A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE METHODIST CHURCH -
By Rev. Lindsy Ireland
The Methodist Church as a denomination was
started during the American Revolutionary War in the late 1700’s. The founder, John
Wesley (1703-1791) had no intention originally of starting a new denomination—only revitalizing the
faith of those in the Anglican Church a.k.a. ‘The Church of England’. John was an ordained Anglican priest until
the day he died in March, 1791.
Of course, during the American Revolution, ‘The Church of England’ was not popular with the locals on
the American East coast. Almost all the Anglican priests fled back to England.
That meant no one was left to do the sacraments—baptism and communion, or the Lord’s Supper. John
Wesley took the sacraments very seriously, and encouraged people to “communicate” constantly—"Never turn down a
chance for the Grace of God to fill you."
Methodists as small spiritual growth groups (classes and bands), had existed for some decades at
this time in both America and England. John Wesley resisted every appeal to start a new denomination, and in
fact would not schedule any of their meetings during the times of traditional Anglican worship services.
But two of John’s faithful took the ship from America to England to plead with him during the
Revolution, since the people were unable to receive the sacraments. John agreed, and The Methodist Church was
It had much in common theologically with the Anglican Church, but the practice differed wildly in one
area. The practical application of Grace—all Christians in that day theoretically believed the justification
by Grace. That is, you are not and cannot be saved by good works, but by the grace of God.
However, the powers that be in most Christian denominations at the time, and certainly Anglican and
Roman Catholic, did not emphasize being saved through Grace. They were afraid people would stop doing mission
and good works.
But not John. He preached Grace with a capitol ‘G’ all the time to everyone, miners, laborers,
and nobility alike, all the while developing a following committed to social justice.
Methodists, when they started in the Northeast were not allowed to hold slaves, and Methodist’s ran
the Underground Railroad during the Civil War.
In current times, often it is the Methodist Church that started food banks and clothing banks in their
basements—true right now for the Bethany United Methodist Church. I have had three others where the community food
bank started in the basement of the Methodist Church, and in Port Hadlock they started the Summer Feeding program
and help kick-off the local homeless shelter.
There is much more to be said, and I would be happy to talk to anyone about theology and history. One
last note; in 1968 the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren merged and created ‘The United
For More information about the Methodist Church and it's founding - CLICK HERE.
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