April 2, 1877: Baptist evangelist Mordecai Ham (left) is born in Allen County, Kentucky.
At the end of his ministry, he claimed one million converts — including Billy Graham, who made a profession of faith at a 1934 Ham meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina.
April 4, 1742: Charles Wesley preaches his famous sermon, “Awake, Thou That Sleepest,” to the University of Oxford. The sermon soon became Methodism’s most popular tract.
April 5, 1811: Robert Raikes, who launched the idea of “Sunday School” in England in 1780, dies.
Raikes’ Sunday schools were not for respectable and well-mannered children of believers, but for (in one woman’s description) “multitudes of wretches who, released on that day from employment, spend their day in noise and riot.”
By 1784, 250,000 students were attending the schools. By Raikes’ death, 500,000. By 1831, 1.25 million.
April 9, 1816: Richard Allen and others organize the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. The next day he was named the denomination’s first bishop, thereby becoming the first black bishop in the United States.
A few years earlier, Allen and his colleagues had left the Methodist Episcopal Church (a predecessor of the United Methodist Church) when it removed blacks from “white” seats during prayer.
April 10, 1829: William Booth is born. After several years as a Methodist minister, he founded what became known as The Salvation Army.
In 1865, Booth (left) and his wife, Catherine, decided to reach the desperate poor and unchurched by conducting open-air meetings with lively music; preaching in theaters, bars, and jails; and creating large-scale plans to relieve poverty.
His organization was instrumental in launching one of the most successful religious revivals in the modern era.
April 12, 1914: A convention in Hot Springs, Arkansas, adjourns, having founded the Assemblies of God, which would become the world’s largest Pentecostal denomination. In 2009, the Assemblies of God moved past the PC(USA) to become the ninth largest denomination the U.S.
April 21, 1855: Edward Kimball, a Sunday school teacher in Boston, leads 18-year-old shoe salesman Dwight L. Moody to Christ at the Holton Shoe Store.
Moody went on to become the most successful evangelist of his day.
April 23, 1968: The Evangelical United Brethren Church joins with the much larger Methodist Church, forming the United Methodist Church (UMC), the largest Methodist group in the world.
The newly formed UMC adopts a cross-and-flame emblem as its denominational symbol, representing the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit. (For more on the Methodist/EUB merger, see the articles linked below.)
Use the audio player below to listen to the soundtrack of an 11-minute film, produced in 1968, about the merger of the two denominations.
|It begins with the announcement by Bishop Reuben Mueller of the EUB vote to approve the merger, then continues with Bishop Roy Short announcing the Methodist Church vote.
April 27, 1775: Moravian minister and missionary Peter Boehler dies. He met John Wesley in 1737 while both were sailing to minister in America. Boehler’s assurance of faith and his belief in joyous, instantaneous conversion left a permanent mark on Wesley.
|Use the audio player below to listen to a radio dramatization of a conversation between Wesley and Boehler (set in London, rather than on board a ship). This 3-minute scene is from the BBC’s 1997 radio serial, Love Divine, which starred Clive Francis as John Wesley.
Adapted with permission from ChristianHistory.net.
|•||January in Christian History|
|•||February in Christian History|
|•||March in Christian History|
Articles on the 1968 Methodist/EUB merger
|•||Church remembers Evangelical United Brethren roots | Josh Tinley, United Methodist News Service (March 7, 2008)|
|•||General Conference and the law of unintended consequences | Riley B. Case, Good News magazine (March/April 2008)|
|•||The starting point for any UM restructuring is acknowledging serious past mistakes: Sad lessons from the Methodist/EUB merger | Riley B. Case, Confessing Movement (via ReStart) (April 1, 2010)|