METHODISM, a term' denoting the religious organizations which trace their origin to the evangelistic teaching of John Wesley. The name "Methodist" was given in derision to those Oxford students who in company with the Wesleys used to meet together for spiritual fellowship; and later on when John Wesley had organized his followers into "societies" the name was applied to them in the same spirit. It was however accepted by him, and in official documents he usually styles them "the people called Methodists." The fact that standards of Methodist doctrine are laid down as consisting of "Mr Wesley's Notes on the New Testament and the 1st Series of his Sermons" (fiftythree in number), might seem to indicate a departure from existing systems, but it was not so. He fully accepted the recognized teaching of the Church of England, and publicly appealed to the Prayer Book and the Thirty-nine Articles in justification of the doctrines he preached. Methodism began in a revival of personal religion, and it professed to have but one aim, viz. "to spread Scriptural holiness over the land." Its doctrines were in no sense new. It was the zeal with which they were taught, the clear distinction which they drew between the profession of godliness and the enjoyment of its power - added to the emphasis they laid upon the immediate influence of the Holy Spirit on the consciousness 1 "Methodism" is derived from "method" (Gr. µiOobos), a rule. A "methodist" is one who follows a "method," the term being applied not only to the Wesleyan body, but earlier to the Amyraldists, and in the 17th century to certain Roman Catholic apologists.
of the Christian - which attracted attention, gave them distinction, and even aroused ridicule and opposition. Wesley and his helpers, finding the Anglican churches closed against them, took to preaching in the open air; and this method is still followed, more or less, in the aggressive evangelistic work of all the Methodist Churches. As followers rapidly increased they were compelled to hold their own Sunday services, and this naturally led them to appoint as preachers godly laymen possessing the gift of exhortation. These followed their ordinary avocations on week-days, but on Sundays preached to congregations in their own immediate neighbourhood, and hence were called local preachers as distinguished from travelling preachers. The extent to which the employment of the local preacher is characteristic of Methodism may be seen from the fact that in the United Kingdom while there are only about 5000 Methodist ministers, there are more than 18,000 congregations; some 13,000 congregations, chiefly in the villages, are dependent on local preachers.
In the organization adopted to foster spiritual life the very characteristic "Class-meetings for Christian fellowship" take a prominent place. Membership in the church depends solely upon being enrolled as a member of one of these meetings for Christian fellowship, and thus placing oneself under pastoral oversight.
The Wesleyan Methodists now represent the original body as founded by John Wesley in Great Britain and Ireland; but in America those who looked upon him as their founder adopted the episcopal mode of Church government after the War of Independence, and have since that time been known as Episcopal Methodists (see below). It should be noted that the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists are only slightly connected with the original body. They were indirectly the outcome of the evangelistic efforts of Howell Harris and Rowlands. Their work received the sympathy of Wesley and liberal financial help from the Countess of Huntingdon (see Calvinistic Methodists). For a time Whitefield was leader, and we find a reference to the "Whitefieldian and Wesleyan Methodists" in the Supplement to the Gentleman's Magazine for 1747, p. 619. The theological views of these teachers proved quite incompatible with the Arminianism of Wesley, and a definite breach between them and him took place in 1770. The Welsh Calvinistic Methodists are now a branch of the Presbyterian Church. Other divisions have been formed at various times by secessions from the Wesleyan Methodists (see separate articles). They are: Methodist New Connexion (founded 1797-1798); Bible Christians (1815); United Methodist Free Churches 2 (about 1836); Primitive Methodists (founded 1807-1810); Independent Methodist Churches (about 1 806); Wesleyan Reform Union (1850, reorganized 1859). These bodies have separated solely on matters of Church government and not on points of doctrine. The Primitive Methodists in Ireland were a small body who in 1817 seceded because they wished to maintain that close connexion with the Church of England which existed at the time of Wesley's death, but in 1878 they rejoined the parent body. Methodism has always been aggressive, and her children on emigrating have taken with them their evangelistic methods. (For the American branches see below.) The statistics given in the following table (not including Junior Society Classes) are from the Minutes of the Confierence of the Wesleyan Methodist Church for 1909. At the death of Wesley the figures were: 313 preachers, 119 circuits and mission stations, and members. In the United States: 97 circuits, 198 preachers and 43,265 members.
In 1837 the membership in Great Britain and Ireland was 318,716; in foreign mission stations, 66,007; in Upper Canada, 14,000; while the American Conferences had charge of 650,678 members. Total for the world: 1,049,401, with 4478 ministers.
Three Oecumenical Conferences have been held - two at City Road, London, in and 1901, and one at Washington in 1891. The statistics presented at the last showed that the Church during the preceding decade had gained about a million members and three million adherents. At the same time there has been a steadily These first three were joined in 1907 under the name of the United Methodist Church.
growing feeling in favour of union. Canada and Australasia led the way, for in these countries the Methodist Church was undivided, and the sentiment was greatly strengthened by the formation in the United Kingdom of the United Methodist Church in 1907.
Ireland. .. .. .. .
Foreign Missions. ... .
French Conference. .. .
South African Conference
Primitive Methodists.. .
United Methodist Church. .
Wesleyan Reform Union. .
Independent Methodist Churches .
Australasian Methodist Church. .
Methodist Episcopal 4. .
Union American Methodist Episcopal
African Methodist Episcopal .
African Union Methodist Protestant
African Methodist Episcopal Zion.
Wesleyan Methodist.. .
Methodist Episcopal (South). .
Congregational Methodist. .
Congregational Methodist (coloured)
New Congregational Methodist .
Zion Union Apostolic. .
Coloured Methodist Episcopal
Primitive Methodist.. .
Independent Methodist. .
Evangelistic Missionary. .
Canadian Methodist Church.
Japan Methodist Church'.. .
See A New History of Methodism, ed. W. J. Townsend, H. B. Workman, George Eayrs (2 vols., London, 1909). (J. A. V.) local and travelling preachers, and the organization of local societies with class leaders, stewards and trustees. The intention was to make American Methodism a facsimile of that in England, subject to Wesley and the British Conference-a society and not a Church. Pilmoor and others objected to Asbury's strict
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