History of Methodism



Methodism began in England during the 18th Century by John and Charles Wesley. The name “Methodists” was first given by way of derision to four students at the University of Oxford, among them John and Charles Wesley, who in November 1729, began to meet together regularly in a “Holy Club” for study, prayer and communion. According to John Wesley, the exact regularity of their lives and studies occasioned a gentleman of Christ Church to say, “here is sprung up a new sect of Methodists.” About ten years later, after the Wesleys had become famous preachers and their movement was spreading, the name was revived, and those who followed them were designated the “people called Methodists!”

In 1735, John and Charles Wesley sailed to America as missionaries to Georgia. On their return trip they were impressed with a group of Moravians whose religious faith provided an inner assurance amidst the terrible storms on the sea. John Wesley arrived back in London in February 1738 and sought out a Moravian leader, Peter Bohler, who taught both he and his brother about self-surrender, instantaneous conversion and joy in conscious salvation.

John Wesley went to one of the societies on Aldersgate Street in London and heard a layman read Martin Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans describing faith. Possessed of such faith, that preface had said the heart is cheered, elevated ad transported with sweet affection toward God. It was at this point that something most dramatic happened to John Wesley. concerning this sudden happening, Wesley wrote, “About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. If felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation, and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the ‘law of sin and death.'” John Wesley’s experience, as referred to by others, was the determinative factor in the rise of Methodism and the evangelistic revival. Thus Methodism was born.

During the years following the birth of Methodism, the denomination grew rapidly. The Methodist Episcopal Church North and South was an outgrowth of Wesley’s Methodism. Some Blacks, converted to Christianity by their slave masters, accepted the Methodist doctrine as their own. However, after the emancipation of Blacks from slavery, the desire of many freed persons to have and control their own church became primary. This desire led formerly enslaved persons who had been members of the Methodist Episcopal Church South to start their own independent religious organization. The Colored Methodist Episcopal Church as it is commonly called, came into existence as a result of the movement from slavery to freedom.

The Christian Methodist Episcopal (C.M.E.) Church is a historically African American Christian denomination committed to the continuing work of Jesus through salvation, education, and liberation, and to living out its faith in community.

The C.M.E Church claims more than 800,000 members across the United States, and has missions and sister churches in Haiti, Jamaica, Ghana, Liberia, and Nigeria.