successful revival preacher.” Then he took a pastorate which gave him time to study – “his grammar and spelling book lay on the table beside his Bible and commentary.”

Scott was one of the most popular preachers of New England. He was not afraid to be controversial and his powerful voice was used to great effect. He “set the New England circuits afire with his eloquence”.

Then came the clash … for Scott believed in the abolition of slavery and was active on that cause in 1837. The Methodist Episcopal Church opposed him. At their general conference they even accused him of being “a reckless incendiary” or a “mental incompetent”!

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Orange Scott eventually severed all connections with his church (though not until 8 November, 1842) – and with some like-minded friends began publishing “The True Wesleyan”, a magazine that was truer to Wesley’s teachings than the church from which he had withdrawn.

On 31 May, 1843, Scott presided over the formation of a new denomination with the assistance of two others – the “Wesleyan Methodist Connection”, as it was at first called, at its first general convention at Utica, New York. Today the Wesleyan Church continues to hold high the banner of holiness, evangelism and missions.

Those early revival days relied much on camp meetings, where travelling preachers, rousing music and long meetings were the order of the day. In 1831 Scott compiled a compendium of hymns titled “A New and Improved Camp Meeting Hymn Book”, testifying to his active involvement in that camp meeting movement.

Evangelical, Arminian in theology, and gracious in demeanour, Wesleyans everywhere thank God for the courage and wisdom of Orange Scott. He died of consumption in Newark, New Jersey on 31 July, 1847 – at the age of 48.

“Let all our ministers and people keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of perfectness, and there is nothing to fear!” Such are given as being among his dying words.

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

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