Methodist Church

Methodist Church
   The Methodist Church in Great Britain carries on the Methodist movement begun in the 1740s by John Wesley, a minister in the Church of England. Methodism grew out of Wesley's intense religious experiences, his Moravian Church contacts, and the Calvinist traditions of British Puritanism.
   Wesley launched Methodism as a movement within the Church of England. After the American Revolution, he took steps to organize American Methodists as a separate church, but always saw the British movement as an integral part of the Church of England. Methodist groups were organized as religious societies.
   Through the years, Wesley called together his fellow preachers annually. This conference of ministers took control of the movement after Wesley died in 1791. Four years later, they authorized Wesleyan preachers to begin serving the sacraments, an act generally assumed to constitute a formal break with the Church of England. The Methodist Church became a new denomination with congregations in Great Britain and Ireland.
   The need to write a constitution for the new church led to its first schism in 1797, when a group seeking a more democratic polity broke away to form the Methodist New Connexion. Subsequent breaks occurred in 1837 and 1857. A Primitive Methodist Church was later formed, which adapted American style revivalism to the British setting. in the late 19th century, efforts were begun to reverse the pattern. in 1932, most of the Methodists in England merged into the presently existing Methodist Church.
   British Methodists were in the forefront of the globalization of Protestantism in the 19th century. Thomas Coke (1747-1814), who had been sent to America to set up the new church, formulated a vision of a global missionary enterprise following a Caribbean visit. In 1794, he presented A Plan of the Society for the Establishment of Missions among the Heathen. He backed his idea with his own money and eventually his life. He died in 1814 on the way to india with a group of missionaries.
   Jabez Bunting (1779-1858) took the lead in founding the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary society and supported the initial missionary thrusts in the Caribbean, India, and the South Seas. The Methodists also assumed leadership in the transformation of missions into autonomous churches in the mid-20th century.
   The Methodist Church, headquartered in London, England, has some 380,000 members in England, Scotland, and Wales. It is a member of the World Council of Churches and the World Methodist Council. Methodists in Northern Ireland united with Methodists in the Republic of Ireland in 1878.
   Further reading:
   ■ Rupert E. Davies and Gordon Rupp, eds., A History of the Methodist Church in Great Britain, 4 vols. (London: Epworth Press, 1965)
   ■ Richard P Heitzenrater, Wesley and the People Called Methodists (Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, 2001)
   ■ John Mun-sey Turner, Modern Methodism in England (London: Epworth Press, 1997)
   ■ Gordon Wakefield, Methodist Spirituality (London: Epworth Press, 1999).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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