Methodists love to tell the story and Methodist churches have consistently told and re-told the narrative of their eighteenth-century founding by John (and sometimes Charles) Wesley as a way of describing the distinctive identity of their religious communities. This book offers a comprehensive and critically documented account of the development of these narratives of Wesleyan origins and the ways in which they attempted to describe or encode the identity of Wesleyan/Methodist communities. This is not a cynical account of how interpreters have simply written their own agenda into the narrative (and that has happened); rather it shows in many cases how the unique position and contexts of narrators have enabled them to see things that really happened in the eighteenth-century Wesleyan movement.
How do communities transmit their identities across generations? One way is to tell narratives of their origins. This book examines how Wesleyan and Methodist communities have told and re-told narratives of their origins to encode and transmit their communal identities across generations.