History professor examines rise of American Methodism

Due in part to its willingness to entrust leadership positions to young men and women, between 1776 and 1820, the Methodists grew from a sect of around 11,000 members to become the largest Christian body in America.

Dr. John Ellis, assistant professor of history at Bemidji State University, will examine why Methodism pursued a reform-minded counterculture, the nature of intergenerational change, and explore what lessons might be learned from a 19th-century youth movement as part of the university’s Honors Council Lecture Series.

• A video preview of the lecture is available on Vimeo.
Ellis’ presentation is available on Slideshare.

Census and church records available from that early period in American history show that both the average American and the average new Methodist converts were about 20 years old. The church offered youth a forum to question the authority of their elders, challenge age-based hierarchies and advocate for an ideology that dovetailed with the ideals originating from the American Revolution.

“The Methodists disrupted generational authority, intensifying intergenerational conflicts inherent in a young population experiencing seismic social, political and economic shifts,” Ellis said. “Within two generations after the American Revolution, traditional values of social cohesion crumbled as a new nation increasingly valued individual choice, self-interest and self-initiative.”

Ellis’s research focus on Native Americans, African Americans and religion with an emphasis on Methodism, which was the subject of his dissertation. He is a frequent presenter at history conferences and has submitted a book manuscript for review. He has a bachelor’s degree from Heidelberg University, a master’s from Bowling Green State University and a doctorate in early American history from Purdue University.

Lecture information
Dr. John Ellis, assistant professor of history at Bemidji State University, presents “Great Men Are Not Always Wise, Neither Do the Aged Understand Judgment: Intergenerational Conflict in Post-Revolutionary America” as part of BSU’s Honors Council Lecture Series. The lecture will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 19, in Hagg-Sauer Hall 112 on the BSU campus. Honors Council Lectures are open to the public free of charge.

The Honors Council Lecture Series is hosted by the Bemidji State University Honors Council. The council is the advisory group to the honors program comprised of 12 faculty members from each of the University’s colleges. Student representatives are also elected to the council by their cohorts for one-year terms.

Caughey, Kari , BSU honors program; (218) 755-3984
Dr. John Ellis, assistant professor of history