John William Fletcher

1729-1785. English clergyman. Born in Switzerland (his original name was de la Fléchère), he came to England with a distinguished university record from Geneva, and was appointed as a private tutor in 1752. Converted under the influence of the Methodists, he was ordained by the bishop of Bangor in 1757. After assisting John Wesley in London, Fletcher took the living of Madeley, Shropshire, in 1760, preferring it to one double its value previously offered to him. For a time he superintended the Countess of Huntingdon's ministerial training college at Trevecca. During the Calvinistic controversy Fletcher was the chief defender of evangelical Arminianism against the objections of Shirley and others. His five Checks to Antinomianism (1771-75) have been compared with Pascal's Provinçiales as models of polite controversial irony.

In his personal relationships with theological opponents Fletcher was a model of Christian reconciliation. Above all, he exemplified in his own character the holiness he preached. Herein lay the secret of his influence over the rough colliers in his parish. Robert Southey said of him: “No church has ever possessed a more apostolic minister.” That Wesley recognized his worth can be seen in the fact that he designated Fletcher as his successor, had he consented, as the leader of Methodism.

Works (9 vols, 1800-4); L. Tyerman, Wesley's Designated Successor (1882); F.W. Macdonald, Fletcher of Madeley (1885); J. Marrat, The Vicar of Madeley, John Fletcher (1902).