Revisiting the Roots of Methodism

A Brief Overview

Denominational discernment has raised many questions regarding the identity, calling and mission of The Woodlands Methodist Church. In many ways, the process has stirred a new state of awakening — a collective realization of the future opportunities we have for ministry as Christians, as Methodists and as a church in the 21st century.

For some in our community, this process has instilled a renewed awareness and affirmation of historic identity and core purpose. For others, it has prompted questions such as, “What does it mean to be Wesleyan?” and “What makes us Methodist?” We’re so glad you asked. Here is a brief overview of the basics, as a means of revisiting the roots of our shared faith.

Wesleyan Distinctives

Revisiting both our Wesleyan heritage and Methodist roots has been helpful for members of our congregation — some lifelong Methodists for whom the basics may have faded, as well as newcomers who are learning the unique aspects of our faith for the first time. It is the spirit of revisiting and reaffirming that we share the following distinctively Wesleyan perspectives of our faith:

• First and foremost, the Wesleyan theology is built on the “solid rock” — the unmovable foundation of Jesus as the founder and perfector of our faith. As Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians, “No one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11). Throughout the New Testament, Jesus is referred to as the foundation and cornerstone of our faith.

• Wesleyan theology is built on God’s word in Holy Scriptures. Throughout the New Testament, the apostles write of the  authority of Scriptures as our guide from the living God. In his letter to Timothy, Paul writes, “All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (Timothy 3:16). John Wesley himself once wrote, “I want to know one thing: the way to heaven. God himself has condescended to teach me the way. He has written it down in a book. Oh, give me that book! At any price give me that book of God. Let me be a man of one book!”

• Wesleyan theology ascribes to the permanency of singular Christian tradition as described in Jude 1:3: “Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people.” Essential Wesleyan practice includes the orthodox Christian doctrines dating back to the Councils of Nicaea — from which the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds were derived.

• Wesleyan tradition is firmly rooted in the 16th century Protestant Reformation. From the pages of history, we are reminded that John and Charles Wesley were greatly influenced by theological teachings led by Martin Luther. It was during a reading of Luther’s preface to Paul’s letter to the Romans that John Wesley’s heart was “strangely warmed.” Out of the Reformation and Luther’s influence grew the five solas, or “onlys” — sola scriptura (Scripture alone), sola fide (faith alone), sola gratia (grace alone), solus Christus (Christ alone) and soli Deo Gloria (glory to God alone). Remember, too, that the Articles of Religion, Wesley’s canon of sermons and his notes on the New Testament, collectively serve to form the doctrinal standards of Methodism within the context of reformation.

(Credit: content for the Wesleyan distinctives shared here was adapted from a series of blog articles written by Timothy C. Tennent, President of Asbury Theological Seminary in Lexington, Kentucky.)

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