The History of the Methodist Church
The roots of Methodism trace back to the lives and ministries of John Wesley
(1703-1791) and his brother, Charles (1707-1788). These two young men
received the best education available in England during their youth, with John
attending Charterhouse, Charles attending Westminster, and both to Christ
During his time at Oxford, Charles founded the “Holy Club” which was a
group of young men who were strict and methodical in their regular
devotional reading, their pattern of prayer and self-examination, their constant
devotion to the Eucharist, and their careful attention to charitable giving.
John and Charles left Oxford and traveled to the infant colony of Georgia
as Church of England missionaries arriving there in March 1736. It was the
only occasion the young men would visit America.
Their mission to America was far from an unqualified success, and both eventually returned to England disillusioned and discouraged, Charles in December 1736, John in February 1738.
Each of the Wesley brothers had transforming religious experiences in May 1738, and in the years following, they succeeded in leading a lively renewal movement in the Church of England. Eventually, the renewal movement grew and began to spread to the American colonies as some “Methodists” made the exhausting and hazardous Atlantic voyage to the New World.
Organized Methodism in America began as a lay movement, assisted by Richard Boardman and Joseph Pilmore, sent to America by John Wesley in 1769. Two years later, Richard Wright and Francis Asbury were also dispatched to undergird the burgeoning American Methodist societies. Francis Asbury became the most important figure in early American Methodism, as his energetic devotion to the principles of Wesleyan theology, ministry, and organization shaped Methodism in America in a way unmatched by any other individual.
For more information about the development of the Methodist Movement in America visit www.umc.org and go to “Our Church: History”.