The term derives from the Dutch theologian Arminius. The English Arminians reacted against the Calvinistic tendencies of the Elizabethan Church of England by asserting a belief in free grace rather than predestination, and by maintaining that the sacraments, rather than preaching, were central to worship.
One feature of Arminius's thought that shows itself in much of Wesleyan Methodism, and even in Wesley himself, is great respect for the authority of the state. This atttitude differs from Calvinist rejection of the right of the state to speak to matters of the church. One of the most common (and justifiable) criticisms of Wesleyan Methodism, especially in the early nineteenth century under the "control" of Jabez Bunting, was the way in which Methodism sought to appeal to and even appease authority. Although Wesley never followed the thought of Arminius to the letter in this regard, the general trend was definitely present in Methodism-- except where the state was overtly "Established Church" and was unfavourable to Methodists, as in some of the colonies!
One of the most accesible references to this political trend in Arminianism is Williston Walker's A History of the Christian Church, 4th Edition, Scribners, 1985, p. 539.
Content originally created 1988; last modified 1998