Monday 7 December 2009

5 things I love about Methodists...

These are some things I want to honour Methodism in the UK for. These are more to do with legacy rather than my personal experiences of Methodism (which are limited) and so is much further from the current coal face than my previous post on Anglicanism.

1) HERITAGE: I am a British non-conformist. Therefore Wesley & Whitefield are in some sense my "Church Fathers" and everything else follows that. OK, maybe that is slightly over-egged, but even so. I can't get away from the fact I am heavily influenced by this heritage. Neither can the Church in the UK. If there was just one time we could go back to. If there was one movement we could choose. If their was one evangelist. If there was one revival. John Wesley, the birth of Methodism, is almost always in our minds when we start praying for revival now.

2) SMALL GROUP: Methodism helped pioneer laity involvement, smaller group structures, discipleship groups, small groups. Much of what you read in a 1990s American "Cell group" textbook was happening in 1820s Bristol with a few updates for the charismatic renewal and a postmodern culture. The priesthood of all believers, an engaged and active laity, Methodism broke down barriers and we live in the good of it.

3) MISSION: The Wesleys were about Mission. Self-sacrificing-travelling- miles-to-explain-the-gospel-to-people-who-did-not-follow-Christ kind of mission. Nation changing mission. Local mission, national mission, international mission. Building missional communities on the back of public preaching of the gospel: sound familiar? The way some within methodism have grasped the "fresh expressions" concept recently shows a desire for mission still burns strong.

4) JUSTICE: Methodism has always had a big heart for the poor, the outcast, the oppressed. Modern day Methodism has in some ways helped lead the way on issues such as the environment, fairtrade, social justice. While newer Churches have been getting excited about lighting rigs and decibels the Methodists have been engaging with the marginalised and oppressed both in the UK and overseas. They are a provocation to the rest of the body of Christ in this area and are to be commended for it.

5) HYMNS!: Charles Wesley is the greatest hymn writer of all time. That is it really. Methodism helped give UK protestantism boldness to use contemporary (for then) music to engage the culture with robust biblical truth through worship songs. The ripples are still being felt today. More of our Church worship culture is shaped by this than almost anything else. Throw in a Charismatic renewal and here we are. If anything, I desire a return to some of the robustness of the old hymns, in terms of biblical truth and not just "Jesus is my cuddle buddy" sort of stuff.

Some of the Methodists I know say freely and openly "Methodism in the UK is dying." Denominationally speaking that may or may not be the case. It is not my place to judge. But I do see that missional, worshipful, gospel declaring, justice seeking activism are in the DNA of much of UK evangelicalism.

Because of this DNA "Methodism" will never "die" because there is a little bit of "Methodist" in all of us.


Ian Matthews said...

Dave. Great post. Methodism still rings loud and clear within the UK. I do think you have missed a few things (being a bit cheeky):

1. Methodism started as a lay Anglican movement, and the heritage of that is still also found within the CofE today. The approach to church, mission and worship found in evangelical anglicanism still traces its roots back to the Wesleys.

2. It is worth remembering that the Wesleys were ordained into the CofE and remained so for their whole lives and saw no contradiction between that and Methodist gatherings. Their 'ordination' of ministers in the US they did so claiming validity as ordained Anglican ministers.

3. Accompanying their revivalism, hymn-writing and mission focus, they were also pretty 'high church'. In fact Methodism was predominantly high-church in ritual until some of the division and changes of the mid 19th century. Interestingly, this didn't detract (and I think added to) their sense of worship, mission and passion for the Gospel. You can still find some Methodist churches that have that approach (I can remember a service at St John's Hill here in Shrewsbury (I think around 1990) that was like that.

This is a great series Dave, and a lesson to us all in grace and unity.

Anonymous said...

A really excellent post and another good series- Thank you!
one small point
I am not sure if your implying Methodism gave birth to non conformity as a movement,but it is much older than that and presbyterians ,congregationalists and baptists came first.
It is also worth saying that while I know Methodist ministers frustrated with the denomination today ,there are also a lot of very good things happening in individual Methodist churches

you are right to highlight the massive influence Methodism and especially the Wesley brothers have had on UK evangelicalism

Blue, with a hint of amber said...

I am not sure if your implying Methodism gave birth to non conformity as a movement,but it is much older than that and presbyterians ,congregationalists and baptists came first.

Sure. I don't believe that they "gave birth" to non conformity, but I do believe they were pivotal in helping make it what it is today. Other movements have their place, but Methodism certainly helped bring it to the masses.

It is also worth saying that while I know Methodist ministers frustrated with the denomination today ,there are also a lot of very good things happening in individual Methodist churches

I wholeheartedly agree and there is a post ready written on the subject responding to a previous comment on here about modern Methodism. That will be published on the 9th.

DaveW said...

My first response is: 42: 5 things I, me, myself,, love about Methodism - part 1.

DaveW said...


In an earlier comment I pointed out my blog post response (just part 1 so far) but there are three others that I know of so far:

Two from senior women in Methodism, both of whom have written some great books:

- Rev Micky Youngson: Sacred Wells: 5 things I love about Methodism.. Two of her wonderful books of reflections, theology, poems, liturgy, prayers etc are on To great acclaim Micky co-ordinated the Worship at the Methodist Conference this year (she also does "wicked" retreats and in her spare time is a Superintendent Minister).

- Rev Dr Angela Shier-Jones:
The Kneeler: Five things I love about Methodism. You can find eight books she has written or contributed to on (she is also editor of The Epworth Review a Quarterly Theological Journal for the whole church). No space for everything else Angie does.

Plus probably the longest running Methodist blogger Rev Richard Hall: 5 things I love about Methodism. Richard now has some high falutin role in Extending Discipleship, Exploring Vocation in Wales.

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