Methodism (from Greek: μέθοδος - methodos, "pursuit of knowledge") is a movement of Protestant Christianity represented by a number of denominations and organizations, claiming a total of approximately seventy million adherents worldwide. The movement traces its roots to John Wesley's evangelistic revival movement within Anglicanism in the 1740s. His younger brother Charles was instrumental in writing much of the hymnody of the Methodist Church. George Whitefield, another significant leader in the movement, was known for his unorthodox ministry of itinerant open-air preaching. The Methodist Church is known for its missionary work, and its establishment of hospitals, universities, orphanages, soup kitchens, and schools to follow Jesus' command to spread the Good News and serve all people.
Wesley, along with his brother, founded the Holy Club while they were at Oxford, where John was a fellow and later a lecturer at Lincoln College. The Holy Club met weekly and they systematically set about living a holy life. They were branded as "Methodist" by students at Oxford who derided the methodical way they ordered their lives. Wesley took the attempted mockery and turned it into a title of honour. Initially Whitefield and the Wesleys merely sought reform, by way of a return to the gospel, within the Church of England, but the movement spread with revival and soon a significant number of Anglican clergy became known as Methodists in the mid-18th century. The movement did not form a separate denomination in England until after John Wesley's death in 1791. Although Wesley and the majority of his followers were decidedly Arminian in their theological outlook, George Whitefield, Howell Harris, and Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon were notable for being Calvinistic Methodists, and the Presbyterian Church of Wales originated from the preaching of Harris and Whitfield.
The influence of Whitefield and Lady Huntingdon on the Church of England was a factor in the founding of the Free Church of England in 1844. Through vigorous missionary activity Methodism spread throughout the British Empire and, mostly through Whitefield's preaching during what historians call the First Great Awakening, in colonial America. After Whitefield's death in 1770, however, American Methodism entered a more lasting Wesleyan and Arminian phase of development.
Early Methodists were drawn from all levels of society, including the aristocracy, but the Methodist preachers took the message to labourers and criminals who tended to be left outside organized religion at that time. Wesley himself thought it wrong to preach outside a church building until persuaded otherwise by Whitefield.
Doctrinally, the branches of Methodism following the Wesleys are Arminian, while those following Harris and Whitefield are Calvinistic. Wesley maintained the Arminian doctrines that were dominant in the 18th-century Church of England, while Whitefield adopted Calvinism through his contacts with Calvinists in Scotland and New England. This caused serious strains on the relationship between Whitefield and Wesley, with Wesley becoming quite hostile toward Whitefield in what had been previously very close relations. Whitefield consistently begged Wesley not to let these differences sever their friendship and, in time their friendship was restored, though this was seen by many of Whitefield's followers to be a doctrinal compromise. As a final testimony of their friendship, John Wesley's sermon on Whitefield's death is full of praise and affection.
Methodism has a wide variety of forms of worship, ranging from high church to low church in liturgical usage. Both Whitefield and the Wesleys themselves greatly valued the Anglican liturgy and tradition, and the Methodist worship in The Book of Offices was based on the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.
The Methodist revival originated in Epworth, North Lincolnshire, England. It began with a group of men, including John Wesley and his younger brother Charles, as a movement within the Church of England in the 18th century. The movement focused on Bible study and a methodical approach to scriptures and Christian living. The name "methodist" was a pejorative name given to a small society of students at Oxford who met together between 1729 and 1735 for the purpose of mutual improvement, given because of their methodical habits. They were accustomed to receiving communion every week, fasting regularly, and abstaining from most forms of amusement and luxury. They also frequently visited the sick and the poor, as well as prisoners.
The early Methodists acted against perceived apathy in the Church of England, preaching in the open air and establishing Methodist societies wherever they went. These societies were divided into groups called classes — intimate meetings where individuals were encouraged to confess their sins to one another and to build each other up. They also took part in love feasts which allowed for the sharing of testimony, a key feature of early Methodists.
George Whitefield, another significant leader in the movement, and one of the Wesley brothers' fellow students at Oxford, became well known for his unorthodox ministry of itinerant open-air preaching.
Methodist preachers were notorious for their enthusiastic sermons and often accused of fanaticism. In those days, many members of England's established church feared that new doctrines promulgated by the Methodists, such as the necessity of a new birth for salvation, of justification by faith, and of the constant and sustained action of the Holy Spirit upon the believer's soul, would produce ill effects upon weak minds. Theophilus Evans, an early critic of the movement, even wrote that it was "the natural Tendency of their Behaviour, in Voice and Gesture and horrid Expressions, to make People mad." In one of his prints, William Hogarth likewise attacked Methodists as "enthusiasts" full of "Credulity, Superstition and Fanaticism." But the Methodists resisted the many attacks against their movement.
John Wesley came under the influence of the Moravians, and of the Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius, while George Whitefield adopted Calvinistic views. Consequently, their followers separated, those of Whitefield becoming Calvinistic Methodists. Wesleyan Methodists have followed Arminian theology.
Missions to America
In 1766, Reverend Laurence Coughlan arrived in Newfoundland and opened a school at Black Head in Conception Bay.
In the late 1760s, two Methodist lay preachers emigrated to America and formed societies. Philip Embury began the work in New York at the instigation of fellow Irish Methodist Barbara Heck. Soon, Captain Webb from the British Army aided him. He formed a society in Philadelphia and traveled along the coast. In 1770, two authorized Methodist preachers, Richard Boardman and Joseph Pilmoor, arrived from the British Connexion. They were immediately preceded by the unauthorized Robert Williams who quietly set about supporting himself by publishing American editions of Wesley's hymnbooks without obtaining permission to do so. These men were soon followed by others, including Francis Asbury. Asbury reorganized the mid-Atlantic work in accordance with the Wesleyan model. Internal conflict characterized this period. Missionaries displaced most of the local preachers and irritated many of the leading lay members. During the American Revolution, "the mid-Atlantic work" (as Wesley called it) diminished, and, by 1778, the work was reduced to one circuit. Asbury refused to leave. He remained in Delaware during this period. Robert Strawbridge began a Methodist work in Maryland at the same time as Embury began his work in New York. They did not work together and did not know of each other's existence. Strawbridge ordained himself and organized a circuit. He trained many very influential assistants who became some of the first leaders of American Methodism. His work grew rapidly both in numbers and in geographical spread. The British missionaries discovered Strawbridge's work and annexed it into the American connection. However, the native preachers continued to work side-by-side with the missionaries, and they continued to recruit and dispatch more native preachers. Southern Methodism was not dependent on missionaries in the same way as mid-Atlantic Methodism.
Up until this time, with the exception of Strawbridge, none of the missionaries or American preachers was ordained. Consequently, the Methodist people received the sacraments at the hands of ministers from established Anglican churches. Most of the Anglican priests were Loyalists who fled to England, New York or Canada during the war. In the absence of Anglican ordination, a group of native preachers ordained themselves. This caused a split between the Asbury faction and the southern preachers. Asbury mediated the crisis by convincing the southern preachers to wait for Wesley's response to the sacramental crisis. That response came in 1784. At that time, Wesley sent the Rev. Dr. Thomas Coke to America to form an independent American Methodist church. The native circuit riders met in late December. Coke had orders to ordain Asbury as a joint superintendent of the new church. However, Asbury turned to the assembled conference and said he would not accept it unless the preachers voted him into that office. This was done, and from that moment forward, the general superintendents received their authority from the conference. Later, Coke convinced the general conference that he and Asbury were bishops and added the title to the discipline. It caused a great deal of controversy. Wesley did not approve of 'bishops' who had not been ordained by bishops.
By the 1792 general conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the controversy relating to episcopal power boiled over. Ultimately, the delegates sided with Bishop Asbury. However, the Republican Methodists split off from the Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) in 1792. Also, William Hammet (a missionary ordained by Wesley who traveled to America from Antigua with Bishop Coke), led a successful revolt against the MEC in 1791. He opposed Bishop Asbury and the episcopacy. He formed his people into the American Primitive Methodist Church (not directly connected with the British Primitive Methodist Church). Both American churches operated in the Southeast and presaged the episcopal debates of later reformers. Regardless, Asbury remained the leading bishop of early American Methodism and did not share his "appointing" authority until Bishop McKendree was elected in 1808. Coke had problems with the American preachers. His authoritarian style alienated many. Soon, he became a missionary bishop of sorts and never had much influence in America.
Most Methodists identify with the Arminian conception of free will, through God's prevenient grace, as opposed to the theological determinism of absolute predestination. This distinguishes Methodism from the Calvinist tradition prevalent in Reformed churches. In strongly Reformed areas such as Wales, however, Calvinistic Methodists remain, also called the Presbyterian Church of Wales. The Calvinist Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion was also strongly associated with the Methodist revival.
John Wesley is studied by Methodist ministerial students and trainee local preachers for his interpretation of Church practice and doctrine. One popular expression of Methodist doctrine is in the hymns of Charles Wesley. Since enthusiastic congregational singing was a part of the early Evangelical movement, Wesleyan theology took root and spread through this channel.
Methodism affirms the traditional Christian belief in the triune Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as well as the orthodox understanding of the consubstantial humanity and divinity of Jesus. Most Methodists also affirm the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed. In devotional terms, these confessions are said to embrace the biblical witness to God's activity in creation, encompass God's gracious self-involvement in the dramas of history, and anticipate the consummation of God's reign.
Sacramental theology within Methodism tends to follow the historical interpretations and liturgies of Anglicanism. This stems from the origin of much Methodist theology and practice within the teachings of John and Charles Wesley, both of whom were priests of the Church of England. As affirmed by the Articles of Religion, Methodists recognize two Sacraments as being ordained of Christ: Baptism and Holy Communion. Methodism also affirms that there are many other Means of Grace which often function in a sacramental manner, but most Methodists do not recognize them as being Dominical sacraments.
Methodists, stemming from John Wesley's own practices of theological reflection, make use of tradition, drawing primarily from the teachings of the Church fathers, as a source of authority. Though not infallible like holy Scripture, tradition may serve as a lens through which Scripture is interpreted (see also Prima scriptura and the Wesleyan Quadrilateral). Theological discourse for Methodists almost always makes use of Scripture read inside the great theological tradition of Christendom.
It is a historical position of the church that any disciplined theological work calls for the careful use of reason. By reason, it is said, one reads and is able to interpret Scripture coherently and consistently. By reason one determines whether one's Christian witness is clear. By reason one asks questions of faith and seeks to understand God's action and will.
Methodism insists that personal salvation always implies Christian mission and service to the world. Scriptural holiness entails more than personal piety; love of God is always linked with love of neighbours and a passion for justice and renewal in the life of the world.
A distinctive liturgical feature of Methodism is the use of Covenant services. Although practice varies between different national churches, most Methodist churches annually follow the call of John Wesley for a renewal of their covenant with God. It is not unusual in Methodism for each congregation to normally hold an annual Covenant Service on the first convenient Sunday of the year, and Wesley's Covenant Prayer is still used, with minor modification, in the order of service. In it, Wesley avers man's total reliance upon God, as the following excerpt demonstrates:
Christ has many services to be done. Some are easy, others are difficult. Some bring honour, others bring reproach. Some are suitable to our natural inclinations and temporal interests, others are contrary to both... Yet the power to do all these things is given to us in Christ, who strengthens us. ...I am no longer my own but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for you or laid aside for you, exalted for you or brought low for you; let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing; I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.—Wesley Covenant Prayer
Ecumenical relations with other branches of Christianity
In October 1999, an executive committee of the World Methodist Council resolved to explore the possibility of its Member Churches becoming associated with the doctrinal agreement which had been reached by the Catholic Church and Lutheran World Federation (LWF). In May 2006, the International Methodist-Catholic Dialogue Commission completed its most recent report, entitled "The Grace Given You in Christ: Catholics and Methodists Reflect Further on the Church," and submitted the text to Methodist and Catholic authorities. In July of the same year, in Seoul, South Korea, the Member Churches of the World Methodist Council (WMC) voted to approve and sign a "Methodist Statement of Association" with the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ), the agreement which was reached and officially accepted in 1999 by the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation and which proclaimed that "Together we confess: By grace alone, in faith in Christ's saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works... as sinners our new life is solely due to the forgiving and renewing mercy that God imparts as a gift and we receive in faith, and never can merit in any way," affirming "fundamental doctrinal agreement" concerning justification between the Catholic Church, the LWF, and the World Methodist Council. This is not to say there is perfect agreement between the three denominational traditions; while Catholics and Methodists believe that salvation involves cooperation between God and man, Lutherans believe that God brings about the salvation of individuals without any cooperation on their part.
Commenting on the ongoing dialogues with Catholic Church leaders, Rev. Ken Howcroft, Methodist minister and the Ecumenical Officer for the Methodist Church of Great Britain, noted that "these conversations have been immensely fruitful." Methodists are increasingly recognizing that the 15 centuries prior to the Reformation constitute a shared history with Catholics, and are gaining new appreciation for neglected aspects of the Catholic tradition. There are, however, important unresolved doctrinal differences separating Roman Catholicism and Methodism, which include "the nature and validity of the ministry of those who preside at the Eucharist, the precise meaning of the Eucharist as the sacramental 'memorial' of Christ's saving death and resurrection, the particular way in which Christ is present in Holy Communion, and the link between eucharistic communion and ecclesial communion.
In the 1960s, the Methodist Church of Great Britain made ecumenical overtures to the Church of England, aimed at denominational union. Formally, these failed when they were rejected by the Church of England's General Synod in 1972; conversations and co-operation continued, however, leading in 2003 to the signing of a covenant between the two churches. From the 1970s onward, the Methodist Church also started several Local Ecumenical Projects (LEPs, later renamed Local Ecumenical Partnerships) with local neighbouring denominations, which involved sharing churches, schools and in some cases ministers. In many towns and villages there are United Churches which are sometimes with Anglican or Baptist churches, but most commonly are Methodist and URC, simply because in terms of belief, practice and churchmanship, many Methodists see themselves as closer to the United Reformed Church than to other denominations such as the Church of England. In the 1990s and early 21st century, the British Methodist Church was involved in the Scottish Church Initiative for Union, seeking greater unity with the established and Presbyterian Church of Scotland, the Scottish Episcopal Church and the United Reformed Church in Scotland.
Methodist Churches in the United States have also strengthened ties with other denominations. In April 2005, bishops in the United Methodist Church approved A Proposal for Interim Eucharistic Sharing. This document was the first step toward full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The ELCA approved this same document in August 2005. At the 2008 General Conference, the United Methodist Church approved full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The UMC is also in dialogue with the Episcopal Church for full communion by 2012. The two denominations are working on a document called "Confessing Our Faith Together."
The original body founded as a result of Wesley's work was later known as the Wesleyan Methodist Church. Schisms within the original (Wesleyan) Methodist church, and independent revivals, led to the formation of a number of separate denominations calling themselves Methodist. The largest of these were the Primitive Methodist church, deriving from a revival at Mow Cop in Staffordshire, the Bible Christians and the Methodist New Connexion. The original church became known as the Wesleyan Methodist Church to distinguish it from these bodies. In 1907, a union of smaller groups with the Methodist New Connexion and Bible Christian Church brought about the British "United Methodist Church", then the three major streams of British Methodism united in 1932 to form the current Methodist Church of Great Britain. The Wesleyan Reform Union and the Independent Methodist Connexion still remain separate. The Primitive Methodist Church had branches in the USA which still continue.
Traditionally, Methodism was particularly prominent in Cornwall and (in its Calvinistic form) in Wales, both regions noted for their non-conformism and distrust of the Church of England. It was also very strong in the old mill towns of Yorkshire and Lancashire, where the Methodists stressed that the working classes were equal to the upper classes in the eyes of God.
British Methodism does not have bishops; however, it has always been characterized by a strong central organization, the Connexion, which holds an annual Conference (note that the Church retains the 18th century spelling "connexion" for many purposes). The Connexion is divided into Districts in the charge of the Chair (who may be male or female). Methodist districts often correspond approximately, in geographical terms, to counties – as do Church of England dioceses. The districts are divided into circuits governed by the Circuit Meeting and led and administrated principally by a superintendent minister. Ministers are appointed to Circuits rather than to individual churches (though some large inner-city churches, known as Central Halls, are designated as circuits in themselves – Westminster Central Hall, opposite Westminster Abbey in central London is the best known). Most circuits have fewer ministers than churches, and the majority of services are led by lay local preachers, or by supernumerary ministers (ministers who have retired, called supernumerary because they are not counted for official purposes in the numbers of ministers for the circuit in which they are listed). The superintendent and other ministers are assisted in the leadership and administration of the Circuit by Circuit Stewards who are often lay people who may have particular skills who collectively with the ministers form what is normally known as the Circuit Leadership Team.
The Methodist Council also helps to run a number of schools, including two leading Public Schools in East Anglia: Culford School and The Leys. It helps to promote an all round education with a strong Christian ethos.
The First Great Awakening was a religious movement among colonials in the 1730s and 1740s. The English Calvinist Methodist preacher George Whitefield played a major role, traveling across the colonies and preaching in a dramatic and emotional style, accepting everyone as his audience.
The new style of sermons and the way people practiced their faith breathed new life into religion in America. People became passionately and emotionally involved in their religion, rather than passively listening to intellectual discourse in a detached manner. People began to study the Bible at home, which effectively decentralized the means of informing the public on religious matters and was akin to the individualistic trends present in Europe during the Protestant Reformation.
The first American Methodist bishops were Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury, whose boyhood home, Bishop Asbury Cottage, in West Bromwich, England, is now a museum. Upon the formation of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America at the Baltimore Christmas Conference in 1784, Coke (already ordained in the Church of England) ordained Asbury a deacon, elder, and bishop each on three successive days. Circuit riders, many of whom were laymen, traveled by horseback to preach the gospel and establish churches until there was scarcely any crossroad community in America without a Methodist expression of Christianity. One of the most famous circuit riders was Robert Strawbridge who lived in the vicinity of Carroll County, Maryland soon after arriving in the Colonies around 1760.
The Second Great Awakening was a nationwide wave of revivals, from 1790 to 1840. In New England, the renewed interest in religion inspired a wave of social activism among Yankees; Methodism grew rapidly and established several colleges, notably Boston University. In the "burned over district" of western New York, the spirit of revival burned brightly. Methodism saw the emergence of a Holiness movement. In the west, especially at Cane Ridge, Kentucky and in Tennessee, the revival strengthened the Methodists and the Baptists.
Disputes over slavery placed the church in difficulty in the first half of the 19th century, with the northern church leaders fearful of a split with the South, and reluctant to take a stand. The Wesleyan Methodist Connexion (later became The Wesleyan Church) and the Free Methodist Churches were formed by staunch abolitionists, and the Free Methodists were especially active in the Underground Railroad, which helped to free the slaves. Finally, in a much larger split, in 1845 at Louisville, the churches of the slaveholding states left the Methodist Episcopal Church and formed The Methodist Episcopal Church, South. The northern and southern branches were reunited in 1939, when slavery was no longer an issue. In this merger also joined the Methodist Protestant Church. Some southerners, conservative in theology, and strongly segregationist, opposed the merger, and formed the Southern Methodist Church in 1940.
The Third Great Awakening from 1858 to 1908 saw enormous growth in Methodist membership, and a proliferation of institutions such as colleges (e.g., Morningside College). Methodists were often involved in the Missionary Awakening and the Social Gospel Movement. The awakening in so many cities in 1858 started the movement, but in the North it was interrupted by the Civil War. In the South, on the other hand, the Civil War stimulated revivals, especially in Lee's army.
In 1914–1917 many Methodist ministers made strong pleas for world peace. To meet their demands, President Woodrow Wilson (a Presbyterian), promised "a war to end all wars." In the 1930s many Methodists favored isolationist policies. Thus in 1936, Methodist Bishop James Baker, of the San Francisco Conference, released a poll of ministers showing 56% opposed warfare. However, the Methodist Federation did call for a boycott of Japan, which had invaded China and was disrupting missionary activity there. In Chicago, sixty-two local African Methodist Episcopal churches voted their support for the Roosevelt administration's policy, while opposing any plan to send American troops overseas to fight. When war came in 1941, the vast majority of Methodists strongly supported the national war effort, but there were also a few (673) conscientious objectors.
The United Methodist Church was formed in 1968 as a result of a merger between the Evangelical United Brethren (EUB) and the Methodist Church. The former church had resulted from mergers of several groups of German Methodist heritage. There was no longer any need or desire to worship in the German language. The merged church had approximately 9 million members as of the late 1990s. While United Methodist Church in America membership has been declining, associated groups in developing countries are growing rapidly.
American Methodist churches are generally organized on a connectional model, related but not identical to that used in Britain. Pastors are assigned to congregations by bishops, distinguishing it from presbyterian government. Methodist denominations typically give lay members representation at regional and national meetings (conferences) at which the business of the church is conducted, making it different from most episcopal government (The Episcopal Church USA, however, has a representational polity giving lay members, priests, and bishops voting privileges). This connectional organizational model differs further from the congregational model, for example of Baptist, and Congregationalist Churches, among others.
In addition to the United Methodist Church, there are over 40 other denominations that descend from John Wesley's Methodist movement. Some, such as the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the AME Zion Church, the Free Methodist Church, the Wesleyan Church (formerly Wesleyan Methodist Connection), the Congregational Methodist Church and First Congregational Methodist Church are explicitly Methodist. The Primitive Methodist Church is a continuing branch of the former British Primitive Methodist Church. Others do not call themselves Methodist, but are related to varying degrees. The Evangelical Church was formed by a group of EUB congregations who dissented from the merger which formed the United Methodist Church. The United Methodist Church has also taken steps to strengthen ties with its fellow Methodist churches, as well as other Protestant denominations in the United States. Since 1985, the UMC has been exploring a possible merger with three historically African-American Methodist denominations: the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, and the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. A Commission on Pan Methodist Cooperation and Union formed in 2000 to carry out work on such a merger.
The holiness revival was primarily among people of Methodist persuasion, who felt that the church had once again become apathetic, losing the Wesleyan zeal. Some important events of this revival were the writings of Phoebe Palmer during the mid-19th century, the establishment of the first of many holiness camp meetings at Vineland, New Jersey in 1867, and the founding of Asbury College (1890), and other similar institutions in the US around the turn of the 20th century.
From its beginning in England, Methodism laid emphasis on social service and education. Numerous originally Methodist institutions of higher education were founded in the United States in the early half of the 19th century, and today altogether there are about twenty universities and colleges named as "Methodist" or "Wesleyan" still in existence.
Additionally, the Methodist Church has created a number of Wesley Foundation establishments on college campuses. These ministries are created to reach out to students, and often provide student housing to a few students in exchange for service to the ministry.
United Methodist elders and pastors may marry and have families. They are placed in congregations by their bishop. Elders and pastors can either ask for a new appointment or their church can request that they be re-appointed elsewhere. If the elder is a full-time pastor, the church is required to provide either a house or a housing allowance for the pastor.
Whereas most American Methodist worship is modeled after the Anglican Communion's Book of Common Prayer, a unique feature was the once practiced observance of the season of Kingdomtide, which encompasses the last thirteen weeks before Advent, thus dividing the long season after Pentecost into two discrete segments. During Kingdomtide, Methodist liturgy emphasizes charitable work and alleviating the suffering of the poor. This practice was last seen in The Book of Worship for Church and Home by The United Methodist Church, 1965, and The Book of Hymns, 1966. While some congregations and their pastors might still follow this old calendar, the Revised Common Lectionary, with its naming and numbering of Days in the Calendar of the Church Year, is used widely. However, congregations who strongly identify with their African American roots and tradition would not usually follow the Revised Common Lectionary.
Adding more complexity to the mix, there are United Methodist congregations who orient their worship to the "free" church tradition, so particular liturgies are not observed. The United Methodist Book of Worship and The Hymns of the United Methodist Church are voluntarily followed in varying degrees. Such churches employ the liturgy and rituals therein as optional resources, but their use is not mandatory.
Social principles and participation in movements
From the movement's beginnings, with its roots in Wesleyan theology, Methodism has distinguished itself as a religious movement strongly tied to social issues. As father of the movement, John Wesley injected much of his own social philosophy into the movement as a whole. Wesley's personal social philosophy was characterized by "an instructive reluctance to criticize existing institutions [which] was overborne by indignation at certain abuses which cried out for rectification." The Methodist Church's responses to injustices in society are embodiments of the Wesleyan traditions of mercy and justice.
At the end of the 19th- and beginning of the 20th-centuries, the Methodist Church responded strongly to what it regarded as social ills (e.g., gambling, use of intoxicating beverages, etc.) with attention to the Methodist doctrines of sanctification and perfection through Christ. In the United States, today's United Methodist Church continues to embody Methodist traditions in their response to social needs through the General Board of Church and Society and the General Board of Global Ministries.
In the United States, the United Methodist Church is the second-largest sponsor of Boy Scout units, with 11078 chartered units, representing over 370,000 youth members; by way of contrast, the LDS Church, which sponsors a total of 37,882 units - over three times as many - can boast a total youth membership of slightly over 420,000, only a 13.5% increase over the UMC's total.
Attitudes toward slavery
Like most other national organizations, the Methodist Church experienced tensions and rifts over the slavery dispute. Both sides of the argument used the doctrines of the movement and scriptural evidence to support their case.
The initial statement of the Methodist position on slavery was delivered in the Conference minutes from 1780's annual conference. After a comprehensive statement of the varied reasons slavery goes against "the laws of God, man, and nature," the Conference answered in the affirmative to the question, "do we pass our disapprobation on all our friends who keep slaves and advise their freedom?" This position was put into action in 1783. Preachers from the Baltimore Conference were required, under threat of suspension, to free their slaves. By 1784, similar requirements were made of Methodists as a whole, laity and clergy alike. The negative reaction to this requirement was so strong that it had to be abandoned, but the rule was kept in the Book of Discipline.
As slavery disputes intensified in the 19th century, there emerged two doctrines within the Methodist Church. Churches in the South were primarily proslavery, while northern churches started antislavery movements. The apologia of the Southern churches was largely based in Old Testament scriptures, which often represent slavery as a part of the natural order of things. New Testament writings were sometimes used to support the case for slavery as well. Some of the writings of Paul, especially in Ephesians, instruct slaves to remain obedient to their masters. Southern ideology also argued that slavery was beneficial for slaves, as well as their owners, saying that they were offered protections from many ills because of their slavery. The antislavery movement in northern churches strengthened and solidified in response to the pro-slavery apologia of Southern churches.
Civil War and Reconstruction
Many Northerners had only recently become religious (thanks to the Second Great Awakening) and religion was a powerful force in their lives. No denomination was more active in supporting the Union than the Methodist Episcopal Church. Carwardine argues that for many Methodists, the victory of Lincoln in 1860 heralded the arrival of the kingdom of God in America. They were moved into action by a vision of freedom for slaves, freedom from the terror unleashed on godly abolitionists, release from the Slave Power's evil grip on the state, and a new direction for the Union. Methodists formed a major element of the popular support for the Radical Republicans with their hard line toward the white South. Dissident Methodists left the church.
The Methodist family magazine Ladies' Repository promoted Christian family activism. Its articles provided moral uplift to women and children. It portrayed the War as a great moral crusade against a decadent Southern civilization corrupted by slavery. It recommended activities that family members could perform in order to aid the Union cause.
During Reconstruction the Methodists took the lead in helping form Methodist churches for Freedmen, and moving into Southern cities even to the point of taking control, with Army help, of buildings that had belonged to the southern branch of the church. To help the Freedmen the church set up the Freedmen's Aid Society focused on creating an educational system for former slaves. This organization, along with the church's Department of Education for Negroes of the Board of Education, helped provide education to former slaves and their children. Within three months of its organization, the Freedmen's Aid Society had begun work in the South. By the end of the first year, the society had more than fifty teachers.
Education of young people
The Methodist church has always been strongly oriented towards the religious lives of the young. In 1848, the General Conference stated, "when the Church has collected...a great population born within [her] bosom, she cannot fulfill her high mission unless she takes measure to prevent this population from being withdrawn from under her care in the period of its youth." The first two American bishops of the Methodist Church, Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury, opened a preparatory school in Abingdon, Maryland in 1787. The school was a strict environment, with seven hours a day devoted to study. The venture ended when a fire destroyed the building in which the school was housed.
In the 1870s, there was a broad movement toward incorporating Sunday schools into the doctrines of churches as a way to take ownership of the Christian education of children. This was the first great interdenominational movement the United States had ever seen. Methodists invested heavily in the cause of Christian education because of their emphasis on the child's right to and ability to "respond to divine influences from the beginning."
Beginning after World War II, the Methodist churches in the United States continued developing, at a much greater pace, ministries on Universities, Colleges, Junior Colleges and other higher education institutions, on campuses of both church-owned and state schools throughout the United States and Canada, and to a lesser degree in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Methodism boasts the largest number of higher education ministries, including teaching positions, of any Protestant denomination in the world in close competition with the Southern Baptist Convention. This emphasis is, in part, a reflection of the Methodist movement's earliest roots in The Oxford Holy Club, founded by John Wesley, his brother Charles, George Whitefield and others as a response to what they saw as the pervasive permissiveness and debauchery of Oxford University, and specifically Lincoln College when they attended. It is from the Holy Club that the earliest Methodist societies were formed and spread.
The temperance movement was the social concern which most broadly captured the interest and enthusiasm of the Methodist Church. The movement was strongly tied to John Wesley's theology and social principles. Wesley's abhorrence of alcohol use was taken up by American Methodists, many of whom were active and prominent leaders within the movement.
The temperance movement appealed strongly to the Methodist doctrines of sanctification and Christian perfection. The Methodist presentation of sanctification includes the understanding that justification before God comes through faith. Therefore, those who believe are made new in Christ. The believer's response to this sanctification then is to uphold God's word in the world. A large part of this, especially in the late-19th century, was "to be their brother's keepers, or [...] their brother's brothers." Because of this sense of duty toward the other members of the church, many Methodists were personally temperate out of a hope that their restraint would give strength to their brothers. The Methodist stance against drinking was strongly stated in the Book of Discipline. Initially, the issue taken was limited to distilled liquors, but quickly evolved into teetotalism and Methodists were commonly known to abstain from all alcoholic beverages.
In 1880, the general conference included in the Discipline a broad statement which included, "Temperance is a Christian virtue, Scripturally enjoined." Due to the temperate stance of the church, the practice of Eucharist was altered — to this day, Methodist churches most commonly use grape juice symbolically during Communion rather than wine. The Methodist church distinguished itself from many other denominations in their beliefs about state control of alcohol. Where many other denominations, including Roman Catholics, Protestant Episcopalians, Lutherans, and Unitarians, believed that the ill-effects of liquor should be controlled by self-discipline and individual restraint, Methodists believed that it was the duty of the government to enforce restrictions on the use of alcohol. In 1904, the Board of Temperance was created by the General Conference to help push the Temperance agenda.
The women of the Methodist Church were strongly mobilized by the temperance movement. In 1879, a Methodist woman, Frances E. Willard, was voted to the presidency of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, an organization that was founded in December 1873, and was characterized by heavy Methodist participation. To this day, the Women's Division of the General Board of Global Missions holds property across on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, which was built using funds provided by laypeople. Women of the church were responsible for 70% of the $650,000 it cost to construct the building in 1922. The building was intended to serve as the Methodist Church's social reform presence of the Hill. The Board of Temperance, Prohibition and Public Morals was especially prominent within the building.
An estimated 75 million people worldwide belong to the Methodist community, however the number has gone into steady decline, especially in North America, where an increasing number of people are leaving the old-line churches to join theologically conservative denominations. Almost all Methodist churches are members of a consultative body called the World Methodist Council, which is headquartered at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, in the United States.
Methodism came to the Caribbean in 1760 when the planter, lawyer and Speaker of the Antiguan House of Assembly – Nathaniel Gilbert III (~1719–1774) returned to his sugar estate home in Antigua.
The story is often told that in 1755, Nathaniel Gilbert, while convalescing, read a treatise of John Wesley, "An Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion" sent to him by his brother Francis. As a result of having read this book Gilbert, two years later, journeyed to England with three of his slaves and there in at drawing room meeting arranged in Wandsworth on 15 January 1759, met the preacher John Wesley. He returned to the West Indies that same year and on his subsequent return began to preach to his slaves in Antigua.
When Nathaniel Gilbert died in 1774 his work in Antigua was continued by his brother Francis Gilbert to approximately 200 Methodists. However, within a year Francis took ill and had to return to England and the work was carried on by Sophia Campbell ("a Negress") and Mary Alley ("a Mulatto"), two devoted women who kept the flock together with Class and Prayer meetings as best as they could.
On 2 April 1778, John Baxter , a local preacher and skilled shipwright from Chatham in England, landed at English harbour in Antigua (now called Nelson's Dockyard) where he was offered a post at the naval dockyard. Baxter was a Methodist and had heard of the work of the Gilberts and their need for a new preacher. He began preaching and meeting with the Methodists leaders, and within a year the Methodist community had grown to 600 persons. By 1783 the first Methodist Chapel was built in Antigua, with John Baxter as the local preacher, where its wooden structure now seated some 2,000 people.
It was at this time, in 1785, that William Turton (1761–1817) a Barbadian son of a planter, met John Baxter in Antigua, and later as layman assisted in the Methodist work in the Swedish colony of St. Bartholomew from 1796.
In 1786 the missionary endeavour in the Caribbean was officially recognised by the Conference in England, and that same year Rev. Dr. Thomas Coke, having been made Superintendent of the Church two years previously in America by Wesley, was travelling to Nova Scotia, but providence forced his ship to Antigua.
Later Edward Fraser (1798-Aft.1850) a privileged Barbadian slave who in 1818 moved to Bermuda and subsequently met the new minister James Dunbar. The Nova Scotia Methodist Minister noted young Fraser's sincerity and commitment to his congregation and encouraged him by appointing him as assistant. By 1827 Fraser assisted in building a new chapel, was later freed, admitted to the Methodist Ministry to serve in Antigua and Jamaica.
Ann Gill (1779–1866) a free-born coloured woman of reasonable comfort who, following Rev. William J. Shrewsbury's 1820's preachings used Civil Disobedience in an attempt to thwart magistrate rulings that prevented parishioners holding prayer meetings, to the point of paying and extraordinary £1700.00 in hopes to build a new chapel and having militia appointed by the Governor to protect her home from demolition.
In 1884 an attempt was made at autonomy with the formation of two West Indian Conferences, however by 1903 the venture had failed. It was not until the 1960s that another attempt was made at autonomy. This second attempt resulted in the emergence of the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas (MCCA) in May 1967.
In the island of Barbados Francis Godson (1864–1953) became a Methodist who, having served briefly in several of the Caribbean islands, eventually immersed himself in helping those in hardship of the first world war in Barbados and later was appointed to the Legislative Council there and fought for the Pensioners. He was later followed by renowned Barbadian Augustus Rawle Parkinson (1864-19??) who also was the first principal of the Wesley Hall School in Barbados (which celebrated its 125 anniversary back in September 2009).
In more recent times in Barbados, Victor Alphonso Cooke (born 1930) and Lawrence Vernon Harcourt Lewis (born 1932) are strong influences on the Methodist Church on the island. Their contemporary and late member of the Dalkeith Methodist Church, was the former secretary of the University of the West Indies, consultant of the Canadian Training Aid Programme and a man of letters – Francis Woodbine Blackman (1922–2010) – it was his research and published works that enlightened much of this information on Caribbean Methodism.
The adherents of Methodism in Africa are now estimated to number 20 million. The latest figures indicate that the continent's largest groups of Methodists are in Sudan, East Africa, South Africa, Congo-Zaire, Zimbabwe and Liberia.
The Methodist Church Ghana came into existence as a result of the missionary activities of the Wesleyan Methodist Church, inaugurated with the arrival of Joseph Rhodes Dunwell to the Gold Coast (Ghana) in 1835. Like the mother church, the Methodist Church in Ghana was established by people of Protestant background. Roman Catholic and Anglican missionaries came to the Gold Coast from the 15th century. A school was established in Cape Coast by the Anglicans during the time of Philip Quaque, a Ghanaian priest. Those who came out of this school had scriptural knowledge and scriptural materials supplied by the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge. A member a resulting Bible study groups, William De-Graft, requested Bibles through captain Potter of the ship Congo. Not only were Bibles sent, but also a Methodist missionary. In the first eight years of the Church's life, 11 out of 21 missionaries who worked in the Gold Coast died. Thomas Birch Freeman, who arrived at the Gold Coast in 1838 was a pioneer of missionary expansion. Between 1838 and 1857 he carried Methodism from the coastal areas to Kumasi in the Asante hinterland of the Gold Coast. He also established Methodist Societies in Badagry and AbeoKuta in Nigeria with the assistance of William De-Graft.
By 1854, the church was organized into circuits constituting a district with T.B. Freeman as chairman. Freeman was replaced in 1856 by William West. The district was divided and extended to include areas in the then Gold Coast and Nigeria by the synod in 1878, a move confirmed at the British Conference. The district were Gold Coast (Ghana) District, with T.R. Picot as chairman and Yoruba and Popo District, with John Milum as chairman. Methodist evangelization of northern Ghana began in 1910. After a long period of conflict with the colonial government, missionary work was established in 1955. Paul Adu was the first indigenous missionary to northern Ghana.
In July 1961, the Methodist Church in Ghana became autonomous, and was called the Methodist Church Ghana, based on a deed of foundation, part of the church's Constitution and Standing Orders.
The Methodist Church Ghana has a total membership of close to 600,000. The church has 15 dioceses, 3,814 societies, 1,066 pastors, 15,920 local preachers, 24,100 lay leaders, many schools, an orphanage, hospitals and clinics.
Methodism in Southern Africa began as a result of lay Christian work by an Irish soldier of the English Regiment, John Irwin, who was stationed at the Cape and began to hold prayer meetings as early as 1795. The first Methodist lay preacher at the Cape, George Middlemiss, was a soldier of the 72nd regiment of the British Army stationed at the Cape in 1805. This foundation paved the way for missionary work by: Methodist missionary societies from Great Britain, many of whom sent missionaries with the 1820 English settlers to the Western and Eastern Cape. Among the most notable of the early missionaries were Barnabas Shaw and William Shaw. The largest group was the Wesleyan Methodist Church, but there were a number of others that joined together to form the Methodist Church of South Africa, later known as The Methodist Church of Southern Africa.
The Methodist Church of Southern Africa is the largest mainline Christian denomination in South Africa – 7.3% of the South African population recorded their religious affiliation as 'Methodist' in the last national census.
Peter J. Harley, born 24 November 1931 in Acres Goodwood, Cape Town, is the longest serving Local Preacher in the Cape of Good Hope District. Renowned throughout for the futuristic type of youth programs which today is the norm, teaching young people in disadvantaged areas about terms such as organograms, resource, co-ordinator,liaison,scrounger as far back as 1969, way ahead of its time. To quote his original statement in '69 "Our premise was that within every community there are organisations and groupings exercising an influence for good. Organisations like sports clubs, Boy Scouts, Ratepayers Associations etc, etc, including of course the Churches and Mosques as the main sources of good influence. However, through investigation we discovered the these influences for good on a community (including the churches) penetrated the community only up to a point, beyond which the influence of the church were either diminished or not felt at all. Even though it was impossible to mark on a map where the good influences diminished or stopped. It was decided rightly or wrongly to make such a marking. That mark became for us a line, a sort of FRONTIER and it was specifically beyond that frontier where we would concentrate our efforts.From 1969 through 1974 they drew up to 450 of the youth in the area, unfailingly attending its activities week by week. An outspoken and challenging local preacher, the preached word more often than not sending parishioners home with much food for thought as the unadulterated word is preached as a pure Methodist. The originator of many Bible Study groups throughout the Peninsula of which some are still in operation. Many young people originally from that group have advanced to become leaders in various fields with much thanks and gratefulness to the commitment and dedication of Peter Harley for the spreading of the Gospel and above all: teaching others to teach.
The Igreja Metodista Unida is one of the largest Christian denominations of Mozambique.
Methodism was brought to China in the fall of 1847 by the Methodist Episcopal Church. The first missionaries sent out were Judson Dwight Collins and Moses Clark White, who sailed from Boston 15 April 1847, and reached Foochow 6 September. They were followed by Henry Hickok and Robert Samuel Maclay, who arrived 15 April 1848. In 1857 it baptized the first convert in connection with its labors. In August 1856, a brick church, called the " Church of the True God" (真神堂), the first substantial church building erected at Foochow by Protestant Missions, was dedicated to the worship of God. In the winter of the same year another brick church, located on the hill in the suburbs on the south bank of the Min, was finished and dedicated, called the " Church of Heavenly Peace" (天安堂). In 1862, the number of members was 87. The Foochow Conference was organized by Isaac W. Wiley on 6 December 1867, by which time the number of members and probationers had reached 2,011.
Rev. Hok Chau 周學 (also known as Lai-Tong Chau, 周勵堂) was the first Chinese ordained minister of the South China District of the Methodist Church (incumbent 1877–1916). Benjamin Hobson (1816–1873), a medical missionary sent by the London Missionary Society in 1839, set up a highly successful Wai Ai Clinic (惠愛醫館) Liang Fa (Leung Fat in Cantonese, 梁發, 1789-1855, ordained by the London Missionary Society), Hok Chau and others worked there. Rev. Liang (age 63) baptized Chau (quite young) in 1852. The Methodist Church based in England sent missionary George Piercy to China. In 1851, Piercy went to Guangzhou (Canton), where he worked in a trading company. In 1853, he started a church in Guangzhou. In 1877, Chau was ordained by the Methodist Church, where he pastored for 39 years.
In 1867, the mission sent out the first missionaries to Central China, who began work at Kiukiang. In 1869 missionaries were also sent to the capital city Peking, where they laid the foundations of the work of the North China Mission. In November 1880, the West China Mission was established in Sichuan Province. In 1896 the work in the Hinghua prefecture (modern-day Putian) and surrounding regions was also organized as a Mission Conference.
In 1947, the Methodist Church in the Republic of China celebrated its centennial. In 1949, however, the Methodist Church moved to Taiwan with the Kuomintang government. On 21 June 1953, the Taipei Methodist Church was erected, then local churches and chapels with a baptized membership numbering over 2,500. Various types of educational, medical and social services are provided (including Tunghai University). In 1972 the Methodist Church in the Republic of China became autonomous and the first bishop was installed in 1986.
Methodism came to India twice, in 1817 and in 1856, according to P. Dayanandan who has done extensive research on the subject. Dr. Thomas Coke and six other missionaries set sail for India on New Year's Day in 1814. Dr. Coke, then 66, died en route. Rev. James Lynch was the one who finally arrived in Madras (present day Chennai) in 1817 at a place called Black Town (Broadway), later known as George Town. Lynch conducted the first Methodist missionary service on 2 March 1817, in a stable. The first Methodist church was dedicated in 1819 at Royapettah. A chapel at Broadway (Black Town) was later built and dedicated on 25 April 1822. This church was rebuilt in 1844 since the earlier structure was collapsing. At this time there were about 100 Methodist members in all of Madras, and they were either Europeans or Eurasians (European and Indian descent). Among those names associated with the founding period of Methodism in India are Elijah Hoole & Thomas Cryer, who came as missionaries to Madras. In 1857, the Methodist Episcopal Church started its work in India, and with prominent Evangelists like William Taylor the Emmanuel Methodist Church, Vepery, was born in 1874. Famous evangelist Bishop James Mills Thoburn established the Thoburn Memorial Church in calcutta (Kolkata) in 1873 and the famous Calcutta Boys' School in 1877. In 1947 the Wesleyan Methodist Church in India merged with Presbyterians, Anglicans and other Protestant churches to form the Church of South India while the American Methodist Church remained affiliated as the Methodist Church in southern Asia (MCSA) to the mother church in USA- the United Methodist Church till 1981, when by an enabling act the Methodist Church in India (MCI) became an autonomous church in India. Today, the Methodist Church in India is governed by the General Conference of the Methodist Church of India headed by 6 Bishops, with headquarters at Methodist Centre, 21 YMCA Road, Mumbai, India...
Malaysia and Singapore
Missionaries from Britain, North America, and Australia founded Methodist churches in many Commonwealth countries. These are now independent and many of them are stronger than the former "mother" churches. In addition to the churches, these missionaries often also founded schools to serve the local community. A good example of such schools are the Methodist Boys' School in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Anglo-Chinese School, Methodist Girls' School and Fairfield Methodist Schools in Singapore.
The beginnings of Methodism in the Philippines islands grow from the American invasion of the Philippines following the Spanish-American War. On 21 June 1898, the American executives of the Mission Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church expressed their desire to join other Protestant denominations in starting mission work in the islands and to enter into any comity agreement that would facilitate the establishment of such mission. The first Protestant worship service was conducted on 28 August 1898 by an American military chaplain named Rev. George C. Stull. Rev. Stull was an ordained Methodist minister from the Montana Annual Conference of The Methodist Episcopal Church (Later became The United Methodist Church in 1968).
Methodist and Wesleyan traditions in the Philippines are shared by three of the largest mainline Protestant churches in the country – The United Methodist Church, Iglesia Evangelica Metodista En Las Islas Filipinas (IEMELIF) (Evangelical Methodist Church in the Philippine Islands), and The United Church of Christ in the Philippines. There are also evangelical Protestant churches in the country with Methodist and Wesleyan tradition like The Wesleyan Church of the Philippines, Inc. Free Methodist Church of the Philippines, and the Church of the Nazarene in the Philippines. There are also the IEMELIF Reform Movement (IRM), The Wesleyan (Pilgrim Holiness) Church of the Philippines, the Philippine Bible Methodist Church, Inc., the Pentecostal Free Methodist Church, Inc., the Fundamental Christian Methodist Church, The Reformed Methodist Church, Inc., The Methodist Church of the Living Bread, Inc., and the Wesley Evangelical Methodist Church & Mission, Inc.
There are three Episcopal Areas of the United Methodist Church in the Philippines namely: Baguio Episcopal Area, Davao Episcopal Area and Manila Episcopal Area.
A call for autonomy within groups in The United Methodist Church was discussed at many conferences led mostly by bishop candidates. Only in 2010 did decisive action led to the establishment of the Ang Iglesia Metodista sa Pilipinas, with groups in Palawan, Bataan, Zambales, Pangasinan, Bulacan,. Aurora, Nueva Ecija, Metro Manila Area, some part of Pampanga, and Cavite. It was led by Bishop Lito C. Tangonan, Rev. George Buenaventura, Chita Milan and Atty. Joe Frank E. Zuñiga. The group finally declared its full autonomy and incorporated legally with Securities and Exchange Commission of the Philippines and was approved on 7 December 2011 with papers held for by present procurators. It now has 126 local churches all over the Philippines. Rev. Lito Tangonan becomes the first bishop of the autonomous church and was consecrated 17 March 2012.
One of the strongest current Methodist churches in the world is that of South Korea. There are many Korean-language Methodist churches in North America catering to Korean-speaking immigrants, not all of which are named as Methodist. There are several denominations that are of Wesleyan and Methodist heritage, but are not explicitly Methodist.
The first missionary sent out was R. S. Mclay, who sailed from Japan 1884, and was given the authority of medical and schooling permission from Gojong, Korean Emperor. Next year, H. G. Apenzeller from North Methodist church, who arrived 5 April 1885, started to evangelize with Dr. Scranton and his mother. They established "Jeongdon Metheodist Church"(정동감리교회), "Sangdong Pharmacy Store"(상동약국) becoming "Sangdong Methodist Church"(상동감리교회) and "Baejae School"(배재학당). In 1895, there were Bishop E. R. Hendrix and Dr. C. F. Reid from South Methodist Church, who established "Jonggyo Methodist Church"(종교감리교회) and "Baewha School"(배화학당). In 1930, the Korean Methodist Church was reunited as "Joseon Methodist Church"(기독교조선감리회) before United Methodist Church in U.S.
The Korean Methodist Church has 11 bishops and 12 Annual Conferences in the Republic of Korea. The Korean Methodist Church is also a strong Methodist Church for international mission, sending missionaries to 76 countries in the world.
There are small Methodist Churches in most European countries, the strongest outside the British Isles being in Germany. A few of these derive from links with the American rather than the British church. There is a degree of co-operation between the individual Methodist churches in Europe, including European Methodist Council, and European Methodist Youth & Children
The Methodist Church in Ireland covers the entire island of Ireland; including Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Eric Gallagher was the head of the Church in the 1970s. He was one of the group of Protestant churchmen who met with Provisional IRA officers in Feakle, County Clare to try to broker peace. The meeting was unsuccessful due to a Garda raid on the hotel. The church suffered a split in Ireland in 1973 when a group of churches formed the Fellowship of Independent Methodist Churches. Another strong Methodist movement in Ireland is the Church of the Nazarene which takes its roots from American Methodism as opposed to British whilst still rejecting episcopal polity.
In France, the Methodist movement was founded in the 1820s by Charles Cook near Nîmes and Montpellier, for example in the village of Congénies in Languedoc, where there had been a Quaker community since the 18th century. Several sections of the Methodist Church joined the Reformed Church of France in 1938. The Methodist Church exists today in France under various names. The best-known is the "UEEM" (l'Union de l'Eglise Evangélique Méthodiste de France), the Union of Evangelical Methodist Churches of France. It is the fruit of a fusion in 2005 between the Methodist Church of France and the Union of Methodist Churches (in France). The UEEM is a part of the world organization, the United Methodist Church. The Reverend Emmanuel Briglia. founded in 1998 an independent conservative, high-church Anglican/Methodist mission in South-East France named the Mission Méthodiste Episcopale du Var. and commonly named "Mission anglicane méthodiste du Christ-Roi" (Anglican Methodist mission of Christ the King). This small community has sought to retain the original link between Methodism and Anglicanism. It has acted since September 2011 as an Anglo-Catholic chaplaincy.
The first Methodist missions in Hungary were established in 1898 in the German-speaking Bácska region (since 1918 part of the Serbian province of Vojvodina) and in 1905 in Budapest. The church in Hungary split in 1974-5 over the question of interference by the communist state.
Today, the Hungarian Methodist Church has 40 congregations in 11 districts. The seceding Hungarian Evangelical Fellowship also considers itself a Methodist church. It has 8 full congregations and several mission groups, and runs a range of charitable organizations: hostels and soup kitchens for the homeless, a non-denominational theological college, a dozen schools of various kinds, and four old people's homes. The Fellowship was granted official church status by the state in 1981. Both Methodist churches lost official church status under discriminatory legislation passed in 2011, limiting the number of recognized churches to 14. However, the list of recognized churches was lengthened to 32 at the end of February 2012. This gave recognition to the Hungarian Methodist Church and to two other Methodist-derived denominations – the Salvation Army, which was banned in Hungary in 1949 but returned in 1990, and currently has four congregations, and the Church of the Nazarene, which entered Hungary in 1996 – but not to the Hungarian Evangelical Fellowship. The legislation has been strongly criticized by the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe as discriminatory.
The Hungarian Methodist Church, the Salvation Army, and the Church of the Nazarene have formed an association mainly for publishing purposes. The Hungarian Evangelical Fellowship also has a publishing arm.
The Italian Methodist Church ("OPCEMI – Opera per le Chiese Evangeliche Metodiste in Italia) is small, with c.5,000 members. Since 1975 it is in a formal covenant of partnership with the Waldensian Church. The Italian Methodist Church was previously an overseas district of the British Methodist Church.
Bertrand Tipple, pastor of the American Methodist Church in Rome, founded a college there.
The Methodist Church established several strongholds in Russia – Saint Petersburg in the west and the Vladivostok region in the east, with big Methodist centers right in the middle, in Moscow and Ekaterinburg (former Sverdlovsk). Methodists began their work in the west amongst Swedish immigrants in 1881 and started their work in the east in 1910. On 26 June 2009, Methodists celebrated the 120th year since Methodism arrived in Czarist Russia by erecting a new Methodist centre in Saint Petersburg. A Methodist presence was continued in Russia for 14 years after the Russian Revolution of 1917 through the efforts of Deaconess Anna Eklund. In 1939, political antagonism stymied the work of the Church and Deaconess Anna Eklund was coerced to return to her native Finland. After 1989, the collapse of the Soviet Union gave way to the surge of religious freedoms and people's hunger for spiritual and hopeful message. During the 1990s, Methodism experienced a powerful wave of revival in the nation. Three sites in particular carried the torch - Samara, Moscow and Ekaterinburg. Today, The United Methodist Church in Eurasia has 116 congregations, each with a native pastor. There are currently 48 students enrolled in residential and extension degree programs at the United Methodist Seminary in Moscow.
Bermuda's Methodist Synod, is a separate presbytery of the United Church of Canada's Maritime Conference.
The father of Methodism in Canada was William Black who began preaching in settlements along the Petitcodiac River of New Brunswick in 1781. A few years afterwards, Methodist Episcopal circuit riders from New York State began to arrive in Canada West at Niagara, and the north shore of Lake Erie in 1786, and at the Kingston region on the northeast shore of Lake Ontario in the early 1790s. At the time the region was part of British North America and became part of Upper Canada after the Constitutional Act of 1791. Upper and Lower Canada were both part of the New York Episcopal Methodist Conference until 1810 when they were transferred to the newly formed Genesee Conference. Reverend Major George Neal began to preach in Niagara in October 1786, and was ordained in 1810 by Bishop Philip Asbury, at the Lyons, New York Methodist Conference. He was Canada's first saddlebag preacher, and travelled from Lake Ontario to Detroit for 50 years preaching the gospel. The spread of Methodism in the Canadas was seriously disrupted by the War of 1812 but quickly gained lost ground after the Treaty of Ghent was signed in 1815. In 1817 the British Wesleyans arrived in the Canadas from the Maritimes but by 1820 had agreed, with the Episcopal Methodists, to confine their work to Lower Canada (present-day Quebec) while the later would confine themselves to Upper Canada (present-day Ontario). In 1828 Upper Canadian Methodists were permitted by the General Conference in the United States to form an independent Canadian Conference and, in 1833, the Canadian Conference merged with the British Wesleyans to form the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Canada. The Methodist Church of Canada was an 1884 union of pioneering groups.
In 1925, they merged with the Presbyterians, then by far the largest Protestant communion in Canada, most Congregationalists, Union Churches in Western Canada, and the American Presbyterian Church in Montreal, to form the United Church of Canada. In 1968, the Evangelical United Brethren Church's Canadian congregations joined after their American counterparts joined the United Methodist Church.
The Methodist Church arrived to Mexico in 1872, with the arrival of two Methodist commissioners from the United States to observe the possibilities of evangelism works in México. In December 1872, Bishop Gilbert Haven arrived to Mexico City, and he was ordered by M.D William Butler to go to México. Bishop John C. Keener arrived from the Methodist Episcopal Church, South came the in January 1873.
On 9 February 1874, MD. William Butler established the first Protestant Methodist school of México, in Puebla. The school was founded under the name "Instituto Metodista Mexicano." Today the school is called "Instituto Mexicano Madero." It's still a Methodist school, and it is one of the most elitist, selective, expensive and prestigious private schools in the country, with two campuses in Puebla State, and one in Oaxaca. A few years later the principal of the school created a Methodist university, the first and only Protestant university in Mexico.
On 18 January 1885, the first Annual Conference of The United Episcopal Church of México was established.
Various branches of Methodism in Australia merged in the 20 years from 1881, with a union of all groups except the Lay Methodists forming the Methodist Church of Australasia in 1902.
In 1945 the Rev. Dr. Kingsley Ridgway offered himself as a Melbourne based "field representative" for a possible Australian branch of the Wesleyan Methodist Church of America, after meeting an American serviceman who was a member of that denomination. The Wesleyan Methodist Church of Australia was founded on his work.
The Methodist Church of Australasia merged with the majority of the Presbyterian Church of Australia and the Congregational Union of Australia in 1977, becoming the Uniting Church.Wesley Mission in Pitt Street Sydney is not only the largest parish in the Uniting Church but also strongly in the Wesleyan tradition. The Wesleyan Methodist Church of Australia continues to operate independently. There are also other independent Methodist congregations, some of which were established by, or have been impacted by, Tongan immigrants.
As a result of the early efforts of missionaries, most of the natives of the Fiji Islands were converted to Methodism in the 1840s and 1850s. Most ethnic Fijians are Methodists today (the others are largely Roman Catholic), and the Methodist Church of Fiji and Rotuma is in important social force.
The Methodist Church of New Zealand was the fourth most frequent religious affiliation chosen by those who declared one in the 2006 national census.
In 1868, Piula Theological College was established in Lufilufi on the north coast of Upolu island in Samoa and serves as the main headquarters of the Methodist church in the country. The college includes the historic Piula Monastery as well as Piula Cave Pool, a natural spring situated beneath the church by the sea. The Methodist Church is the third largest denomination throughout the Samoan Islands, in both Samoa and American Samoa.
Methodism had a particular resonance with the inhabitants of Tonga. As of 2006 somewhat more than a third of Tongans adhered to the Methodist tradition. Methodism is represented on the island by a number of churches including the Free Church of Tonga and the Free Wesleyan Church, which the largest church in Tonga. The royal family of the country are prominent members, and the late king was a lay preacher.
- The Archive of the Methodist Missionary Society is held at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. http://www.soas.ac.uk/library/archives/