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BUMC History: The Beginings of Methodism in Ohio
Prior to the Revolutionary War, the Methodist movement in America was primarily led by the laity who organized class meetings and societies as structured by John Wesley back in England.  Since these leaders, not being ordained, could not administer the sacraments, they relied on the Church of England (Anglican) priests to do this.  For the most part these priests were loyalists, they returned to England at the start of the Revolutionary War.  Later the American Methodists appealed to Wesley to send over some ordained clergy so that they could receive the sacraments.  In 1784, Wesley consecrated Thomas Coke as bishop and sent him to America.  In December 1784, at what became known as the Christmas Conference, the Methodist Episcopal Church was established.  Coke ordained Francis Asbury, who had been sent to America as a lay person by John Wesley in 1771 and consecrated him as a bishop. 

By 1812, though still heavily forested and with few roads other than Indian trails, Ohio had a population of almost 250,000.  And because of the influence of circuit riders, William Warren Sweet writing in Circuit Rider Days Along the Ohio, says “By the year 1812, Methodism had achieved a firm and dominant grip upon all the settled territory west of the Allegheny mountains… the membership had increased from less than 3,000 in 1800 to over 30,000 in 1811” That was more than a 10 fold increase in eleven years!  After the war of 1812 ended, settlement in Ohio and the Northwest Territories flourished, so that between 1810 and 1820 the population of Ohio more than doubled.

At this time, of all the denominations in Ohio, George Knepper writing in Ohio and its People says, “The Methodist were the most aggressive of Ohio’s early church groups.  Zealously they sought converts, demonstrating an evangelical fervor and institutional flexibility unmatched at the time… by 1850 the Methodists had emerged as Ohio’s largest denomination, claiming twice the number as the second place Presbyterians.”