cover image The Methodists

The Methodists

James Haskins. Hippocrene Books, $14.95 (148pp) ISBN 978-0-7818-0029-7

This concise history of Methodism traces the formation of today's loosely connected worldwide fellowship of churches from its founding in 18th-century England by John and Charles Wesley. The small ``Holy Club,'' organized by the devout Anglican brothers while they were students at Oxford, drew other dissenters from the established Church of England. Itinerant preachers, lay and ordained, spread an organized system of theology and good works, the ``methods'' established mainly by John; Charles wrote hymns, including ``Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.'' As the estrangement from Anglican doctrine widened, Methodism was established as a denomination unto itself. Its roots grew in post-Revolutionary America, where, for a brief time in the mid-1730s, Charles was an aide to Gen. James Oglethorpe in the Georgia colony and John a rector in Savannah, Ga. This competently told story indicates the fellowship's continuing force in social and reform movements. Haskins is the author of Diary of a Harlem Schoolteacher. (June)