Last modified on November 26, 2023, at 06:39


Methodism is a branch of Christianity partly based on the teachings of John Wesley. When Wesley was a student at Oxford University, he founded a group of Bible students dedicated to prayer and a methodical discipline. Others made fun of them, calling them "Methodists."

In the United States there are several major Methodist bodies:

All of these Methodist churches have the "connectional" form of government in which there are bishops, annual conferences and general conferences. The annual conference, presided over by a bishop, is divided into districts presided over by superintendents. The bishops together with the superintendents appoint the local ministers. In some of the smaller Methodist bodies, such as the Southern Methodist Church, the Primitive Methodist Church, and the Evangelical Methodist Church, there are no bishops.

John Wesley, the founder of the movement, was a minister of the Church of England (Anglican) who on May 22, 1739 had a conversion experience while listening to the reading of Luther's commentary on St. Paul's Letter to the Romans. He preached the Gospel in England and America for over 40 years following his conversion, and tens of thousands joined his lay groups. They remained in the Church of England until after Wesley's death.

In the United States, with Wesley's permission and support, the Methodists organized themselves as a separate denomination in December, 1784. Held in Baltimore, the Christmas Conference saw the ordination of pastors and the election of Francis Asbury as Superintendent, or bishop, of the newly formed Methodist Episcopal Church.


Methodists are Protestants and believe the Bible to be divine revelation and the ultimate guide to doctrine. Scripture is understood through the use of reason, church tradition, and personal experience. This fourfold approach to religious truth—scripture, reason, tradition, and experience—is referred to as the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. By comparison, the Anglican church from which Methodism came speaks of a three-legged stool consisting of scripture, reason, and tradition.

Methodists are Arminian in doctrine, but unlike Arminian Baptists, Methodists baptize infants and believe in the real presence. They are also characterized by their belief in perfectionism, the teaching that a person in his earthly life can reach a state where he is no longer under the domination of sin. Methodists have long taught the Christian obligation to tend to the needs of the poor and unfortunate and, like Pentecostals, they emphasize the importance of revival in the church.

Colleges and Universities with a Methodist Affiliation

  • Northwestern University (Illinois)
  • Ohio Wesleyan (Ohio)
  • Baldwin Wallace (Ohio)
  • Otterbein (Ohio)
  • Defiance (Ohio)
  • Kenyon College (Ohio)
  • Ohio Northern (Ohio)
  • Southern Methodist University (Texas)
  • Hendrix College (Arkansas)
  • Adrian College (Michigan)
  • Albion College (Michigan)
  • Spring Arbor University (Michigan)
  • Union College (Kentucky)
  • Vanderbilt University (Tennessee)
  • Wilberforce University
  • Boston University (formerly)
  • Duke University (North Carolina)


Britain and world

  • Dowson, Jean and Hutchinson, John John Wesley: His Life, Times and Legacy [CD-ROM], (2003) Methodist Publishing House, TB214
  • Dreyer, Frederick. The Genesis of Methodism (1999) online edition
  • Harmon, Nolan B., ed. The Encyclopedia of World Methodism, (1974) ISBN 0-687-11784-4.
  • Heitzenrater, Richard P. Wesley and the People Called Methodists, (1994)
  • Hempton, David. Methodism: Empire of the Spirit, (2005) ISBN 0-300-10614-9, major new interpretive history
  • Hempton, David. Methodism and Politics in British Society, 1750-1850, (1984), ISBN 0-80471-269-7
  • Kent, John, Wesley and the Wesleyans, (2002) ISBN 0-521-45532-4

USA and Canada

  • Cameron, Richard M., ed. Methodism and Society in Historical Perspective, 4 vol., (1961)
  • Hollett, Calvin. Shouting, Embracing, and Dancing with Ecstasy: The Growth of Methodism in Newfoundland, 1774-1874 (2010)
  • Lyerly, Cynthia Lynn. Methodism and the Southern Mind, 1770-1810, (1998)
  • Meyer, Donald. The Protestant Search for Political Realism, 1919-1941, (1988) in ACLS e-books
  • Rawlyk, G.A. The Canada Fire: Radical Evangelicalism in British North America, 1775-1812 (1994)
  • Schmidt, Jean Miller Grace Sufficient: A History of Women in American Methodism, 1760-1939, (1999)
  • Semple, Neil The Lord's Dominion: The History of Canadian Methodism (1996)
  • Sweet, William Warren Methodism in American History, (1954) 472 pp.
  • Tipton, Steven M. Public Pulpits: Methodists and Mainline Churches in the Moral Argument of Public Life (2008) excerpt and text search
  • Wigger, John H. Taking Heaven by Storm: Methodism and the Rise of Popular Christianity in America (1998) excerpt and text search 269pp; focus on 1770-1910
  • Wigger, John H.. and Nathan O. Hatch. Methodism and the Shaping of American Culture (2001) excerpt and text search

African Americans

  • Campbell, James T. Songs of Zion: The African Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States and South Africa, (1995) ACLS e-book; online at Questia
  • George, Carol V.R. Segregated Sabbaths: Richard Allen and the Rise of Independent Black Churches, 1760-1840, (1973)
  • Montgomery, William G. Under Their Own Vine and Fig Tree: The African-American Church in the South, 1865-1900, (1993) * Walker, Clarence E. A Rock in a Weary Land: The African Methodist Episcopal Church During the Civil War and Reconstruction, (1982)
  • Wills, David W. and Newman, Richard, eds. Black Apostles at Home and Abroad: Afro-American and the Christian Mission from the Revolution to Reconstruction, (1982)

Primary sources

  • Richey, Russell E., Rowe, Kenneth E. and Schmidt, Jean Miller (eds.) The Methodist Experience in America: a sourcebook, (2000) ISBN 0-687-24673-3 – 756 p. of original documents
  • Sweet, W. W., ed. Religion on the American Frontier. Vol. IV, 1783-1840: The Methodists, A Collection of Source Materials (1964) online review 800 pp. of documents regarding the American frontier

See also