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A movement which originated in a search for an effective method to lead Christians toward the goal of scriptural holiness. The epithet was applied to members of the Wesleys'* Holy Club* at Oxford in 1729. Their disciplined, methodical practices gave rise to what Charles Wesley called “the harmless nickname of Methodist.” It was readily accepted by his brother John, who provided his own definition: “A Methodist is one who lives according to the method laid down in the Bible.” The term had previously been employed in an ecclesiastical context in the sixteenth century with reference to Amyraldists* or Semi-Arminians. Despite the theological similarity, there is no evidence of any direct derivation.

When the subsequent revival got under way, after the evangelical conversion of George Whitefield* and the Wesleys, the title “Methodist” was attached to all who were influenced by it, whether within the Church of England or beyond. Only at a later stage were Methodists distinguished from Anglican Evangelicals. In its strictest connotation “Methodism” refers only to the adherents of Wesley, although it is extended to include the followers of Whitefield and Lady Huntingdon who subscribed to the doctrines of Calvin rather than of Arminius.

Methodism is now accepted as a general term to cover the worldwide family of Methodist churches, stemming from Wesley's societies, most of which are affiliated to the World Methodist Council.

See also Methodist Churches and Calvinistic Methodism.