Methodism originated with John Wesley’s evangelistic revival movement within the Anglican Church of England. Wesley, along with his brother Charles, founded the Holy Club while they were at Oxford. The Holy Club met weekly between 1729 and 1735, and focused on bible study and systematically living a holy life. They visited the sick, the poor and prisoners. George Whitefield was another significant early leader.
The early Methodists were reacting against apathy in the Church of England. The movement spread, and a significant number of Anglican clergy became Methodists in the mid-18th century. They drew supporters from all levels of society, including the aristocracy. Methodist preachers carried their message to labourers and criminals. Whitefield favoured open-air preaching to reach a broad audience. Methodist preachers were notorious for their enthusiastic sermons and were often accused of fanaticism. Many members of the Church of England feared that Methodist doctrines would have ill effects on weak minds. Following John Wesley's death in 1791, the movement was established as a separate denomination.