200 years after the birth of Church of England, early 18th-century England was in an awful moral condition. Such was the situation when John Wesley was born – the one who is considered to be their forefather by tens of churches. He was born in 1703 into a family of a clergyman of Anglican Church. John received his master’s degree from the University of Oxford and he was ordained as a priest in Church of England.
In Oxford John Wesley was a part of a believer’s prayer group and soon he became a leader of that group. Oxford was the first place where partakers of this fellowship were branded as methodists. The name “methodist” that they later embraced as their own, referred to methodical ways of their religious life and initially had a tinge of mockery in it. Ten years after his ordination, when John Wesley was on his way to America, he met members of Moravian Church, whose confident faith he envied. That made him questioning about his own faith and desiring the same assurance of salvation. After returning to England, he took part in their worship service in London, where on 24th of May 1738 while a brother read Martin Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans, the long-awaited breakthrough finally took place.
John Wesley himself described this event as follows: „In the evening I reluctantly attended a little meeting on Aldersgate Street, where a representative was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.“
How the preaching work got started
After this experience, John Wesley’s life took on a new meaning and vitality. John Wesley’s enthusiasm coupled with his younger brother Charles Wesley’s music, George Whitefield’s gift of preaching and Thomas Coke’s wisdom concerning legal matters together formed a powerful movement to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. When the doors of Anglican churches were closing in front of them, they turned to the streets and fields and found grateful (sometimes also hostile) audience among neglected working people. John as well as Charles Wesley died as the ordained priests of the Church of England, although in 1784 Methodist Episcopal Church of America was found in Baltimore (in Estonian known as Piiskoplik Metodisti Kirik – Episcopal Methodist Church).
According to the data from the year 2004 there are altogether 70 million people from 130 countries belonging to the World Methodist Council that includes Methodist churches and churches of “Wesleyan tradition”. Estonian Methodist Church belongs to the United Methodist Church as an independent member church.