(Notes on a lecture by Bob Black, Ph.D., at the CCDA conference, Detroit, 2017.)
By Francis Asbury’s death in 1802, the Methodist Church had become the largest church in America. Still, the bishops decided not to rock the boat by opposing slavery, so prevalent in the south. A presiding elder, Orange Scott (what we would call today a district superintendent) opposed slavery on biblical grounds as well as citing John Wesley’s strong condemnation of slavery.
Feeling he could no longer remain in the Methodist Church, Orange Scott started a magazine called “The True Wesleyan.” He also called for the formation of the “Wesleyan Methodist Church,” titled thus because it was “Wesley’s view of Methodism.” There would be no slavery and no bishops. The movement, though organized in the north, began to appeal to anti-slavery Methodists in the south. A church of 40 antislavery Methodists in North Carolina ask the Wesleyan Methodist Church to send them a pastor because not pastor would lead them.
Adam Crooks, a not yet fully ordained 23 year-old minister in this new movement, left to pastor the North Carolina church stating he was glad he did not have a wife or family because he then did not need to worry about surviving. Within six months had built a church called “Freedom’s Hill” in Snow Camp, NC. Soon they planted eight more anti-slavery churches. In High Point Adam found noose with a likeness of him handing from a tree. He was poisoned and in the church he preached there were bullet holes in the door.
The Freedom’s Hill Church and the other churches in the network became stations on the underground railroad. Many of these young pastors were harangued, attacked and even hanged. Still, the movement grew under the example of young people who, like Adam Crooks, asked “Can you give you life for the cause?”