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Sophie Hopkey and William Williamson: the first survivors strike back!

Sophia Christinana Hopkey came to America in 1735 and met a preacher named John Wesley. She was already engaged to Thomas Mellichamp who counterfeited money and threatened to kill Sophie if she married anybody else. Sensing her vulnerability, Wesley began grooming his prey and eventually proposed to her.

John Wesley and Sophia began a courtship which Wesley himself ended. He withdrew his marriage proposal because he felt it would interfere with his new ministry in Savannah, Georgia. This basket case of an evangelist thought Sophie should remain celibate only to him.

The girl came to her senses and she decided to marry someone a little more stable: a man named William Williamson. This incensed the minister. He began a campaign of humiliating his victim. He questioned the legality of her marriage and denied her communion. This was normally done to someone who committed a deep sin, and, in this case, the sin was not submitting to the twisted expectations of John Wesley.

What did the victim of this abusive pastor do? William Williamson and his wife, Sophia, sued the pipsqueak and presented their case to no less than 35 jurors! They got him for defaming her character because he wouldn’t administer the Lord’s Supper.

From the warrant served to John Wesley: “To the great disgrace and hurt of her character; from which proceeding we conceive that the said John Wesley did assume an authority contrary to the laws established, and to the peace of our Lord the King, his crown and dignity.”

He fled the states and went to England where he was able to inflict his private and twisted interpretations upon that country. He married Mary Vazeille but it was known as an unhappy marriage. Big surprise? Wesley was even rumored to have gone on long crusades just to stay away from his wife. Perhaps his absence was a vacation for her, too?

His cult became quite successful and today we call them Methodists. The cult exists to this day. One of their biggest cult members, Robert Reynolds Jones, Sr, eventually pulled away from this sect to create his own cult known as ‘Bob Jones University’. BJU is now known as a bastion for obsessive young preacher boys who, like Wesley, use bullying tactics to settle personal scores and excessive scripture quoting in order to get a date.

There is another side to this story, of course. Robert Wearmouth, a biographer of Wesley, wrote: “If, perchance the High Church missionary to Georgia had succumbed to the attractions of Sophia Hopkey, married her as his natural impulses prompted, made a home of her uncle’s estate in accordance with that gentleman’s wish, there can be no doubt that Methodism, an acorn planted at Oxford, would never have grown into a tree of marvelous statue.”

Nice words!

Still, what would the outcome have been if the internet existed in those days? Would Sophia alert the people in England about an evangelist, with a tendency to ‘groom his victims’, who became vindictive and used his official capacity as a minister to settle personal scores? Would the Methodist religion now be referred to as the cult of John Wesley?

The time period between 1730-1791 was the same era that witnessed the Enlightenment and Age of Reason. Unfortunately, cult leaders like Wesley flourished during that period which has the name,’The Great Awakening’. Perhaps we might now refer to that period as the ‘first Great Cult Explosion’?

Prophecy conferences would eventually be held up and down the east coast and one of these cults began calling their views ‘fundamentalist’. The first Cult Explosion justified owning slaves, making women subsurvient to their husbands and encouraged beating their children. The great, great, great grandchildren of the First Cult Explosion are still with us and, more or less, still subscribe to the views of their forefathers. Minus the justifying slavery part, unless you want to count Wal Mart apologists in that category.

Sophie and her husband survived the immaturity and attacks of John Wesley by taking him to court. The community embraced them and Wesley left with his tale between his legs. Let’s honor them as the first survivors who struck back!


The Writer and the Preacher:

John Wesley wiki: