I love learning about the many traditions and denominations of the Christian faith. Though I’ve only ever been a member of a Lutheran and a United Methodist church, I’ve read about a huge number of denominations, each of which made their own contributions to the Church, theology, and the Kingdom of God. Somewhere in the midst, however, I realized that I needed to stop floating in this cloud of ideas and start solidifying my beliefs.
As I considered the massive amount of information I’d sifted through, the huge amount of history and theology, I came to realize that the Wesleyan movement – and the United Methodist Church – seemed to be the best synthesis of it all. Here was a tradition in which I found both a focus on grace and an emphasis on action, a church which called for closeness and attention to both God and neighbor, and even as I read John Wesley’s sermons from more than 200 years ago, I found a reverence and love that spoke clearly in the modern day. When you look at the United Methodist Church today, you may consider it to be something of a “vanilla” denomination, the landing point for people who are disgruntled with their home churches. But it seems to me that such a simple view ignores almost everything that makes the Methodist movement good and beautiful, everything that makes it worthwhile.
So, what is the point of Methodism?
The Methodist movement was started primarily by John and Charles Wesley, two brothers who were Anglican priests in 18th century England. Though it initially began in “Holy Clubs” at universities, the ideas of the Wesleys quickly spread to all areas of society, moving into the working class mining and farming communities and branching out into the colonies in America. They were known for enthusiastic preaching, a pursuit of holy living, and a focus on Grace that disagreed with both the Calvanist and the Armenian thinkers of the time. It was not unusual to find John Wesley preaching in a field in some small English town, and if you look in any hymnal you’re likely to find some of Charles Wesley’s hymns. The impact the movement had on society was staggering, and you can still see influences of the initial push in the modern day.
I’m going to split it into three posts which will hopefully give you a good understanding of the unique features of United Methodism: Doctrine, Mission, and Community. Though you can find similarities to the Methodist church in other denominations, the way the three aspects interact with each other is what makes Methodism truly special.
Check in next Wednesday for the first post about Methodism, in which we will look at the things Methodists believe!