Today in 1791 we remember the death of John Wesley in London. An Anglican priest and theologian, he was described as the best-loved man in England. A lifetimes spent walking thousands of miles and it is estimated that he preached about 40,000 sermons. Now history remembers him as a leader of the Methodism movement, although he died as an Anglican priest. Throughout his life, Wesley insisted that the Methodist movement lay well within its tradition. However in 1784, Wesley had responded to the shortage of priests in the American colonies due to the American Revolutionary War by ordaining preachers for America. This precipitated the split between American Methodists and the Church of England (which held that only bishops could ordain persons to ministry). Today there are about 30million Methodists around the world
Whilst a student in Oxford he led the "Holy Club” founded by his brother Charles, for the purpose of the study and the pursuit of a devout Christian life; and counted George Whitefield among its members. The fellowship were branded as "Methodist" by their fellow students because of the way they used "rule" and "method" to go about their religious affairs. After ordination as an Anglican priest, he famously experienced his "heart strangely warmed" whilst attending a Moravian Church meeting. This was a catalytical experience for the rest of his life. In Aldersgate, he began his own ministry to travel and preach outdoors, forming and organising small Christian groups that developed intensive and personal accountability, discipleship, and religious instruction. He appointed itinerant, unordained evangelists—both women and men—to care for these groups of people.