In early 2022, Alabama’s largest United Methodist church, Frazer in Montgomery, surprised many people by deciding to joining the Free Methodist Church USA. It was not a surprise that Frazer left the UMC. It had long been one of the leaders of the conservative movement within the denomination, and many within that movement have determined to leave the denomination What was a surprise was that it joined not the new Global Methodist Church that disaffected United Methodists were forming, but the Free Methodists, a largely Northern denomination headquartered in Indiana founded in New York in 1860
The US Religious Census reported only 2 Free Methodist Churches in Alabama in both 2010 and 2020. Both were in Jefferson County. In 2010, the two congregations reported a total of 62 adherents, in 2020 the number had declined to 50. As of February 2022, the United Methodist Church reported that Frazer had 4,055 members in 2020, so with its addition the Free Methodist Church in Alabama grew in size over 80 times.
Presently, December 4, 2022, the Free Methodist Church website reports four churches in Alabama:
- Frazer Church: A Free Methodist Church, Montgomery
- Village Church, Phenix City
- Faith Community Church, Pleasant Grove
- Emanuel Church of Birmingham: A Free Methodist Congregation, Bessemer
The last meets in the meeting room of a Fairfield Inn.
Village Church’s website explains that the congregation begin in 2014 as a satellite campus of Christ Community Church in neighboring Columbus, Georgia. While it functions independently, “remains accountable to the leadership at Christ Community Church.” This explains why its membership was not listed separately in the 2020 census.
It will be interesting to see if the number of Free Methodists grows as more United Methodist congregations disaffiliate.