The Methodist Archives shares a John Wesley letter with his London chapel

An historic John Wesley letter is back in Britain, thanks to Robert Williams C’83 (left), general secretary of the archives of the United Methodist Church.

The Methodist Archives on Drew’s campus owns 130 original letters written by John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, but few are as exciting as the one believed to be his last.

Written on February 24, 1791, just days before his death at age 88, the letter encourages fellow abolitionist William Wilberforce, a young British politician, to continue the fight against slavery “in the name of God and in the power of His might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away before it.”

The famous letter was a gift from a collector, who bought it at Sotheby’s in 1931, and it will remain with the Methodist Archives and History Center forever. But the archives recently donated a facsimile to Wesley’s Chapel in London, where it’s being kept in the chapel’s collection of original Wesley letters. The transatlantic alliance came about through a friendship between Robert Williams G’83, head of the archives, and the Rev. Leslie Griffiths, the minister at the historic chapel and a Member of the British Parliament. One year ago Williams and a colleague, Christopher Anderson G’04,’06, were visiting the 234-year-old chapel when Griffiths offered to take them on a tour of the British Parliament building.

“While we were walking through the House of Lords, I said to Leslie, ‘How do I repay his Lordship for his hospitality?’” says Williams. “Jokingly he said, ‘Well, don’t you think the original of your letter should come back to London, where it was written?’ I said, ‘I don’t think so, but I’ll bring a copy the next time I come.”

Anderson, the archives’ librarian, loved the idea. “We’re always looking for ways to promote our collections,” he says.

True to his word, Williams returned last fall. He announced the donation to the congregation of Wesley’s Chapel at morning services on October 9 and hand-delivered it to Griffiths, who was guest preaching in Oxford, seven days later.—Mary Jo Patterson