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A small group of students, including John Wesley, Charles Wesley and George Whitefield, met at Oxford University.They focused on methodical study of the Bible and living a holy life.The Conference has remained the governing body of Methodism ever since.As his societies multiplied, and elements of an ecclesiastical system were successively adopted, the breach between Wesley and the Church of England (Anglicanism) gradually widened.Theophilus Evans, an early critic of the movement, even wrote that it was "the natural Tendency of their Behaviour, in Voice and Gesture and horrid Expressions, to make People mad".As Wesley and his colleagues preached around the country they formed local societies, authorised and organised through Wesley's leadership and conferences of preachers.An Anglican priest, Wesley adopted unconventional and controversial practices, such as open-air preaching, to reach factory labourers and newly urbanised masses uprooted from their traditional village culture at the start of the Industrial Revolution.
The radicals formed the Methodist New Connexion, while the original body came to be known as the Wesleyan Methodist Church.Growth was steady in both rural and urban areas, despite disruption caused by numerous schisms; these resulted in separate denominations (or "connexions") such as the Wesleyan Methodist Church, the first and largest, followed by the New Connexion, the Bible Christian Church and the Primitive Methodist Church.(They were reunited in the Methodist Union of 1932.) Some of the growth can be attributed to the failure of the established Church of England to provide church facilities.He took to open-air preaching to recruit followers to his movement.He formed small classes in which his followers would receive religious guidance and intensive accountability in their personal lives.