An Overview of Methodism
Methodism is also known as the Independent evangelical church, the British Dissenters’ movement, or the Unionist church. It is a denomination of Christian religion that predates Christianity and some of the later mainstream Churches by hundreds of years. Methodism is an essential expression of faith in the Christian religion, but it has become a minority faith in many communities. The main features of Methodism are considered to be antinomian and exclusivist. Its main preoccupation is with Biblical authority and conservative orthodoxy, with little concern for popular acceptance or theological refinement.
The distinctive features of Methodism are set out in its basic beliefs, which are in turn divided into three main categories. These are submission to the Holy Spirit, total obedience to the preaching of the gospel, and direct communication with God through the Holy Spirit. Methodists differ mainly in regard to their views on salvation and their opinions concerning Hell and God’s chastisement.
The Methodists are mainly located in Britain, Ireland and Canada. There are a few splinters of Methodism existing in the USA but their number is insignificant. There are about thirteen recognised denominations that are commonly referred to as Methodist churches. Most of these have been formed around the middle nineteenth century, although some churches do adopt a modicum of Methodism.
The main distinctive feature of Methodism is its exclusivist attitude towards sacraments and scripture. The basic principle of Methodism is that salvation is a free gift from God and therefore the possession and performance of sacraments is not essential to salvation. This means that any number of unrelated actions may be undertaken to prepare men and women for salvation. Among those who subscribe to this position are many Adventists, dispensationalists, erenarians and dispensationalists. They claim that scriptural interpretation and the administration of sacraments do not affect their salvation and believe that salvation and happiness are available to everyone.
Methodism in the United States has its most significant branch in the northern part of the state, in the state of Nebraska. The Nebraska Methodists is predominantly Scotch-Irish and was accused by their opponents of being Puritanical. However, the modern advisers have denied being Puritans and point out that their main aim was to bring the gospel to the people of Nebraska. Other significant elements of the Nebraska movement include the Free Exercise Movement, which was led by the American minister Samuel Morton Leith and the Evangelical Church in Nebraska, which was headed by Frank Kern.
The main church figures in England, who are sometimes called Methodists are the Ruddle brothers, John Fisher and Thomas Taylor. The mainstay of the Catholic Methodism is the weekly meetings called weekly meeting. The basic beliefs of the Methodists are the substitutionary atonement for the sin of the world with our Saviour Jesus Christ. They also adhere to the doctrine of the grace of God through the Atonement and the saving faith of the soul. A number of Methodists in the United States have become prominent figures like allergist William Sears and author Mark Twain.
Early in its history, the Methodist movement had split into several splintered offshoots. These later groups focused their attention on differing aspects of the movement, such as the role of women in Methodism or their place in society. As a consequence, there arose the debate between what is considered to be traditional Methodism and the newer expressions of the same. One of the many splits of the Methodist church happened when the Southern Baptist Church opposed the teachings of the Methodists regarding the ordaining of women. This resulted in the separation of these two church bodies.
The denomination, which is the largest of the Methodist Churches is the Presbyterian Church in England. It has five main branches which are the Scottish Presbyterian Church, the English Presbyterian Church, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Methodist Society in the UK, and the Gospel Presbyterian Church. There are also splinter groups that are not officially recognized by the PC(USA) and the ECUSA. Among these are the Free Presbyterian Church and the Reformed Church in America.