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Protestant religious movement originated by John Wesley in 18th-century England. Wesley, an Anglican clergyman, underwent an epiphany in 1738 in which he felt an assurance of personal salvation, and he soon began open-air preaching. Methodism began as a movement to revitalize the Church of England and did not formally break with the church until 1795. The Methodists' well-organized system of church government combined a strong central authority with effective local organization and the employment of lay preachers. Especially successful among the working class in industrial areas, the movement expanded rapidly in the 19th century. The Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in the U.S. in 1784, and Methodist circuit riders won many followers on the frontier. British and U.S. missionaries have since spread Methodism throughout the world. Methodist doctrine emphasizes the power of the Holy Spirit, the need for a personal relationship with God, simplicity of worship, and concern for the underprivileged.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Methodism, visit Britannica.com.
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