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followers of a movement in Protestantism that split off from the Anglican Church.
The Methodist movement emerged in England in the 18th century. Its founders were the brothers John and Charles Wesley, around whom in 1729 there congregated a small circle of followers, at first mostly from among Oxford University students. They considered their goal to be methodical regularity in the observance of the injunctions of religion (hence the name Methodists). Under conditions of an incipient industrial revolution and increased capitalist exploitation, the Methodists launched a widespread campaign to strengthen religious sentiment among the English people, establishing religious missions in working areas and preaching the spirit of Christian humility and tolerance.
In worship and dogma, Methodism does not differ essentially from Anglicanism; it merely simplifies its regulations. (For example, the 39 articles of the Anglican creed are reduced in Methodism to 25.) Methodist congregations consist of “classes,” with 12–20 people in each; the classes assemble regularly for praying, listening to sermons, and so on. The congregations are subordinate to district organizations headed by superintendents (in the USA the superintendents are given the title of bishop; therefore, the American Methodist Church is called the Methodist Episcopal Church). The supreme body of the Methodist Church is the annual conference. The World Methodist Council was established in 1881; it convenes world Methodist conferences once every ten years. The Methodist Missionary Society has been in existence since 1813. In the early 1970’s there were approximately 40 million Methodists, mostly in the USA (where Methodism began to spread in the 1760’s), as well as in Great Britain, Australia, the Republic of South Africa, Canada, and former English colonies.