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|John Wesley||George Whitefield|
The Wesleyan revivalEdit
The Methodist revival originated in England. It was started by a group of men including John Wesley and his younger brother Charles as a movement within the Church of England in the 18th century, focused on Bible study, and a methodical approach to scriptures and Christian living. The term "Methodist" was a pejorative college nickname that was given to a small society of students at Oxford, who met together between 1729 and 1735 for the purpose of mutual improvement. They were accustomed to communicate every week, to fast regularly and to abstain from most forms of amusement and luxury. They also frequently visited poor and sick persons and prisoners in the jail.
The early Methodists reacted against perceived apathy in the Church of England, became open-air preachers and established Methodist societies wherever they went. They were notorious for their enthusiastic sermons and often accused of fanaticism. In those days, members of the established church feared that new doctrines promulgated by the Methodists, such as the necessity to salvation of a New Birth, of Justification by Faith, and of the constant and sustained action of the Holy Spirit upon the believer's soul, would produce ill effects upon weak minds. Theophilus Evans, an early critic of the movement, even wrote that it was "the natural Tendency of their Behaviour, in Voice and Gesture and horrid Expressions, to make People mad." In one of his prints, William Hogarth likewise attacked Methodists as "enthusiasts" full of "Credulity, Superstition and Fanaticism." But the Methodists resisted the many attacks against their movement. (See John Wesley and George Whitefield for a much more complete discussion of early Methodism.)
John Wesley came under the influence of the Moravians and Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius, while Whitefield adopted Calvinistic views. Consequently, their followers separated, those of Whitefield becoming Calvinistic Methodists. Generally Methodists have followed Wesley in Arminian theology.
Separation from the Church of EnglandEdit
Wesley originally had no intention of separating from the Church of England. However, following the American Revolution, the Church of England cut off its American members and refused to ordain ministers for them. Wesley sent Thomas Coke to be superintendent of the Methodist people in America, but since Coke was not a bishop, this role put him at odds with the Anglican Church's principle of Episcopalian church governance. Coke and other early American Methodist leaders subsequently formed the Methodist Episcopal Church. Wesley, however, never ceased to be or to act as a priest of the Church of England and died an Anglican. He chartered the first Methodist Church on February 28, 1784.
Theology and liturgyEdit
Traditionally, Methodism has believed in the Arminian view of free will, via God's prevenient grace, as opposed to predestination. This distinguishes it, historically, from Calvinist traditions such as Presbyterianism. However, in strongly Calvinist areas such as Wales, Calvinistic Methodists remain, also called the Presbyterian Church of Wales. Also, more recent theological debates have often cut across denominational lines, so that theologically liberal Methodist and Reformed churches have more in common with each other than with more conservative members of their own denominations.
John Wesley was not a systematic theologian, though Methodist ministerial students and trainee local preachers do study his sermons for his theology. The popular expression of Methodist theology is in the hymns of Charles Wesley. Since enthusiastic congregational singing was a part of the Evangelical movement, Wesleyan theology took root and spread through this channel.
Methodism follows the traditional and near-universal Christian belief in the triune God-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In devotional terms, this confession is said to embrace the biblical witness to God's activity in creation, encompass God's gracious self-involvement in the dramas of history, and anticipate the consummation of God's reign. For them, there are two Sacraments ordained of Christ: Baptism and Communion (Supper of the Lord).
It is a traditional position of the church that any disciplined theological work calls for the careful use of reason. By reason, it is said, one reads and interprets Scripture. By reason one determines whether one's Christian witness is clear. By reason one asks questions of faith and seeks to understand God's action and will.
This church insists that personal salvation always involves Christian mission and service to the world. Scriptural holiness entails more than personal piety; love of God is always linked with love of neighbor, a passion for justice and renewal in the life of the world.
In liturgical matters, whereas most Methodist worship is modeled after the Book of Common Prayer, a unique feature of the American Methodist Church is its observance of the season of Kingdomtide, which encompasses the last 13 weeks before Advent, thus dividing the long season after Pentecost into two discrete segments. During Kingdomtide, Methodist liturgy emphasizes charitable work and alleviating the suffering of the poor.
A second distinctive liturgical feature of Methodism is the use of Covenant services. Although practice varies between different national churches, most Methodist churches annually follow the call of John Wesley for a renewal of their covenant with God. It is not unusual in Methodism for each congregation to normally hold an annual Covenant Service on the first convenient Sunday of the year, and Wesley's Covenant Prayer is still used, with minor modification, in the order of service. It is a striking and sobering piece of liturgical writing, as the following excerpts illustrate:
- ...Christ has many services to be done. Some are easy, others are difficult. Some bring honour, others bring reproach. Some are suitable to our natural inclinations and temporal interests, others are contrary to both... Yet the power to do all these things is given to us in Christ, who strengthens us.
- ...I am no longer my own but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for you or laid aside for you, exalted for you or brought low for you; let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing; I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal...
Methodism in BritainEdit
- Main article: Methodist Church of Great Britain
British Methodism does not have bishops, though a report, "What Sort of Bishops?", to the Conference of 2005, was accepted for study and report. This report considered if this should now be changed and if so what forms of episkopé might be acceptable. It has however always been characterised by a strong central organization, the Connexion, which holds an annual Conference (note that the Church retains the 18th century spelling "connexion" for many purposes). The connexion is divided into Districts in the charge of a Chair (who may be male or female). Methodist districts often correspond approximately, in geographical terms, to the dioceses of the Church of England. The districts are divided into circuits governed by the quarterly Circuit Meeting and led and administrated principally by a "superintendent minister", and ministers are appointed to these rather than to individual churches (though some large inner-city churches, known as Central Halls, are designated as circuits in themselves - Westminster Central Hall, opposite Westminster Abbey in central London is the best known). Most circuits have many fewer ministers than churches, and the majority of services are led by lay local preachers, or by retired ("supernumerary") ministers. The superintendent and other ministers are assisted in the leadership and administration of the Circuit by lay Circuit Stewards, who collectively with the ministers form what is normally known as the Circuit Leadership Team.
Schisms within the original Methodist church, and independent revivals, led to the formation of a number of separate denominations calling themselves Methodist. The largest of these were the Primitive Methodist church, deriving from a revival at Mow Cop in Staffordshire, the Bible Christians and the United Methodist Church (not connected with the American denomination of the same name, but a union of three smaller denominations). The original church became known as the Wesleyan Methodist Church to distinguish it from these bodies. The three major streams of British Methodism united in 1932 to form the current Methodist Church of Great Britain.
In the 1960s, the Methodist Church made ecumenical overtures to the Church of England, aimed at church unity. Formally, these failed when they were rejected by the Church of England's General Synod in 1972; conversations and co-operation continued, however, leading in 2003 to the signing of a covenant between the two churches. From the 1970s onward, the Methodist Church also started several "Local Ecumenical Projects" (LEPs) both with the Church of England and with the United Reformed Church, which involved sharing churches, schools and in some cases ministers.
Methodism in the United StatesEdit
The first American Methodist bishops were Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury, whose boyhood home, Bishop Asbury Cottage, in West Bromwich, England, is now a museum. Upon the formation of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America at the Baltimore Christmas Conference in 1784, Coke (already ordained in the Church of England) ordained Asbury a deacon, elder, and bishop each on three successive days. Circuit riders, many of whom were laymen, traveled by horseback to preach the gospel and establish churches until there was scarcely any crossroad community in America without a Methodist expression of Christianity. One of the most famous circuit riders was Robert Strawbridge who lived in the vicinity of Carroll County, Maryland soon after arriving in the Colonies around 1760.
Disputes over slavery placed the church in difficulty in the first half of the 1800s, with the northern church leaders fearful of a split with the South, and reluctant to take a stand. The Wesleyan Methodists (later became The Wesleyan Church) and the Free Methodist Churches were formed by staunch abolitionists, and the Free Methodists were especially active in the Underground Railroad, which helped to free the slaves. Finally, in a much larger split, in 1845 at Louisville, the churches of the slaveholding states left the Methodist Episcopal Church and formed The Methodist Episcopal Church, South. The northern and southern branches were reunited in 1939, when slavery was no longer an issue. In this merger also joined the Methodist Protestant Church. Some southerners, conservative in theology, and strongly segregationist, opposed the merger, and formed the Southern Methodist Church in 1940.
Methodist World Peace Commission administered two Civilian Public Service units during World War II. One was at Duke University Hostpital in Durham, North Carolina and the other at Cherokee State (Psychiatric) Hospital in Cherokee, Iowa. With 673 conscientious objectors, there were more Methodist men in Civilian Public Service than any other denomination, excluding the historic peace churches.
The United Methodist Church was formed in 1968 as a result of a merger between the Evangelical United Brethren and the Methodist Church. The former church had resulted from mergers of several groups of German Methodist heritage. There was no longer any need or desire to worship in the German language. The merged church had approximately 9 million members as of the late 1990s. While United Methodist Church in America membership has been declining, associated groups in developing countries are growing rapidly.
American Methodist churches are generally organized on a connectional model, related but not identical to that used in Britain. Ministers are assigned to churches by bishops, distinguishing it from presbyterian government. Methodist denominations typically give lay members representation at regional and national meetings (conferences) at which the business of the church is conducted, making it different from episcopalian government. This connectional organizational model differs further from the congregational model, for example of Baptist, and Congregationalist Churches, among others.
In addition to the United Methodist Church, there are over 40 other denominations that descend from John Wesley's Methodist movement. Some, such as the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Free Methodists and the Wesleyan Church (formerly Wesleyan Methodist), are explicitly Methodist. Others do not call themselves Methodist, but are related to varying degrees. The Salvation Army was founded by William Booth, a former Methodist. It derives some of its theology from Methodism. Another related denomination is the Church of the Nazarene. Some of the charismatic or pentecostal churches such as the Pentecostal Holiness Church and the Assemblies of God also have roots in or draw from Wesleyan thought.
The Holiness Revival was primarily among people of Methodist persuasion, who felt that the church had once again become apathetic, losing the Wesleyan zeal. Some important events of this revival were the writings of Phoebe Palmer during the mid-1800s, the establishment of the first of many holiness camp meetings at Vineland, New Jersey in 1867, and the founding of Asbury College, (1890), and other similar institutions in the US around the turn of the 20th century.
From its beginnings in England, Methodism laid emphasis on social service and education. Numerous originally Methodist institutions of higher education were founded in the United States in the early half of the 19th century, and today altogether there are about twenty universities and colleges named as "Methodist" or "Wesleyan" still in existence.
The United Methodist Church allows for a wide range of theological and political beliefs. For example, Republican President George W. Bush is a member. Vice President Dick Cheney attends the United Methodist Church (though he is not a member). Democrats Hillary Clinton and John Edwards are both members of the United Methodist Church.
An estimated 75 million people worldwide belong to the Methodist community.
- In Australia, the Methodist Church merged with the majority of the Presbyterian Church of Australia and the Congregational Union of Australia in 1977, becoming the Uniting Church. The Wesleyan Methodist Church of Australia continues to operate independently. There are also other independent Methodist congregations. Some of these were established by, or have been impacted by, Tongan immigrants.
- In Canada, the Methodist Church of Canada was an 1884 union of pioneering groups. In 1925, they merged with the Presbyterians, then by far the largest Protestant communion in Canada (a minority of whom seceded to reconstitute themselves as a continuing Presbyterian Church in Canada), most Congregationalists, Union Churches in Western Canada, and the American Presbyterian Church in Montreal, to form the United Church of Canada. In 1968, the Evangelical United Brethren Church's Canadian congregations joined after their American counterparts joined the United Methodist Church.
- Bermuda's Methodist Synod, is a separate presbytery of the United Church of Canada's Maritime Conference.
- There are small Methodist Churches in many European countries, the strongest being in Germany. These mostly derive from links with the American rather than the British church.
- The strongest Methodist church in the world is probably now in South Korea. There are many Korean-language Methodist churches in North America catering to Korean-speaking immigrants, not all of which are named as Methodist. There are several denominations which are of Wesleyan/Methodist heritage, but not explicitly Methodist.
- A high proportion of the Polynesian population of Fiji are Methodists. Fiji has the highest percentage of Methodists in the world.
- Missionaries from Britain, North America, and Australia founded Methodist churches in many Commonwealth countries. These are now independent and many of them are stronger than the former "mother" churches. In addition to the churches, these missionaries often also founded schools to serve the local community. A good example of such a school is the Methodist Boys' School in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and The Anglo-Chinese Schools, Methodist Girls Schools and Fairfield Methodist Schools in Singapore
- Almost all Methodist churches are members of a consultative body called the World Methodist Council, which has its headquarters at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, USA.
- The Igreja Metodista Unida is one of the largest denominations of Mozambique.
- Albert C. Outler
- Articles of Religion (Methodist)
- Assurance (theology)
- Atonement (Governmental view)
- Category:Methodist theologians
- Christian apologetics
- Christian perfection
- Holiness movement
- Imparted righteousness
- List of Christian denominations#Methodists
- Methodist theologians (list)
- Means of Grace
- Methodism (philosophy) (unrelated to the religious movement)
- New Birth
- Prevenient Grace
- ↑ What sort of bishops?:Models of episcopacy and British Methodism
- ↑ Anglican-Methodist Covenant
- ↑ Swarthmore College Peace Collection (Camps).
- ↑ Keim p. 81.
- ↑ Cracknell, p. i.
- Cracknell, Kenneth and Susan J. White. An Introduction to World Methodism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. ISBN 0521818494.
- Harmon, Nolan B., ed. The Encyclopedia of World Methodism. Abingdon Press, 1974. ISBN 0687117844.
- Keim, Albert N. (1990). The CPS Story, Good Books. ISBN 1-56148-002-9
- Swarthmore College Peace Collection: List of CPS Camps (by Camp Number), retrieved 2006-01-25.
- Free Methodist Church of North America
- Methodist Church In Singapore
- World Methodist Council
- Divisions and Reunions in North American Methodism
- United Methodist Church
- United Methodist Social Principles
- Francis Asbury
- African Methodist Episcopal Church
- African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
- Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
- Methodist Church in Britain
- Methodist Church in Ireland
- Southern Methodist Church
- Southern Congegational Methodist Church
- Methodist History Bookmarks
- 200 Years of United Methodism
- Faith, Feeling, and Fanaticism
- Methodist Church in Hong Kong
- Kwong Yuen Methodist Church of Hong Kong (循道衛理聯合教會廣源堂)
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