2 The rise of Methodism
Back in the sixteenth century Catholicism had been largely ousted from Wales and replaced by the Church of England (often referred to as the Anglican Church). However, the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries saw challenges to Anglican supremacy from many Nonconformist groups who, for various reasons, rejected the Church of England as ‘not properly Protestant’. It was against that backdrop that Calvinistic Methodism arose in the 1730s and 1740s, initially within the Anglican Church but later beyond its bounds. It was originated by men like Howell Harris and Daniel Rowland (Figure 1) and, during the eighteenth century, began to exert significant sway as Wales’s only home-grown brand of Protestantism.
Indeed, in 1811 Wales’s first Calvinistic Methodist ministers were ordained at Bala and Llandeilo, marking the movement’s formal separation from the Church of England. This new form of Christianity, which emerged during the 1740s, placed great emphasis on personal epiphanies, fervent preaching and doing good works. In addition, as the eighteenth century wore on the Welsh Methodists became increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of bishops, which they tended to view askance, as remnants of medieval Catholic oppression. During the 1820s, this new Welsh Methodist Church agreed its creed and constitution and in 1864 it held its first general assembly. For the first time ever, Wales had a Christian Church that was specifically Welsh in origin.