The Methodist Church

“Methodism was founded by John Wesley, an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church. Wesley lived and died an Episcopalian and had no intention of organizing a new church. The Methodist Episcopal Church came into existence in this manner: John and Charles Wesley, with Whitefield and about a dozen other students at Oxford formed themselves into a society for the purpose of overcoming the formalism and ritualism of the Episcopal Church and to stimulate piety and spirituality among its members. Other societies were organized and because of their methodical manner of life they were called Methodists. The appellation obtained currency and upon the death of Wesley these societies banded together under a conference and became known as the Methodist Episcopal Church, although they for a time considered themselves a part of the Episcopal Church.” Churches of Today (p.57)

At the time of L.G. Tomlinson, the author of Churches of Today, there were nine English divisions of the Methodist church and fifteen different Methodist churches in America. The aspect that changed each church is not described, neither is it applied to the text of Churches of Today. When reading it I thought, there really needs to be a chart comparing the branches of Methodist churches and what they believe, but that was probably an impractical task for a book writer to do in the 1920’s. I am left scratching my head not knowing which issues are to be associated with which church. There’s a question that the Methodists answer: does it matter to God that churches separate and disjoin and branch away in their own independent communities? I think the Methodists are people who believe that God dwells across denominations and their churches are one of the many among the elect. Let us explore some of the issues presented by Tomlinson, along with commandments in the Bible itself, and discover if the Methodists adhere to these teachings:

Lord’s Supper (also called Holy Communion or The Eucharist in other divisions)

On page 65, Churches of Today states, “That it is not necessary to observe the Lord’s Supper each week. The Methodists commune once each quarter”. Tomlinson argues that the Methodists are wrong for not recognizing communion every week. It does not seem they do. I would recommend a person go to the Methodist churches in his or her area to judge the common practice of the individual body. The Free Methodists and the United Methodists, two separate bodies of Methodists, have their own teachings which are laid out in exhaustive texts, each known as the Book of Discipline. The instructions in their books lay out the style in which they perform the Lord’s Supper, and according to the 2011 edition of the Book of Discipline for The Free Methodist Church (USA):

“The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament of our redemption by Christ’s death. To those who rightly, worthily and with faith receive it, the bread which we break is a partaking of the body of Christ; and likewise the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ. The supper is also a sign of the love and unity that Christians have among themselves. Christ, according to His promise, is really present in the sacrament. But His body is given, taken and eaten only after a heavenly and spiritual manner. No change is effected in the element; the bread and wine are not literally the body and blood of Christ. Nor is the body and blood of Christ literally present with the elements. The elements are never to be considered objects of worship. The body of Christ is received and eaten in faith.”

They perform the ritual of communion in the Methodists’ known “methodical manner”, having the partakers reciting in unison a prayer led by an ordained pastor or elder before partaking of the eating of bread and wine/juice (some Methodists have wine, while others have grape juice. Did you know that Welch’s grape juice was originally made for Methodists who were uncomfortable with wine?)

Full Membership

Another point Churches of Today argues is the fact that in the Methodist church, there must be a 6 month probation of a new member before he or she can gain full membership status, and that is wrong. I noticed in my research, it appears the Free Methodist Church’s 2011 Constitution has no mention of a timeframe of how long members must be tested. That probably means they have updated their rules since Tomlinson wrote his book, which is a common practice for the church leaders to gather once every four years and make corrections to the Book of Discipline. It may be that the older arguments against the church are outdated because of the fact Methodists are always progressive about their ideals. Therefore, the Churches of Today book is not an updated view on modern day Methodists on their requirements for membership.

Baptism of Unbelievers

The Free Methodist church states, “Baptism is a symbol of the new covenant of grace as circumcision was the symbol of the old covenant; and, since infants are recognized as being included in the atonement, they may be baptized upon the request of parents or guardians who shall give assurance for them of necessary Christian training.” Following it states, “They shall be required to affirm the vow for themselves before being accepted into church membership.” It is true the Free Methodists themselves believe that infants are incapable of knowing they are members. But in the Methodist tradition, baptism is a reassurance for the parents who have anxiety for the child’s discipleship or acceptance into the church.  It is almost like a rite of passage which children are not denied from entering. It seems the Methodists still have the value that the church can baptize unbelievers, at least when it comes to infants, which on the Methodists’ behalf are not unbelievers, just like they are not believers either, because they are infants who have not yet decided. There is room for debate on this subject though since it’s so important.

Legalism

As I study it appears that legalism is the base of the Methodist church. Legalism is a word that is thrown around a lot by churches and many times it is used as a negative reason not to attend that church. Even the church I was raised in is known to be legalistic, and members leave as a result of the strict adherence of rules. The Methodist church may also fall in this trap, due to their dependence on liturgy and formal rituals. However, there are many points where Methodists are right, and they have successfully carried out the Great Commission for hundreds of years, as they are still surviving today. Their lampstand continues to burn, like in Revelation 2:1-7 to the church of Ephesus, Jesus Christ the star holder says:

“This is what you must write to the angel of the church in Ephesus:

“I am the one who holds the seven stars in my right hand, and I walk among the seven gold lampstands. Listen to what I say.

“I know everything you have done, including your hard work and how you have endured. I know you won’t put up with anyone who is evil. When some people pretended to be apostles, you tested them and found out that they were liars. You have endured and gone through hard times because of me, and you have not given up.

“But I do have something against you! And it is this: You don’t have as much love as you used to. Think about where you have fallen from, and then turn back and do as you did at first. If you don’t turn back, I will come and take away your lampstand. But there is one thing you are doing right. You hate what the Nicolaitans are doing, and so do I.

“If you have ears, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. I will let everyone who wins the victory eat from the life-giving tree in God’s wonderful garden.” (CEV)

Reconciliation with God

Churches of Today states an argument I believe is essential in our spiritual walk, otherwise we will choose to fall from God because of our misunderstanding:

“XXIII. That Christ was in the world to reconcile His Father to us. (Art. 2, Book of Discipline)

“THE BIBLE:

  1. The exact opposite is true. Christ was in the world to reconcile the world to God (II Cor. 5:18.19; Rom. 5:10).”

“Death-Bed” Repentance

“How can anyone,” said Nicodemus, “be born who has already been born and grown up? You can’t re-enter your mother’s womb and be born again. What are you saying with this ‘born-from-above’ talk?”

Jesus said, “You’re not listening. Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to this original creation—the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. When you look at a baby, it’s just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can’t see and touch—the Spirit—and becomes a living spirit.

“So don’t be so surprised when I tell you that you have to be ‘born from above’—out of this world, so to speak. You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ by the wind of God, the Spirit of God.”

John 3:4-8

Repenting of one’s sins and entering into heaven while on the deathbed is a universal debate. Pro debate argues God’s love and grace is willing to redeem one when dying. The anti debate argues Jesus strictly stated that “unless a person submits to…” the spirit and baptism, they cannot enter the kingdom of God, and that strict statement is final; there is nothing a sinner can do on his deathbed while preparing for his last breath to ensure he goes to heaven except wake up from his death, ask for water, and be baptized. It is a debate that continues. Who am I to have an opinion on such a grave matter? Therefore, I leave the debate to continue, while sharing the truth of John with you. If you don’t understand the above passage, I recommend finding other versions besides The Message. I simply chose it today because The Message is always approachable and interesting.

There are so many other debates that Christians can have. I merely touched on a few. But I sincerely hope it has done something for you. Strengthening the churches is my mission. Releasing the tension in our talk, I believe, will help us walk the walk. At least that is my prayer.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Girls with Swords, Week 3

For my birthday earlier this month, Lacy bought me a book that I’ve been wanting: The Art of War.  It’s said to be a great book, used by successful entrepreneurs  to improve their skill.  But as I read it during this time while I’m also studying Girls with Swords, I find we can apply it to Christian living, too.

“To all nations war is a great matter.  Upon the army death or life depend: it is the means of the existence or destruction of the State.” Sun Tzu in The Art of War

The existence of God’s Holy nation – Christians from every part of the world – depends on how well each of us prepares for our spiritual battle.   If we stand ready to fight against the spiritual enemies who wage war against us, we will be able to persevere and protect our people from the enemy’s attacks; but if we stay ignorant and in denial of the war around us, Satan will easily overpower us and cause the people of God to stumble and fall away.  War is a great matter, whether we stand in the offense or in the defense; we have to be ready for the battles ahead.

If the world hateth you, ye know that it hath hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own: but because ye are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, A servant is not greater than his lord. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.” John 15:18-21  (ASV)

This week, the Girls with Swords chapter focused on how we might be heroes just like the men and women spoken of in Hebrews 11.  Through faith, we can face the enemy and stand bravely for Christ.  With God as our power, we can be superhuman.

It sounds unbelievable; but don’t be fooled by Satan’s lies against this concept- you really are the hero of your own story.  The moment you chose to be baptized, you became an enemy of Satan, and all the angels in heaven rejoiced (Luke 15:3-10).  If you haven’t chosen baptism yet, then Satan’s legion of demons fight every day to keep you from making the decision of accepting salvation through Christ’s resurrection.  While God wants no man to perish but all to have eternal life through Jesus Christ (John 3:16, 1 Timothy 2:1-6, 2 Peter 3:9), Satan wants quite the opposite. “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16), but Satan wishes that all people shall perish and none have eternal life.

Once you accept your role as hero, whether you perform amazing miracles like the hero Captain Sullinberger of the US Airways flight 1549 or you’re just a forgotten survivor, victim of life’s worst events the way that Chuck Noland was in the movie Castaway, you are a hero in your own story and Satan is trying to bring you – as a Christian – to ruin.

“Reacting does not equal choosing. Fear will drive you to react, but as you become more skillful with the sword, you will choose your response with the intent of honoring your Father – rather than protecting yourself.” -Lisa Bevere, from the Girls with Swords Fencing Manual

The best way to choose your response with an intent of honoring God instead of fearing the enemy is to prepare for the attack and be ready for whatever will happen.  To be ready, we must put on the proper armor so that we will have the protection that God provides us.

“He who does not know the evils of war will not reap advantage thereby. He who is skillful in war does not make a second levy, does not load his supply wagon thrice.”  Sun Tzu, The Art of War

If you don’t spend your time preparing, then the enemy will have an advantage over you and you won’t have enough “supply” -strength, knowledge, and will- to fight back.  On the other hand, if you prepare for war and grow skillful with the provisions that God gives you through Scriptures, then the enemy cannot surprise you with an attack that you didn’t expect.

Ephesians 6:10-18 tells us six articles of protection that we should wear in our fights against Satan.  We should never be found without them, unprepared.  Our enemy is always on the prowl (1 Peter 5:8), and will pounce the moment we set our armor aside for a moment of rest.

Heroes may feel afraid of something, but they trust in their power, whether its the power of their sword, or their own [superhuman] abilities, or something else. In [Christians’] case, God is our power.  -quote from Kat’s fencing manual

God is permitted to do what he wants with me, because I have no idea who I am anymore. I mean, if my ideas have to “be scrapped” before God can place me in his own, then let it be so, because my plans are void almost like a money check when it’s VOID. So Lord, I permit you. -quote from Lacy’s fencing manual

 

Bookworm’s Tragedy

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”

– Marcus Tullius Cicero

The first thing I do when I handle a new book is open it up and take a whiff of the smell.  I love the smell of ink on paper,  along with the binding and glue of the book… Some will smell better than others, but the breath of a nose stuck in a book is never a breath wasted.

I was lucky to grow up in a house with a library.  A very large one.  We had so many books, it was a genuine collection; one that I loved to contribute to. I would always buy a book or two along with a cute kitten poster from the school book fairs; my parents would let me order a whole slew of books from the scholastic book clubs; and while others wanted to shop in the music and electronics shops or the sports section, I would choose the small bookstore (called the “Bookmark”) any time I had money to spare. What’s an allowance for, if not to spend on my next book to read?

I remember the beloved “book it” program at my elementary school.  Read a book and then illustrate what was read. After earning a set amount of stars, the reader would win a free personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut.  I would read a book a week.  Every Friday I would turn in my illustration, and I would receive a star sticker on my book it button.  That’s…. no doubt what trained me to read so many books.

In school, I would spend my recesses or bus rides reading.  My reading habits weren’t appreciated by my best friend, who threatened to steal my book and keep it for the rest of the day if I didn’t put it away and hang out with him instead.

As a teenager, I had a calendar that I recorded all the names of the books that I read.  My calendar was filled with book titles, sometimes months holding 10 or 12 titles, one right after another where I read the book in a span of 2 day’s time.

Unfortunately, growing up hasn’t been good to my bookworm tendencies. And now I miss the times when I could read 13 books a month.  My time is spent hard, running my own business and managing my life.  It seems to me that I don’t really have the chance to read anymore.  I have a rather large lineup of books, piled on my nightstand or tucked under my pillow or hidden in a spot to remind me to read… sometimes I even catch myself carrying a book around, partially out of habit and partially wishful thinking.

If it were just my lack of time then I’d fix the problem easily. I could fit a few moments before bed to read a page or two. But it seems more complicated than that. My diagnosis is much more severe.

I open a book to read it, flip to the first page, and my eyes skim the first line, the second, the third and fourth. Upon stopping to process the first lines of the book, I realize that my brain is completely blank, void of the information that it failed to retain.

I try again, and a third time. I even smell the pages to try to entice my thoughts into a frame of mind for the book, but to no avail. My brain no longer focuses on reading a book.  I would try to listen to an audio book, but if my brain isn’t actively involved in the story, either by problem-solving or inventing or reasoning out a solution or searching for answers to something, then I cannot focus on the story at hand.  No matter how hard I try, I cannot focus on reading my book.