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Methodist Evolution: 6 Key Events for Protestant Christian Denomination Since It Began

By    |   Friday, 06 February 2015 05:17 PM

The Methodist Christian denomination originated during the English Reformation period in the 18th century. During that time, Protestants began questioning the teachings and authority of the Catholic Church. Ordained Anglican minister John Wesley is credited with founding the church, along with his brother Charles Wesley. Today the church has an estimated 30-80 million members worldwide but the numbers are in decline.

Here are six key events in the evolution of the Methodist Christian denomination since it began:

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1. During the early years of their Protestant activities, John and Charles Westley spent a brief period in America preaching to the Native American population before returning to Europe. By the late 18th century however, several missionaries and lay preachers had immigrated to America to form small Methodist societies. These early leaders included Robert Strawbridge, an immigrant farmer whose influence was felt in Maryland and Virginia, Philip Embury and Barbara Heck in New York and Captain Thomas Webb in Philadelphia.

2. In 1773, the first Methodist conference of preachers was held in Philadelphia with 10 preachers in attendance. According to historical accounts by the United Methodist Church, "They pledged allegiance to Wesley’s leadership and agreed that they would not administer the sacraments because they were laypersons. Their people were to receive the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper at the local Anglican parish church. They emphasized strong discipline among the societies and preachers. A system of regular conferences of the preachers was inaugurated similar to those Wesley had instituted in England to conduct the business of the Methodist movement."

3. During the American Revolution, missionaries who followed the teachings of John Westley faced an uphill battle in part due to Westley's "unpatriotic" perspective. Princeton University Press reports, "… the Wesleyan itinerants were sullied by John Wesley's repeated public attacks on the patriot movement. The itinerants interfered with the rising tide of republicanism in more concrete ways as well, by not only attracting a devoted following among women and blacks--often outsiders to the Revolutionary agitation--but also turning potential militia and Continental Army recruits into pacifist noncombatants."

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4. Due to its anti-patriotic stance, the Anglican Church lost status in America and many of its ministers returned to England which resulted in a leadership shortage for the American Methodists. At the Baltimore Christmas Conference in 1784, it was decided to separate the America Methodist Protestants from the Methodists in England. Francis Ashbury and Thomas Coke were elected as the first two bishops. "Together with Reformed Church pastor Philip William Otterbein, Methodist preacher Jacob Albright, and former Mennonite Martin Boehm, they agreed to form groups and later established the Methodist Episcopal Church." These men would lay the groundwork for United Methodism.

5. The United Methodist Church was founded in 1968. At 12.5 million strong, it has the largest global membership in the Methodist denomination and represents the union between the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church.

6. Christianity Today reported in 2014 that the Methodist Church in America has lost nearly 100,000 members in the last 10 years. "During the last 10 years both membership and attendance have fallen by a third… Numbers on community rolls, which include the church "fringe", have fallen even further, by 48 percent; the number of children has fallen by 58 percent." Reasons for the decline have included a low birth rate, a lack of evangelical zeal, a political left alignment and an overall decline in church affiliation in America.

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The Methodist Christian denomination originated during the English Reformation period in the 18th century. During that time, Protestants began questioning the teachings and authority of the Catholic Church.
Methodists, Protestant, Christian, Denomination
Friday, 06 February 2015 05:17 PM
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