Methodists belong to "a group of historically related denominations of Protestant Christianity whose origins, doctrine and practice derive from the life and teaching of John Wesley" (Wikipedia). Initially a reform movement within the Anglican Church (Church of England), Methodism derived from the teachings and doctrines of former Anglican priest John Wesley (1703-1791), whose rigorous "method" of personal devotion lent the denomination its name. Slow to develop in the United States in the eighteenth century, Methodism gained enormous traction in the nineteenth-century U. S. during the religious revivals collectively known as the Second Great Awakening. One scholar has noted that "no other association of any kind in the United States grew so dramatically and over so large an area in so short a time as Methodism" (Howe, What Hath God Wrought, 178). Nineteenth-century Methodism in the U. S. grew rapidly due to its emotional "camp meeting" revivals, often lasting for several days and drawing crowds in the hundreds or even thousands, aggressive evangelicalism in rural areas, focus on widespread literacy and investment in educational institutions, openness to women and African Americans in leadership, and exceptional, centralized organizational style. Methodism, more than any other Protestant Christian denomination, emphasized an individualism that transcended race, class, and gender and came to represent the Second Great Awakening and nineteenth-century American religion (Britannica; Howe, What Hath God Wrought, 1).

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