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Methodism spread rapidly through the formation of "societies," small groups that met regularly for Bible study and encouragement in Christian life and action. These societies were linked into "connexions" by itinerant circuit riders. In America, Methodism developed into a denomination separate from the Church of England, led by bishops.
Schisms and Sects
Methodism has branched off into several separate denominations. In England the structure of church government and the emphasis (or lack of emphasis) on holiness led to splits. In America, in addition to these two reasons for schism, churches split over disagreements on race and slavery.
Missions and Expansion
Methodism began as a kind of missionary movement within the Church. Its two centers have been England and America, and both branches have sent out missionaries, spreading with the imperial reach of each of them in turn.
Exploration and Conquest
Methodism was well-suited to European expansion because it relied on lay preachers and circuit riders. Methodist missionaries built schools and hospitals as well as churches; they were also implicated in all the negative and violent aspects of European and American imperialism.
Methodism is shrinking in the United States and Great Britain, but growing elsewhere.
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