Methodism 101

John Wesley was ordained an Anglican priest in England in 1728. After serving as a pastor and university professor for a few years, he traveled to Savannah, Georgia in 1735 at the request of James Oglethorpe, the founder of the Georgia colony. Oglethorpe wanted Wesley to minister in the newly formed church in Savannah.

Unfortunately, Wesley’s time in Georgia did not go well. His desire to minister to the Native Americans was limited by the requirements of serving the European settlers in Savannah. In addition, Wesley fell in love with a young woman named Sophia Hopkey. He hesitated to marry her because he felt that his first priority in Georgia was ministry. Thus, Sophia married another. Subsequently, Wesley refused to serve Sophia communion. As a result, legal proceedings were filed against him. With a clear resolution unlikely, Wesley fled the colony and returned to England in December 1737. 

On his voyage to Georgia, Wesley first came into contact with a group of settlers from Moravia (Czechoslovakia). He was influenced by their deep faith and spirituality. At one point in the voyage a storm came up and broke the mast off the ship. While the English panicked, the Moravians calmly sang hymns and prayed. This experience led John to believe that the Moravians possessed an inner strength which he lacked. The deeply personal religion that the Moravian believers practiced heavily influenced Wesley and is reflected in his theology of Methodism.

Upon returning to England, Wesley began seeking the same inner strength he had witnessed in the Moravians. This led to Wesley’s shunning by the Church of England. He was accused of being a fanatic and attempting to re-establish Catholicism in England. He in turned accused the church of being apostate by not calling sinners to repentance. He accused the clergy of being corrupt, more interested in their own comfort than they were in the suffering of their fellow man.

All of these experiences led Wesley to begin what we call the Methodist movement. This movement led to a spiritual awakening among thousands in England. Wesley appointed lay pastors to preach to the poor and working classes. He was instrumental in establishing schools, orphanages, and hospitals which raised the standard of living for many. Eventually, this movement spread beyond England to the colonies and to the entire world. 

John Wesley was fearless in his desire to live a life that closely followed Jesus.

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