This paper explores how and why Methodism began, placing typical features and what it has in common with other Christian traditions. Comparison with the Grecian Orthodox Church draws on this author ‘s personal experience. Methodism does non look much like Orthodoxy yet commonalties exist, including shared thoughts about worship, the claim to stand in continuity with crude Christianity, regard for the Pope but rejection of Papal domination. Methodism ‘s emphasis on spiritualty and practical looks of love, a typical accent, besides resonates with Orthodox thought on the relationship between “ religion and work. ”[ 1 ]
The Religious Background: John and Charles Wesley
Like Luther, the Church of England did non do many liturgical, organisational or doctrinal alterations from the Roman Catholic Church, from which it officially separated in 1534. For some, reforms did non travel far plenty. Some wanted more democracy and lay engagement. Some, such as Congregationalists and Baptist churchs, dissented from the established Church of England, asseverating their independency. Both believed that local folds should regulate themselves, which placed ballad people in charge. Others attempted to convey about alterations from within, such as the Puritans. John ( 1703-1791 ) and Charles Wesley ( 1707-1788 ) are universally acknowledged as Methodism ‘s laminitiss. Methodist churchs “ disagree about many things ” but non on their religious descent from John and Charles Wesley.[ 2 ]Sons of an Anglican reverends, they attended Oxford University and were ordained as Church of England clergy. In Oxford, John organized Bible survey categories for those interested in developing an interior experience of religion. By 1730, these assemblages were being described as a “ holy nine. ”[ 3 ]About the same clip, participants began to see prisons and “ the hapless of the Oxford slums. ” Charles, who had joined his brother, remarked “ what good we could make to the organic structures and psyches of work forces. ”[ 4 ]Members of the Club rose early to pray, fasted on a regular basis, read the Bible together, gaining a twine of “ monikers ” such as “ Bible Moths. ” The name that stuck was “ Methodist ” ; they were disciplined and methodological in their spiritual pattern. Wesley wanted to distribute “ sanctity ” across England, believing that many Christians lacked deep, interior committedness to Christian religion. He besides believed that religion must be translated into action, that holy life involves “ plants of benevolence ” as necessary for “ true spiritualty. ”[ 5 ]This became Methodism ‘s typical characteristic, an equal emphasis on inner reclamation and external plants. Methodist churchs have a tradition of societal service, human-centered concern, defending societal justness, sometimes in the political sphere.
The Methodist Church under Wesley: Organization, Beliefs, Worship
John wanted to reform the bing church, as Puritans had before him. Like them, he was concerned with interior religious experience. In 1835, John, Charles and two members of their Oxford community sailed for North America with the purpose of prophesying Christianity and reclamation. There, the usage of singing Charles ‘ anthem started. Charles Wesley ‘s anthem have been described as “ in some sense the ‘liturgy ‘ of Methodism. ”[ 6 ]John returned to England in 1838, following an incident that he feared compromised his ministry. He had grown fond of a miss, who rapidly “ married another adult male, ” after which he “ barred the twosome from Communion. ”[ 7 ]This led him to oppugn his ain religion, whether he had yet experienced a transition. He thought he had arrogantly gone to change over others when his ain religious wellness was doubtful. After returning to England, Charles fell under the influence of the Moravian Church, inheritor of Jan Hus ( 1369-1415 ) , the Czech priest whose reformer thoughts predated Luther ‘s German reformation. Attending church on May 21, 1738, Charles experienced his “ transition ” , which he described in a anthem. Soon after, on May 24th, John ‘s “ Aldersgate Experience ” occurred, when he felt his bosom “ queerly warmed, ” recommitting his life to prosecuting and prophesying sanctity, or sanctification. This is the belief that by God ‘s grace, penitence, confession and reclamation and the gift of the Holy Spirit, Christians can recognize flawlessness. John received an confidence from God that his wickednesss were forgiven. Assurance of forgiveness is a Moravian belief.
George Whitefield ( 1714-1770 ) , a member of the Oxford “ Holy Club, ” besides emerged as a leader of the Methodists. Traversing the Atlantic seven times, he did much to develop Methodism at that place. In America, he found that Churches were unwilling to allow him prophesy, so preached in streets, Fieldss and markets alternatively. At first, this aghast John Wesley, who thought it improper. Yet Whitfield ‘s prophesying met with success, making big crowds. In 1739, John followed this illustration, prophesying in public, declaring that the “ universe was now his parish. ”[ 8 ]He besides gathered big crowds, including the hapless and those who ne’er attended Church. Many responded. Wesley now sent out sermonizers, as Puritans had before him, whom he trained. Converts were organized into little categories for supplication and Bible survey. Critics saw these sermonizers as a mark of upset, unsafe, perchance bring forthing dissident thoughts.
Formal Methodist societies followed, with premises for worship and survey. Charles ‘ hymn production increased, to supply a vehicle for transporting “ frontward the message of Methodism. ”[ 9 ]Since most sermonizers were lay, they could non preside at Holy Communion, Wesley introduced the Agape or Love Feast in 1738, which could be celebrated or observed by ballad leaders. Societies were clustered into circuits, served by going or itinerant sermonizers. Waste and frivolousness was discouraged, Asceticism and moderation encouraged. Methodist churchs were expected to go to Communion in Anglican churches. After the Revolutionary War in America, there was a deficit of appointed clergy, so Wesley ordained Thomas Coke ( 1747-1814 ) as “ overseer ” who in bend ordained clergy to function American Methodists. Subsequently, the rubric “ overseer was changed to bishop ” ( 1787 ) after which the American Methodism has remained Episcopal but the treble ministry of deacon, priest and bishop is absent.[ 10 ]Both in England and in the USA, a Conference of sermonizers was established as the concluding beginning of authorization. Wesley appointed the Conference of 100 sermonizers as his inheritor. It was this conference that officially separated from Anglicanism, enacting curates who celebrated Communion. Trained but lay local sermonizers still play an of import function. Wesleyan missionaries from Britain and from North America planted Churches across the Earth. About 35 million “ Wesleyan believers ” are “ dispersed across six continents. ”[ 11 ]Methodist churchs have splintered and besides re-united. Some have joined oecumenic reunions, such as the Uniting Church in Australia. Methodist churchs are characteristically unfastened to oecumenic reunion ; Wesley did non mean to establish a separate church.
Orthodoxy and the Methodist Church
The function of local ( ballad ) sermonizers in Methodism has no analogue in Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy maintains the treble ministry, Methodist churchs do non. Yet there are commonalties. Wesley drew on patristic divinity, “ peculiarly that of the East. ”[ 12 ]Wesley, as does Orthodoxy, saw worship as sing heaven on Earth, fall ining beatific hosts in congratulations.[ 13 ]Like Orthodoxy, he saw himself as “ in Communion with the early church ” , resuscitating ancient imposts such as the love banquet and fasting.[ 14 ]Like Orthodoxy, Wesley revered the Catholic Pope but rejected apostolic domination. Like Orthodoxy, Wesley believed that inner religion produces outer Acts of the Apostless of humanity. Both “ promoted doxological piousness ” instead than “ dogmatic divinity. ”[ 15 ]Both reject clerical celibacy ( although Orthodox bishops do non get married ) . Both express divinities through hymnology, believing that dogmatic insisting on the scientific rightness of doctrinal preparations reduces the Godhead to the degree of human comprehension, denying enigma and the experience of inner religion that word can non depict. Wesley ‘s asceticism was inspired by Greek patristic beginnings.[ 16 ]He was “ widely read in the Grecian male parents. ”[ 17 ]
Methodist churchs were accused of being excessively emotional, excessively enthusiastic and slack, because of ballad sermonizers and self-generated worship. On the other manus, Methodist churchs earned their name due to religious subject. They besides had a repute for asceticism and moderation. Their deep committedness to practical sanctity is a gift to all Christians.