Broomfield United Methodist Church
Friday, October 24, 2014
Our United Methodist Roots
John and Charles Wesley were the early founders of the Methodist movement within the Church of England in the 1700s. They were the children of an Anglican Priest, Samuel Wesley, and his wife Susanna. Both of these men were surrounded by piety and religious training from their earliest years.
As students at Oxford University, John and Charles formed a religious society called the "Holy Club." Members gathered early each day for study, prayer, and outreach. They visited the prisons, taught children of the poor, and delivered meals to the hungry. The name "Methodists" began as a joke term.
John Wesley lived and died as an Anglican priest. His purposes were not to begin a new church, but to reform the Church of England from within, believing that the church lacked interest to impact the hurting human needs of the English people.
Wesley traveled to the colony of Georgia to be a missionary. His return to England was swift and he felt his mission effort a failure. In great turmoil and spiritual depression, he found answers at a prayer meeting at the home on Aldersgate Street in London. From reading the commentary on Romans by Martin Luther he felt his heart "strangely warmed." His ministry started with a new energy and emphasis. He began preaching to crowds gathered in barns, in pastures . . . even graveyards! His message was dynamic and spoke to the spiritual hunger of thousands.
The uniqueness of his ministry was small groups of people gathering in classes or societies for prayer and study. Methodists then began social outreach in earnest, reforming whole communities from the problems of alcoholism, slavery, abuse and despair.
As the colonies began to grow, Methodists settled in North America. In 1784, under pressure from Methodists in the newly independent colonies, Wesley sent an ordained preacher, Thomas Coke, to America. He and Francis Asbury became the first Bishops of Methodism. Circuit riders were preachers who traveled from town to town. The frontier pushed westward and the Methodists right with the people.
Contemporaries of early Methodists were Philip Otterbein, Martin Boehm, and Jacob Albright, who formed the United Brethren in Christ and the Evangelical Association. Various mergers and splits within the Methodist movement marked the church during the nineteenth century.
The twentieth century has witnessed several renewed efforts to cooperate among the Methodist denominations. In 1968, the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren in Christ formed the United Methodist Church. Today, conversations continue to take place regarding additional mergers of like-minded Methodist denominations.