BeliefsSee also: Articles of Religion (Methodist)
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Most Methodists identify with the Arminian conception of free will, through God's prevenient grace, as opposed to the theological determinism of absolute predestination. This distinguishes Methodism from the Calvinist tradition prevalent in Reformed churches. In strongly Reformed areas such as Wales, however, Calvinistic Methodists remain, also called the Presbyterian Church of Wales. The Calvinist Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion was also strongly associated with the Methodist revival.
John Wesley is studied by Methodist ministerial students and trainee local preachers for his interpretation of Church practice and doctrine. One popular expression of Methodist doctrine is in the hymns of Charles Wesley. Since enthusiastic congregational singing was a part of the early Evangelical movement, Wesleyan theology took root and spread through this channel.
Methodism affirms the traditional Christian belief in the triune Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as well as the orthodox understanding of the consubstantial humanity and divinity of Jesus. Most Methodists also affirm the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed. In devotional terms, these confessions are said to embrace the biblical witness to God's activity in creation, encompass God's gracious self-involvement in the dramas of history, and anticipate the consummation of God's reign.
Sacramental theology within Methodism tends to follow the historical interpretations and liturgies of Anglicanism. This stems from the origin of much Methodist theology and practice within the teachings of John and Charles Wesley, both of whom were priests of the Church of England. As affirmed by the Articles of Religion, Methodists recognize two Sacraments as being ordained of Christ: Baptism and Holy Communion. Methodism also affirms that there are many other Means of Grace which often function in a sacramental manner, but most Methodists do not recognize them as being Dominical sacraments.
Methodists, stemming from John Wesley's own practices of theological reflection, make use of tradition, drawing primarily from the teachings of the Church fathers, as a source of authority. Though not infallible like holy Scripture, tradition may serve as a lens through which Scripture is interpreted (see also Prima scriptura and the Wesleyan Quadrilateral). Theological discourse for Methodists almost always makes use of Scripture read inside the great theological tradition of Christendom.
It is a historical position of the church that any disciplined theological work calls for the careful use of reason. By reason, it is said, one reads and is able to interpret Scripture coherently and consistently. By reason one determines whether one's Christian witness is clear. By reason one asks questions of faith and seeks to understand God's action and will.
Methodism insists that personal salvation always implies Christian mission and service to the world. Scriptural holiness entails more than personal piety; love of God is always linked with love of neighbours and a passion for justice and renewal in the life of the world.
A distinctive liturgical feature of Methodism is the use of Covenant services. Although practice varies between different national churches, most Methodist churches annually follow the call of John Wesley for a renewal of their covenant with God. It is not unusual in Methodism for each congregation to normally hold an annual Covenant Service on the first convenient Sunday of the year, and Wesley's Covenant Prayer is still used, with minor modification, in the order of service. In it, Wesley avers man's total reliance upon God, as the following excerpt demonstrates:Christ has many services to be done. Some are easy, others are difficult. Some bring honour, others bring reproach. Some are suitable to our natural inclinations and temporal interests, others are contrary to both... Yet the power to do all these things is given to us in Christ, who strengthens us. ...I am no longer my own but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for you or laid aside for you, exalted for you or brought low for you; let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing; I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal. —Wesley Covenant Prayer
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