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Methodism

METHODISM

METHODISM. Methodism began as a movement in eighteenth-century England, part of the larger Protestant evangelical revival that endeavored to bring spiritual renewal to the nation and the Church of England and to increase the effectiveness of the church's ministry, especially to the poor. The term "Methodist" was applied about 1729 to a small group of students at Oxford University who devoted themselves to a strict method of study and religious practice. While the members of this group referred to themselves as the Holy Club, other university students and leaders reproachfully labeled them Methodists. The three principal figures in the origin and development of Methodism were members of the Holy Club, John Wesley (17031791), an Anglican clergyman who became its leader; his younger brother Charles Wesley (17071788); and George Whitefield (17141770).

Charles Wesley and Whitefield also became ordained clergymen in the Church of England. The Wesleys and Whitefield not only accepted the tradition and doctrines of Anglicanism, they also advocated an evangelical experience of conversion, notably in their preaching. Rather than settling into parish assignments, they engaged in an itinerant ministry, preaching in various churches when permitted but also speaking in private homes and in the open air at marketplaces, mines, and in fields.

BELIEFS AND PRACTICES

The Methodism of the Wesleys differed theologically from that of Whitefield at one main point. Whitefield advocated a form of Calvinism that held that, due to the blight of original sin, humans have no free will. Salvation is limited to those predestined or unconditionally elected by God to receive divine favor. The Wesleys, who identified with the teachings of the Dutch theologian Jacob Harmensen (Jacobus Arminius, 15601609), claimed that God's grace is universal. It is available to all people, freeing them to respond to God's offer of forgiveness and reconciliation. Whitefield's brand of Methodism was particularly popular in Wales and gained substantial support from the preaching of Howell Harris (17141773) and the financial assistance of Selina Hastings (17071791), the countess of Huntingdon. The emphasis of the Wesleys on the universalism of divine grace had a wide appeal and resulted in larger numbers for their brand of Methodism.

The main doctrinal emphases of Wesleyan Methodism included the seriousness of human sin and its dire consequences; preventing (or prevenient) grace, which frees the human will; justification of the sinner by faith in God's grace; the experience of divine pardon in spiritual new birth; personal assurance of being in God's favor; and sanctification or holy living. The Wesleys believed that holy living is both personal and social. In addition the goal of the Christian life is loving God with all that one is and has and loving one's neighbor as oneself. These emphases are delineated in John Wesley's sermons and other writings as well as in the approximately nine thousand hymns written by his brother Charles.

Worship and the sacraments were important to Methodism from its beginning. Both of the Wesleys appreciated the formal liturgical worship of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. However, they also encouraged less-formal worship in Methodist meetings. The Sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion were accepted as means by which God's grace is conveyed to the recipient. Wesleyan Methodism also stressed Bible reading, prayer, and fasting. From the Moravians they adapted a love feast for special occasions, at which the members served each other bread and water as a sign of Christian affection and fellowship.

ORGANIZATION AND TACTICS

Unlike Whitefield, the Wesleys effectively organized their followers. John Wesley, a skillful organizer, arranged the Methodist people into societies that met regularly for worship and Christian fellowship. Since Methodism was intended to revitalize the Anglican Church, not to supercede it, Methodists were expected to attend society meetings as well as the services of their local Anglican parish churches. Each society was divided into subgroups of about twelve people, called classes, that met weekly for spiritual encouragement under the direction of class leaders. Society and class membership was guided by a set of General Rules for moral living devised by Wesley.

As Methodism grew across England, Scotland, and Ireland, John Wesley engaged laypeople to meet with the societies, preach in their meetings, provide pastoral care, and administer the General Rules. Since the lay preachers were not ordained, they were not permitted to administer the Sacraments. Lay leadership facilitated the movement's growth. In June 1744 the Wesleys met in London with four Anglican clergy sympathetic to the Methodist movement and four lay preachers, a gathering that evolved into an annual conference of the movement's leaders. At these important annual meetings the preachers discussed theological issues, deliberated business, mapped strategy, and received preaching assignments for the ensuing year. During John Wesley's lifetime the annual conference advised him but did not override his authority in governing the movement.

Methodists acquired buildings for their gatherings as membership increased. In 1739 John Wesley purchased an abandoned cannon factory in London that he renovated for worship and called the Foundery. Other chapels and meeting places, including the celebrated New Room constructed in Bristol in 1739, were purchased or built for Methodist gatherings. In 1768 Wesley formulated a Model Deed designed to govern the use of Methodist chapels and buildings and to protect them from what he considered erroneous doctrine.

The Wesleys and their followers encountered verbal abuse and physical persecution. Their opponents, both laypeople and Anglican clergy, complained about their insistence on an evangelical conversion; their criticism of some forms of public entertainment; " irregular" practices, such as allowing laypeople to preach; and holding worship in the open air. Persecution was especially severe in the 1740s but declined significantly in the decades that followed.

When John Wesley's overtures to Anglican bishops to ordain some of his lay preachers for work in America were refused, he ordained two of them in 1784, dispatched them to the United States, and authorized them to form a Methodist church. During Wesley's lifetime this was the only Methodist church he sanctioned. In the decades following his death, other Methodist churches were formed by his followers in Great Britain.

John Wesley and the Methodists adopted forceful positions on many social questions. They opposed slavery, offered assistance to the poor, ministered in prisons, promoted medical treatment and healthy living, fostered education, and criticized violence and war. Although some historians claimed that Methodism kept Britain from sliding into a form of revolution that engulfed Europe, this thesis is widely disputed. Nevertheless, Methodism was quite influential in British life in the eighteenth century and beyond.

See also Church of England ; Wesley Family .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Primary Source

Heitzenrater, Richard P., general ed. The Works of John Wesley. Vols. 14, 7, 9, 11, 1826. Nashville, Tenn., 1975.

Secondary Sources

Davies, Rupert, A. Raymond George, and Gordon Rupp, eds. A History of the Methodist Church in Great Britain. 4 vols. London, 19651988.

Heitzenrater, Richard P. Wesley and the People Called Methodists. Nashville, Tenn., 1995.

Vickers, John A., ed. A Dictionary of Methodism in Britain and Ireland. Peterborough, U.K., 2000.

Yrigoyen, Charles, Jr. John Wesley: Holiness of Heart and Life. Nashville, Tenn., 1996.

Charles Yrigoyen, Jr.

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Methodism

METHODISM

METHODISM. In 1744 in England, John Wesley founded the Methodist church as a separate entity. He had initially hoped to reawaken the Church of England to the demands of vital piety. Wesley's theology was a warm-hearted evangelicalism that stressed the experience of Christ within the heart, humanity's capacity to accept Christ's offer of redemption, and the need for a disciplined life. In his later years, Wesley came to believe in the possibility of entire sanctification or holiness (a state of perfection) and taught that it should be the goal of every Christian. This latter doctrine has contributed to many of the divisions within Methodism.

Methodist ideas entered the American colonies informally at first, notably through the efforts of Robert Strawbridge in Maryland and Virginia, Philip Embury and Barbara Heck in New York, and Captain Thomas Webb in Pennsylvania. Their success prompted Wesley to send Richard Broadman and Joseph Pilmoor to America in 1769. Two years later, Wesley sent Francis Asbury, who was to become the great apostle of early Methodism in America. At first, Methodism was an extremely small movement that existed on the fringes of the Anglican church. Members listened to Methodist preachers but still received the sacraments from the Church of England because the Methodists were yet to ordain ministers of their own. Moreover, John Wesley's personal opposition to American independence made his emerging denomination unattractive to many who supported that cause. By the end of the the American Revolution, however, Methodism had become prominent enough to separate itself completely from the Church of England. The Christmas Conference, held in Baltimore in 1784, marks the beginning of the Methodist church in America. At that meeting, sixty preachers joined with Wesley's delegates Richard Vassey, Richard Whitcoat, and Thomas Coke in ordaining Francis Asbury and establishing an order for the church. The conference decided on a form of government by deacons, elders, and superintendents (later bishops); adopted the Book of Discipline, which regulated the life of the church and its members; and elected Coke and Asbury as its first superintendents.

Almost immediately after the Christmas Conference, Methodism entered a period of rapid expansion. The system of circuit riders, which Wesley had experimented with in England, met the need for clergymen in outlying regions and allowed relatively uneducated men to enter the ministry. Wherever the circuit rider could gather a crowd, he would stop, preach a sermon, and organize a Methodist class to continue the work until he was able to return. Religious zeal rather than material reward motivated these circuit riders because remuneration was sparse. Methodist theology was also easy for the average person to understand, and the Methodist emphasis on discipline was invaluable to communities that were far from the ordinary restraints of civilization. The Methodist combination of simplicity, organization, and lay participation not only made it the largest Protestant denomination but also decisively influenced the other frontier churches. Other denominations, even those of Calvinist background, had to accept elements of Methodist theory and practice in order to survive.

The nineteenth century was a period in which the Methodists, like many other American denominations, experienced internal division. Despite Wesley's unequivocable distaste for slavery, the question of slavery became an important issue for Methodist churches in both the North and South. Mistreatment of black ministers and members by white Methodists led some African American Methodists to form their own churches, including the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1816 and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church five years later. In 1843, the Wesleyan Methodist Connection, a small antislavery church, formed. The next year at the general conference of the Methodist Episcopal church, that branch


split into two separate ecclesiastical bodies: the Methodist Episcopal church and the Methodist Episcopal church, South. At issue was whether or not one of the denomination's bishops could serve in that capacity while he owned slaves, and delegates from the slave states founded their own church when the general conference suspended the offending bishop. After the American Civil War, even more black Methodists formed their own denominations. In the same period, the increasingly middle-class nature of the church contributed to disputes over the issue of entire sanctification, and the lower-class membership largely withdrew into the "Holiness" or "Pentecostal" movement. Nevertheless, during the late nineteenth century, the various branches of American Methodism dramatically increased in both members and wealth.

In the twentieth century, Methodism was involved in both the ecumenical movement and the Social Gospel. In 1908, the Federal Council of Churchs adopted the Methodist Social Creed as its own statement of social principles. Methodism has also begun to heal the divisions within its own ranks. In 1939, the Methodist Episcopal church; the Methodist Episcopal church, South; and the Methodist Protestant church merged into the Methodist Church, which resulted in a new denomination of almost eight million people. In 1968, the Methodist Church merged with the Evangelical United Brethren to form the United Methodist church with approximately eleven million members. The Evangelical United Brethen itself had come out of an earlier merger of two churches, the Church of the United Brethren in Christ and the Evangelical Association, in 1946. These two other denominations had arisen about the same time that Methodism emerged as a separate church and had always shared similar beliefs.

Like many mainstream Protestant churches, United Methodist faced falling membership in the second half of the twentieth century. In 1974, the United Methodist church had almost 10.2 million members, but that number had fallen to only 8.4 million by 1999. Nonetheless, the church remains the third largest Christian denomination in the United States and has substantially expanded its membership in Africa and Asia. Current membership levels for other prominent branches of Methodism, which have all grown over the last fifty years, include the African Methodist Episcopal church, 3.5 million members; the African Methodist Episcopal Zion church, 1.2 million members; and the Christian Methodist Episcopal church, 800,000 members.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Andrews, Dee. The Methodists and Revolutionary America, 1760– 1800: The Shaping of an Evangelical Culture. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000.

Campbell, James T. Songs of Zion: The African Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States and South Africa. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Richey, Russell E. Early American Methodism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991.

Schneider, A. Gregory. The Way of the Cross Leads Home: The Domestication of American Methodism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993.

Wigger, John H. Taking Heaven by Storm: Methodism and the Rise of Popular Christianity in America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Gleen T.Miller/a. e.

See alsoAfrican American Religions and Sects ; Camp Meetings ; Dissenters ; Evangelicalism and Revivalism ; Protestantism ; Religion and Religious Affiliation .

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Methodism

Methodism, the doctrines, polity, and worship of those Protestant Christian denominations that have developed from the movement started in England by the teaching of John Wesley.

Early History

John Wesley, his brother Charles, and George Whitefield, belonged to a group at Oxford that in 1729 began meeting for religious exercises. From their resolution to conduct their lives and religious study by "rule and method," they were given the name Methodists. The beginning of Methodism as a popular movement dates from 1738, when both of the Wesley brothers, influenced by contact with the Moravians, undertook evangelistic preaching. From the Moravians, too, they took the emphasis on conversion and holiness that are still central to Methodism.

The leaders of the movement were ordained ministers of the Church of England; neither of the two Wesleys ever disclaimed the holy orders of that church, but they were barred from speaking in most of its pulpits, in disapproval of their evangelistic methods. They preached in barns, houses, open fields, wherever an audience could be induced to assemble. Societies were formed, "class meetings" of converts were held, and lay preachers were trained and given charge of several congregations. The moving of preachers from one appointment to another was the beginning of the system of itinerancy.

Theologically, John Wesley was essentially a follower of Jacobus Arminius. Whitefield, unable to accept the Arminian doctrines of Wesley, broke with him in 1741 and became the leader of the Calvinistic Methodists. In 1744 the first annual conference was held and the Articles of Religion were drawn up. They were based to a considerable extent upon the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, but great emphasis was laid upon repentance, faith, sanctification, and the privilege of full, free salvation for everyone. By 1784 the spread of the movement, especially in America, made an organization separate from the Church of England necessary. In 1784, Wesley issued a Deed of Declaration giving legal status to the yearly Methodist conference. That same year he ordained Thomas Coke superintendent of the societies in America.

Branches of the Methodist Church

In 1791, after Wesley's death, the English Methodists were formally separated from the Church of England and established the Wesleyan Methodist Church. In both England and America various groups seceded from the main branch to form independent Methodist churches. Some of them later reunited. In Great Britain the Methodist New Connection was the first group to form a separate branch. Then followed the Primitive Methodists, the Bible Christians, the Protestant Methodists, the Wesleyan Methodist Association, and the Wesleyan Reformers.

In 1857 the last three formed a union as the United Methodist Free Churches; in 1907 these were incorporated with the Methodist New Connection and the Bible Christians as the United Methodist Church. Finally, in 1932, the Wesleyan Methodists, the Primitive Methodists, and the United Methodists merged to become the Methodist Church in Great Britain. By 1995 there were about 388,000 Methodists in Great Britain. There are Methodist churches in most parts of the world, with United churches in South India, Canada, and Zambia. There are over 26 million Methodists worldwide.

Methodism in America

John and Charles Wesley visited America in 1735 as spiritual advisers to James Oglethorpe's colony in Georgia, but the actual beginnings of Methodism in America came after 1766, when Philip Embury, a Wesleyan convert from Ireland, began to preach in New York, and Robert Strawbridge started a congregation in Maryland. In 1769, Wesley sent several itinerant preachers into the new field; Francis Asbury arrived in 1771. The first annual conference in America was held in 1773. In 1784, Thomas Coke, acting on authority from Wesley, proceeded with the organization of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America. At a Christmas conference in Baltimore, Asbury and Coke were elected superintendents (and shortly thereafter styled bishops), and the order of worship and articles of religion prepared by Wesley were adopted.

The first General Conference of the new church was held in 1792. In 1830, after controversy over lay representation in conferences and other questions, the Methodist Protestant Church was formed, without bishops or presiding elders. The Wesleyan Methodist Connection was organized (1843) at Utica, N.Y., in a strong antislavery protest. The independent Methodist Episcopal Church, South, began in 1845 over the issue of slavery. In 1939 a great reunion was realized—the Methodist Episcopal Church (North), the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and the Methodist Protestant Church united as the Methodist Church. In 1968 the Methodist Church joined with the Evangelical United Brethren Church to form the United Methodist Church, now the largest body of Methodists in the world with about 8.5 million members (1997).

Among the 22 other branches of Methodism in the United States are the Primitive Methodist Church (est. c.1830), the Congregational Methodist Church (est. 1852), and the Free Methodist Church of North America (est. 1860). Black Methodist denominations, founded by pastors such as Richard Allen, include the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, and the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church (formerly the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church).

Bibliography

See R. Davies and G. Rupp, ed., A History of the Methodist Church in Great Britain (3 vol. to date, 1965–84); F. Baker, John Wesley and the Church of England (1970); N. B. Harmon, ed., The Encyclopedia of World Methodism (2 vol. 1974); F. A. Norwood, The Story of American Methodism (1974); T. A. Langford, Weslyan Theology (1984).

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methodism

methodism began as a religious revival in the 18th cent. and grew to become the largest of the nonconformist churches. Under the leadership of John Wesley, societies for cultivating religious fellowship were set up, intended originally as auxiliary to the established church, but soon forced into independence by the hostility of the clergy. The movement grew rapidly from the 1740s and developed distinctive institutions, notably the weekly class meeting of 10–12 members and an itinerant body of lay preachers, who visited the societies, preaching in the homes of members and in the open air. At Wesley's death in 1791, there were 72,000 members of methodist societies and perhaps nearly half a million adherents. By 1850 membership was about half a million and an estimated 2 million persons (one-tenth of the total population) were under direct methodist influence. In Yorkshire one-sixth and in Cornwall one-third of the total population attended methodist services in 1851. During Wesley's lifetime there was no open breach with the Church of England, but after his death the methodists became a separate denomination with their own chapels. Schismatic tendencies led to the establishment of a number of different methodist churches (‘connexions’). Later in the 19th cent. a process of reunion began and was completed in 1932.

Theologically, methodism differed little from the evangelical wing of the Church of England, stressing personal conversion and salvation by faith in the atoning death of Christ. But socially methodism was a transforming force. Most of the 18th-cent. ‘people called methodists’ were of humble origin without advantages of education, wealth, or social position. However, their puritan virtues brought them worldly prosperity and, by the 1830s and 1840s, the big Wesleyan chapels in northern towns were dominated by wealthy mill-owners and businessmen. Official methodism in the 19th cent. was middle class and socially conservative. Yet underneath there was a more liberal and democratic spirit. Methodism in the 18th cent. was a popular movement, and most of the schisms which rent the central Wesleyan body until 1849 were attempts in one form or another to reassert this basic characteristic. The breakaway churches (such as the methodist New Connexion, primitive methodists, Bible Christians, protestant methodists, Barkerites, Wesleyan reformers) were characterized by differences of organization and personalities, not doctrine. Methodism, unlike the Church of England, was essentially a layman's religion. In addition to the full-time ministers (who had the superintendence of a number of chapels in a circuit), there was an army of active lay helpers, numbering in 1850 some 20,000 local preachers, over 50,000 class leaders, together with trustees, stewards, prayer leaders, and Sunday school teachers. Around the chapel there developed an intense world of personal and social relationships, which lasted into modern times. Friendship, marriage partners, help and support in time of need, a sense of security and personal worth were assured to methodists, who were exhorted to ‘watch over one another in love’.

Methodism made an important contribution to the leadership of working-class movements like trade unionism and chartism by providing opportunities for self-education and training in leadership and organization in running the chapel. The general culture of methodism was toward respectability through living a temperate, thrifty, hard-working life; and early government fears that methodism was potentially disruptive gave place to the realization that it was more a force for stability than conflict in a working-class community. Indeed, historians have argued (somewhat exaggeratedly) that it was methodism that prevented revolution in Britain during the revolutionary decades 1789–1848.

Methodism has been criticized as providing a useful work-discipline for Victorian employers, and also as a religion which encouraged pessimism, repression, guilt feelings, and psychic inhibitions. Certainly some of its manifestations were crude, emotional, narrow, and self-righteous. But to thousands of ordinary men and women, methodism offered a view of human nature which harmonized with and interpreted their own experiences. In a world full of disease, early death, injustice, and all kinds of insecurity, methodism brought joy and hope. When a miner or farm labourer or domestic servant ‘found Jesus’, their life was transformed. Methodism gave them a cheerful conviction that in God's providence there was a place for everyone, however humble.

John F. C. Harrison

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Methodism

Methodism. A Christian denomination, itself made up of several parts, deriving from the preaching and ministry of John and Charles Wesley, and initially of George Whitefield. The term ‘methodist’ was in origin used derisively by opponents of the Holy Club at Oxford, but Wesley used it from 1729 to mean the methodical pursuit of biblical holiness. The rapid success of Methodism, reaching places and people that the established Church did not, soon set up a tension, since the class system seemed to be setting up a ‘parish’ within a parish, especially when those converted wanted no connection with the parish church. In any case, Wesley was compelled by the shortage of ordained preachers in America (after the war of Independence) to ordain his fellow presbyter, Thomas Coke (1747–1814), as Superintendent over ‘the brethren in America’, who became the Methodist Episcopal Church; the title of Superintendent became that of Bishop in 1787. Many divisions occurred in the 19th cent.: the Methodist Episcopal Church divided in 1844 over the issue of slavery; before that, two black Churches had been established, the African Methodist Episcopal (1816) and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion (1820), which now number over 4 million. Among many groups in Britain, the Wesleyan, Primitive, and United Methodists came together in the Methodist Church of Great Britain and Ireland, in 1932. In the USA, a similar process brought into being the United Methodist Church in 1968. The World Methodist Council was set up in 1951, not only to draw Methodists together, but to seek transconfessional actions and unions. Methodists number about 60 million in 100 countries.

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Methodist

Methodist a member of a Christian Protestant denomination originating in the 18th-century evangelistic movement of Charles and John Wesley and George Whitefield. The Methodist Church grew out of a religious society established within the Church of England, from which it formally separated in 1791. It is particularly strong in the US and now constitutes one of the largest Protestant denominations worldwide, with more than 30 million members. Methodism has a strong tradition of missionary work and concern with social welfare, and emphasizes the believer's personal relationship with God.

The original reason for the name is not clear, but it probably reflects the use of Methodist to mean someone who advocates a particular method or system of theological belief, especially with reference to doctrinal disputes about grace and justification.

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Methodism

Methodism Worldwide religious movement that began in England in the 18th century. It was originally an evangelical movement within the Church of England, started in 1729 by John and Charles Wesley. John Wesley stayed within the Anglican Church until his death in 1791. In 1795, the Wesleyan Methodists became a separate body and divided into other sects, such as the Methodist New Connection (1797) and the Primitive Methodists (1811). The United Methodist Church reunited the New Connection with the smaller Bible Christians and the United Methodist Free Churches in 1907; in 1932 these united with the Wesleyans and Primitives. In the USA, the Methodist Episcopal Church founded in 1784. Today, there are more than 50 million Methodists worldwide.

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Methodist

Meth·od·ist / ˈme[unvoicedth]ədəst/ • n. a member of a Christian Protestant denomination originating in the 18th-century evangelistic movement of Charles and John Wesley and George Whitefield. • adj. of or relating to Methodists or Methodism: a Methodist chapel. DERIVATIVES: Meth·od·ism / -ˌdizəm/ n. Meth·od·is·tic / ˌme[unvoicedth]əˈdistik/ adj. Meth·od·is·ti·cal / ˌme[unvoicedth]əˈdistikəl/ adj.

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Methodist

Methodistassist, cist, coexist, consist, cyst, desist, enlist, exist, fist, gist, grist, hist, insist, list, Liszt, mist, persist, resist, schist, subsist, tryst, twist, whist, wist, wrist •Dadaist • deist • fideist • Hebraist •Mithraist • essayist • prosaist •hobbyist, lobbyist •Trotskyist • boniest • copyist • veriest •pantheist • atheist • polytheist •monotheist •Maoist, Taoist •oboist • egoist • jingoist • banjoist •soloist • Titoist • Shintoist •canoeist, tattooist, Uist •voodooist • altruist • casuist •euphuist • Lamaist • vibist • cubist •Arabist • faddist • propagandist •contrabandist • avant-gardist • eldest •sadist • encyclopedist •immodest, modest •Girondist • keyboardist •harpsichordist • nudist • Buddhist •unprejudiced • Talmudist •psalmodist • threnodist • hymnodist •monodist • chiropodist • parodist •heraldist • rhapsodist • prosodist •Methodist • absurdist

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