Though the ground had been prepared by George Whitefield on his several trans-Atlantic visits, WM arrived in the American colonies with Irish immigrants in the 1760s. It has been one of the least profitable controversies between northern and southern historians whether priority should be accorded to Robert Strawbridge in Maryland or to Barbara Heck and Philip Embury in New York. The evidence remains inconclusive, but it was with the New Yorkers that contact was made by Captain Thomas Webb in 1767 and in response to appeals from New York that the first British itinerants, Richard Boardman and Joseph Pilmore, went out in 1769. Others followed, notably Francis Asbury in 1771 and Thomas Rankin in 1773. To them, more than to any other preacher, belongs the credit for uniting what had been scattered and isolated societies into an American connexion, despite the major disruption of the Revolutionary War. The spiritual destitution of his American followers in the wake of that war caused John Wesley in September 1784 to take matters into his own hands and ordain two of his itinerants, Richard Whatcoat and Thomas Vasey, for the American work, with Dr Thomas Coke, appointed as Superintendent. The 'Christmas Conference' in Baltimore later that year formally constituted the Methodist Episcopal Church, with Coke and Asbury as its Superintendents (soon to be called 'Bishops' despite Wesley's strong disapproval) and from then on American Methodism, with only fraternal links to the British connexion, grew rapidly in a rapidly developing nation, to become one of the largest Protestant bodies in America and by far the largest member Church in World Methodism.
Major landmarks in the development of American Methodism include the formatuion of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (1816), the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (1821) and the Methodist Protestant Church (1830). In 1844 the Methodist Episcopal Church itself split over the slavery issue, with the Methodist Episcopal Church South becoming an independent denomination. This division was healed in 1939 when the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church South and the Methodist Protestant Church united to form the Methodist Church. In 1968 the Evangelical United Brethren joined the union to form the present United Methodist Church.
Entry written by: JAV
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