John Wesley, Methodist or Anglican?

I have read some things online but can’t seem to understand if John Wesley is Anglican or Methodist.
It seems he wanted to stay within the Church of England, yet he sent a priest (as bishop) to ordinate others in America. Due to the American Revolution, they were split. This is what I’ve seem to have gotten.

Yet this doesn’t give me complete assurance as to whether John Wesley is Methodist or Anglican? Did John Wesley forgo the separation of a new church (Methodism) aside from wanting to maintaining communion with the CoE, or did he not forgo the Methodism as a new church?

Optional Question: And if someone can tell me how is Methodism different than United Methodist in terms of doctrine/beliefs.

Wesley was ordained an Anglican priest - and protested all his life that he never wanted to create a new denomination, and if you read his letters lots of them are trying to stop his followers from not attending the Church of England; he always tried to time his own meetings so as not to conflict with the morning prayer/Eucharist services at the local Anglican church, wherever he happened to be, and he encouraged people to attend both. I guess you could say he felt he was just trying to provide something ‘extra’ for the CoE at a time when things were fairly moribund in the church. It was more after this death that it could be said to be a new denomination.

There was a problem with the anglican church in pre-revolutionary america, because there were no bishops (all congregations were under the oversight of the Bishop of London, and his local commissionaires in the colonies…but if you had a calling and wanted to be ordained you had to cross the atlantic, receive deacon’s orders, hang around in England for a year, be priested, and then have to make another dangerous journey back home again (and obviously if you wanted to be confirmed but couldn’t afford to make a crossing, you could forget about it).

Toward the end of his life Wesley, probably recognising the problem this was causing the American congregations, allowed for priests send as ‘bishops’ to go (having decided that the NT doesn’t actually stipulate that the power of ordination rests in bishops alone, and that priests may ordain also). The Methodist Church in Britain never had - and still doesn’t have - any bishops, whereas in the US they are there.

I think the United Methodist Church came about in the 20th century after two branches of methodism in the US re-united, but I’m not sure about that.

It seems that Methodist was intended to be a movement within the Anglican church. I am not sure how it came to be that there is a Methodist church on one street corner, and an Anglican church on the opposite street corner, but I don’t think it happened through Wesley himself.

I’m actually one of Charles Wesley’s descendants, and I was always told that he and his brother were Methodists. I couldn’t tell you much more than that, though.

Murmur’s post is quite informative and correct.

John Wesley was a priest in the Church of England. He and a group of men in the Church of England became convinced of the need for religious revival in the Church at the time. They, like many people at the time, felt that Anglicanism had become cold and spiritually dead.

Wesley and his friends wanted to rekindle religious fervor in the Church, and they were very methodical in their piety. Thus, they were called “Methodists” by their detractors, but they claimed this as a badge of honor.

Both in Britain and in the American colonies, Methodists would meet in groups called classes. However, John Wesley always maintained his identity as an Anglican, but the Anglican Church was just not really interested in fostering any kind of religious revival at the time. Eventually, Methodism did become a completely separate denomination from Anglicanism.

This occurred first in America due to the American Revolution and the nearly complete collapse of the Church of England in the colonies. At the time, English law required all priests ordained in the Church of England to swear oaths of obedience to the British monarch. Therefore, once America became an independent country, it was impossible for England to ordain bishops for the USA until the law was changed by Parliament.

This situation caused John Wesley to intervene. Methodists were not able to receive the sacraments from Anglican priests in America because of the ecclessiastical confusion. So, John Wesley decided to organize a Methodist Church for the US, which became known as the Methodist Episcopal Church because it was led by bishops.

The Methodist Episcopal Church is one of the predecessor bodies to the United Methodist Church, which was formed in the 1960s as a result of a merger of the major Methodist bodies in the US.

I’m not sure when Methodists in Britain became their own church. However, I do know that British Methodists do not have bishops.

All excellent answers! Don’t forget, we now have the Southern Methodists too. I was a United Methodist, and am not familiar with the differences. :slight_smile:

Yes, thanks for all the information. I know of a religious community of Methodists called the Order of St Luke.

Those are the members and descendents of the Methodist Episcopal south who did not join in with the members of the M E church north when they merged in the 1930s.

They continue to be more conservative than the members of the Methodist Church.

In 1968 the Methodist Church merged with the United Brethren church to form the United Methodist Church.

Any insights into Anglican and Methodist differences theologically. How did Wesley differ from his Anglican bishop?

I know these questions have been discussed before but would like a refresher course. If Methodist were still Anglican, can one imagine how large that denomination would be today?

John Wesley was more evangelical than the Anglican orthodoxy of the time. He was influenced a lot by the Pietists. He talked of having religious experiences where his heart was “strangely warmed.” He defended physical manifestations (such as falling down as in a faint, crying out, etc.) as possible reactions to the Holy Spirit’s presence.

He emphasized Christian perfection, which was essentially Christian holiness and sanctification. This was lived out through methodically exercising the spiritual disciplines.

Essentially, the Methodism of John Wesley’s day was a much warmer, and much more evangelical, Anglicanism. The problem was that Methodism was just to hot for the Anglicans of his day to really attempt to keep it in the fold.

For example, Anglicans did not want John Wesley to preach outside. They only thought it was appropriate to preach inside a church building. Early Methodists just did not care about such things. They wanted to make converts for Christ and stand against social injustices.

So, there was a holiness message and a social justice impulse to early Methodism which differed a lot from what the Anglicans of the time were concerned with.

Today there are wide differences. The Methodist continued in Evangelical belief and practice, while the Anglicans had the Catholic Oxford movement. United Methodists still continue to use the altar call.

But to me the largest difference lies in the Episcocy and Apostolic Succession. The man Wesley sent to America was a Presbyter (Methodists do not use the word priest), not a bishop as Wesley himself was. So apostolic succession from the CofE was ended.

American United Methodists but not all Methodists have men and women they call bishops, but for those who hold to A S they are not true bishops.

In a way I like Wesley and the old Methodists. It is true that the CofE had become stale, dead, and formal. Had the Methodists stayed in the CofE they likely would have given it new life.

Exactly! I have asked myself that very question! I only wish my Grandfather were still alive, because you guys would really like him.:frowning:

John Wesley, Methodist or Anglican?

The distinction didn’t exist then.

A great deal of this was the product of class issues. The Established Church, with its intimate involvement in upper class patronage and middle class aspiration, was not keen on Whitefield and Wesley’s preaching to the lower class.

The preaching style and the audience reactions led to the movement being labelled “enthusiastic”, which was essentially a euphemism for “crazy cult”. That distanced the Methodists even more from the rest of the CofE.

However, it was the influence of groups such as the Clapham Sect, the Methodists, and the Dissenting Churches which transformed the Anglican Church into the socially-reforming entity of the C19th and beyond. We owe them a great deal.

Wesley was originally Anglican, but he prepared for the separation of his Methodist movement from the CofE as a whole by having the annual Methodist Conference registered as an official, distinct entity from the CofE, in 1784, seven years before his death. In 1795, the Plan of Pacification ratified the celebration of sacraments without episcopal ordination, and the break was complete.

So, he was one and then the other, although his plan always seems to have been to regenerate Anglicanism rather than to leave it. The regeneration took a few more decades to arrive.

Is John Wesley considered an Anglican divines?

Some people do describe him as such, although others are happy to leave him to the Methodists.

Wesley did not intend to start a separate church in England, where Anglicanism was established. America was a different situation entirely–Anglicanism was a major presence only in some colonies, and after the Revolution it was in considerable disarray. The Methodist Episcopal Church (the mainstream Methodist body in America) was organized in 1784, while the Episcopal Church (the autonomous expression of Anglicanism in the new nation) didn’t get itself organized until 1787. Wesley was very pragmatic–he didn’t want to cause a schism, but he also wanted to preach the Gospel to the unevangelized by whatever means it took.

In England, as Mystophilus said, he did do some things that paved the way for Methodism to exist as an independent church, although these were forced on him (if he didn’t register his chapels, they would be illegal, since the Anglican hierarchy didn’t recognize them). The lay preachers who were the backbone of Methodist ministry clamored for the right to celebrate the sacraments, and after Wesley’s death they led British Methodism into full separation from Anglicanism.

Wesley repeatedly claimed that he had no theological differences with the Church of England. However, when he gave the Americans a liturgy (which they didn’t use) he did shave the 39 Articles down to 25 and changed the wording of some of the remaining ones, indicating that at least he thought some of the Articles unnecessary or capable of being better worded. He also changed certain things in the Prayer Book (for the use of the American Methodist Church). However, many people in eighteenth-century Anglicanism held that some things in the Articles and Prayer Book could be better worded. There was a proposed Prayer Book for the early Episcopal Church that had some pretty radical changed, including the omission of the Nicene Creed. (Fortunately, the American BCP actually adopted was much more conservative.)

There was a broader evangelical movement in Anglicanism, most of which stayed within the C of E. Most of these “Anglican evangelicals” were Calvinists. What made Wesley unique was that he was evangelical but also Arminian.


Excellent info! But the altar call may be regional. I never saw one in 60 years of attending Methodist churches!

Things may have changed in places. I formerly lived in an apartment right next to a UMC that called itself High Methodist. They even called a Scottish Episcopal priest as an associate minister. But this UMC had an ‘invitation, call to Christian Discipleship’ at the close of every service.

But I am agreeing with you on the regional nature of the altar call. This UMC was in Texas after all.

I have a good friend from college who went to, and graduated from Asbury Theological Seminary, those Asbury people are different for certain.

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