Methodists trace their roots to the early church. However, Methodists emerge as a unique and distinctive Christian tradition in 18th century England. The Reverend Mr. John Wesley, a priest in the Church of England, sought to reform the church and reinvigorate Christians to greater focus on Christian living through spreading God’s love and serving the poor and marginalized. John Wesley along with his brother Charles Wesley, friend George Whitefield, and many others began to preach in open areas across Great Britain as well as organize Bible groups who studied Scripture and served the poor.
While the early Methodists did not object to the doctrine or polity of the English church, separation eventually ensued in the late 18th century with the establishment of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1784 in the newly-formed United States of America. Methodists in Great Britain formed their own church after John Wesley’s death in 1791.
Committed to ‘spreading Scriptural holiness across the land’ as John Wesley described, Methodists work in mission and evangelism led them to all parts of the world. Today, there are 80 million Methodists in over 138 countries and on every inhabited continent.
What do Methodists believe?
Methodists share a common heritage with all Christians. We affirm the Christian faith as expressed in the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed.
Methodist also emphasize:
- Grace is central to our understanding of Christian faith and life. Grace can be defined as the love and mercy given to us by God because God wants us to have it, not because of anything we have done to earn it. We read in the Letter to the Ephesians: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God — not the result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). This incredible grace flows from God’s great love for us.
- We acknowledge God’s grace that surrounds all humanity and precedes any and all of our conscious impulses. God grace awakens in us an earnest longing for deliverance from sin and death and moves us toward repentance and faith.
- We believe God reaches out to the repentant believer in justifying grace with accepting and pardoning love. We stress that a decisive change in the human heart can and does occur under the prompting of grace and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We are through faith forgiven our sin and restored to God’s favor. Following Jesus’ words to Nicodemus, “you must be born anew” (John 3:7 RSV), we speak of this conversion as rebirth, new life in Christ, or regeneration.
- We hold that the wonder of God’s acceptance and pardon does not end God’s saving work. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are enabled to increase in the knowledge and love of God and in love of our neighbor.
- We see God’s grace and human activity working together in the relationship of faith and good works. While faith is the only response essential for salvation, we know faith evidences itself in good works. We affirm the biblical precept that “faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2:17).
- We insist that personal salvation always involves Christian mission and service to the world.