Methodism as a form of Christian belief and practice derives from a movement that began with the life and ministry of John and Charles Wesley who desired to bring a greater spiritual enthusiasm to the life of the Church of England in the 18th century. Their efforts transgressed the canonical boundaries of the established church, resulting ultimately in the emergence of a separate church. Theologically, the Wesley brothers held to the optimistic Arminian view that salvation, by God's grace, was possible for all human beings, in contrast to the Calvinistic ideas of election and predestination that were accepted by the Non-Conformists of 18th century England. They also stressed the important effect of faith on character, teaching that perfection in love was possible in this life.
Methodist churches claim to be part of the church universal, believing in the priesthood of all believers and following a pattern of organization established by John Wesley when he organized pastoral oversight for the societies of Methodists which developed as a result of his preaching. The weekly class-meeting for "fellowship in Christian experience" played an important part in the beginnings of Methodism. Throughout its history Methodism has had an active concern for both personal and social holiness, and through its centralized organization, has been able to make coordinated efforts in these areas. Methodism spread to North America and with the political independence of the United States, American Methodists in 1784 constituted themselves as the Methodist Episcopal Church. Largely as a result of missionary labours from Britain and the United States, Methodism spread around the world and today is found in over 130 countries.
The first World Methodist Conference was held in London, England in 1881. It met every ten years until interrupted by World War II. Following the war the Conference agreed to meet every five years.