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William O'Bryan (1778-1868)

William O'Bryan was born at Gunwen in Cornwall, the son of Anglican-Methodist parents. O'Bryan was a deeply religious youth and had conversion experiences in 1789 and 1795. He committed himself to life as an Evangelist at the age of 23. For several years he made his living as a farmer but absented himself for long periods on preaching tours. He served as a Wesleyan local preacher but proved unwilling to accept Connexional discipline. O'Bryan offered himself for the full-time ministry in 1810 but was rejected on account of his family responsibilities. Later the same year he was expelled from chapel membership for non-attendance in class and preaching in disregard of the circuit plan.

For a few years he worked as an independent evangelist with considerable success and was reconciled to Methodism in 1814, only to be expelled once more. In October 1815 he formed what became the Bible Christian Connexion, which within a few years had put down strong roots in Devon and Cornwall and had established Societies in London, Kent and the Channel Islands.

O'Bryan was a highly gifted preacher but possessed little administrative ability. He came into conflict with his own followers and emigrated to the United States in 1831. O'Bryan preached in several states and also in Canada, but did not enjoy his earlier evangelistic success. He made several visits to England and was partially reconciled to the Connexion that >he had founded. He is buried in New York.

Source: Dictionary of Evangelical Biography 1739-1860, edited by Donald M. Lewis (1995), Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974), and Thomas Shaw, A History of Cornish Methodism (1967), 88-92.

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