British preacher and co‐founder of Methodism. He became the leader of a small group in Oxford, which had been formed in 1729 by his brother Charles (1707–88); its members were nicknamed the ‘Methodists’. In 1738 John Wesley experienced a spiritual conversion as a result of a reading of Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans. He resolved to devote his life to evangelistic work; however, when Anglican opposition caused the churches to be closed to him, he and his followers began preaching out of doors. Wesley subsequently travelled throughout Britain winning many working‐class converts. Despite his wish for Methodism to remain within the Church of England, his practice of ordaining his missionaries himself (since the Church refused to do so) brought him increasing opposition from the Anglican establishment and eventual exclusion; the Methodists formally separated from the Church of England in 1791.