An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Wesley, John

(June 17, 1703-Mar. 2, 1791). Generally considered the founder of Methodism. He was born in Epworth, England, the fifteenth of nineteen children born to Samuel and Susannah Wesley. He entered Christ Church College, Oxford, in 1720 and was ordained deacon in 1725. After serving as a curate to his father, he was ordained priest in 1728. He returned to Oxford to be a fellow at Lincoln College. Wesley and others formed the “Holy Club” at Oxford. They were derisively called “Methodists” because of their methodical religious practices. In 1735 Wesley went to the colony of Georgia as a missionary for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. His preaching against slavery and gin and his inexperience alienated him from the colonists. After two years he returned to England. On May 24, 1738, he had a conversion experience during a meeting at Aldersgate Street when his “heart was strangely warmed.” Wesley died a priest of the Church of England, but his followers separated from the Church of England and organized the Wesleyan Methodists. His life and ministry, along with that of his brother Charles, is commemorated in the Episcopal calendar of the church year on Mar. 3.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.