The designation "Methodist", that is to say, 'those who are methodical', was given to a group of young English Protestants who,around the year 1730, met regularly to study the Bible and were committed to a Christian way of living.
Some of them were ministers of the Church of England (the Anglican Church), among them being the Wesley brothers. The Wesleys were going through a deep spiritual crisis, feeling called to preach the Gospel in a direct and positive way, helping the needy, visiting the sick and empathizing with and supporting the poorer classes who were suffering most during the great Industrial Revolution of England. They began to preach in the open-air, often in town and city squares, a practice which very few Anglican ministers favoured!
In America, the movement extended rapidly, its presence being particularly significant as the colonists pushed ahead towards the West: while the official churches had a rigid organization, with chapels, priests or pastors, the Methodist preachers made do with a tent, leaving the newly formed congregations to organize themselves. Hence the great importance given to the laity in the life of the churches.
Not less important were the social ministries of the Methodist movement. The meetings of those groups of workers which were to start the first British and American trade unions, were often organized by the Methodist preachers and the more active members of the communities.
In Italy of the 19th century, British and American preachers formed the first Methodist groups. Presently, the Methodist church is to be found all over the globe and is made up of millions of members. In Italy it shares the same synod as the Waldensian church.