The dynamic intellectual environment of the 1800s encouraged
theological debate. One saw an increased development of colleges and
education of clergy, both in England and in the eastern regions of North
America. Towards the end of the century, however, a new movement emerged.
Poverty and class contrasts confronted people with issues of social
responsibility. A renewed spiritual hunger questioned philosophical
rhetoric and called for a recovering of the religiously lived life - the
experiential emphasis which was once the hallmark of Wesley and the
Methodists. As a departure from Wesley, however, the new movement valued
social action over inner pietism. Theologians and philosophers found
themselves more and more isolated in colleges and universities, severed
from the lives of the rank and file church going Christians. The latter
found spiritual satisfaction in a renewed effort of evangelism and social
outreach both at home and abroad.
The Methodist church in Canada felt a responsibility towards Aboriginal
people as well as towards newcomers, many of which were Eastern European
peasants who brought an Orthodox Christian tradition which was foreign to
the British oriented Protestants. The Women's Missionary Society offered
outreach programs for immigrant women, who were often isolated through
culture and language. Sewing and language meetings, as well as bible study
and protestant worship were on the program.