What Makes United Methodists Unique - “Distinctive Wesleyan Emphases”
What We Believe series
“The underlying energy of the Wesleyan theological heritage stems from an emphasis upon practical divinity, the implementation of genuine Christianity in the lives of believers.” (The Book of Discipline, 2016, p. 51)
While the early roots of the Methodist experience emerge from John Wesley’s experience in the Church of England, he never thought his responsibility was to “reformulate doctrine.” (p. 51) “Informed by the Articles of Religion and the Book of Common Prayer, early Methodists believed their “tasks were to summon people to experience the justifying and sanctifying grace of God and encourage people to grow in the knowledge and love of God through the personal and corporate disciplines of the Christian life.” (p. 51) They felt called to “spread scriptural holiness over the land.” (p. 51)
Former Duke Divinity School Dean Thomas Langford captured this sense of call in his book, Practical Divinity: Theology in the Wesleyan Tradition. The Book of Discipline describes this as “distinctive,” noting that this places an “emphasis upon the Christian life - faith, and love put into practice” (p. 51).
Distinctive Wesley Emphases
(Excerpted from The Book of Discipline, 2016, p. 51-52)
Although Wesley shared with many other Christians a belief in grace, justification, assurance, and sanctification, he combined them in a powerful manner to create distinctive emphases for living the full Christian life. The Evangelical United Brethren tradition, particularly as expressed by Phillip William Otterbein from a Reformed background, gave similar distinctive emphases.
Grace pervades our understanding of Christian faith and life. By grace, we mean the undeserved, unmerited, and loving action of God in human existence through the ever-present Holy Spirit. While the grace of God is undivided, it precedes salvation as “prevenient grace,” continues in “justifying grace,” and is brought to fruition in “sanctifying grace.”