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B.M.E. Christ Church St. James History

Statement of Faith


THE HISTORY OF B.M.E. CHRIST CHURCH ST. JAMES

The first site of the British Methodist Episcopal Church in Toronto was acquired on January 31st 1845 at 94 Chestnut Street. Through the 159 years of its existence and despite unfavourable circumstances, the church has continued to serve the community socially, educationally and spiritually to the fullness of its potential.

The B.M.E. Church owes its continued existence to the sacrificial efforts of that small number of people of African descent who did not feel welcome in the mainline churches. These descendants formed their own assemblies to worship, fellowship, comfort one another and share common experiences. Their leaders were often financially able to support them, however, it was their intention to spread the gospel and win souls for the Kingdom of Heaven. They laboured in the hope that in Heaven they would reap the rewards which might have been denied them on earth. To name a few of those who pastored the church at Toronto (the records are exceedingly sparse and the periods of their administration are not available) were Rev. C.A. Washington, Rev. R.A. Ball, Rev. Dawson, Rev. T.H. Jackson and Rev. A.S. Markham, all of whom have gone to their eternal resting place.

It was in the 1950’s when the local congregation could no longer maintain its church building at 94 Chestnut St. that they sought and were granted use of the facilities of the Afro-Community Church which was located at 460 Shaw Street. The two small congregations, both experiencing a rapid decline in membership and both in a very poor economic situation decided to amalgamate, and in 1949 negotiations toward this union began. In 1955 they amalgamated and worshipped under the joint administration of Rev. Thomas Henry Jackson and Rev. Alexander Sylvester Markham, until the death of Rev. Jackson in 1953 and the resignation of Rev. A.S. Markham in 1983. Since then, Rev. Boyce, Rev. Rupwate, the late Rev. Solomon, Rev. Livingstone Yearwood, Rev. Maurice Hicks and now Rt. Rev. Dr. Chester Searles have been the pastors.

It would be well to remember at this time the late Rev. Gibson, a retired minister of the Anglican Church, whose financial and other assistance was welcomed at that time in the 1950’s when it was sorely needed. The congregation at that time was small but there were those who gave sacrificially. To name a few is not to exclude any; but members like the late Mr. Foster (Papie Foster), Rev. and Mrs. Mercury, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Richardson, Mr. and Mrs. Lambert McKenzie, Mr. Gordon Roberts, and Mrs. Grace Trotman among others.

After amalgamation, the congregation under the leadership of the late Rev. A.S. Markham gradually increased. Soldiers from World War II were returning home and the Negro Citizenship Association succeeded in its efforts to have the Government open its immigration applications to people of African descent. In the mid 1960’s there was an influx of Caribbean people to Canada some of who entered as visitors or domestic workers but subsequently applied for landed status, resulting in a huge backlog in the processing of the applications and forcing the Canadian government to grant an amnesty. There also entered a much needed labour force of nurses, teachers and other professionals, some of whom are still part of the congregation today. Therefore the church as well as the newcomers benefited from this migration as they were welcomed in to worship in an unfamiliar environment within a very familiar religion. At B.M.E. they met people who had arrived before and had the same experiences in adjusting to Canadian life. Many of the newcomers had no other community ties in Canada prior to arrival, nor did they have any family or other connections. They had to work six days a week or more, lived in the homes of their employers and could not seek employment elsewhere until they had served their employer for at least one year. The church set up programs for the new arrivals, which took place particularly on Thursday and Sunday evenings. The programs were social, educational and recreational in nature and they assisted immensely to the integration of the newcomers to Canadian life. In 1972, to show appreciation for the dynamic leadership of their Pastor and General Superintendent, the members of B.M.E. voted unanimously to install a plaque in the church honouring the Rt. Rev. Dr. A.S. Markham as “Father of Our Church, Under God.”

The church has survived the vicissitudes and ravages of time with those few who have remained steadfast. The name Grace Trotman is remembered by the many choristers who were members of her choir. For many years the B.M.E. Church choir under her leadership won awards at the Kiwanis festival. The camp at Parry Sound, which was purchased by the late Rev. A.S. Markham, was a place where young and older, but especially the young of not only the B.M.E. but other churches, looked forward to spending some portion of the summer.

The church suffered a great loss on April 16th 1998 when it was destroyed by fire. B.M.E. Christ Church continued to hold its services at Sheldrake United Church as well as Seventh Day Adventist Churches located at both Harvie Ave. and Perth Ave. Board meetings were held at Cornerstone Baptist Tabernacle, prayer meetings at College St. United Church and Choir practices at New Dawn Moravian Church. On October 28th 2001 approximately three and a half years after the fire, an opening service took place at its new home located at 1828 Eglinton Ave. West.

The B.M.E. Church has historically been known by many in the Greater Toronto and Ontario communities for its part in the Underground Railroad as well as its fight for freedom of oppression. Today we are also becoming well known for the greater cause of winning souls for Christ’s Kingdom throughout not only Ontario but Canada as well.

References
Mortgage Burning Ceremony Dec 1, 1974 “Over the Years” by Rev. Jean J. Markham
B.M.E. 150th Anniversary Banquet March 18, 1995 “A Tribute to Those Who Have Gone Before”

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STATEMENT OF FAITH

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STANDARDS OF DOCTRINE.

The Doctrines of the Methodist Church are declared to be those contained in the twenty-five Articles of Religion, and those taught by the Rev. John Wesley, M.A., in his Notes on the New Testament, and in the first fifty-two Sermons of the first series of his discourses published during his lifetime.

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ON THE ARTICLES OF RELIGION.

I. Of Faith in the Holy Trinity.
There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body or parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the maker and preserver of all things, visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead are three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

II. Of the Word, or Son of God, Who Was Made Very Man.
The Son, who is the Word of the Father, the very and eternal God, of one substance with the Father, took man's nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, so that two whole and perfect natures: that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one person never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God and very man, who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile His Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for the actual sins of men.

III. Of the Resurrection of Christ.
Christ did truly rise again from the dead, and took again His body, with all things appertaining to the perfection of man's nature, wherewith he ascended into heaven, and there sitteth until He return to judge all men at the last day.

IV. Of the Holy Ghost.
The Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is of one substance, majesty, power and glory with the Father and the Son, very and eternal God.

V. The Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation.
The Holy Scriptures contain all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or thought requisite or necessary for salvation. In the name of the Holy Scriptures, we do understand these canonical books of the Old and New Testaments, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church. The names of the canonical books are: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, the First Book of Samuel, the Second Book of Samuel, the First Book of Kings, the Second Book of Kings, the First Book of Chronicles, the Second Book of Chronicles, the Book of Ezra, the Book of Nehemiah, the Book of Esther, the Book of Job, the Psalms, the Proverbs of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, or the Preacher, Canticles, or the song of Solomon, Four Prophets the greater, Twelve Prophets the less. All the books of the New Testament, as they are commonly received, we do receive and account canonical.

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VI. Of the Old Testament.
The Old Testament is not contrary to the New; for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and man, being God and Man. Wherefore they are not to be heard, who feign that the Old Fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the law given from God to Moses, as touching ceremonies and rites doth not bind Christians, nor ought the civil precepts thereof of necessity be received in any commonwealth, yet, notwithstanding, no Christian whatsoever is free from the obedience of the commandments which are called moral.

VII. Of Original or Birth Sin.
Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam (as the Pelagians vainly talk), but it is the corruption of the nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and of his own nature inclined to evil, and that continually.

VIII. Of Free Will.
The condition of man is such, after the fall of Adam, that he cannot turn and prepare himself by his own natural strength and works to faith, and calling upon God; wherefore we have no power to do good works, pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God, by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working in us when we have that will.

IX. Of the Justification of Man
We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by faith, and not by our own works or deservings; wherefore that we are justified by faith only, is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort.

X. Of Good Works.
Although good works, which are the fruits of faith, and follow after justification, cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God's judgments, yet as they are pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and spring out of a true and living faith, insomuch that by them a lively faith is known as evidently as a tree is discerned by its fruits.

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XI. Of Works of Supererogation.
Voluntary works—besides, over and above God's commandments—which are called works of supererogation, cannot be taught without arrogance and impiety. For by them men declare that they not only render unto God as much as they are bound to, but that they do more for His sake than of bounden duty is required; whereas Christ saith plainly, When ye have done all that is commanded you, ye are unprofitable servants.

XII. Of Sin after Justification.
Not every sin willingly committed after justification is the sin against the Holy Ghost and unpardonable. Wherefore the grant of repentance is not to be denied to such as fall into sin after justification. After we have received the Holy Ghost we may depart from grace given, and fall into sin and, by the grace of God, rise again and amend our lives. And, therefore, they are to be condemned who say they can no more sin as long as they live here; or deny the place of forgiveness to such as truly repent.

XIII. Of the Church.
The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the sacraments duly administered according to Christ's ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.

XIV. Of Purgatory.
The Romish doctrine concerning purgatory, pardon, worshiping and adoration, as well as images and relics, and also invocation of saints, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warrant of Scripture, but repugnant to the Word of God.

XV. Of Speaking in the Congregation in such a Tongue as the People understand.
It is a thing plainly repugnant to the Word of God, and the custom of the primitive Church, to have a public prayer in the Church, or to minister the sacraments in a tongue not understood by the people.

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XVI. Of the Sacraments.
Sacraments ordained by Christ are not only badges or tokens of Christian men's professions, but rather they are certain signs of grace, and God's good will toward us, by the which He doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and comfort our faith in Him.

There are two sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord, in the Gospel; that is to say, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Those five commonly called sacraments, that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction, are not to be counted for sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have partly grown out of the corrupt following of the apostles; and partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures, but yet have not the like nature of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, because they have not any visible signs of the ceremony ordained of God.

The sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon or to be carried about; but that we should duly use them. And in such only as worthily receive the same, they have a wholesome effect or operation; but they that receive them unworthily, purchase to themselves condemnation, as St. Paul saith, 1 Cor. 11, 29th verse.

XVII. Of Baptism.
Baptism is not only a sign of profession and mark of difference, whereby Christians are distinguished from others that are not baptized; but it is also a sign of regeneration, or the new birth. The baptism of young children is to be retained in the Church.

XVIII. Of the Lord's Supper.
The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another, but rather is a sacrament of our redemption by Christ's death; insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith receive the same, the bread which we break is a partaking of the body of Christ; and likewise the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ. Transubstantiation, or the change of the substance of bread and wine in the Supper of our Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ, but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of the Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.

XIX. Of Both Kinds.
The cup of the Lord is not to be denied to the lay people, for both the parts of the Lord's Supper, by Christ's ordinance and commandment ought to be administered to all Christians alike.

XX. Of the One Oblation of Christ finished upon the Cross.
The offering of Christ once made, is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin but that alone. Wherefore the sacrifice of masses in the which it is commonly said that the priest doth offer Christ, for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, is a blasphemous fable and dangerous conceit.

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XXI. Of the Marriage of Ministers.
The ministers of Christ are not commanded by God's law, either to vow the estate of single life or to abstain from marriage; therefore it is lawful for them, as for all other Christians, to marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to be best to Godliness.

XXII. Of the Rites and Ceremonies of Churches.
It is not necessary that rites and ceremonies should in all places be exactly alike, for they have been always different; and may be changed according to the diversities of countries, times, and men's manners, so that nothing may be ordained against God's Word. Whosoever, through his private judgment, willingly and purposely doth openly break the rites and ceremonies of the Church to which he belongs, which are not repugnant to the Word of God, and are ordained and approved by common authority, ought to be rebuked openly, that others may fear to do the like, as one that offendeth against the common order of the Church, and woundeth the consciences of weak brethren. Every particular Church may ordain, change, or abolish rites and ceremonies, so that all things may be done to edification.

XXIII. Of Duty to the Civil Government.
We believe it is the duty of all Christians to be subject to the powers that be; for we are commanded by the Word of God to respect and obey the Civil Government: we therefore acknowledge the present Ruler of Great Britain as our rightful Sovereign, possessing Supremacy over all the British Empire; also the Governor-General of the Dominion Parliament of Canada, and we further believe that no foreign potentate should exercise authority within the boundaries of her vast Dominion, and inasmuch as British law throws the broad shield of equal protection over the life, liberty and personal happiness of all its loyal subjects, without regard to the clime in which they were born, or the hue of their skin, therefore we believe it to be lawful for Christian men to obey the commandments of the magistrate to wear weapons and serve in the Wars*, and furthermore we believe it to be our duty to pray the Most High God to make the reign of our present Sovereign peaceful, prosperous and happy, and every member of the Royal Family wise, holy and useful, and that the Empire may continue to grow in power and prosperity until Christ Himself descends to reign on earth.

XXIV. Of Christian Men's Goods.
The riches and goods of Christians are not common as touching the right, title, and possession of the same, as some do falsely boast. Notwithstanding, every man ought of such things as he possesseth, liberally to give alms to the poor according to his ability.

XXV. Of a Christian Man's Oath.
As we confess that vain and rash swearing is forbidden Christian men by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and James His apostle; so we judge that the Christian religion doth not prohibit, but that a man may swear when the magistrate requireth, in a cause of faith and charity, so it be done according to the prophet's teaching, in justice, judgment, and truth.

Taken from The Doctrine and Discipline of the British Methodist Episcopal Church 1981 Edition (Working Copy). Published by order of the General Conferences 1916 to 1978.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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