Populist Saints warmly tells the story of B. T. and Ellen Roberts’s lives, recounting their critique of powerful elites and illuminating the “crisis of Methodism” that gave rise to the Free Methodist Church. Benjamin Titus Roberts (1823–1893), best known for founding the Free Methodist Church, was also an outspoken voice for such reform causes as the abolition of slavery, women in ministry, and farmers’ rights — so much so that he played a role in the rise of the Populist Movement. Ellen Stowe Roberts (1825–1908), scion of a prominent Methodist family, shared her husband’s passion for holiness, for speaking good news to the poor, and for urban ministry.
Howard Snyder’s detailed biography views key nineteenth-century currents and events through the lives of these two extraordinary figures, who taught a “holy populism” of simplicity, justice for the common people, and radical discipleship.
Howard A. Snyder is professor of the history and theology of mission at Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky.