Methodism Overview

March 17, 2015 · updated February 15, 2022

Unlike other Christian denominations, Methodism did not arise as a result of doctrinal dispute, but out of an emphasis on practical Christianity. "The underlying energy of the Wesleyan theological heritage stems from an emphasis upon practical divinity, the implementation of genuine Christianity in the lives of believers." [1]

The founder of the Methodist movement is John Wesley. Wesley was a minister of the Church of England who struggled with his own faith until having an evangelical experience of conversion at Aldersgate. John Wesley himself described the general perception of the newly-formed Methodist group:

The one charge then advanced against them was, that they were "righteous overmuch;" that they were abundantly too scrupulous, and too strict, carrying things to great extremes: In particular, that they laid too much stress upon the Rubrics and Canons of the Church; that they insisted too much on observing the Statutes of the University; and that they took the Scriptures in too strict and literal a sense; so that if they were right, few indeed would be saved. [2]

History of Methodism

John Wesley

John Wesley (1703 – 1791) was an Anglican cleric and Christian theologian. Wesley is largely credited, along with his brother Charles Wesley, with founding the Methodist movement which began when he took to open-air preaching in a similar manner to George Whitefield. In contrast to George Whitefield's Calvinism, Wesley embraced the Arminian doctrines that were dominant in the 18th-century Church of England. Methodism in both forms was a highly successful evangelical movement in the United Kingdom, which encouraged people to experience Jesus Christ personally.

Wesley's teachings, known as Wesleyanism, provided the seeds for the modern Methodist movement, the Holiness movement, Pentecostalism, the Charismatic Movement, and Neo-charismatic churches, which encompass numerous denominations across the world.


    - 1. UMC web site.

      1. John Wesley, "A Short History of Methodism."
      More Information - The Wesleys and Their Times - UMC's General Board of Global Ministry Links to primary and secondary materials on John, Charles, and Susanna Wesley, and public domain photos of the Wesleys.
  • History of the United Methodist Church - UMC Official Site Full history of the UMC, with many photos.
  • About the United Methodist Church - UMC Official Site History, social principles, what we believe, the constitution...
  • Wesleyan Emphases - UMC Official Site Doctrinal distinctives of Wesleyan and Methodist churches, including their understanding of prevenient grace, justifying grace, and sanctifying grace.
  • The Story of United Methodism in America - Drew University Full-length text and 128 illustrations