John Murray the Methodist

I got the following email a while back:

I’m enjoying the youth bio on John Murray which you provide on your ministry site (I’m sure it could pass for some adults too!). I’m printing and reading it at different intervals as I have the time.

Murray was a Methodist prior to claiming the Universalist name. I know of at least one United Methodist minister here in Houston who preaches Universalism, and one in another state who has an online ministry.

Is there a relationship between the Methodist tradition and Universalism? Do any other denominations have a history (big or small) with embracing Universalism?

I’ve long liked the “youth biography” (really, an adaptation of Murray’s autobiography) called The Cornerstone because it was so approachable. Yes: I transcribed it for adults. You caught me.

Read it here.

Yes, John Murray was originally a Methodist, but we need to recall that there was a division among Methodists in the eighteenth century that we just don’t see today. The Oxford “Holy Club” was the Wesley brothers — John and Charles — and George Whitefield. The division was between the Calvinist (Whitefield) and Arminian (Wesley) Methodists.

Murray was a student of James Relly who was a protégé of George Whitefield, the great Calvinist Methodist evangelist of England, Ireland (?) and America. Indeed, Relly used to preach at Whitefield’s Moorsfield Tabernacle in London, and I imagine the opprobrium he received was in part due to the apostasy he made against so well respected an evangelist.

Also, the geographical distances between the hotbeds of eighteenth-century Universalist (and Methodist and even Unitarian) London are far smaller than most would imagine — walking distance, really –making for more interactions. I would love to plot out a proper walking tour — leaving time for a pint, a bagel, and a balti dinner, too. (The area was later the scene for Jewish and Bangladeshi residents.)

See my Jewish tour of Universalist London and this page about Wesley’s (London) Chapel.

I wish I could plot this out on a map, but the places I’m talking about are on the right side or just off the right of the Wesley Chapel map. See Whitefield’s Tablernacle situated.

As for other denominations adhering to universalism (the theology), there were a number of German sectarians who held an optional universalism. Many later became Universalists. See the Church of the Brethren for more on that. After Universalism became established, many were drawn away by more liberal Episcopalians. (Then and now!)

Author: Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

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