Methodism was founded by an Anglican priest named John Wesley.
Wesley lived in the mid seventeen hundreds and, after a disastrous attempt at being a missionary in America, started meeting with a small group of likeminded seekers at Oxford College. He and his brother Charles (who wrote a TON of hymns) met with friends to keep each other accountable on their spiritual disciplines – prayer, fasting, Bible study, and visiting the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned. Then one day, while walking home from a small group meeting, Wesley had a revelation.
He – even though he was imperfect – was worthy of the grace of God.
This revelation changed his life – and set off what would become a world-wide movement called Methodism. Wesley started preaching outdoors about the grace of God that was free to all. At the time – and still today – some people thought that there was a group of folks (the elect) that were chosen by God to be saved at the beginning of time. You were either part of this group or you weren’t. If you were, there was nothing you could do to stop being saved. If you weren’t, there was nothing you could do to become saved. Wesley embraced the idea that nobody was outside of the saving reach of God’s grace.
Wesley believed that nobody – no matter what they had done – was outside of the reach of God’s grace.
What sets us apart from Catholicism or Anglicanism or other Protestant groups like Presbyterians or Lutherans? If you go to church on Sunday in any given denomination, they are going to look basically the same, so it can be hard to distinguish the differences. The easiest way to say what a Methodist is, is to answer in terms of authority. Does authority come from tradition? Does it come from the Bible? Most Christian denominations will throw all of their chips into one of those categories. In Methodism the answer is: both. And we add to the mix: Experience and Reason.
Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience. This is known as the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, and it’s the lens through which we ask each other the deep questions of faith. What this means, of course, is that all of us have slightly different answers to these questions, and that’s okay.
The grace of God is big enough for all of us.