Methodism

What started as a Club in Oxford, developed into a movement, and then became the Methodist Church, but not until after John Wesley’s death.

John Wesley (1703 – 1791) and Charles Wesley (1707-1788) were brought up in Epworth where their father was a rector in the Church of England.  After study at Oxford, John Wesley too was ordained into the Church of England.  He served in his father’s parish for a short time and then returned to Oxford as a tutor.  It was in Oxford that he and his younger brother Charles, along with some students and tutors, formed themselves into a society to study the bible in a methodical way, to pray in regularly, and to practise good works. This society, formed in 1729, acquired various mocking nick names, such as ‘The Holy Club’ and ‘The Methodists’. 

In 1738 John Wesley had a transforming ‘heart-warming’ experience. He then confidently preached the love and forgiveness of God, removing a sense of guilt and failure, and giving inner peace.   At first he preached in churches, then he preached in the open countryside and market-places, travelling many thousand miles on horseback during his ministry of over 50 years.  As a result, a movement developed in which many Methodist societies were formed in the eighteenth century, and helpers were trained to look after these societies and to preach to others. Members were encouraged to meet weekly and to attend their parish church on Sundays for Holy Communion. In 1784 Wesley set up a yearly conference to plan and control the work of these societies.  He maintained his Anglican practices to the end of his life and wanted all the societies to do the same. 

However, within a few years of his death, the movement broke away from the Church of England and became an independent Church in 1795.  Several strands of Methodism, wanting more local control and freedom, emerged in the early nineteenth century, a number of these coming together in 1875 to form the United Methodist Church.  Further strands came together in 1907 and, in 1932, the present Methodist Church was formed from the union of all the major branches

Belief of the Methodist Church

The Methodist Church does not have any exclusive beliefs.  It holds the traditional beliefs based on the New Testament and summarised in the classic creeds.  It belongs to the Reformed stream of Christianity.  It has entered into ‘shared’ church schemes with the Church of England and the United Reformed Church, and it cooperates with other churches including the Roman Catholic Church, in worship and social activities serving local communities.

The Methodist Church puts particular emphasis on Salvation by Faith for all people: All can be saved.  All may be saved.  All may know themselves to be saved.  All may be saved to the uttermost.

It stresses the importance of personal, individual development in the Christian life and commitment to social justice in this country and abroad.

It is concerned about the plight of the poor and underprivileged, and is responsive to appeals for resources.

 It encourages the training of church members to participate in leading worship, in preaching, and in pastoral care.

Methodists have expressed their faith through hymns. Charles Wesley was a prolific hymn-writer, and many of his hymns are still used by Christian denominations, from the Roman Catholic Church to informal house churches. ‘Singing the Faith’ is the title of the recent hymn book of the Methodist Church, containing many hymns from the Wesleys, as well as contemporary hymns which express in modern language the social and personal concerns of today.