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The Methodist movement is a group of historically-related denominations of Protestant Christianity which derive their inspiration from the life and teachings of John Wesley. George Whitefield and John's brother Charles Wesley were also significant leaders in the movement. It originated as a revival within the 18th-century Church of England and became a separate Church following Wesley's death. Because of vigorous missionary activity, the movement spread throughout the British Empire, the United States, and beyond, today claiming approximately 80 million adherents worldwide.
Methodism is characterized by its emphasis on helping the poor and the average person, its very systematic approach to building the person, and the "church" and its missionary spirit. These ideals are put into practice by the establishment of hospitals, universities, orphanages, soup kitchens, and schools to follow Jesus's command to spread the Good News and serve all people. The Methodist movement is also known for its rich musical tradition. Charles Wesley was instrumental in writing much of the hymnody of the Methodist Church, and many other eminent hymn writers come from the Methodist tradition.
Methodists are convinced that building loving relationships with others through social service is a means of working towards the inclusiveness of God's love. Most Methodists teach that Christ died for all of humanity, not just for a limited group, and thus everyone is entitled to God's grace. Theologically, this view is known as Arminianism, which denies that God has pre-ordained an elect number of people to eternal bliss while others perished eternally. However, Whitefield and several others were considered Calvinistic Methodists. The Methodist movement has a wide variety of forms of worship, ranging from high church to low church in liturgical usage.
Early Methodists were drawn from all levels of society, including the aristocracy,[a] but the Methodist preachers took the message to labourers and criminals who tended to be left outside organized religion at that time. In Britain, the Methodist Church had a major impact in the early decades of the making of the working class (1760–1820). In the United States it became the religion of many slaves who later formed "black churches" in the Methodist tradition.
The Methodist revival originated in Epworth, Lincolnshire, England. It began with a group of men, including John Wesley (1703–1791) and his younger brother Charles (1707–1788), as a movement within the Church of England in the 18th century. The Wesley brothers 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 accustomed to receiving communion every week, fasting regularly, abstaining from most forms of amusement and luxury and frequently visited the sick and the poor, as well as prisoners. The fellowship were branded as "Methodist" by their fellow students because of the way they used "rule" and "method" to go about their religious affairs. Wesley took the attempted mockery and turned it into a title of honour.
Initially the Methodists 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 affiliated with the movement in the mid-18th century. The early movement 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. Three teachings they saw as the foundation of Christian faith were:
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 Methodist movement thrived among the working class despite the attacks—mostly verbal, but sometimes violent—against it.
John Wesley came under the influence of the Moravian Church and of the Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius (1560–1609). Arminius (the Latinized form of the name Jakob Harmaens) denied that God had pre-ordained an elect number of people to eternal bliss while others perished eternally.[b] Conversely, George Whitefield, Howell Harris, and Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon were notable for being Calvinistic Methodists. Whitefield, who had been one of the Wesley brothers' fellow students at Oxford, became well known for his unorthodox ministry of itinerant open-air preaching and inspired Wesley to likewise preach to those excluded from the Anglican Church. Differences in theology put 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.
As his societies multiplied, and elements of an ecclesiastical system were, one after another, adopted, the breach between Wesley and the Church of England gradually widened. In 1784, Wesley responded to the shortage of priests in the American colonies due to the American Revolutionary War by ordaining preachers for America with power to administer the sacraments. This was a major reason for Methodism's final split from the Church of England after Wesley's death. This split created a separate, eventually worldwide, series of church denominations. 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.
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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. 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. Without defining the mode or method (i.e. the "how"), Methodists believe that they receive "the body and blood of Christ, that we may be for the world the body of Christ, redeemed by his blood" in 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.
In America, United Methodism has a wide variety of forms of worship, ranging from high church to low church in liturgical usage. When the Methodists in America were separated from the Church of England because of the American Revolution, John Wesley himself provided a revised version of the Book of Common Prayer called the Sunday Service of the Methodists in North America (1784). Today, the primary liturgical books of the United Methodist Church are The United Methodist Hymnal and The United Methodist Book of Worship. Congregations employ the liturgy and rituals therein as optional resources, but their use is not mandatory. These books contain the liturgies of the church that are generally derived from Wesley's Sunday Service and from the 20th Century liturgical renewal movement.
The British Methodist Church tend to be less liturgical in worship, but makes use of the Methodist Worship Book (similar to the Church of England's Common Worship), containing worship services (or liturgies) and rubrics for the celebration of other rites, such as marriage. The Worship Book is also ultimately derived from Wesley's Sunday Service.
A unique feature of American Methodism is the observance of the season of Kingdomtide, which encompasses the last 13 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.
A second 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 common, at least in British 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. It is a striking and sobering piece of liturgical writing, as the following excerpts illustrate:
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.—Covenant Prayer
Although Methodism is declining in Great Britain and North America, it is growing in other places; at a rapid pace in, for example, South Korea. In these new places, it often takes shapes that diverge from its roots. For example, the Arminian heritage is ignored or simply unknown, and an exclusive, neo-Calvinist emphasis is played up. Many such denominations highlight Methodism's traditional emphasis upon holiness.
As of 2005[update], an estimated 75 million people worldwide belong to the Methodist community, however the number has gone into steady decline in the West, especially in North America, where an increasing number of people are leaving the mainline churches to join theologically conservative denominations.
I look on all the world as my parish; thus far I mean, that, in whatever part of it I am, I judge it meet, right, and my bounden duty, to declare unto all that are willing to hear, the glad tidings of salvation.—John Wesley, Journal (11 June 1739)
The original body founded as a result of Wesley's work was later known as the Wesleyan Methodist Church. Schisms within the original 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.
British Methodists, in particular the Primitive Methodists, took a leading role in the temperance movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Methodists saw alcoholic beverages, and alcoholism, as the root of many social ills and tried to persuade people to abstain from these. Temperance appealed strongly to the Methodist doctrines of sanctification and perfection. To this day, alcohol remains banned in Methodist premises, however, the choice to consume alcohol is now a personal decision for any member.
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, 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.
Other Methodist denominations in Britain include: The Salvation Army, founded by Methodist minister William Booth in 1865; the Free Methodist Church, a holiness church; and the Church of the Nazarene.
The Irish Methodist Church operates across both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland on an all-Ireland basis. As of 2011[update] it is the fourth largest denomination in Northern Ireland, with Methodists accounting for 3% of the population.
Eric Gallagher was the President of the Church in the 1970s, becoming a well-known figure in Irish politics. 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.
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 with the most important chapel of department built in 1869, 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 seeks to retain the original link between Methodism and Anglicanism in a perspective of reconciliation between those branches of the Church.
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 (Italian: Opera per le Chiese Metodiste in Italia; Entity for Methodist Churches in Italy) is a small Protestant community in Italy, with around 7,000 members. Since 1975 it is in a formal covenant of partnership with the Waldensian Church, with a total of 45,000 members. Waldensians are a Protestant movement which started in Lyon, France, in the late 1170s.
Italian Methodism has its origins in the Italian Free Church, British Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society, and the American Methodist Episcopal Mission. These movements flowered in the second half of the nineteenth century in the new climate of political and religious freedom that was established, with the end of the Papal States and unification of Italy in 1870.
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 Soviet Union allowed greatly increased religious freedoms and this continued after the USSR's collapse in 1991. 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.
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.
In 1818 Edward Fraser (1798-Aft.1850), a privileged Barbadian slave, 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. He was later freed and admitted to the Methodist Ministry to serve in Antigua and Jamaica.
Following Rev. William J. Shrewsbury's 1820s preaching, Ann Gill (1779–1866), a free-born coloured woman of reasonable comfort, used Civil Disobedience in an attempt to thwart magistrate rulings that prevented parishioners holding prayer meetings. In hopes of building a new chapel, she paid an extraordinary £1700.00 and ended up 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.
Methodist denominations in Africa follow the British Methodist tradition and see the Methodist Church of Great Britain as their mother church. Originally modelled on the British structure, sine independence most of these churches have adopted an episcopal model.
The church was founded in 1842 by British Wesleyan Methodist missionaries. From the mission stations established in Badagry and Abeokuta, the Methodist church spread to various parts of the country west of the River Niger and part of the north. In 1893 missionaries of the Primitive Methodist Church arrived from Fernando Po, an island off the southern coast of Nigeria. From there the Methodist Church spread to other parts of the country, east of the River Niger and also to parts of the north. The church west of the River Niger and part of the north was known as the Western Nigeria District and east of the Niger and another part of the north as the Eastern Nigeria District. Both existed independently of each other until 1962 when they constituted the Conference of Methodist Church Nigeria. The conference is composed of seven districts. The church has continued to spread into new areas and has established a department for outreach/evan-gelism and appointed a director of evangelism.
An episcopal system adopted in 1976 was not fully accepted by all sections of the church until the two sides came together and resolved to end the disagreement. A new constitution was ratified in 1990. The system is still episcopal but the points which caused discontent were amended to be acceptable to both sides. Today, the church has a prelate, eight archbishops and 44 bishops.
Methodism in 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 of the 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.
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 Protestant denomination in South Africa – 7.3% of the South African population recorded their religious affiliation as 'Methodist' in the last national census.
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 centenary. 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. Thomas Coke and six other missionaries set sail for India on New Year's Day in 1814. 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 names associated with the founding period of Methodism in India are Elijah Hoole and 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. The evangelist James Mills Thoburn established the Thoburn Memorial Church in Calcutta (Kolkata) in 1873 and the 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 until 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...
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, Paya Lebar Methodist Girls School and Fairfield Methodist Schools in Singapore.
Methodism in the Philippines began shortly after the United States acquired the Philippines in 1898 as a result the Spanish-American War. On 21 June 1898, after the Battle of Manila Bay but before the Treaty of Paris, executives of the American 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 a Comity Agreement that would facilitate the establishment of such missions. 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 part of the United Methodist Church after 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 ("Evangelical Methodist Church in the Philippine Islands", abbreviated IEMELIF), and The United Church of Christ in the Philippines. There are also evangelical Protestant churches in the country of the Methodist tradition like the Wesleyan Church of the Philippines, Inc. the Free Methodist Church of the Philippines, and the Church of the Nazarene. 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.
A call for autonomy from groups within the United Methodist Church in the Philippines was discussed at several conferences led mostly by episcopal candidates. This led to the establishment of the Ang Iglesia Metodista sa Pilipinas ("The Methodist Church in the Philippines") in 2010, led by Bishop Lito C. Tangonan, Rev. George Buenaventura, Chita Milan and Atty. Joe Frank E. Zuñiga. The group finally declared full autonomy and legal incorporation with the Securities and Exchange Commission was approved on 7 December 2011 with papers held by present procurators. It now has 126 local churches in Metro Manila, Palawan, Bataan, Zambales, Pangasinan, Bulacan, Aurora, Nueva Ecija, as well as parts of Pampanga and Cavite. Tangonan was consecrated as the denomination's first Presiding Bishop on 17 March 2012.
One of the strongest current Methodist churches in the world is that of South Korea; the "Joseon Methodist Church" (기독교조선감리회). 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 "Jeongdong Metheodist Church"(정동감리교회), "Sangdong Pharmacy Store"(상동약국) becoming "Sangdong Methodist Church"(상동감리교회) and "Paichai Hakdang"(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).
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 latter 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.
During the nineteenth century Methodism played a large role in the culture and political affairs of Toronto. The city became known for being very puritanical with strict limits on the sale of alcohol and a rigorous enforcement of the Lord's Day Act. It was occasionally nicknamed the "Methodist Rome", the implication being that Toronto was as central to Canadian Methodism as Rome is to Catholicism.
In 1925, Methodists and most Presbyterian congregations, then by far the largest Protestant communion in Canada, most Congregational Union of Ontario and Quebec congregations, Union Churches in Western Canada, and the American Presbyterian Church in Montreal merged 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 came to Mexico in 1872, with the arrival of two Methodist commissioners from the United States to observe the possibilities of evangelistic work 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 in January 1873.
On 9 February 1874, M.D. 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 is still a Methodist school, and it is one of the most elite, 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.
Wesley came to believe that the New Testament evidence did not leave the power of ordination to the priesthood in the hands of bishops but that other priests could ordain. In 1784, he ordained preachers for Scotland and England and America, with power to administer the sacraments (this was a major reason for Methodism's final split from the Church of England after Wesley's death). At that time, Wesley sent Thomas Coke to America. Francis Asbury founded the Methodist Episcopal Church at the Baltimore Christmas Conference in 1784, Coke (already ordained in the Church of England) ordained Asbury deacon, elder, and bishop each on three successive days. Circuit riders, many of whom were laymen, travelled by horseback to preach the gospel and establish churches in many places. 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 First Great Awakening was a religious movement in the 1730s and 1740s, beginning in New Jersey, then spreading to New England, and eventually south into Virginia and North Carolina. The English 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. The effect was akin to the individualistic trends present in Europe during the Protestant Reformation.
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 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. Methodism grew rapidly in the Second Great Awakening, becoming the nation's largest denomination by 1820. From 58,000 members in 1790, it reached 258,000 in 1820 and 1,661,000 in 1860, growing by a factor of 28.6 in 70 years, while the total American population grew by a factor of 8. Other denominations also used revivals, but the Methodists grew fastest of all because "they combined popular appeal with efficient organization under the command of missionary bishops."
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. President Woodrow Wilson (a Presbyterian), promised "a war to end all wars," using language of a future peace that had been a watchword for the postmillennial movement. 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 (UMC) was formed in 1968 as a result of a merger between the Evangelical United Brethren Church (EUB) and The Methodist Church. The former church had resulted from mergers of several groups of German Methodist heritage, however there was no longer any need or desire to worship in the German language. The latter church was a result of union between the Methodist Protestant Church and the northern and southern factions of the Methodist Episcopal Church. 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 Conferences at which the business of the church is conducted, making it different from most episcopal government. 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 Free Methodists and the Wesleyan Church (formerly Wesleyan Methodist), are explicitly Methodist. Others do not call themselves Methodist, but grew out of the Methodist movement: for example, The Salvation Army and the Church of the Nazarene. Some of the charismatic or Pentecostal churches such as the Pentecostal Holiness Church and the Assemblies of God also have roots in or draw from Wesleyan thought.
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-1800s, 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 U.S. around the turn of the twentieth century.
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.
A new and going Methodist denomination in Australia is the Chinese Methodist Church in Australia. This denomination is unique as it was started by members from the Methodist Churches of Malaysia and Singapore who were either sent to Australia or emigrated there. It is found in all the major cities of Australia and is showing growth. It was originally known as the Methodist Church in Australia but disagreement rose over its name with the Uniting Church in Australia, with the latter refusing to allow its entry into the World Methodist Council. To solve this disagreement, the name was changed to the Chinese Methodist Church in Australia and after the Uniting Church in Australia dropped its veto, it was subsequently welcomed into the World Methodist Council.
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 an important social force.
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[update] 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.
Many Methodists have been involved in the ecumenical movement, which has sought to unite the fractured denominations of Christianity. Because Methodism grew out of the Church of England, a denomination from which neither of the Wesley brothers seceded, some Methodist scholars and historians, such as Rupert E. Davies have regarded their 'movement' more as a preaching order within wider Christian life than as a church, comparing themselves with, say, the Franciscans, who formed a religious order within the medieval European church and not a separate denomination. Certainly, Methodists have been deeply involved in early examples of church union, especially the United Church of Canada and the Church of South India.
Also, a disproportionate number of Methodists take part in inter-faith dialogue. For example, Wesley Ariarajah, a long-serving director of the World Council of Churches' sub-unit on "Dialogue with People of Living Faiths and Ideologies" is a Methodist.
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.
The Methodist Church in Great Britain is a member of several ecumenical organisations, including the World Council of Churches, the Conference of European Churches, the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, Churches Together in England, Action of Churches Together in Scotland and Cytûn (Wales).
There are seven World Methodist Council denominations in the United States: the African Methodist Episcopal Church; the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Zion; the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, the Church of the Nazarene; the Free Methodist Church; The Wesleyan Church; and the United Methodist Church. The AME, AMEZ and CME are historically African-American Methodists. The Church of the Nazarene, Free Methodists and Wesleyans are Wesleyan-Holiness churches. Methodist churches in the United States have also strengthened ties with other Christian traditions. 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."
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