On May 24, 1738 John Wesley felt his heart strangely warmed while visiting a Christian meeting on Aldersgate Street in London. Wesley wrote of that experience,
I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.
Methodists and other evangelicals frequently look back on that event as a model of Christian conversion, an experience that for some defines the essence of being a real Christian. For Wesley, of course, it wasn’t one experience that determined whether one was a real Christian. The whole life of a Christian is marked by the love of God and neighbor, from the core of one’s being to every outward act.
Continue reading “On Aldergate’s Legacy”
The Articles of Religion
In 1784, John Wesley gave the newly independent Methodists in America 25 articles of religion, adapted from those in use in the Church of England. The Articles continue to be established doctrine for the United Methodist Church.
The closing text of Article 18 says, “The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was not by Christ’s ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshiped”. These final words were aimed at Catholic practices that flow from the doctrine of transubstantiation. There, Christ’s presence in the consecrated host is separated from the context of the holy meal. The host is not just bread to be eaten in faith, it is the embodiment of Jesus even apart from the act of eating. Consequently, the sacrament is reserved so that it can be adored. To adore the consecrated host is to worship Jesus because it is Jesus. The consecrated host is lifted up and carried about in the Procession of the Holy Sacrament on the annual solemnity of Corpus Christi. The Articles of Religion insist that this is not what Jesus intended.
Continue reading “United Methodist Law and Holy Communion”
Why, I wonder, do mainline Christian denominations put so much emphasis on unity at the denominational level? Why are formal mergers, divisions, and dissolutions of our denominational structures so important?
Continue reading “The Place of Denominations in Christian Unity”
A number of potential changes in the structure of the United Methodist Church have been proposed for consideration at our General Conference in May 2020. Many of these proposals entail division, separation, reorganization, multiplication or mitosis. Pick your word.
A Small Part of the Whole People of God
So let’s do some math. There are around 2 billion Christians in the world, with about 212 million of them residing in the United States. The United Methodist Church’s 12 million members worldwide constitute less than 1% of the whole church. In the United States, 7 million United Methodists make up less than 3% of this country’s Christian population. The whole church may be present in each of its parts, but the United Methodist Church is not itself the whole. It is a tiny fragment of the whole, neither more nor less important than any other part.
Continue reading “The Unity of the Whole Church and the UMC”
If any act of ecclesiastical separation renders a church invalid, the United Methodist Church is in a world of trouble. While the 1844 schism creating the Methodist Episcopal Church South is frequently brought up in contemporary discussions of the denomination’s identity and future, the most important act of separation is rarely mentioned. The Methodist Episcopal Church was born in an act of separation from the Church of England. Separation is in our DNA.
Continue reading “Separation in the United Methodist DNA”