b.28 Jun 1703 Winterborne-Whitechurch, Dorset, England
d.2 Mar 1791
Facts and Events
John Wesley (; – 2 March 1791) was an Anglican cleric and Christian theologian. Wesley is largely credited, along with his brother Charles Wesley, as founding the Methodist movement which began when he took to open-air preaching in a similar manner to George Whitefield. In contrast to Whitefield's Calvinism, Wesley embraced the Arminian doctrines that were dominant in the 18th-century Church of England. Methodism in both forms became a highly successful evangelical movement in Britain and later in the United States. His work also helped lead to the development of the Holiness movement and Pentecostalism.
Wesley helped to organise and form societies of Christians throughout Great Britain, North America and Ireland as small groups that developed intensive, personal accountability, discipleship and religious instruction among members. His great contribution was to appoint itinerant, unordained preachers who travelled widely to evangelise and care for people in the societies. Under Wesley's direction, Methodists became leaders in many social issues of the day, including the prison reform and abolitionism movements.
Although he was not a systematic theologian, Wesley argued in favour of 'Christian perfection' and opposed Calvinism, notably the doctrine of predestination. He held that, in this life, Christians could come to a state in which the love of God "reigned supreme in their hearts", allowing them to attain a state of outward holiness. His evangelical theology was firmly grounded in sacramental theology and he continually insisted on means of grace as the manner by which God sanctifies and transforms the believer, encouraging people to experience Jesus Christ personally.
Throughout his life Wesley remained within the Established Church and insisted that his movement was well within the bounds of the Anglican tradition. His maverick use of church policy put him at odds with many within the Church of England, though toward the end of his life he was widely respected and referred to as "the best loved man in England."