The newspaper was launched in 1861 as a more liberal alternative to The Watchman by six WM ministers, including Charles Garrett, George T. Perks, W. Morley Punshon, George Smith and F.L. Wiseman. The first issue, on 4 April 1861 under the title of The Methodist Recorder and General Christian Chronicle, bore the motto 'The truth in Love'. A layman, John Willey, was named as one of the editors, but Punshon was in effective control. At the end of 1862 the Recorder and the Watchman were brought under the same management. The first illustrations in the news pages appeared in 1865, the first photographs in 1896.
In 1886 and 1887 (but apparently not in subsequent years) a 'Conference Daily', priced at 1d, was issued during the period of the WM Conference. This gave detailed reports of the sessions and associated meetings and totalled 172 pages in 1886 and 288 pages in 1887. The anticipated demand in 1886 was 4 - 5,000 copies, but the demand immediately rose to over 10,000 and led to initial printing difficulties. In 1887 coverage was extended to include the UMFC Assembly at Louth and the BC Conference in Swansea. Between 1892 and 1907 an annual Winter Number was published, containing substantial articles and some fiction.
After Morley Punshon's death in 1881, George W. Olver became editor, succeeded in turn by Dr. W.T. Davison (1883-1886) and Nehemiah Curnock (1886-1906). The first lay managing editor, J.B. Watson, served from 1906 to 1934; followed by F.D. Wiseman (1934-1952), R.G. Burnett (1952-1960), Eric Pigott (1960-1980) and Michael Taylor (1980-1997). In March 1997 Moira Sleight became the first woman and the youngest editor in the paper's history.
Following Methodist Union the Recorder absorbed the *United Methodist in 1932 and the Methodist Times and Leader in 1937, taking over R.G. Burnett, Margaret Harwood and E.W. Tattersall as contributors from the latter. In January 1964 Joyful News, associated with Cliff College since 1883, became a monthly feature in the Recorder.
A special centenary edition was published on 6 April 1961.
In 1983, after 122 years in Fleet Street, the offices moved to Golden Lane and the following year the first 'District Supplement' was published.
See also: Christian Journal.