What we believe
The Methodist Church is one the main Christian denominations in the UK and in the World. It began as a new and exciting movement in the late 1730’s which was led by a man called John Wesley and his brother, Charles Wesley (the famous hymn writer), both of whom were priests in the Church of England. It encouraged people to combine seeking greater holiness in their personal relationship with God and their relationships with others in the world around them with seeking to share in God’s mission of loving people in a way that transformed their lives and brought them to know Jesus.
if you’re interested, you can find more detail about Methodism here. There are now some 85 million Methodists worldwide.
The Methodist Church holds to the same core beliefs all other mainstream denominations, including the Church of England, the Baptist Church, and the Catholic Church. Written out below is a simple summary of the core elements of our faith.
Who we believe in:
- God as Trinity: This term simply means that we believe in one God but a God who is in three persons, each as important as the other.
- God the Father: We believe in God the Father, who made heaven and earth. He is the one who made us and the world around us.
- Jesus Christ: We believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was the truth of God expressed in human ways that human beings could understand, born by the power of the Holy Spirit to a young woman, Mary. At about the age of 30 he began proclaiming in word and deed that God was at hand, transforming the world into what God intended it to be.
We can read all about this in the Bible, in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. In response most people tried to get rid of him, seeing him not as God but as the enemy of God and executing him on a cross as if he were a curse on the land. When they had ascertained that he was really dead, they buried him. But three days later he was raised to new life, affirmed by God as God and as having lived and loved in God’s way. During his life he taught us many things about how to live our lives. In dying and rising he enabled us to be reunited with God and to able to be closer to God (more information on this below).
- The Holy Spirit: We believe in the Holy Spirit, who has always been present since the creation of the world and who empowered Jesus. We also believe that because we are now reunited with God, through Jesus, this Spirit is with us now. The Holy Spirit helps us communicate and pray to God, encouraging us to grow in our faith and as people of God as well as empowering us and guiding us as we live our lives.
What that means for us:
We believe that as human beings we do things wrong, things which hurt other people and which offend God. This means that we separate ourselves from God, turning our backs on God. This is where what some people call ‘The Good News of Jesus’ comes into it. We believe that when Jesus died on the cross He took all of the things which stop us from being close to God, both now and forever, and disposed of them. After his resurrection he ascended into heaven, proving his authority and power. This immediately bridges the gap between us and God and, if we will allow Jesus the Son to turn us round and lead us to God the Father, enables us to be with God, and God with us. We become what the Bible calls ‘Children of God’, because God adopts us into God’s family and sends the Holy Spirit to be with us, to support us and to encourage us. The Holy Spirit is with us today.
Relationship with God:
The things that we Methodists believe are not just a matter of head-knowledge but of experience. We believe in God in the sense that we trust that God has been and will be loving towards us. This in turn has a big impact on our lives. One of the most exciting thing about Christianity is that Christians have a relationship with God. It does not matter how much we read about God, if we’re not willing to pray and spend time with God then we’re missing the point. Jesus once called himself ‘The Truth’, which in the original language didn't mean the kind of truth you understand in your head, it meant the kind of truth you know in your heart. In the same way husbands or wives know who their partners are through experience and quality time spent with them, rather than having read about them in a book. This is why prayer and spending time with God is so important to Christians. Faith is a relationship not just an understanding.
Not a wishy-washy faith
Our faith ,however, cannot be a ‘wishy-washy’ faith. Studying the Bible is important to us. We study it, hear sermons about it on Sundays, and explore it for ourselves, all the time trying to learn more about who God is and how we should live our lives because of who God is. The teachings of Jesus and later of his followers that are described in the New Testament teach us a great deal about how God would like us to live our lives, and the Old Testament tells of the story of God before Jesus and explains our heritage. We must of course read all of these things bearing in mind that they were written in a different time and context, and seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit about how they are to be understood and expressed today.
The amazing thing is that we cannot achieve any of this by ourselves. The Bible shows that we haven’t earned what Jesus did in dying for us. It is all gift. We are able to start loving God because God first loved us. When we start loving God, we find ourselves drawn into loving the other people and things that God loves. It is all God’s free gift to us.
That is what we sometimes call “grace”. You will almost certainly have heard the song ‘Amazing Grace’ (how sweet the sound) which is sung in many different contexts. We are forgiven for everything we have done wrong, although there may still be repercussions from what we’ve done. There is nothing we need to do in order to be given this gift of forgiveness. We don’t need to go to church, we don’t need to read the bible, we don’t need to help people, we don’t need to be generous… we don’t need to do anything. God’s love for us is free. All we can do in response is be thankful. But what most Christians find is that is that the more they understand what God has done for them and are thankful, the more they want to respond by showing this kindness and generosity to others; to go to church and find our more; to help transform the world into what God would have it be. They start to do these things, not to earn God’s love but to explore it and to tell and show others. God loves us, and he died for us, and gave us a free gift. It’s an amazing thing to grasp.