The first Wesleyan missionaries came to France from Great Britain via the Channel Islands in 1791. About sixty years later, the still relatively small movement was consolidated to form the French Wesleyan Conference. This conference remained in existence until shortly before the Second World War. Then, sixteen congregations voted to join the French Reformed Church. Six congregations in the southeastern part of the country broke away because they were unwilling to take this step. During the following decades, they continued to exist, along with two more congregations, as autonomous “Eglises Evangéliques Méthodistes de France” (EMF), and numbered about 1,500 members and friends.
Today’s “Union de l’Eglise Evangélique Méthodiste en France” (UEEMF) was founded in 1868, when the Evangelical Brethren in Germany sent a German-speaking American missionary to Strasbourg, for the purpose of initiating a German-speaking congregation there. Other missionaries from Germany and Switzerland came to the surrounding cities with the similar intentions. From these efforts, the nine congregations of Alsace-Lorraine developed.
In southwestern France, the missionary work began in 1926 among Swiss immigrants who had settled in Agen after the First World War. Eventually, the congregation’s clientele changed, and the work was carried out in French, as was also the case in Alsace-Lorraine. In the 1980s, missionary work of the congregation in Agen led to new initiatives in Fleurance and Mont de Marsan.
Although there had always been Emails between the EMF and the UEEM, for a number of reasons, the two churches have tightened their links significantly in recent years. In 2002, following intensive talks, it was decided to provisionally incorporate the EMF into the UEEMF, and thus into the Annual Conference of France and Switzerland. This decision was made definite in 2005.
Today, important areas of emphasis in the Methodist congregations include working with children and young people, conversation groups and creative groups for women, and missionary work and evangelization, as well as literature. However, the congregations are also aware of their heritage of social service and take this mission seriously, and work to help people at the personal level.
Chinese, Korean, and Cambodian congregations, which all have the status of associated congregations and which display an astonishing missionary dedication, meet in the buildings of the Methodist congregations.
Points of Email between Church and society include several institutions with which the UEEMF is affiliated: the Bethesda charity three homes for the elderly in Strasbourg, Mulhouse and Munster; the retreat center in Landersen, which has been through difficult times, but now looks to the future with renewed confidence; a
home for the elderly in Valleraugue; and diverse Protestant bookstores (CEDIS).
Together with the four congregations in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, the congregations in France form the “District francophone” of the Annual Conference Switzerland/France.
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