I have been a firm believer that if one does not understand where you come from you can have little understanding of where your heading. The first thirty-two pages of the book on “Methodism and the Christian Heritage in England” gave a background as to Wesley’s foundation that so many authors overlook. The first page summed it up best in: “The long course of English ecclesiastical history met the force of a new concern for renewal, both individual and institutional. A long tradition of propositional certainty of faith met the power of a personal experience of faith. An institution built by and for the establishment met a concern for the souls and bodies of the disenfranchised” (p.1, Heitzenrater). This explained the transformation of both individuals and the Church at this moment in history. Of how a small congregation in Stanton Harcourt would be the starting point for a “guest preacher, would shortly become the leader of an evangelical revival that would, during his lifetime, spread across the lands and become a trans-Atlantic movement” (p. 1, Heitzenrater). How many present at St. Michael’s on that June 11 Sunday morning in 1738 realized just how important this day would be in the history of the Church in the British Isle, America and throughout the world.
How the step taken by the monarch’s of England influenced the Church in England to be transformed into the Church of England. The struggle in the theology of Lutheran, Calvinist, Catholicism, and Moravianism, to name just a few, would all have an influence in the foundation of the Methodist movement. Of how “John Wesley, paternal grandfather was brought before the Bishop of Bristol, Gilbert Ironside, to answer charges of nonconforming to the Thirty-Nine Articles” (p. 15, Heitzenrater). He was accused of “irregular worship and preaching and a lack of proper ordination” (p. 15, Heitzenrater). He was stripped of his ability to preach and in his mid-twenties would “spend the remaining years of his life in a variety of pulpits and prisons” (p. 15, Heitzenrater).
The Act of Toleration of 1689 was enacted to accommodate the nonconformists to the Thirty-Nine Articles to legally exist “under certain prescribed conditions: (1) meeting houses must be registered with the government; (2) dissenting preachers must be licensed; (3) meetings for worship must be held in the registered meeting houses, not in private homes; (4) Roman Catholic or Unitarian groups were not to be included under these provision. Many privileges of English citizenship thereby became dependent upon conformity to the official doctrines of the Church-subscription to the Articles was required of all who matriculated at the universities, of all who held public office, of all who held commissions in the armed forces, and of all who wished to vote in elections (p. 17, Heitzenrater).
The formation of small groups knows as collegia pietatis in Spencer’s plan and the English version, the religious societies. How these groups...