Lewis H. Court (1871-1960) .
Lewis Henry Court was born into a Bible Christian family in Kingsbrompton, Somerset. He became a local preacher at the age of seventeen and entered the full time ministry four years later. He served in home circuits for forty-two years mainly in the south-west of England, before he was forced into retirement by ill-health in 1934.
Court was a gifted writer and artist, who produced several books on Methodist history and related subjects including a biography of the evangelist William Ready entitled Ready Aye Ready (1936), Romance of a Country Circuit (1921), which describes Court's Bible Christian upbringing in Kingsbrompton and Some Dartmoor Saints and Shrines (1927). He also published several collections of poetry and used his artistic abilities in the design of at least five churches.
Court died in January 1960 at his home in Minehead, Somerset.
The Bible Christian Church 1815-1907 .
The Bible Christian Church was founded by a dissident Wesleyan Methodist preacher William O'Bryan, who began a plan of independent evangelism on 18th October 1815 in North Cornwall. The first society of twenty-two people was established at Lake Farm in the small Devon village of Shebbear and by Christmas 1819 O'Bryan had 980 followers including 66 preachers. They were termed Bible Christians because of their practice of regularly consulting the scriptures for guidance.
The movement spread rapidly in the southwest of England despite opposition and by 1820 missions had been established in the Channel Islands and Kent. The Bible Christians were noted for their evangelistic zeal and extensive use of female preachers. They adopted the typical Methodist feature of an annual Conference with minutes, an itinerant ministry, class tickets etc. This facilitated the later union with other Methodist Churches. The Bible Christians had however a predominantly Radical or Liberal political outlook, which helped to distinguish them from the older Wesleyan tradition.
In 1829 O'Bryan withdrew from membership, taking with him a few supporters to form the Arminian Bible Christians. However he spent much of his time in America and in 1835 the new body re-joined the original Bible Christians. O'Bryan's claim to leadership then ended and he spent most of his remaining years in the United States. The mantle of leadership was taken over by James Thorne, who guided the affairs of the Connexion with considerable skill for the next forty years.
Throughout the nineteenth century, the heartland of the Bible Christian Connexion remained in the southwest of England, although there was considerable local success in other areas of the country including Kent, the Channel Islands and parts of South Wales. The first Bible Christian overseas mission was established in Canada in 1845 and this was followed by Australia (1850), New Zealand (1878) and China (1885).
The Bible Christians joined with the United Methodist Free Churches and the Methodist New Connexion in 1907 to form the United Methodist Church. At the time of union they had 220 ministers, 15,00 local preachers and 34,640 members.