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The Methodist Portal

Methodism is an evangelical movement within Protestant Christianity, encompassing various denominations. The Methodist movement traces its origin to the evangelistic teachings of John Wesley, who was an Anglican priest. It originated in 18th century Great Britain, and through vigorous missionary activity, spread throughout the British Empire, the United States, and beyond. Originally it appealed especially to workers, agricultural workers, and slaves. Soteriologically, most Methodists are Arminian or on rare occasions moderately Calvinist, emphasizing that Christ accomplished salvation for every human being, and that humans must exercise an act of the will to receive it (as opposed to the traditional Calvinist doctrine of monergism). Methodism is traditionally low church in liturgy, although this varies greatly between individual congregations; the Wesleys themselves greatly valued the Anglican liturgy and tradition. There are also a number of Calvinistic Methodists in Wales. An estimated 75 million people worldwide belong to the Methodist community.

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Circuit rider
The history of Methodism in the United States dates back to the mid-17th Century with the ministries of early Methodist preachers such as Laurence Coughlan and Robert Strawbridge. Following the American Revolution most of the Anglican clergy who had been in America came back to England. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, sent Thomas Coke to America where he and Francis Asbury founded the Methodist Episcopal Church, which was to later establish itself as the largest denomination in America during the 19th Century.

Methodism thrived in America thanks to the First and Second Great Awakenings of the 1800s. Various African-American denominations were formed during this period, including the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

In the early 20th century, many of the splintered Methodist groups joined together to form The Methodist Church (USA). Another merger in 1968 resulted in the formation of United Methodist Church from the Evangelical United Brethren (EUB) and the Methodist Church.

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John Wesley portrait
John Wesley (28 June [O.S. 17 June] 1703 – 2 March 1791) was an Anglican cleric and Christian theologian, and is largely credited with founding the Methodist movement. The Methodist movement began when Wesley took to open-air preaching in a similar manner as George Whitefield at Hanham Mount, Kingswood, and Bristol.

Wesley helped to organize and form Methodist societies throughout Britain and Ireland, small groups that developed intensive, personal accountability and religious instruction among members.

Under Wesley's direction, Methodists became leaders in many social justice issues of the day, including prison reform and abolitionism movements. Wesley's contribution as a theologian was to propose a system of opposing theological stances. His greatest theological achievement was his promotion of what he termed "Christian perfection" or holiness of heart and life. Wesley insisted that in this life, the Christian could come to a state where the love of God, or perfect love, reigned supreme in one's heart. His evangelical theology, especially his understanding of Christian perfection, was firmly grounded in his sacramental theology. He continually insisted on the general use of the means of grace (prayer, Scripture, meditation, Holy Communion, etc.) as the means by which God transforms the believer.

Today, Wesley's influence as a teacher persists. He continues to be the primary theological interpreter for Methodists the world over. Wesley's call to personal and social holiness continues to challenge Christians who attempt to discern what it means to participate in the Kingdom of God.

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