What is Methodism?
Detailed below is a brief summary of Methodism. This useful information is taken from www.methodist.org.uk and BBC religions.
The Methodist Church
The Methodist Church is the fourth largest Christian Church in Britain, after the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches and the Church of Scotland. It has more than six thousand churches and a total membership of approximately 330 000 people. There are Methodist Churches in nearly every country in the world and global membership numbers some 70 million people.
Methodism has its roots in eighteenth century Anglicanism. Its founder was a Church of England minister, John Wesley (1703-1791), who sought to challenge the religious assumptions of the day. During a period of time in Oxford, he and others met regularly for Bible study and prayer, to receive communion and do acts of charity. They became known as 'The Holy Club' or 'Methodists' because of the methodical way in which they carried out their Christian faith. John Wesley later used the term Methodist himself to mean the methodical pursuit of biblical holiness.
Methodists traditionally use a fourfold approach to learn about our Christian faith and apply it to contemporary issues and to our Christian practice:
· Scripture - We seek to discover the word of God through reading the Bible. There are different understandings among Methodists about the Bible's authority in our lives. We need to use resources like different Bible translations, commentaries and Bible reading notes.
· Tradition - This is the wisdom and creativity of Christians over time and across the world. It includes
inspirational material like hymns, songs, prayers, poetry, Christian art and devotional books,. There are also formally agreed teachings like the creeds, the content of the catechism, and statements and reports from the Methodist Conference.
· Reason - We are called to love God with our minds as well as with our hearts. To the best of our ability we need to think things through in the light of reason. This means becoming aware of different points of view, and using our own critical thinking to make sense of God's world.
· Experience - Methodism particularly stresses the importance of our own experience of God's grace
working in our lives. We gain wisdom and maturity from life experience, especially when we pray and reflect about our story with other Christians.
Methodists belong to local churches or ecumenical partnerships, but also feel part of a larger connected community, the Connexion. This sense of being connected makes a difference to how the Methodist Church as a whole is structured. At its heart is an understanding of the Christian community as the 'body of Christ '. Just as a human body contains different limbs and organs that depend on each other, so we should be close and caring enough to feel each other's pain and delight. We should put the good of the whole body before our own individual needs. The promise of mutual support is a strength of Methodism. If you become a member of the Methodist Church, a pastoral visitor is responsible for visiting you and offering spiritual support, encouragement and challenge.
In the Methodist Church decisions are made as openly as possible, giving opportunities for all to contribute. It is important for all views to be heard and taken seriously, especially where Christians disagree. If we have mixed feelings about faith, or are unsure whether we are feeling the right things, or unable to get away from feelings of guilt, it helps to know that we are not alone. John Wesley wrestled with difficult feelings on his journey of faith. Although already an ordained minister in the Church of England, he did not feel he was truly loved and forgiven by God until the famous moment described in his journal for 24 May 1738. John Wesley did not give up on his search - he actually did go and listen, even if very unwillingly. He put himself in the right place, and found that God gave him freely the sense of joy and assurance he was looking for. Our faith rests not on our own feelings, but on the promises of a faithful God.
If you would like to find out more, visit the Methodist Church of Great Britain website.