The mourners' bench, also known as the mercy seat or anxious bench, in Methodist and other evangelical Christian churches is a bench located in front of the chancel. The practice was instituted by John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church. Individuals kneel at the mourners' bench to experience the New Birth and some of those who have already had the New Birth go there to receive entire sanctification, while others, especially backsliders, use the mourners' bench to confess their sins and receive forgiveness, in order to continue the process of sanctification. At the mourners' bench, individuals receive spiritual counsel from a minister. In keeping with the doctrine of the mortification of the flesh, penitents do not kneel on kneeler cushions but instead kneel on the floor. Today many, but not all, Methodist churches supplant the mourners' bench with chancel rails, where Methodists (as well as other evangelical Christians) receive Holy Communion, in addition to experiencing the New Birth, repenting of their sins, and praying.
- Winton, George Beverly (1913). The Junaluska Conference: A Report of the Second General Missionary Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Board of Missions of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. p. 195.
- Campbell, Ted (2011). Methodist Doctrine: The Essentials. Abingdon Press. p. 43. ISBN 9781426727016.
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- Streett, R. Alan (1984). The Effective Invitation: A Practical Guide for the Pastor. Kregel Academic. p. 92. ISBN 9780825494765.
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- Heath, Elaine A. (1 January 2009). Naked Faith: The Mystical Theology of Phoebe Palmer. Wipf and Stock Publishers. p. 17. ISBN 9781630877170.
Penitents came forward to the "mourners' bench," a long bench near the pulpit where sins were confessed and forgiveness received.
- Atkin, Pippa (2003). Flexi-RE Evaluation. Nelson Thornes. p.��8. ISBN 9780748763542.
Their sermons done, revivalists like Caughey and Marsden, following time-honoured Methodist procedure, would urge people to the communion rail - called also the mourners' bench, a kind of Protestant confessional - in public acceptance of Christ.
- Clark, Davis W. (1856). The Methodist Episcopal pulpit: a collection of original sermons from living ministers of the M.E. Church. Carlton & Phillips. p. 226.
- Upper Cumberland Country. University Press of Mississippi. 1993. p. 91. ISBN 9781617035319.
When salvation comes, the seeker sits erect on the mourner's bench, either crying from joy or smiling, thus announcing to others present what has happened.
- Methodist History. Commission on Archives and History, The United Methodist Church. 2002. p. 149.
Methodist preachers invited them to come forward and kneel at the altar rail...
- Airhart, Phyllis D. (26 February 1992). Serving the Present Age: Revivalism, Progressivism, and the Methodist Tradition in Canada. McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP. p. 69. ISBN 9780773563193.