History The Methodist Church The Methodist Church The Methodist Church of Great Britain is the fourth-largest Christian denomination in Britain and the mother church to Methodists worldwide. It participates in the World Methodist Council, the World Council of Churches and other ecumenical associations. Early beginnings Methodism began primarily through the work of John Wesley (1703–1791), who led an evangelical revival in 18th century Britain. An Anglican priest, Wesley adopted unconventional and controversial practices, such as open-air preaching, to reach factory labourers and newly urbanised masses uprooted from their traditional village culture at the start of the industrial revolution. His preaching centred upon the universality of God's grace for all, the effect of faith on character and the possibility of perfection in love during this life. He organised the new converts locally and in a 'Connexion' across Britain. Following Wesley's death, the Methodist revival became a separate church and ordained its own ministers; it is called a non-conformist church because it does not conform to the rules of the established Church of England. In the 19th century, the Wesleyan Methodist Church experienced many secessions, with the largest of the offshoots being the Primitive Methodists. The main streams of Methodism were reunited in 1932, forming the Methodist Church as it is today. Organisation and statistics Methodist ‘Circuits’, containing several local churches, are gathered into thirty-one districts. The supreme governing body of the church is the annual Methodist Conference; it is headed by the President of Conference, a presbyteral minister, supported by a vice-president who can be a local or 'lay' preacher, or deacon. In July 2014 the Methodist Church had approximately 202,000 members in 4,650 congregations, and 575,000 adherents in total. The Methodist Conference in June 2017 noted that membership had declined to 188,000 but wider outreach brought the church into contact with 490,000 to 500,000 people each week.