founded by John Wesley, originating within the Church of England;
Wesley's hymns brought the Methodist movement into the wider church
The term "Methodism"
may refer either to specific organizations such as the United Methodist
Church, or to broad currents that flow across denominational lines. Methodist
theology begins with human sin and the need for salvation; salvation is
available to all through Christ the Savior; the Spirit works in believers,
congregations, and society, to make them holy. John
Wesley laid great stress on the sacraments;
Methodist piety is also expressed in the great hymns of Charles Wesley,
such as "O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing." Methodism began as a movement
to renew the Church of England. However, the goals and strategies of Methodism
diverged to the point of separation from the Church of England in 1795,
four years after Wesley's death. English Methodism was closely related
to continental Pietism. Both movements pursued
missions and evangelism. Both employed similar strategies of personal
discipline, small group fellowship, and social compassion or activism.
For example, Wesley and other early Methodists condemned the slave trade.
Methodist organization was a key to its rapid growth: small groups were
linked into larger "connections" served by traveling preachers called
"circuit riders." On the American frontier Bishop Francis Asbury (1745-1816)
relied on unlettered preachers who were willing to suffer hardships to
spread the Gospel. Nineteenth-century evangelicalism,
the Salvation Army, Pentecostalism,
and African-American churches are among
the many movements with Methodist roots. Before being overtaken by the
Baptists, Methodists were the largest Protestant
movement in the United States.