25 January 2021
The Methodist Way of Life
The Revd Richard Teal, President of the Conference, begins a short series of articles, published first in the Methodist Recorder, on the characteristics of a Methodist:
‘The Methodist Way of Life’ initiative is gaining momentum and we are so grateful to those who are not only producing excellent new material but are also developing this renewed emphasis on who we are as a community of Methodist people. We are told that Methodism was Born in Song and indeed the 1933 Hymn Book records that ‘’Charles Wesley wrote the first hymns of the Evangelical Revival of 1738 when he and his brother John were ‘filled with the Spirit’’. Hymn singing has been vital to us. Fellowship has also been a key to who the people called Methodist are. How many people I have heard over the years who have said to me ‘I came into the Methodist Church because of the Fellowship’. Now of course there are other things which define us, but since March most of us have hardly sung a hymn in Worship and our Fellowship life has been very different. So, what then during this strange and different time for us all, defines Methodism? What have we to offer?
What makes Methodism “Methodism”? What are our classical marks? In these next few ‘Best of All is, God is with us’ monthly articles I would humbly suggest some characteristics of a Methodist! In the time I was Chair of the Cumbria Methodist District, the district formed with other denominations the first ecumenical county in Great Britain. The process to get there was both a challenge and a huge joy. One of the things I wasn’t expecting was how the different denominations started asking themselves what was special about their denomination and what had each denomination to bring to the good of all. I found myself leading a number of workshops about Methodist Identity. In a number of those workshops, I found that the majority of Methodist people had few or no Methodist roots. They had been nurtured in other denominations and had ended up in Methodism due to it being the nearest church to where they were living, it was welcoming and friendly, the worship style appealed to them, their friends went to that church, they felt they belonged and so on. So, what are our distinguishing marks? What is Methodist Identity?
First of all: We are an Arminian people:
In the 18th century many Christians believed that some people were predestined to heaven, while others were predestined to hell, some people were able to respond to God’s love in Jesus Christ, while others were not able. The Wesley’s were insistent at all people might be saved through faith in Jesus Christ. – this was a passionate belief that all people, not just some, can be saved. That belief drives our evangelism, mission and everything else about us. If all can be saved, then we must share the Gospel with all. If all can know the wonders of a life with God, then we ensure that John 10:10 rings out clear from our churches ‘’I have come that they may have life and have it to the full’’. Arminianism calls us both to embrace all people but also to call all people to change – not to remain who they have been but to become more and more the people that God has made them to be.
The Fours All’s of Methodism are:
All need to be saved
All can be saved
All can know they are saved
All can be saved completely
O for a trumpet voice
On all the world to call!
To bid their heart rejoice
In Him who died for all!
For all my Lord was crucified,
for all, for all my Saviour died
(Charles Wesley StF 358)
‘All are Welcome’ proclaims another one of our hymns. If we really believe and practice those words then our churches and our individual lives can be transformed!
Richard Teal, President of the Conference: January 2020