FM History & Polity – Assignment 2

Post a reflection on your reading of B.T. and Ellen Roberts and the First Free Methodists by Howard Snyder and Abridged by Daniel V. Runyon.  Don't for to come back by Friday to post comments on at least three of your fellow classmates posts.

53 Responses to “FM History & Polity – Assignment 2”

  1. Michael Ratchford says:

    Reading about B.T. and Ellen Roberts helped me to realize the incredible difference a life lived for Christ can make. Neither B. T. or Ellen were perfect and I’m sure they would tell us the same if they were here to speak for themselves, but in everything that they did they looked to the Lord. I feel like some of the most interesting things to read about was when they were going through difficult times. How they responded in times of difficulty was really inspiring. Apart from that, the things that stuck out to me the most about the beginning of the Free Methodist movement were “The Biblical Standard”, the level of commitment among the founders, and the state of the Methodist Church in B.T. and Ellen’s time.

    I think the idea of “The Bible Standard” is the best fundamental value a church could adhere to. The bible is (or at least should be) the foundation on which will build our faith. It gives us everything we need to know about coming to know Jesus and how to live out our faith. The bible is what we fall back on when we have questions and without the bible, there would be no consistency to following Jesus, no lessons to learn from the past, and no way to directly and indisputably connect to the truth of God. I think B.T. saw a lot of people swaying in their belief of truth and enforcing “The Bible Standard” was his way of bringing “God’s Standard” into the lime light of church ministry.

    Another thing that I found really interesting was that the founders of the Free Methodist movement had an incredible level of persistence. Many of them experienced a lot of death and loss during their time in ministry. Especially B.T. and Ellen Roberts. I’m sure that the child mortality rate was much higher back then, but that doesn’t make losing two kids any easier. I think it goes to show how dedicated they were to serving God and doing any and everything they could to point others to Christ as well. They had some much passion for what God called them too. To me, I originally credited it to their confidence, but I don’t think that’s all of it. I’m sure both B.T. and Ellen had moments of doubt when things got hard, they were just committed to Christ, the mission he had for them, and empowered by what he did for them. We need more Christ followers like them. I need to be a little bit more like that.

    The last thing that I wanted to reflect on was the state of the Methodist Church during B. T. Robert’s time. It was kind of a mess! At least the Genesee Conference was a mess. It seemed like people were more interested in the power that the conference provided and less about the purpose it served. One of the biggest, if no the biggest, reason foe the fracturing of the Genesee Conference was the issue of slavery. Slavery is all about power! the power you could hold over another person. Even if everyone in the Conference agreed that slavery was bad, they didn’t have the ability to speak up against it. It’s really sad to think about the lack of value that so people had for human beings, but then at the same time I lean towards the same selfish tendencies. Often, it’s easier to look past someones hurts or pains than it is to deal with them and point them to Christ. I have to remind myself of the incredible compassion and grace Christ showed me. I need to remind myself that I need to keep choosing Christ and seeking after him and “The Bible Standard”. If I don’t, I am just another selfish person looking to profit.

    • Eric Eliason says:

      Bible standard yes! I loved the part where he says they were bringing the church up to the New Testament standard!

    • Zoe Hatcher says:

      I also loved to see them press into God and not waver in their faith when they faced many difficulties. It is an encouraging example of perseverance to all in ministry.

    • Marne McAvoy says:

      I too was inspired by their reactions. They where people of such high character, still human, but truly sold out to Christ. It is compelling me to evaluate my own character and commitment. To ask the Lord to help me grow. To choose Christ first instead of my own desire.

    • Eric Brown says:

      I admire their perseverance as well. That kind of perseverance is greatly lacking in today’s culture. Hardships tend to get the best of people’s attitudes and we tend to side with the negative feelings rather than hold on to the truth of John 16:33.

      I really admire Ellen’s desire to press in for the love of God and for others. As she prayed for it she heard God ask “will you take it with suffering?”. She responds, “if I can have it no other way, then yes”. And it showed that she didn’t pray that prayer haphazardly when she lost her second child. She actually recalled that prayer and accepted the lot God had given her, even though the pain must have been terrible. Amazing faith and trust that is certainly worthy of being imitated.

    • Tina Phillips says:

      Holding to the Biblical Standard during a time when the Methodist Church was, as you said, a mess, definitely required immense faith and much persistence. Praise God B. T. Roberts held to his convictions and did not waiver.

  2. Sherry Brzezinski says:

    My Response on BT and Ellen Roberts and the First Free Methodists

    Roberts shows such commitment from even the beginning of his conversion. He talks about not wanting his studies to interrupt his relationship with God. When I look to the world today I see such a different value even among Christian people. Our children our geared from a young age how important it is to do well in school and continue on to college or trade school. But how much time in comparison do we spend on their salvation and relationship with God.
    Another thing that is so fantastic about B.T. Roberts is his marriage to Ellen. Their marriage was truly set apart especially for the time period. He treated her as a complete equal and someone to work towards his ministry with. They constantly encouraged one another and loved each other through every challenge and every victory. I love hoe Ellen handled things when she disagreed with her husband that she would bring it to his attention and if he disagreed she was silent and took it to the Lord in prayer. They truly gave us a phenomenal example of how to walk in a Christian marriage. They devoted their lives to the Lord and then to each other.
    What I found most astounding was Robert’s character and ability to stay true to Biblical doctrine and not get caught up in the snares of the world. He handled all things with prayer and grace. He brought to the surface the corruption of the church and continued to work to correct the wrongs the church was committing. I love his response when they charge him with “unchristian and immoral conduct”, he says “I honestly think that the men referred to, hold just the opinions I say they do. But if they do not, I will take their word for it, make my humble confession, and, as far as possible, repair the wrong I have done.” I think that alone shows what great character he had. He wasn’t out to hurt people or misrepresent someone but to keep the church true to the standard of the Bible.
    Roberts fought hard for equality within the church. He called us all to a better, holier way of living. He represented African Americans and women in the church and felt that we all could hear from God and should be held to the same standards as a white male. He not only preached but lived out in example his beliefs.
    I am almost jealous of the times that Roberts and his wife Ellen had with the constant revivals, evangelism, and camp meetings. It seems they were on a constant crusade to win hearts for Jesus and to reach the poor, not only to save them but show them a better way of living. He was against slavery, alcohol, and anything that got in the way of a sanctified life. He was adamant that faith could not be replaced by works and sanctification should not be replaced by justification. How corrupt the church was with the secret societies and brushing things under the rug was the driving force behind Roberts’s expulsion from the Methodist Episcopal Church. He knew what was happening was not of God and tried desperately to save the denomination. In the end they chose to get rid of him. His resolve and ability to accept this slap in the face and continue on knowing the higher calling on his life reminds me of when Jesus says in Matthew 10:14, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.” Roberts just continued on and preached the gospel to all who would receive it. He was of course holding out hope that eventually the secret societies would come to an end and they would see the truth but it was many years after his death before that came to pass.
    It was a little disheartening that his children went so many different directions. I would think with having parents that lived for God and the work in ministry that more of them would have entered a form of ministry as well. Benson was the only child that became ordained and worked in Christian ministries.

    • Zoe Hatcher says:

      I also loved seeing their example of equality and support in marriage and unified service to the Lord. Truly an example to us all of how to love our spouse as Christ loved the Church!

    • Becca Hanke says:

      I just teared up a little when you spoke on how their marriage was set apart. Oh my heart, I love stories of Godly marriages. And B.T. & Ellen are a great example. I agree that she brought it to him but then sought prayer. How often do I immediately tell my husband of a concern or disagreement without seeking the Lord first. Great observation!

    • Michael Ratchford says:

      I love the fact that he stepped back in his studies to focus on his personal relationship with Jesus! I feel like I do that all the time, where I will put a leadership book or student ministry book in place of my personal Jesus time. But that’s not how it works! My personal faith and relationship with Jesus is more important than anything else! B.T. was such a good example of that.

    • Ana Acosta says:

      I would like to comment on the strength and boldness Roberts showed when speaking up on behalf of the blacks that were on the train and on exposing the hidden things in the Episcopalian church that were taking place….his love for the Lord and his family, making sure that things were carried out in the manner that a man or women should do with integrity unto the Lord. Also, they saw the issues of those days and both he and his wife were compelled to make changes thru the scriptures working together. I agree with you in that i believe many household are concern for their children to excel in school both with academics and sports but are leaving out the most important part for their success and spiritual growth and that is teaching them in the ways to go,…Joshua was a young man when Moshe died and was next in bringing the children of Israel to the promise Land. The LORD said to Joshua: Do Not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth,meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. This was their life and the secret to their success , following in the ways of our Lord.

    • Ana Acosta says:

      I too observed at how education was key in his life and how he did not allowed for it to interrupt his relationship with God. The more he studied the better he became in knowledge of scripture using the word for advancement in the lives of the lost souls teaching them of salvation and justification. I too miss the revivals we do back home in New York City, people prepare themselves in fasting and staying up all night seeking the will of the father and in their own personal lives. Thats the one thing many do not either know to do or feel that it is something from the past. I enjoy also reading about Ellen and Roberts marriage, so sad to hear of the high numbers of divorce today.. B.T.Roberts and Ellen were very dedicated to each other, serving God and man. Only the love of the Lord in our lives can one accomplish these things. Im praying for a Revival for our Nation and the church. Let us follow in our brothers footsteps!

    • Eric Brown says:

      I sympathize with your temptation to be jealous of the lifestyle they lived. It seems like everything is so busy in our culture that it’s hard to prioritize what’s necessary. It seems like an awesome lifestyle to live from revival to revival, but it did come with a lot of sacrifice and persecution. Plus the Lord really did bless them with the mutual desire and perseverance to put God’s will and work above all else.

  3. Brenda Libreatori says:

    Pastor Brenda Libreatori
    B.T. and Ellen Roberts and the First Free Methodists
    October 22, 2019
    My Personal Reflection on B.T. and Ellen Roberts and the First Free Methodists

    I am always awed, how the Lord brings people together through divine connections. Only
    God could arrange for both B.T. and Ellen to be in Middletown, Connecticut at the same time, in the home of Harvey and Maria Lane for tea. Of course, I know that we have free will to choose whether we will or won’t. But, I believe that God is always nudging us in a direction to connect us where we need to be connected, and who we need to be connected to. Sometimes these connections are just for a season and sometimes they are for life, as in the case of B.T and Ellen Roberts. When B.T. was sent to the congregation at Pekin for a year to pastor, it wasn’t just to pastor, it was to divinely connect him to Isaac Chesbrough, and his son S.K.J. (Sam). As a result they were to become founders of the new movement with B.T.
    As I read how his fellow ministers turned on him for speaking out about the things in the Methodist church that he felt was wrong, I thought isn’t that just like “religious folks” they don’t want their world rocked, they like things the way they are. Religious form and fashion without any power, and you better not mess with it, let alone have the audacity to try and fix it. From personal experience, I have learned that if you are going to move ahead in God and do what He wants done, there are things that will be shaken and the people around you won’t be happy with it. But like Peter and the apostles said in Acts 5:29 “We ought to obey God rather than men”. B.T. could have kept quiet and went with the flow, but he rocked the religious boat, was accused and convicted of “unchristian and immoral conduct”. And as a result found himself “without a church, without a denomination, without a ministerial assignment, and without a home”. When I obeyed God, I lost my church family, job, and ministerial assignment, but thankfully, not my home! I’m sure B.T. and Ellen felt it was worth it in the end, I know I did. But it is certainly no picnic when you are walking through the fire. But, praise be to God who gives us the victory through Christ Jesus our Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:57
    A while back, I read that there are more people in slavery today than ever before, because of human trafficking. I know that there are ministries who are involved in rescuing people from that bondage and there are ministries that help the people who have been rescued to be healed and go forward with their lives. I feel that in B.T.s day and age, it was out in the open, and the church could literally see it. I’m not sure how the Christians could turn a blind eye to it or think that it was ok to own another human being, and yet they did. The slavery of our day, human trafficking, I feel is more secretive, and yet sometimes right under our noses. Are we so busy with life that we are missing those signs of something is not right or we think I need to mind my own business? Just some things that this book has made me think about. And again the question, ok Lord what do you want me to do about this? Because slavery is slavery, and it is wrong! I know we have the power of prayer, to expose the darkness, but then comes the time, at the direction of the Lord, to put our hand to the plow.
    So in closing, I wonder when we all come together, what divine connections God has in store for us? And as a friend of mine always says “together we can make a difference”!

    Works cited
    Acts 5:29 & 1 Corinthians 15:57 King James Bible
    Howard A. Snyder Abridged By Daniel V. Runyon B.T. and Ellen Roberts and the First Free Methodists Light and Life Communications 2011
    Kent Wilson Micaiah Ministries

    • Eric Eliason says:

      That’s funny “religious folk” lol they defiantly don’t want the boat rocked! A lot of people find safety in the rituals and norm of church services, I think the adventure of going and “doing” is much more satisfying to us and to God. BT wasn’t going to sit by and watch the church get comfy and lulled to sleep by the worldly luxuries of paid searing and pretty services, he wanted to serve the poor and have everyone on the same level at church no matter what their economic situation was. Awesome!

    • Zoe Hatcher says:

      I love your observation on how defensive the people got when they felt their “religion” attacked. How sad but true. So often we see people wanting to protect their religious traditions over Christ’s commands to love one another and it leads to a lot of ugliness. I’m sorry to hear that you have been a casualty of that mindset as well and pray that God will restore to you 10 times over everything that you have lost for His name’s sake!

    • Michael Ratchford says:

      Not to beat a dead horse, but you nailed the religious people comment. I think it’s all a matter of how comfortable they were. The Methodist leadership was happy with where they were at and they liked the way things were going. They didn’t want to strive and get a little uncomfortable, so as soon as people started rocking the boat (like the Nazarites) they really brought the hammer down. We need to be so thankful for people like B.T. and the other Free Methodist advocates for pushing change to be more like Jesus!

    • Marne McAvoy says:

      The subject of modern day slavery has been weighing on my heart. It seems so gigantic, where can we start? How can we help? Will we make a stand like B.T. at the risk of loosing everything? Only Jesus!

    • Tina Phillips says:

      The injustice of being convicted of “unchristian and immoral conduct” for rocking the religious boat, would certainly have led many to give up, but he did not. You are so right about the connections God arranges to benefit and strengthen us to carry out His mission are necessary. It takes many to lead change and growth.

  4. Zoe Hatcher says:

    When reading about the ministry of BT and Ellen Roberts, one of the first things that stood out to me is that it’s roots were formed semi-locally. Most of their ministry was in the Western New York area, many of the revivals and conferences were in towns near to us and their son George even lived and worked in our town of Bradford, PA! It was interesting to read not only the history of the development of our particular denomination’s formation, but also how it affected our local church’s history.

    It was interesting to see both BT and Ellen’s testimonies of their process of coming to salvation in Christ had similarities. Both were pragmatic in observing the religion and faith of others around them and evaluating what the cost would be for them to accept Christ as their Lord, neither wanting to surrender until they were ready to be “all in”. BT’s experience of being moved by the authenticity of a simple, illiterate barrel maker’s testimony was touching. Ellen’s experience of living with her aunt and uncle, George and Lydia Lane, greatly influenced her desire to follow Christ. She saw firsthand their dedicated walk and service to the Lord in their church and mission. Their steadfast service led her to believe the peace of Christ was what she had been missing. She finally surrendered her fears and was granted His peace. Her walk with Him would be a continued one of surrender into deeper growth revelation over time. I can definitely relate with those feelings of wrestling, surrender and continued growth in Him. Their dedication to putting this growth in their relationship with Christ first showed in their feelings toward their education, not ever wanting to see it overshadow their love and dedication to Him so that they would “lose their first love”. They both believed holiness was “dynamic, rather than static”, pressing in to God, to pray for the people, for revival and to grow in the knowledge of Him. The first Free Methodists agreed with both holiness as an instantaneous work of grace and a progressive growth of sanctification.

    BT and Ellen Robert’s love for one another stood the test of time, trying to not be apart as much as possible. But with BT’s constant need for travel for the ministry, they kept it alive by constant letter writing. BT strongly viewed the institution of marriage as an equal partnership and valued Ellen (and the woman’s role in general) as a co-laborer in the Kingdom.

    Because he believed the subjection of women was not biblical and taught to that end, he advocated full equality of women in the church and even women preaching. Teaching on scripture’s confirmation of this, he believed this leadership was not an issue of gender, but of calling and gifts. That was not popular in the church at that time and ordination of women was voted down during many General conferences. Over time women were licensed as evangelists, but not approved for ordination until long after his death in 1974.

    Roberts was a staunch abolitionist and fought for freedom and equality of all races and opposed those who owned slaves in the church, stating “The grace of God will make any man an abolitionist.” There was a clear distinction to him between political reform and Christian activism, but he didn’t shy away from controversial issues. P. 202 of the book states from BT’s writings, “Radical Christianity always transforms society. No other institution that has appeared among men produces such radical changes in society as the religion of Christ. It is revolutionary in its character.”

    He was also an advocate of “free seating” in the churches, referring to the custom of offering preferred seating for those members who could pay a pew fee. He believed it was against the gospel itself to exclude the poor and favor the rich, regardless of any debt the church was in. “A church which does not preach the gospel to the poor is not the church of Jesus Christ, period.” (p.167) Their mission offered a safe house for women and ministered to the lost: “drunkenness, debauchery, gambling, robbery and fighting were the order of the day”. They knew that their message was to be lived out: “The power of the gospel must not only be preached, it must be demonstrated.” (p.202)

    The Methodist Episcopal Church as it was known at the time was much changed since Wesley’s bands of 200 years prior. BT and Ellen saw more churches moving away from the simple community of the bands to embracing the opulence of the culture. In many churches in which they were placed, there was a glaring lack of personal faith, even people embracing membership in secret societies. When they received appointments, they would focus on the heart of the people and their walk with the Lord, calling for revival. They saw many powerful moves of God and much revival to renewed and genuine faith in Christ in the churches and areas they oversaw. They honored and sought the outpouring and gifts of the spirit as “normal signs of the working of the Holy Spirit” stating: “When God, the Holy Ghost, produces a deep inward conviction, there will be some striking outward manifestations.” (p. 202) They believed in supernatural healing, Ellen having received physical healing herself, but they also supported natural medicine as well.

    The Roberts’ began to see division in the churches, but humbly and boldly stood by the truth of keeping churches free and open to all. They desired to keep holiness and fear of the Lord at the forefront. BT did not seek to be divisive by his bold stances against buying seats, slavery or even women in leadership, but rather fought several times, appealing to try to unify with the Methodist Episcopal Church. His desire never was to start a new denomination, but to reform the current one. “If I have erred, it has been by loving the church too much rather than too little.” (p. 134) Declaring, “The Free in Free Methodist signifies freedom from slavery, opression, racial discrimination as much as free seats and freedom in the Spirit.” (p. 143) He was more concerned about the growth of God’s kingdom and return to the renewing work of the Holy Spirit seen in original Methodism than growing a denomination. It speaks to his humility as a leader that he didn’t assume he would automatically be voted as the Superintendent of the new denomination, but humbly accepted the role when we was affirmed, seeing it as his calling.

    Though the Roberts’ saw division, and personal hardships during their long ministry, they both had a burden and great heart for the church that they would serve the rest of their lives for. In speaking of their legacy it was said that, “Like Jesus himself, BT loved the church and in a sense gave himself up for her” as Christ himself did (p.224). Lord, would that be said of us!
    *text cited: BT and Ellen Roberts and the First Free Methodists by Howard A. Snyder

    • Becca Hanke says:

      You know before this book, I had no idea what free seating was? To be honest I hadn’t even heard of it. It would never occur to me that people would even do that. But I think that comes from my raising in legalism, I was never directly taught that but always raising an eyebrow when the down trodden came in suggests that I would not have recognized seating arrangements. It breaks my heart. But I am not that person any longer in Christ, thank Jesus for forgiveness. 🙂

    • Michael Ratchford says:

      “The power of the gospel must not only be preached, it must be demonstrated.” (p.202)
      This is awesome. We are representatives of Christ! So if we say nice things and then act in a way that is contrary to the gospel, we are sinning! People see our actions and they associate what they see to Jesus and Christianity. It adds some pressure to everything we do, but at the same time its a little freeing! I don’t have to hide who I am or what I’m about. We get to live confidently in Christ! The Methodist Church wasn’t living very confidently in Christ in the slavery debate of the time. They shied away to try and save face and it ended up biting them in the butt. I am thankful that Christ followers keep stepping up and out with confidence to make a difference and spread a little bit of heaven around for everyone.

    • Marne McAvoy says:

      I was impressed with the strength of conviction that B.T. and Ellen lived out each day. The courage B.T. walked in, standing against slavery, and advocating for women and the poor in the church.
      I also thought it was so exciting to learn of the Free Methodist roots start so near us 🙂

  5. Carey Pifer says:

    Right from the beginning of this book you can see B.T. Roberts stood up to injustice. When a group of African American’s got on the train with him, other passengers complained that they should not be in 1st class. B.T. defended. Even before he gave his life to Christ, he supported the antislavery movement. In fact, because of his views on this matter, in addition to witnessing his father’s conversion, brought him to Christ.
    I find it interesting that he was attending a Wesleyan University and was worried his studies would lead him away from the Lord. He sought wise counsel with Loren Stiles. They both agreed that “learning was good but salvation was better.” Sometimes in our desire to learn, we can become consumed and it leads us away from what’s really important, time in the scriptures and Jesus. If we are learning but not growing closer to Jesus, it is pointless.
    Ellen Robert’s came to Jesus shortly after she moved in with her aunt and uncle. She was always seeking for more “religion”. Once she truly accepted Jesus, she no longer feared. Ellen soon started attending Class meetings. Later, she began studying at a female institution. She, like B.T., thought her studies would take her time away from God. She would eventually give up her studies; however she did not give up her pursuit for holiness. She traveled to Middletown where she would meet B.T. God’s perfect timing brought them together and they were eventually married. Even after marriage, she struggled to find peace until three years later.
    The Methodist church during this time was rapidly declining. B.T. tried to call them higher. Their response was to try to silence him. They even reached out to Ellen and suggested it would be wiser to be silent. Needless to say this wasn’t an option for him. Methodist churches would sell pews. This made it hard for the poor to even get into church. B.T. spoke out against the injustice. The conference was at a loss as to what to do with B.T. at this point. He would not compromise. He was eventually expelled for his honesty. I find it very sad that Methodism in America had become something so opposite of what it was originally created to do, reach the poor.
    Thankful Roberts didn’t give up or sacrifice what he felt was right in God’s eyes. He formed the Free Methodist denomination. In this he wanted the new denomination to have the principles of “primitive Methodism.” All ministers and members would be represented equally. There would be no slave owners or oath bound societies. These principles would be the foundation of the Free Methodist movement. B.T. wanted to see churches all over the world. He hoped the gospel was preached, the Spirit of God would move and all seats shall be free. He not only advocated equality for all men but women as well. He realized the same scripture that applied to men applied to women also.
    I find the Free Methodist history amazing. Thanks to B.T. and Ellen Roberts, injustices were called out and a new denomination was born. Their love for God and determination, to do what was right, is amazing. I enjoyed reading of their personal struggles and what God did in their lives. I love that they were always searching and learning. I am thankful to be part of the Free Methodist denomination that continues to serve all people equally.

    • Eric Eliason says:

      It’s funny to read this book and just think, yeah great job because we know everything worked out in the end from our “looking back” point of view but it must have been very hard to go against the grain at the time and write some of the articles he did that he knew would bring heavy criticisms. Lots of guts and true grit, most of all he was being lead by the spirit! The Holy Spirit must have been giving him so much strength through all those conferences where he was on trial.

    • Sherry Brzezinski says:

      I also thought it was an incredible thing that he was at a Wesleyan University and feared his learning would take him away from God. It is a great reminder the difference in knowledge and wisdom. Sometimes even in our best intentions we get thrown off track as we dive into the tasks at hand. As a wife, mother, and ministry worker I can see how easily this could happen. Seeking God and His scriptures for the relationship and our salvation was far more important to him. By seeking Gods face B.T. Roberts stayed on course and praise God because we see the fruits of his labors even today.

      • Brenda Libreatori says:

        I was also struck with the fact he was concerned that his education would deter him from God. We place such high value on higher education in our culture. But, God’s wisdom can, I believe, take us to places and positions we have never dreamed. I am not against higher learning, we just have to make sure it’s God guiding us in that direction.

    • Zoe Hatcher says:

      I also loved to see his desire to stand for truth even though he was expelled for it. It must have been so hard to see the state of the church at the time, but be one of the few brave enough to call for change. I am also thankful to be a part of this great work!

    • Eric Brown says:

      It is amazing how quickly things can decline in a religious organization. Wesley began his journey to founding Methodism with a huge focus on reaching the poor. Then not long after his passing, the whole church government had already reverted to showing preference to the rich, just like the Anglicans of Wesley’s day. But this seems to be the cycle of human history with God’s people. He raises up an apostle and prophet to restore his heart to the church, then religious mindsets take over and turn it into something it was never meant to be. Thank God for His faithfulness in restoring His people!

  6. Becca Hanke says:

    I really enjoyed this book! Maybe a touch more than Wesley but both have shed a fascinating light on the beginnings of Free Methodism. The three small things that stuck out to me most are the follows: Ellen’s battle with anxiety and depression, B.T.’s stance on slavery and revival. I found many more points interesting but these were points I knew not of.
    Ellen’s battle with anxiety and depression was something that shocked me. I see it so prevalent in our society today especially in our young people. I am myself a millennial but at the edge of it. Her struggle was very real and her relentless pursuit of God and his love and grace were admirable. She eventually received total healing but life continued to put forth struggles. Loss of her two children, constant moving, her biological family not super close, failure in school or her classes. She is a modern woman, we forget that these people who lived in a foreign time to us still suffered from similar problems. But their solution was one of God rather the solutions we see people using now.
    B.T.’s stance on slavery in a time when it was not popular. Personally when I think back to a time in America where they were openly selling humans I sometimes forget that there were people who opposed it. We often hear of the awful stories and forget about the ones who were doing what they could. Like B.T. and Ellen being abolitionist and standing firm in opposing slavery, Although he had this stance his whole life I don’t think it played as important of a role until the civil war. He opposed the Civil War stating it was a moral war. I’ve never looked at wars as moral or not maybe because of my lack of intelligence in this area but I agree. Like most wars it could have been avoided. His stance from the being to the end of his life is heroic. You can see here his steadfast heart and his devotion to the Lord. Even in the loss of two child and other set backs he still stood true, it is honorable.
    Growing up legalistic belief in God is a duty. Duty has been instilled into me greatly and I often have a hard time setting it down to let the Lord move. I was slightly surprised that B.T. and Ellen were revivalist. I personally because of my background have never been to a revival and are because of my background slightly afraid of them. The growth he and the Methodist and then the Free Methodist had was astonishing. People’s lives were being touched all over western New York and then on from there! Personally how I know they were led by God is because B.T. was a highly logical and theological man. Without God I don’t believe his personality would be one for revivals. To see growth every place he shepherded is remarkable but more so a testament to a man who let God work through him.
    The sad part I saw was a church constantly bickering and at war within itself. One must always take a stand for what is biblically correct but one must also wonder if they had spent more time looking outwardly at the poor, the broken and the lost would they have made more of an impact in that time? When churches spend time fighting within is that where the lost start to see the hypocrisy? Which is in no way an excuse for believing in God but is often used as one. It is interesting to see and sometimes a good reminder of the fact that though it was a different time humans have always fought the same problems. And most importantly God has always been the same faithful creator then and now.

    • Ana Acosta says:

      Becca , I was not aware of Ellen depression and anxiety, my book also arrived a bit late, but I read enough to see how careful and meticulous she was in raising her children , and with the word of God bringing them to where they needed to be. I am amazed that through everything both she and Roberts went thru with the Church and their personal life, they kept it together and did not blamed God for it. We see to often people in church blaming God for their tribulations and Jesus told the disciples that we would have much tribulations but be of good cheer because he overcame the world. They were sold out for Christ,…we need to keep one another in prayer and praying for the church and for many to step up to their call in the body of christ. Praise God for these two who made a significant change in the Methodist Church.

  7. Eric eliason says:

    Reflection on B.T. and Ellen Roberts And The First FREE METHODISTS

    I thought B.T.’s family was interesting in that there was that entrepreneurial flair! They all seemed to have a drive in them to do something new and exciting, that must have been apart of His drive and determination growing up around such driven people with vision for making their own way. I was stuck by Ellen’s hunger and wrestling with holiness and wonder how much of that was behind her struggle with depression, it almost seemed like she couldn’t grasp being saved by faith and not by works at first. So they met and hung out a few times and then the next time they saw each other in person was on their wedding day? Had to read that a few times! I guess they would be cool with Match.com! We can’t even get a lot of young people to get married after living together for years let alone a couple dates and some letters.
    I thought this quote from B.T.’s article on Methodism was awesome! He argued that a true church is built on fundamentally spiritual dynamics, not on fine buildings and professional music. “If the power of the Lord was manifest among us, . . . [then] old and young, rich and poor, would flock to our churches, not to admire the architecture and listen to the fine performances, but to save their souls.” Wow like a pinch right in the face, it reminds me of Open Arms, we’re not pretty but we’re pretty effective at reaching the lost and broken. When I read about “pew fees” I thought of Jesus flipping tables and so did B.T. I think. I loved how He was very much against slavery and was a defender of the poor, I was amazed by the prices of things and the wages at the time! “Flour is $ 11.00 per. bbl., corn 7/ 1 pr. bushel. Wood $ 3.00 per cord, potatoes 6/-pr. bushel. They have put down wages of laborers on the R.R. to 6/-pr. day.” The way the Circus was described sounded nothing like any I have ever been to, “In that day circuses were not family-oriented shows but adult and primarily male with boundaries “defined by liquor and the possibility of violence.” Circuses competed with churches for the public’s attention”. Funny how much of what got B.T. Into trouble seems like what Wesley was fighting against with the “worldliness” creeping into the church and pay for seats, kinda like the government taking control of the preachers and giving them a “living wage” that was present in Wesleys days. Also it seemed more like the church wanted to put on a show as opposed to teaching and worshipping God. I like how he wrote how they had Ben striving to bring the church up to the “New Testament standard”. And they couldn’t find a church even trying to live up the Christ standard, so they made one! B.T. was more interested in building Gods kingdom than a denomination, I think we can learn a lot from that point in church leadership. We don’t need to worry about building the local church but just expanding the Kingdom in our community, the rest will happen as a result.

    • Zoe Hatcher says:

      I love his vision as well. “We don’t need to worry about building the local church but just expanding the Kingdom in our community, the rest will happen as a result” Yes! Love this!.

  8. Eric Brown says:

    I was a little late to the game and just received my book Monday, so I haven’t been able to finish it yet. It seems I’m getting to the plot twist though with the ‘Buffalo Showdown’. However, from what I’ve read so far, I have great respect for both B.T. and his wife Ellen. Throughout their entire lives they lived with a genuineness toward themselves and with their relationship with God.

    I loved where B.T. had recognized the ‘cold formality’ of the college professors and took seriously the danger that furthering his education could harden his simple faith in God. He took it to earnest prayer and kept his faith first through everything. Ellen had a similar disposition and I can relate to her spiritual struggling to find the inward witness of the Spirit. No matter the internal conflict, however, she would always press on to know God more; keeping her faith firm in His goodness and His worthiness of all her devotion.

    Their wedding set up was interesting, to say the least. But it certainly is a great model for the Christian union. B.T. never for a moment set aside his calling as a minister of the gospel for the sake of his wife, and she never considered diverting him from it. They both shared a determined faith and love for Jesus and were intentional in serving Him together.

    There was a lot of corruption and swerving from biblical practices in the Methodist church in his day, as there is now as well. But even though I haven’t gotten to his establishing of the Free Methodist denomination yet, the fruit speaks for itself. Though as a denomination we certainly have things to learn and grow in, I believe the Free Methodists still remain one of the most biblically sound denominations to this day.

    The most striking quote that resonates with me so far is from B.T.; “Men can preach who have been educated to do it, whether they enjoy religion or not. But to do pastoral work- to visit the people from house to house and converse with them closely about their religious state, requires grace.”

    • Sherry Brzezinski says:

      Great insight on the coldness of the college professor. With the many responsibilities that comes with becoming a pastor and the work it requires, I can see how easily one could become solely religious. I love that B.T. Roberts took the time to seek God’s face to be sure he was on the right path. He also seemed to have an accountability partner with Stiles when they agree to be sure their studies would not take them away from their relationship with God. Roberts was such an extraordinary example of Biblical based Christian walk with God.

    • Zoe Hatcher says:

      Ooo, that end quote. I don’t know how I missed that. I love that, so true. May His grace rest on us!

  9. Tina Phillips says:

    Reflection on B. T. and Ellen Roberts And the First Free Methodists

    As I read the book, I kept seeing parallels to what is often seen in churches and the lives of Christians today. Yes, the 1800’s were very different, but at the core they are similar.

    B.T. and Ellen grew up very differently, coming from households comprised of tragedy and differing levels of Christian influence. I can really relate to Ellen’s struggle with surrendering and feeling inadequate. It took her a while, but she did surrender to Christ and sought holiness. She still struggled, and despite there being what seems like millions of quotes from her diary, some of her prayers were much like my own.

    Their marriage was something to be admired. He considered her an equal and they followed God’s calling wherever it may be, with the same determination as the previous….to bring holiness to the poor in Biblical truth!!! I don’t know that most marriages could make it through the loss of 2 children, let alone the persecution, the demands of B.T.’s positon, raising children, facing illness…

    I love how the book showed the history of Free Methodism and how our roots made us so different. I have heard many times about being Free Methodists because the pews were made free. The “Free” means so much more than that and to see just how it came about makes me feel so grateful.

    I am glad that B.T., Ellen & others stood on what they believed, never wavered, and did what God wanted them to despite the personal costs. I don’t think there are many, if any, that would be willing to do what they did.

    Then once they reached the goal of separating the church, they continued to do more. It’s very inspiring, humbling and motivating to make me want to do more. If we all did just a little more, what difference could we make to bring holiness to our communities?

    • Brenda Libreatori says:

      I also thought it was amazing that they could make it through the loss of two babies. And not just make it through, but continue on to be faithful to God and His calling. I have seen people fall completely away from God after the loss of one child. Thank the Lord they persevered, so that all these years later we can read of their life of faith and be inspired to follow!

    • Zoe Hatcher says:

      I also was touched by Ellen’s wrestling and honest struggle as she grew in the knowledge of the love of her Lord. I can so relate with that as well with my own journals full!

    • Carey Pifer says:

      I can relate to Ellen’s struggle of feeling inadequate. She was an amazing woman and an example to us. She didn’t give up when life got hard. She pressed into Jesus and served Him completely. I found this book very inspiring.

    • Eric Brown says:

      Can’t agree more about Ellen. I’m kinda glad she kept a tight journal for historians to pilfer through and encourage future generations. She was determined to bring everything to Jesus for redemption and sanctification, no matter what kind of emotional mess it was.

  10. Marne McAvoy says:

    As I was reading about B.T. and Ellen Roberts, I was immediately drawn to the humanness and weaknesses that were evident in the lives of early brothers and sisters of faith. I suppose I may have held our ancestors high on a pedestal. First reading of Wesley and now of B.T. my paradigm of thinking and relating has shifted. Life and it’s struggles where similar to present day; fornication, anger, depression, pride, and extreme selfishness, just to name a few. But the light of the Lord shines brighter than any darkness the world can muster. I observed for a second time, the first time in our book about Wesley, the great influence that upbringing, family, friends, and mentors have in our lives, and how God uses both the good and the bad to teach and mold us, if only we allow him.
    God in his faithfulness, pursues the hearts of his children and gets the attention of both Ellen and B.T. I found it remarkable how drastically different B.T. and Ellen’s conversions were motivated and transpired. B.T. surrendering to God because it was his duty, and Ellen, whom I more readily relate, recognizes the deep sinfulness of her state and desiring more than anything God’s purifying forgiveness, surrenders all. For B.T. his decision was firm and he seemed not to struggle much in his affirmation of God and the Lord’s acceptance of him. Ellen on the other hand struggled intensely for years before being able to accept all that the Lord had given her on the cross.
    Reflecting further on both B.T. and Ellen, I recognize many similarities to there person and character. They were both individuals of strong conviction. B.T.‘s conviction surfacing in his passion for social justice, personal conduct, and full surrender to the will of the Lord. Ellen’s conviction materializing in her pursuit of the Lord and His Holiness. Both of them possessed qualities of the highest faithfulness and perseverance. Both held education in high regard, yet both evaluated with intense scrutiny the possibility that higher education may interfere in their spirituality and took the decision very seriously. Both B.T. and Ellen were seekers of God’s person and truth. They were self motivated, teachable individuals. They engaged learning and the people around them, seeking to immerse themselves in an atmosphere of learning and service. Ellen faithfully attend Methodist class meeting. B.T. pursuing education and ordination.
    One character trait stood out above all the rest in my opinion. B.T. and Ellen both possessed an indomitable spirit to surrender all to the Lord and to live out their convictions even to their own hurt and/or loss of everything. This is a quality that I observe repeatedly as I learn of those who were pioneers of our faith. I believe that this perseverance of spirit and their deep reverence for God, enabled them to stand firm in their convictions of holiness and anti-slavery and to speak up and address, and hold accountable the Buffalo Regency. It empowered them to endure two unjust trials and convictions. Still they continued to love God, live solely for Him and pressed forward to pursue the call of God on their lives. This was demonstrated by B.T.s desire to remain a part of the Episcopal Methodist church, even after expulsion, and go about the business of winning souls.
    As a result of the trials, the laymen of the Episcopal Methodist church began to rise up, because they had no voice. They moved for increased participation and a more democratic process in the church, later influencing B.T. and the early Free Methodist founders to emphasize the importance of lay leadership in Free Methodist polity.
    Ultimately, this persevering, emboldened spirit and unwavering conviction propelled B.T. and the early Free Methodist founders to give birth to the Free Methodist moment that is touching our world today.
    The more I learn about Free Methodism, the more I identify with its God given purpose, vision, mission, and values. The more I read and learn, the more I am inspired to pursue, wholeheartedly the call of God on my life. I am increasingly proud and grateful to be a part of what God is doing through our Free Methodist family.

    • Sherry Brzezinski says:

      I too related so much to Ellen Roberts and how it took her time to truly accept all that God had done for her. What I admired though is she didn’t give up. She continued classes and prayer seeking over and over until she felt the fullness of His power. She inspires me to be more diligent in seeking those things unanswered or unfulfilled.
      I also relate to what you said about learning more about our roots truly pushing me deeper to pursue all that God has for my life.

    • Zoe Hatcher says:

      I was also touched to see the humanity of this brave and bold man and woman of God. To see their process of working through struggle and learning all the while from the Lord stands to prove that vulnerability is Not weakness, but great strength.

    • Becca Hanke says:

      I think the overarching theme that we continue to see is perseverance. I think sometimes because we are in our lives we often don’t see perseverance but looking back on our lives we can. I know God has given us this many times and will continue to do so. Just like he did for B.T. and Ellen. 🙂

    • Carey Pifer says:

      I’m so inspired by this couple who served God together. Through everything they did not waiver. They are a model for us today. I am so grateful to learn how our denomination was founded. I also had our founders on a pedestal. It’s good to know they were just like us, doing their best to serve Jesus and better the would around them.

  11. Ana Acosta says:

    My reflection on B.T and Ellen Roberts

    As i read on B.T.and Ellen Roberts , it is evident that the two were sold for Christ, God fearing people who proposed themselves to live a life of holiness and to follow in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus…and to raise their children as God commands us to. He had discipline in his studies , interest in higher education and persistent in living a life pleasing to the Lord. B.T.Roberts work was on behalf of Farmers Alliance and also an advocate for Womens ordination and rights. He was anti-slavery recodnizing that God is the Creator and governor of all men with concerns for the oppressed and the poor. He clearly loved all people, you see how he reacted against injustice when the black group got onto the train and a person of white color expected for B.T.Roberts to remove them at his request….Benjamin stood up for them . I believe Benjamin followed in his grandfathers footsteps in that the book tells us his grandfather was a man of integrity. We see earlier on that he was expulled out of the Methodist Episcopalian denomination and other pastor did not. Why? Benjamin saw things that were not right to do and spoke up against it without naming anyone, writing well and persuasively , we learn that Genesse Conference was politicized more than other conferences. There was a declined in the Methodist church. He talked about issues regarding pew rental, slaveholding and secret societies …he spoke his mind and because of that, he was expulled. I thank God that being the spirit filled man that he was didnt compromise and today we have the Free Methodist Church in the pattern that follows in the ways of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    I Loved the marriage that he and Ellen had and how she prayed in all things and about all things. Raising their children in the ways of the Lord, sadly they lost a son and the others headed in a different direction. Ellen stood by her husband and he was helpful around the house when Ellen was out. These two knew the meaning of working together with love and with the scriptures to guide them in all they did. I was sad when he cried to the Lord for his healing, I felt his pain. But he continued to Praise the lord thru it all….reminds me of Paul the apostle when he was arrested and beaten in jail along with Silas, in the midst of their pain they began to worship the Lord. We the church need to be and do more for God and our neighbors in need and pressing for the goal to reach as many souls as possible with the help of the holy spirit. I am greatful for the example that brother Benjamin and his lovely wife has left for us to model after in both our relationship with God and with one another. If we could accomplish half of what they set out to do, we would see the fruit of our labour. We need to chase after God like never before….too many lives lost today due to drugs, abandonment which leads to depression and suicide along with so many other aliments and diseases of the heart , ( The hurting) Let us prepare ourselves in prayer, and gather to do the work Jesus did…saving souls for the Kingdom of God is at hand.

    • Brenda Libreatori says:

      Amen sister! We are losing too many to drugs and suicide. Our youth are lost because they have been taught the lie that there are no absolutes. I agree we need to chase God like never before!

    • Zoe Hatcher says:

      I loved the analogy of Paul and Silas here. It was a blessing to see them praise and press into the Lord in times of trial!

    • Carey Pifer says:

      They truly shared responsibilities and were partners is serving the Lord. They are a great example to us. I loved being able to read snippets of their journals and prayers. I was amazed at the injustices that they stood against. I agree we need to chase after God like they did.

  12. Marne McAvoy says:

    I also loved Ellen’s dedication as a mother and wife. A woman of prayer, inspiring me to always go to Christ first. I need be on my knees more.

  13. Tina Phillips says:

    Their marriage was very Godly. I love that he treated her as an equal, as he did all people. Loving God and Loving People!!!!

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