While the Wesleys themselves might have been sceptical about the connections between Methodists and Dissenters, there were several ways in which their stories were interlinked. John Wesley’s parents had both been brought up within the Dissenting fold and reading seventeenth-century puritan authors, as well as Pietists, was central to Wesley’s theological development. Many Methodists formally separated from the Church of England after Wesley’s death but their earlier habits of lay preaching and separate societies, alongside an extensive publication programme, meant that there was already a sense of Methodist self-consciousness and identity long before that. While Wesley and many of his followers did not share the Calvinism characteristic of other branches of Dissent, George Whitefield and his Calvinistic Methodist followers did. Moreover, as the political climate changed in the second half of the eighteenth century, field preaching became more suspect and Methodists were increasingly lumped, by their detractors at least, with other Dissenters.
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