group of friends singing togetherPhoto by Tima Miroshnichenko on <a href="https://www.pexels.com/photo/group-of-friends-singing-together-6860844/" rel="nofollow">Pexels.com</a>

A Heartfelt Journey

Introduction

John Wesley (1703–1791), the founder of Methodism, played a pivotal role in shaping the theological commitments and practices of the early renewal movement, which laid the foundation for the United Methodist Church. Although Methodism in America has been influenced by various other factors, Wesley’s theological framework continues to provide a significant foundation for contemporary United Methodism. What I am compelled to do in this essay is to highlight the theological commitments of John Wesley and their embodiment in the early renewal movement, emphasizing their enduring influence on the United Methodist Church.

Wesleyan Theological Commitments

John Wesley’s theological convictions served as the bedrock upon which Methodism was built. His theology can be summarized in several key principles:

  1. Prevenient Grace: Wesley emphasized the concept of prevenient grace, the idea that God’s grace goes before us, drawing all people toward Him. This grace prepares individuals to respond to God’s love and guidance.
  2. Justification by Faith: Wesley upheld the doctrine of justification by faith, believing that faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior was the means by which individuals could be reconciled to God.
  3. Sanctification: Wesley placed a significant emphasis on sanctification, the ongoing process of becoming more Christlike through the work of the Holy Spirit. He believed in the possibility of Christian perfection, whereby believers could attain a state of holiness.
  4. Scriptural Authority: Wesley regarded the Bible as the authoritative guide for faith and practice, emphasizing the importance of studying and interpreting Scripture.
  5. Arminianism: Wesleyan theology aligns with Arminianism, which emphasizes human free will in cooperation with God’s grace, as opposed to the Calvinist doctrine of predestination.

Early Renewal Movement and Wesleyan Practices

Wesley’s theological commitments were not merely abstract ideas but were embodied in the practices of the early renewal movement. These practices included:

  1. Class Meetings: Wesley established small group gatherings called class meetings, where members could share their spiritual experiences and hold one another accountable in their faith journeys.
  2. Methodical Approach to Holiness: The early Methodists followed a systematic approach to Christian living, with practices such as daily devotionals, fasting, and self-examination.
  3. Social Engagement: Wesley and the early Methodists were deeply involved in social justice issues, advocating for the poor and marginalized and working to improve societal conditions.
  4. Itinerant Ministry: Wesley and his preachers engaged in itinerant ministry, traveling extensively to reach people in various communities, spreading the message of God’s love and salvation.
  5. Sacramental Worship: Wesley maintained a strong sacramental theology, particularly with regard to the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which were central to Methodist worship.

The Enduring Influence on United Methodism

While United Methodism in America has evolved over time and incorporated various influences, Wesleyan themes persist as foundational strengths:

  1. Doctrines and Theology: The core theological commitments of John Wesley, including prevenient grace, justification by faith, and sanctification, continue to shape the doctrinal foundations of the United Methodist Church.
  2. Practices: The early Methodist practices of class meetings, social engagement, and itinerant ministry are still integral to contemporary United Methodism. Small groups and social justice initiatives remain central to the life of many Methodist congregations.
  3. Integration of Theology and Practice: One distinctive feature of United Methodism is its integration of theology and practice. The emphasis on faith as a lived experience, as seen in Wesleyan practices, reinforces the idea that belief and action are interconnected.
  4. Inclusivity: Wesley’s commitment to reaching out to all people, regardless of social status or background, is reflected in the United Methodist Church’s inclusive stance, which welcomes individuals from diverse backgrounds.

Conclusion

John Wesley’s theological commitments and the practices of the early renewal movement have profoundly influenced the development of the United Methodist Church. These theological foundations and practices continue to shape the identity of contemporary United Methodism, contributing to its distinctive character and enduring strengths. As Methodists continue to ask, “What is the mark of a Methodist?” Wesley’s legacy of faith, love, and commitment to both theology and practice provides a compelling answer.

By Roge Sison

An ordained clergy of The United Methodist Church.

One thought on “John Wesley’s Enduring Influence on United Methodism”
  1. Thank you very much pastor Roge for your invaluable sharing of this heart-felt and timely topic on John Wesley’s Enduring influence on United Methodism. His life and service to the master lives a great impact that we, as believers of today’s generation ought to live out following Christ’s Example! Blessings!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Discover more from The Viewpoints

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading