Wesley, John, 1703-1791

Alternative names
Birth 1703-06-17
Death 1791-03-02

Biographical notes:

John Wesley, evangelist and founder of Methodism, was born 17 June 1703, in Epworth, Lincolnshire, England, and died 2 March 1791, in London, England. He was educated at Christ Church College, Oxford (1724); was ordained a deacon in the Church of England (1725); and was elected a fellow of Lincoln College (1726). He eventually embarked upon a new ministry, along with his brother, Charles (b. 1707), which resulted in their separation from the Anglican church; they and other "Methodists" served as itinerant preachers in the British Isles (1741- ). Methodists who sailed from Ireland to America (1760) pioneered Methodism in the Americas. Charles Wesley's music was his greatest contribution to Methodism.

From the description of John Wesley family papers, 1734-1864. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 228097346

Religious reformer.

From the description of Autograph letter signed : London, to his brother George, 1765 Nov. 25. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270587732

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was born 17 June 1703 at Epworth, Lincolnshire, England, and died 2 March 1791 in London.

He was the second son of Samuel and Susanna Wesley. John Wesley graduated from Christ Church, Oxford University, in 1724. He was ordained deacon in 1725, elected a fellow of Lincoln College in 1726, and ordained a priest in the Church of England in 1728. Wesley returned to Oxford in 1729 to fulfill the residential requirements of his fellowship. While there he joined his brother, Charles, and others in a religious group that was derisively called the "Methodists" because of their emphasis on study and devotion.

In 1735 Wesley went to Georgia to oversee the spiritual lives of the colonists and to act as missionary to the Indians. His attempts in both areas were unsuccessful, and he returned to England in 1737. Following a personal religious experience in 1738 Wesley began preaching the doctrine of salvation by faith. As a result of this and his enthusiasm, he was soon rejected by the Church of England. He began an itinerant ministry preaching to the unchurched and organizing them into Methodist societies.

In 1784 Wesley made the decision to ordain ministers for service in the United States of America. Prior to the time of this decision Methodist ministers in America did not have the authority to administer the sacraments of baptism and communion. This marked the establishment of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America as an independent denomination. Wesley continued to oversee the growth and development of the Methodist church until his death in 1791.

From the description of Collection on John Wesley, 1738-1791. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122399085

Biography / Administrative History

Norman Carleton Mealy (1923-1987) was Professor of Church Music at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific from 1952 to 1987 and the GTU from 1965 to 1987. He was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1960. He served as the Director of Music at Saint Mark's Episcopal Church in Berkeley from 1947 to 1961.

According to his wife Margaret Mealy, "This Norman Mealy collection of 18th century hymnals (photocopies) is part of the John Wesley family of tune books. All are edited by John Wesley, who chose the hymns and their musical arrangement, except for Harmonia Sacra, from which Wesley selected some hymns. These hymnals reflect Wesley's insistence that all sing at Methodist meetings. His work culminated in A Collection of Hymns for the use by the People Called Methodists ."

The Rev. Mealy spent several sabbaticals studying these Wesley materials at the library of the British Museum and the Methodist Archives at Manchester. In 1975, he wrote, "In 1970 I had begun a study of the Wesley family of tune books and first became fascinated with the congregational music of a church in the midst of renewal...(Now)I hope to bring back photographic reproductions of the more important collections to add to our hymnological resources...In addition to indexing melodies, I hope to study the curious stylistic changes in congregational music from the syllabic tune of the 17th century to the graceful sound of the 18th."

In 1983, as part of a sabbatical request, he proposed "to complete a study of the 1780 A Collection of Hymns for the use by the People Called Methodists . This hymnal (525 texts) was the last to be edited by John Wesley and became the foundation for all subsequent revisions." Illness and death prevented the completion of this project.

Active in developing new music within the Episcopal Church, he served on several commissions on service music and liturgy and assisted in collecting music for several Church publications: Hymns and Carols (1966); Songs for liturgy and more hymns and spiritual songs (1971); Book of Canticles (1979); and The Hymnal (1982). Other publications include Sing for Joy; A Songbook for Young Children (1961) with his wife, Margaret; Skier's Song Book (1950) with David Wyckoff Kemp; and Music, Dance, and Religion: The Performing Arts in Worship (1985) and Performer as Priest and Prophet: Restoring the Intuitive in Worship through Music and Dance (1988) with the dancer, Judith Rock.

From the guide to the Norman C. Mealy collection of 18th Century Methodist Hymnals, ca. 1983, (The Graduate Theological Union. Library.)


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  • Sermons
  • Methodist Church--Government
  • Spiritual formation--Methodist Church
  • Methodism
  • Methodist church--History
  • Religious life
  • Methodists--18th century
  • Methodists
  • Courtship--18th century
  • Methodist Church--Hymns
  • Women
  • Stretton, John--fl. 1760-1790
  • Religious thought
  • Hymns, English
  • Methodist Church--Discipline
  • Methodist Church--Influence


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