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Religion Library: Methodist

Community Organization

Written by: Ted Vial

Following the Revolutionary War in America, Methodism quickly re-organized itself as a denomination separate from Anglicanism.This was in part because the Anglican Church had aligned itself with the crown to a great extent in the conflict, and was understandably unpopular.Because many Anglican priests left the colonies during the conflict, there was a radical shortage of ordained leaders.Wesley authorized Francis Asbury and Thomas Coke to be "superintendents" (their titles were later changed to "bishops," and invested them with the authority to ordain Methodist ministers capable of administering the sacraments."Societies" quickly became churches or local congregations.Each region (which is descended from a circuit) is led by a bishop, and meets each year in an annual Conference.Each four years lay people and ordained leaders from all Conferences meet in a General Conference, which is the highest decision-making body in the United Methodist Church.

In England, Methodists remained part of the Anglican Church until John Wesley's death.At that point official leadership of the movement passed to the Conference.In 1795, four years after Wesley's death, this Conference began ordaining ministers to administer the sacraments, thus making Methodism a separate denomination from the Anglican Church in England as well.

Study Questions:
     1.    Describe Methodism's early relationship to the Anglican Church.
     2.    What was the purpose of early Methodist classes?
     3.    How did political struggle encourage the formation of the Methodist Church?


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