What is Methodism?

In the eighteenth century a group of friends in Oxford became the first ‘Methodists’. These people were serious about their faith in God and met regularly for Bible study, prayer and Holy Communion. One of these people was John Wesley who started the movement that eventually became the Methodist Church.

John Wesley by William Hamilton

In John Wesley’s time many people went to church out of habit but he believed that religion should come from the heart, and that had to make a difference to how you lived your life. They met together to try and get a ‘method’ of making sure this happened. They soon got the nickname ‘method-ists’

Initially all Methodists were Anglicans and worshipped in the Church of England ~ but after John Wesley’s death the movement broke away and formed their own church. Moving away from the structure of the Church of England, Methodists developed the theology of The Priesthood of all believers ~ that we are all equally close to God, both lay and ordained are called to minister to one another.
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Over the years the Methodist Church has been an important force for change. It has often taken up the cause for social justice and changes in our understanding of faith and theology to make the church more inclusive.

Today Methodist worship is quite varied, but you should always find:

· Enthusiastic singing of hymns and songs both new and old
· Readings from the Bible in a modern, easily understood translation
· Heartfelt prayers which relate to what is going on in the world
· Preaching which applies the good news of Jesus to life today.

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What Methodism isn’t

Obsessed with alcohol

Mention Methodism to many people and they will say something like: “You’re the ones who don’t drink aren’t you” This is not true! There has never been a ban on Methodists drinking alcohol ~ although the temperance movement was closely involved in Methodism in the last century. The real meaning of temperance is “moderation”. Methodists do believe that all things should be done in moderation ~ this can include the drinking of alcohol.

Against Gambling

Methodist people in their quest for Social Justice have in the past campaigned that people should not spend money gambling ~ this is because families often have to go without when a member of the household is addicted to gambling. In recent years the rules on gambling have been reviewed. The church encourages people to find other leisure pursuits.

Against Raffles

Like alcohol, the Methodist Church has long been branded anti-raffles. This was closely linked to the teaching on gambling. Sadly some people saw this as an excuse not to support good causes. In the review of gambling individual churches can choose to raise money by raffles at the discretion of the Church council. Those who feel they cannot buy a raffle ticket on conscience grounds are encouraged to make a donation instead!

A Sect

The Methodist Church was and is known as non-conformist; that is, they do not conform to the rules and authority of the state backed (Anglican) Church. However it is not a sect. The church is recognised by all the Christian Churches in Britain. We don’t do weird ceremonies and never ask people to leave home to follow Jesus. We belive Jesus loves us where we are.

The future of Methodism

Across the country Methodist Churches are changing as they adapt to the needs of 21st Century people. We are a church but we aim to be a Movement of Disciples sharing the good news of Jesus with others. For more details see the Methodist Church website.

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