Portal:Methodism

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Methodism is a group of historically related denominations of Protestant Christianity which derive their inspiration from the life and teachings of John Wesley. It originated in 18th century Great Britain, and through vigorous missionary activity, spread throughout the British Empire, the United States, and beyond. Wesley's theology focused on sanctification and the effect of faith on character. He stressed the life of Christian holiness: to love God with all one's heart, mind, soul and strength and to love one's neighbour as oneself. Most Methodists are Arminian, emphasizing that Christ accomplished salvation for every human being, and that humans must exercise an act of the will to receive it. One popular expression of Methodist doctrine is in the hymns of John Wesley's brother, Charles. Since enthusiastic congregational singing was a part of the early evangelical movement, Methoodist theology took root and spread through this channel.

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Wesleyanism or Wesleyan theology refers, respectively, to either the eponymous movement of Protestant Christians who have historically sought to follow the methods or theology of the eighteenth-century evangelical reformers, John Wesley and his brother Charles Wesley, or to the likewise eponymous theological system inferred from the Wesleys' (and the Wesleys' contemporary coadjutors' such as John William Fletcher) various sermons, theological treatises, letters, journals, diaries, hymns, and other spiritual writings.

At its heart, the theology of John Wesley stressed the life of Christian holiness: to love God with all one’s heart, mind, soul and strength and to love one’s neighbour as oneself. See also Ministry of Jesus. Wesley’s teaching also stressed experiential religion and moral responsibility.

In the broad sense of the term, the Wesleyan tradition identifies the theological impetus for those movements and denominations who trace their roots to a theological tradition finding its initial focus in John Wesley. Although its primary legacy remains within the various Methodist denominations the Wesleyan tradition has been refined and reinterpreted as catalyst for other movements and denominations as well, e.g., Charles Finney and the holiness movement; Charles Parham and the Pentecostal movement; Phineas Bresee and the Church of the Nazarene.

Selected biography

John Wesley portrait
John Wesley (28 June [O.S. 17 June] 1703 – 2 March 1791) was an Anglican cleric and theologian, and is largely credited with founding the Methodist movement. He helped to organize and form Methodist societies throughout Britain and Ireland, small groups that developed intensive, personal accountability and religious instruction among members.

Under Wesley's direction, Methodists became leaders in many social justice issues of the day, including prison reform and abolitionism movements. Wesley's contribution as a theologian was to propose a system of opposing theological stances. His greatest theological achievement was his promotion of what he termed "Christian perfection" or holiness of heart and life. Wesley insisted that in this life, the Christian could come to a state where the love of God, or perfect love, reigned supreme in one's heart. His evangelical theology, especially his understanding of Christian perfection, was firmly grounded in his sacramental theology. He continually insisted on the general use of the means of grace (prayer, Scripture, meditation, Holy Communion, etc.) as the means by which God transforms the believer.

Today, Wesley's influence as a teacher persists. He continues to be the primary theological interpreter for Methodists the world over. Wesley's call to personal and social holiness continues to challenge Christians who attempt to discern what it means to participate in the Kingdom of God.

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