The arrival of a Wesleyan Methodist Church missionary in 1842 marked the establishment of Christianity in Nigeria. This followed a request by ex-slaves who had returned from Sierra Leone. The Methodist church initially set up mission stations in Badagry and Abeokuta, from where it expanded to various regions in the western part of the country, as well as parts of the north. In 1893, missionaries from the Primitive Methodist Church arrived from Fernando Po, an island off the southern coast of Nigeria, further spreading the Methodist Church to the eastern regions and other parts of the north.
For a period of time, the church operated independently in two regions: the Western Nigeria District, covering the areas west of the River Niger and part of the north, and the Eastern Nigeria District, encompassing the areas east of the Niger and another part of the north. However, in 1962, these districts came together to form the Conference of Methodist Church Nigeria, consisting of seven districts. Over the years, the church has continued to expand its reach, establishing a department for outreach and evangelism and appointing a director of evangelism. Although the adoption of an episcopal system in 1976 faced initial resistance, the church eventually resolved the disagreements and ratified a new constitution in 1990. The current system remains episcopal, with amendments made to address the concerns raised.
The Methodist Church Nigeria (MCN) has played a significant role in spiritual and social transformation. It has actively promoted spiritual holiness and invested in medical and health services, as well as socio-economic welfare programs for the people. MCN has established various institutions such as leprosy centers, mentally ill-destitute centers, and an orphanage for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. These centers reach out to marginalized and underprivileged members of society, facilitating their reintegration and addressing the abuses they may have faced. In the field of healthcare, MCN has set up the Wesley Guild Hospital and multiple Methodist hospitals across the country, providing quality medical services to their respective communities. Education has always been a strong focus for MCN, leading to the establishment of numerous schools ranging from kindergarten to senior secondary schools, as well as theological institutions. Graduates from these institutions have made significant contributions in various fields of human endeavor. Furthermore, the church has decided to establish the Wesley University of Science and Technology (WUSTO) in Ondo, in the southwest region of Nigeria, with satellite campuses in all six geopolitical zones of the country.
The Methodist Church Nigeria is headed by the prelate, who presides over the conference, the highest governing body of the church. This conference convenes every two years to discuss and make decisions on matters concerning the church’s affairs. The conference area is divided into eight archdioceses, each led by an archbishop who presides over the archdiocesan council meetings. There are a total of 44 dioceses, each comprising several circuits, and each led by a bishop who oversees the annual synod. The church’s constitution emphasizes the participation of lay members in leadership roles, from the local church level to the conference level.