New Exhorter

The Occom Circle

New Exhorter


Exhorter was the original term for what today the United Methodist Church calls a lay speaker, someone certified to hold meetings, lead prayers, and evangelize, who is not ordained. Exhorter was a step on the way to lay preacher. When Methodism began in the 1740s, many lay preachers were arrested and imprisoned by local authorities, and the group of pious speakers who developed to fill the gap became known as exhorters. The office of exhorter was officially recognized in Britain in 1770 and in the United States in 1784, though people already had been filling the role. It required a yearly certification and often identified people called to the ministry. Exhorters served important roles in cities and rural areas where there was a scarcity of preachers and helped build the early Methodist Church, which often began as separatist groups inspired by an exhorter, who would exhort the congregation to action after the appointed clergy had preached the sermom. The best known exhorter is Aimee Semple McPherson, who was issued an exhorter's license in Philadelphia in 1920 and became a world-famous faith healer and evangelist in California.


Fisher, Linford. The Indian Great Awakening: Religion and the Shaping of Native Cultures in Early America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012; Lane, James W. and Rev. Roger D. Carlson. "A Brief History of the Office of Lay Speaker in the United Methodist Church." Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church.