What is a Methodist?

My friend started a Facebook group called What is a Methodist? Here are some of my thoughts:

I think that “balance” is a key to unlocking the mystery of what it means to be a Methodist. My worship professor in seminary, Paul Chilcote, taught me a lot about Methodism primarily through the theology of John and Charles Wesley. His book, Recapturing the Wesleys’ Vision helped me understand what I believe to be the heart of Methodism more than any other resource that I have read. Chilcote focuses on the “conjunctive” nature of the Wesleys’ theology, but emphasizes that this conjunctive nature is not an either/or perspective but a both/and. In the book, Chilcote shows how the Wesleys’ were able to hold seemingly contrary concepts in healthy tension and thus provide a theology that embraces what Adam Hamilton calls “the radical center.” Chilcote argues for a balance of faith and works, Word and Spirit, personal and social, form and power, heart and head, pulpit and table, Christ and culture, and piety and mercy. The Wesleys’ promoted balance, I do not believe they would be content with the polarization that is taking place in our denomination today; they would be frustrated by our either/or stances on controversial issues, and our insistence upon choosing which “side” we’re on.

Likewise, I think Methodist’s should be people of the Word. One cannot read the sermons or letters of John Wesley (or the hymns of Charles for that matter) without immediately noticing the primacy of Scripture. John called all Methodist’s to be people of “one book.” Unfortunately, I think we are oftentimes lured into placing other books above The Book. I am guilty of reading too much. I have confessed it, and repented, but I love to read. And I am sure that I read too much. As Methodist’s I wonder sometimes if we haven’t gotten away from our book. The Bible has been reduced to nothing more than a good story with some helpful principles in many Methodist circles; this should not be!

And what of personal piety? Again, I do not claim to be exempt from this accusation: I am a big proponent of relevance, sometimes to a fault. The reverse of the old cliché is as true as the original: we can be so earthly minded that we’re no heavenly good. As Methodist’s we must be willing to critically examine ourselves and evaluate our piety. We should be people of “holy love,” to use one of Ken Collins’ favorite phrases: men, women, and children who love God with all their hearts; who actively pursue holiness through spiritual discipline; and who base all they say and do upon the words of Scripture. Listen to these words of John Wesley from “The Character of a Methodist:”

“…(T)he tree is known by its fruits. For as he (the Methodist) loves God, so he keeps his commandments; not only some, or most of them, but all, from the least to the greatest. He is not content to "keep the whole law, and offend in one point;" but has, in all points, "a conscience void of offence towards God and towards man." Whatever God has forbidden, he avoids; whatever God hath enjoined, he doeth; and that whether it be little or great, hard or easy, joyous or grievous to the flesh. He "runs the way of God's commandments," now he hath set his heart at liberty. It is his glory so to do; it is his daily crown of rejoicing, "to do the will of God on earth, as it is done in heaven;" knowing it is the highest privilege of "the angels of God, of those that excel in strength, to fulfill his commandments, and hearken to the voice of his word."

I don’t know if that’s what a Methodist is, but I think it’s pretty close.My friend started a Facebook group called What is a Methodist? Here are some of my thoughts:


  1. Here is my attempt to briefly re-state Wesley's idea of "What is a Methodist" http://bit.ly/17j92v


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