METHODISM, one of the leading re ligious systems of English-speaking races. A religious society existed at Ox ford in the year 1727, among the mem bers of which were John and Charles Wesley and George Whitefield, young men studying for orders. They and their associates were half derisively called the "Godly," or the "Sacramentarian Club" (because they went through a mocking crowd to communicate at St. Mary's), and, finally, Methodists, from the method ical way in which they performed their religious duties. The first Methodist meeting house was built in Bristol, Eng land, in 1740; later the Foundry in Moor fields, London, hired for a term of years, was fitted up as a preaching house. In 1744 the first conference was held; it was attended by six persons, all clergy men. At the conference held at Leeds in 1755, the separation between itinerant and local preachers was made broader; the former were to be supported by the contributions of the societies; the latter to support themselves by their ordinary callings, preaching during hours of leisure. By 1767 there were 32 of the former and some hundreds of the latter; in 1791 the former numbered 312. Charles Wesley, who had rendered the Methodists, and the English Churches generally, great service by his hymns, died in 1788, and John, at the age of nearly 88, on March 2, 1791. In the United States the government of the churches is generally Episcopal, though some of the bodies adhere to the prim itive method of control. The two domi. rant bodies are the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, which formerly composed but one connection, but in 1844 divided on the question of slavery.
The following shows the strength of the principal Methodist bodies in the United States in 1919: Branches. Ministers. Churches. Members.
Methodist E p 1 a copal 18,642 29,377 3,718,396 Methodist E p i a copal , South . . . . 7,498 19,122 2,108,061 Methodist P ro te s tant 1,340 2,464 186,873 Branches. Ministers. Churches. Members.
Other white (5 bodies) 2,184 2,503 79,334 African Methodist Episcopal 8,175 6,454 552,265 African Methodist Episcopal Zion . 3,962 2,738 258,433 Colored Methodist Episcopal 3,402 2,621 245,749 Other colored (6 bodies) 598 256 16,875 The ministry is itinerant, the term of incumbency being limited, and the ap pointments made by the bishops and their councils (composed of presiding elders or sub-bishops). In doctrinal points they coincide with the Wesleyan Church, with but few minor differences. and may properly be regarded as an in tegral part of the great body of Wes leyans.
In 1784 John Wesley had executed a deed poll in Chancery, which, reserving his rights and those of his brother, pro vided that on his death his place should be supplied by a permanent body of 100 ministers, meeting at the conference, and called the Legal Hundred. They still constitute the supreme governing body of the Wesleyan Methodists. When it meets, it fills up by co-optation all va cancies which may have arisen during the year. The annual conference, during the consideration of spiritual questions, is composed of mi:isters only; but dur ing the discussion of financial matters it consists of 240 ministers and 240 laymen.