Methodism was commenced by the Reverend John Wesley (1703 – 1791) and his Brother the Reverend Charles Wesley (1707 -1788), who both were Ordained Anglican Clergy. During the first half of the 18th Century, many ordinary (working) people felt that the Church did not cater for them and therefore felt excluded. John Wesley attempted to address this by preaching to them in the fields where many of them worked. Charles Wesley was a very accomplished musician and created many new hymns, frequently using the popular tunes of the period. Thus developing the Hymn singing and music for which Methodism is famous. The Anglican Churches at the time were confined to singing Metrical Psalters, which are Psalms written in a metered, poetic format so they can be set to music. Both John and Charles Wesley saw Methodism as a modernising influence on the Anglican Church, which found itself unable to change at the required pace. However, the huge impact of this new movement, together with its strength, made a separation from the Anglican Church inevitable; although John Wesley proclaimed that “I live and die a member of the Church of England”.
Methodism guides and teaches the ordinary person, how to live and grow in the Christian faith, so that he may use his talents and abilities for the good of himself and the Church. The Methodist Church is governed by its people. Each Church has a Church Council, comprising of members of the Congregation of that Church and which is chaired by the Ordained Minister responsible for the Spiritual well being of that Church. The minister does not govern the Church; he merely acts as Chairman of what is essentially the board of trustees. Each Church is a member of Circuit comprising of a number of Churches. The governance of the Circuit is handled in similar manner to the Churches. Each Church elects representatives to attend the regular ‘Circuit Meetings’, which take the formal decisions necessary to administer the Circuit. Above the Circuit is the District, which comprises of a number of Circuits and again the ‘District Synod’ is comprised of elected representatives from the Circuit Meetings. The District’s then report to the annual Methodist Conference via elected representatives. Thus the governance of the Methodist Church is fully democratic at every level.
As mentioned above, Methodism preaches that all people are loved by God whose Grace and Mercy are given freely. All can be Saved, no matter what sins they have committed. Ordinary men and women are given the freedom and assistance to go wherever they feel the Lord God is calling them. Some assist in the governance of the Church, others are taught how to preach and become ‘Local Preachers’, whilst a few who feel the calling to take Holy Orders, are sent to the Methodist Bible College, where they study for eventual Ordination as Methodist Ministers. Methodism still retains the concept of wandering and itinerant Ministry. Thus Local Preachers are expected to preach on a rota, at any of the Churches within the Circuit in which they reside. Ministers likewise are expected preach anywhere within the Circuit and occasionally outside it. Furthermore, Minister are expected to move on to another Church and Circuit every five years, although this period can be extended for extenuating circumstances, such as children needing to complete their education at certain schools etc. One of the main differences of Methodism to other Christian theologies is in the treatment of the Holy Sacraments. Methodist believe that the sacraments of the Bread and the Wine should be offered to any man, woman or child who believes in the Nicene Creed of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Other Christian Denominations restrict the Sacraments to those who have been Confirmed in that particular Faith.
For further information from the Methodist Church in Britain click HERE