"The living core of the Christian faith is revealed in Scripture, illumined by tradition, vivified in personal experience, and confirmed by reason." --John Wesley
What we know now as the United Methodist Church began as a movement in the 1700's in England by John Wesley and other students at Oxford University. Wesley and the other students, themselves a mixture of other groups (e.g. some Roman Catholics and some Protestant, although most were Anglican or the Church of England) formed a group originally called "The Holy Club." Members agreed to attend their own church regularly, pray and read their Bibles daily, do good deeds for others daily, and attend their Holy Club group (or "class") weekly.
Other students made fun of Holy Club members and considered them religious fanatics. Among the jibes they made up was the term "Methodist," because the Holy Club insisted on being so methodical in their study of the Bible and in scheduling their daily prayer. The name stuck.
John Wesley and the early Methodists did not set out to create a separate church. Their vision was to encourage all Christians to "grow in holiness," that is, to grow spiritually and to put that spiritual growth to practical use in making a better world. To this day, Methodists do not think we are part of the only or best church; we believe that all Christians are part of one family of God.
To learn more about our rich theological heritage, see UMC.org.