(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
, 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.