Methodist History

The Roots of Methodism

John Wesley & Methodist pioneers

Today, there are about 75 million people worldwide who call themselves 'Methodist'. Yet this Christian denomination only began in the mid-eighteenth century in Britain, due in large part to the strong leadership, extensive travelling and organisational abilities of John Wesley, celebrated today as the most prominent 'Founder of Methodism'.

Born in 1703, John Wesley in his lifetime was well known as a pioneer and a travelling priest, he is estimated to have travelled 250,000 miles in 50 years to preach the gospel. 'Methodist' became a widely used term in the 1700s for anybody thought to be 'enthusiastic' about their religion - as we might use the term 'fundamentalist' today.

John Wesley may be the best-known of the Methodist pioneers, but he was not the first or only one. The earliest 'Methodist' preaching in Britain was in the 1730s in Wales (consider the ministry of Howell Harris). Methodism was part of an international movement, often traced to the 'Pietists' in Germany in the 1600s, which came to Britain through the Moravians - who John Wesley had met on his ill-fated visit to America.

Death of Wesley - a divided and then a united church

Following the death of John Wesley in 1791, there were many breakaway strands of Methodism away from 'Wesleyan Methodism' - these various strands of Methodism had distinct policies, personalities and priorities. Each strand of Methodism had its own charismatic leaders and particular styles of worship and organisation. In 1932 these strands united to become The Methodist Church in Britain.

The Church today, as informed by it's history and propelled forward in mission

In the twenty-first century, the Methodist Church continues to be a discipleship movement of Christians, intent on mission: nurturing faith and engaged in action for social justice at home and abroad.

For more information about what the people called Methodists believe and what the Methodist Church does in Britain and around the world today, go to www.methodist.org.uk

Key themes in our history


Overseas Mission

From the first ministers who served in the American colonies in 1769 through to the work today of our partner churches & the Global Relationships Team - learn more about Mission in the Methodist Church.

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Social Justice

Learn about our long history of being a justice-seeking church.

PM Craster Sunday School

Youth & Education

Learn about the long history of Methodist youth and education groups.

Tolpuddle MC


A glance at how Methodists have featured in political history.

Brighouse MC


A brief history of hymn writing & singing in the Methodist Church.

Other amazing parts of our story...

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Women in Methodism

Find out more about the history of women in the Church, from early Primitive Methodist preachers to President of Conference - women have been undeniably important throughout Methodist history.

Englesea Brook Chapel and Museum

Primitive Methodism

Who were 'The Prims' and what is their legacy in Methodism today?