I’m already wondering if the post title is a good idea… I couldn’t help the Shakespearean reference though (it’s an English teacher thing).
Methodists: Wowsers. Rule keepers. The Holy Club.
These easily mocked people are my spiritual ancestors.
Despite my current affiliations within the Christian Church, there’s more Methodist in me than most would realise at first glance. I have blogged about my maternal grandparents before: they were Methodists then missionaries in Nigeria, Africa during World War Two.
If you’ve ever thought I was a little bit different to the average bear, now you know why.
Alcohol never existed when I was growing up. My mum never hung clothes on the line on a Sunday.
I believe some Methodists were a little thingy about not going swimming on a Sunday also, but my family didn’t have a pool when I was growing up. So that little piece of righteous living was clearly a non-issue.
There are some bizarre hangovers (had to say it) from the Methodism of days past that I think most people living in 2020 would know little about. But there are those of us who can remember them.
And it’s not all bad.
John and his brother, Charles Wesley were around in England during the 1700s and they were very serious about their faith. They had a very strict and regimented program of Bible reading, prayer and fasting. It was rather methodical, people did say, hence the name.
After his own spiritual awakening, John Wesley wanted to awaken the Church. However, his methodical methods were considered unorthodox. He wasn’t really welcomed into the Church of England, so he took his preaching outside of the Church and into the fields, streets… pretty much anywhere he could get a crowd.
This preaching led to a spiritual revival in England.
One interesting point about Wesley was that he preached to those who would have been considered outcasts within society and sold his books so cheaply that even poor people could buy them. Something to think about in the current Christian climate and a good role model for us all there.
However, there are some other interesting points about Wesley’s theology that many within Evangelical Christianity would disagree with for various reasons.
The Church of England (and the Anglican Church in Australia) subscribe to the 39 Articles of Religion. Wesley adapted his own version of these articles and reduced them to 25.
Additionally, these days, apparently Methodists don’t believe that The Bible is flawless, which differs to fundamental evangelical belief.
Also, ideas found within Calvinism about the sovereignty of God are replaced with Arminian theology in Methodism, which has a far stronger emphasis on humanity’s free will.
Finally, the concept of “sinless perfectionism” is something that Wesley held to: that, the Christian can live in a state free from all sin in this world before reaching heaven (but then others say he didn’t actually believe this). Still… plenty of people disagree with Wesley’s supposed theology and say that there is no complete freedom from sin until we reach ‘home’, namely, heaven.
So there are a number of Wesleyan/Methodist differences to consider when comparing it to other branches of Protestant Christianity. Although, there is one thing I haven’t yet mentioned about the Wesley brothers: the music.
If you want to rent-a-crowd who can sing, go get yourself a bunch of Methodists (is that the correct collective noun?) and enjoy the harmonies. For example…
Yours in methodicalness,
The writing of this post was again assisted by Ron Rhodes’ “The Complete Guide to Christian Denominations”.