Methodism and the Evangelical Tradition

Authored by: Martin Wellings

The Ashgate Research Companion to World Methodism

Print publication date:  February  2013
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9781409401384
eBook ISBN: 9781315613789
Adobe ISBN: 9781317040996


 Download Chapter



One of the most striking phenomena in the story of late-twentieth-century Christianity has been the resurgence of evangelicalism in the transatlantic West and its expansion across the Global South. The fundamentalist controversies of the 1910s and 1920s left Anglo-American evangelicalism divided, discredited and demoralised, but in the years after 1945 a remarkable renaissance took place. 1 1

This topic has generated an extensive and increasing literature. See, for example, D. W. Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s (London: Unwin Hyman, 1989); Oliver Barclay, Evangelicalism in Britain 1935–1995: A Personal Sketch (Leicester: IVP, 1997); Joel A. Carpenter, Revive Us Again: The Reawakening of American Fundamentalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997); and George M. Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980; 2nd edn, with additional material, 2006).

The ‘new evangelicalism’ in the United States, associated particularly with Carl Henry and Billy Graham, saw evangelicals eschew the shibboleths of ‘fighting fundamentalism’ and regain a position of influence in the ecclesiastical and cultural mainstream, to the extent that Newsweek magazine could respond to the inauguration of President Jimmy Carter by labelling 1976 ‘the year of the evangelical’. 2 2

Alister McGrath, Evangelicalism and the Future of Christianity (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1993), 32.

A comparable transformation took place in Great Britain, with the revival and strengthening of conservative evangelical strands in the historic denominations from the 1950s and then from the late 1960s the growth of new churches, some charismatic in worship style and theology, and some appealing to a particular national or ethnic constituency. The historians of the Evangelical Alliance characterised its history in the late twentieth century in terms of ‘renewal’ and ‘resurgence’, while the Alliance’s sesquicentenary in 1996 prompted serious reflection on the opportunities and challenges of greater numbers and growing influence. 3 3

Ian Randall and David Hilborn, One Body in Christ: The History and Significance of the Evangelical Alliance (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2001), vi; Steve Brady and Harold Rowdon (eds), For Such a Time as This: Perspectives on Evangelicalism, Past, Present and Future (Milton Keynes: Scripture Union, 1996).

Church leaders, scholars and secular commentators, moreover, recognised that evangelicalism was a significant force in the non-Western world. As the numerical balance within Christianity shifted to the Global South, so the strength of burgeoning evangelical churches in Africa, Asia and Latin America became increasingly important. 4 4

Jeremy Morris, The Church in the Modern Age (London: I. B. Tauris, 2007), chs 9, 10, 14, 15; Diarmaid MacCulloch, A History of Christianity (London: Allen Lane, 2009), 958–1016; Philip Jenkins, The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006).

Search for more...
Back to top

Use of cookies on this website

We are using cookies to provide statistics that help us give you the best experience of our site. You can find out more in our Privacy Policy. By continuing to use the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.