Major World Religions Christianity Methodists

About the Methodist denomination of Christianity, some of the history of the church, beliefs and meanings behind the Christian religious tradition.

Methodism

Methodism was born in England out of the teachings of an Anglican clergyman, John Wesley (1703-1791). The word "Methodism" was originally applied in derision because of the methodical way Wesley and his associates studied and performed their religious duties.

Wesley underwent a profound religious experience in London in 1738: "I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation," he wrote in his Journal. Setting out as an evangelical preacher, stressing conversion and holiness in place of the formalism of the Church of England, he sought to breathe new life into the Episcopalian faith. Although he always considered himself a loyal Anglican, he was often forbidden to preach in Anglican churches, and by the end of the 18th century his movement had its own flourishing societies in Great Britain and the young U.S. By 1850 the Methodists were the largest Protestant group in the U.S.

Although Methodists accept the Trinity and practice baptism and communion, they hold that individual love of God and individual religious experience mean more than formal doctrine. Salvation is achieved by a life of holiness, repentance, and faith, and is available to everyone. Most believe in judgment after death, in which the morally good will be rewarded and the wicked punished.

In 1972, a study made by the Corporate Information Center of the National Council of Churches on the stockholdings of churches in corporations working on military contracts revealed that the United Methodist Church owned over $59 million worth. The United Presbyterian Church was a close 2nd, but all major Protestant denominations were on the list. "Ethical and moral concerns have not been expressed through the investment policies and responsibilities of the Church," the report declared, pointing out that Protestant groups were assisting in the manufacture and use of weapons of mass human and environmental destruction. However, the report did not imply that the Churches were hypocritical in their investment policies.

Worldwide, Methodists now number about 16 million adults, including over 13 million in the U.S.

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