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The Basics of Methodism
The Methodist branch of Protestantism traces its roots back to 1739 where it developed in England as a result of the teachings of John Wesley. While studying at Oxford, Wesley, his brother Charles, and several other students formed a group devoted to study, prayer and helping the needy. They were labeled "Methodist" because of the way they used "rule" and "method" to go about their religious affairs.
Of the 11 million worldwide members, more than 8 million live in the United States, and more than 2.4 million live in Africa, Asia and Europe.
The United Methodist Church is organized in a heirarchical system with the highest level being the General Conference (GC). The GC is the only organization that can officially speak for the United Methodist Church. Beneath the GC are Jurisdictional and Central Conferences, composed of Annual Conferences. Annual Conferences are further divided into Districts.
The Bible, the Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, the Twenty-five Articles of Religion.
John Wesley founded the Methodist religion with the primary motivation and ultimate goal of devout godliness. Today United Methodist beliefs are similar to many mainline Protestant denominations, with more liberal or tolerant views with respect to race, gender, and ideology.
The Methodist branch of protestant religion traces its roots back to 1739 where it developed in England as a result of the teachings of John Wesley. Wesley's three basic precepts that began the Methodist tradition consisted of:
- Shun evil and avoid partaking in wicked deeds at all costs,
- Perform kind acts as much as possible, and
- Abide by the edicts of God the Almighty Father.
- God is all-knowing, possesses infinite love and goodness, is all-powerful, and the creator of all things.
- God has always existed and will always continue to exist.
- God is three persons in one, the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit.
- God is the master of all creation and humans are meant to live in a holy covenant with him. Humans have broken this covenant by their sins, and can only be forgiven if they truly have faith in the love and saving grace of Jesus Christ.
- Jesus was God on Earth (conceived of a virgin), in the form of a man who was crucified for the sins of all people, and who was physically resurrected to bring them the hope of eternal life.
- The grace of God is seen by people through the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives and in their world.
- Close adherence to the teachings of Scripture is essential to the faith because Scripture is the Word of God.
- Christians are part of a universal church and must work with all Christians to spread the love of God.
- Baptism is a sacrament or ceremony in which a person is anointed with water to symbolize being brought into the community of faith.
- Communion is a sacrament in which participants eat bread and drink juice to show that they continue to take part in Christ's redeeming resurrection by symbolically taking part in His body (the bread) and blood (the juice).
- Wesley taught his followers that Baptism and Communion are not only sacraments, but also sacrifices to God.
- People can only be saved through faith in Jesus Christ, not by any other acts of redemption such as good deeds.
Methodist Distinctions from Other Protestant Faiths:
- The most fundamental distinction of Methodist teaching is that people must use logic and reason in all matters of faith.
- Also important is the acknowledgment of "prevenient," "justifying," and "sanctifying" graces. It is taught that people are blessed with these graces at different times through the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Prevenient grace is present before they are saved from the error of their ways.
- Justifying grace is given at the time of their repentance and forgiveness by God.
- And sanctifying grace is received when they have finally been saved from their sins and the sins of the world.
- And lastly, the Methodist Church puts a great emphasis on missionary work and other forms of spreading the Word of God and His love to others.
(Sources: ReligiousTolerance.org, ReligionFacts.com, AllRefer.com, and the Religious Movements Web site of the University of Virginia.