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What is Methodism?

Methodism is a movement of Protestant Christianity made up of a number of denominations. The movement traces its roots back to founder John Wesley, an Anglican preacher. Charles Wesley, John’s brother, and George Whitefield were also significant leaders in the movement. The Wesley brothers founded the Holy Club while studying at Oxford. The club met weekly to systematically set about living a holy life. Other students branded them “Methodists” because of the way they methodically ordered their lives.  The Methodist movement was mostly Arminian in their theological outlook, however George Whitefield and several others were considered Calvinistic Methodists.

What is the World Methodist Council?

The World Methodist Council is made up of 80 Methodist, Wesleyan and related Uniting and United Churches representing over 80 million members in 138 countries.  It engages, empowers and serves the member Churches by encouraging Methodist unity in witness, facilitating mission in the world, and fostering ecumenical and inter-religious activities.  It promotes obedience to the Great Commandment of Jesus Christ to love God and neighbor and to fulfill the Great Commission to make disciples through vibrant evangelism, a prophetic voice, cooperative programs, faithful worship and mutual learning.

In Continuity with the Universal Church

Churches in the Methodist tradition stand within the continuity of the one universal Church, confessing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, worshipping the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, preaching the one gospel, and accepting the authority of the holy scriptures, and the creeds of the early church.

History of the World Methodist Council

The World Methodist Council finds its origins in a conference held in London, England at Wesley’s Chapel in 1881 where some 400 delegates from 30 Methodist bodies around the world gathered in an Ecumenical Methodist Conference.  Thereafter, World Methodist conferences were held every ten years until 1931.   In 1931 a decision was made to organize a Council – a new agency to express the common ideals and objectives of worldwide Methodism. Due to World War II, the Conference would not meet again until 1947 and the organization plans were delayed.   At the 1951 Conference, two decisions were taken to ensure the stability of the conferences: 1) that the name be changed to the World Methodist Council; 2) that the Council should meet at five-year intervals.  In 1956, the World Methodist Council established a permanent headquarters in the United States at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. The meetings of the Ecumenical Methodist Conference and, after 1951, of the World Methodist Council have been:

1881 – London, England1891 – Washington, DC, USA
1901 – London, England1911 – Toronto, Canada
1921 – London, England1931 – Atlanta, USA
1947 – Springfield, Mass., USA1951 – Oxford, England
1956 – Lake Junaluska, USA1961 – Oslo, Norway
1966 – London, England1971 – Denver, USA
1976 – Dublin, Ireland1981 – Honolulu, USA
1986 – Nairobi, Kenya1991 – Singapore, Singapore
1996 – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil2001 – Brighton, England
2006 – Seoul, South Korea2011 – Durban, South Africa
2016 – Houston, Texas 

The World Methodist Council is composed of between 250 to 528 delegates elected from its member churches.   From 2001 onward, the Council has averaged at 400 members.  Representation is determined by Church membership and financial contribution to the work of the Council.   The Council President and the General Secretary are the principal officers of the Council.   In the interim of its meetings, the World Methodist Council is governed by a Steering Committee representative of its constituent Churches composed of Elected Officers, Standing Committee Chairs, non-voting Staff and representatives of affiliated organizations.

I. The Council Links the World Methodist and World Methodist Council -Related United Church Connection

  • At five-year intervals the Council convenes a World Conference attended by delegates representing member churches from around the world.  The Council Executive Committee or its Officers meet annually in alternate years.
  • Council programs include:
  • Supporting Methodist/Wesleyan education
  • Strengthening family life in the various cultures
  • Worldwide evangelism programs – “That the World May Know Jesus Christ”
  • Developing worship and liturgical life in the churches
  • Meeting of youth across international boundaries
  • Promoting publishing ventures to enhance the Church’s ministry
  • Offering studies through the quinquennial Oxford Institute of Methodist Theological Studies.

II. The Council, Through Its World Evangelism Division, Spreads the Good News of Jesus Christ

The 2006 World Methodist Council in Seoul, Korea declared Evangelism as its priority. This ministry, inaugurated in 1971 by action of the Council, declared at its beginning, “We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ’s commission to His Church to preach the Gospel and to make Disciples is the supreme business of the Church.”

Vision of World Methodist Evangelism

To see the Methodist Movement alive, vibrant, growing and yearning to spread the Good News of Christ Jesus throughout the whole world by Word, Deed and Sign!

Strategic Areas of Ministry

  • Connecting Congregations in Christ
  • Multiplying the Witnesses of Christ
  • Training Leaders in Evangelism
  • Developing Resources for Evangelism

The offices of the World Director are located at the Scarritt-Bennett Center in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. Dr. H. Eddie Fox is the World Director. Under the leadership of the World Director, sixteen Regional Secretaries from all parts of the world meet regularly to envision, pray, plan and carry out the ministry of World Evangelism.

The “Bells are Ringing” through many programs and ministries of World Evangelism such as Connecting Congregations on every continent and through the “Holistic Evangelism Programs,” of EvangeMed, EvangeBread and EvangeBicy whichwere envisioned and developed through World Evangelism in partnership with indigenous churches around the world. The Faith-Sharing New Testament developed by World Evangelism and released at the 1996 World Methodist Conference in Rio has been published in 38 languages around the world with more than one half million copies. An “International Christian Youth Conference on Evangelism,” is a key strategy in World Evangelism’s goal of Multiplying the Witnesses. More than 6000 young people, ages 17-30, have participated in conferences in England, the Bahamas, Australia, Mexico, Germany, USA, Northern Ireland and Brazil. The Order of the FLAME includes more than 800 young pastors who are committed to “do the work of an evangelist, to carry out their ministry fully.” WMEPRESS publishes evangelism resources including Bible studies.

Strategic Areas of Ministry

The World Methodist Evangelism Institute, a ministry of the World Evangelism Division, World Methodist Council, and Candler School of Theology, Emory University began in 1982. It trains leaders on every continent in the theology and practice of evangelism. The Institute, led by Dr. H. Eddie Fox, Executive Director and Dr. Winston O. R. Worrell, Director, has trained more than 6,000 leaders in evangelism.

Focus of World Evangelism Ministry

All over the world the “people called Methodists,” followers of Christ Jesus in the company of the Wesleys, are being empowered by the Holy Spirit to spread the gospel,“THAT THE WORLD MAY BELIEVE!”

III. The Council Acts to Support Human Reconciliation and to Create Conditions that Foster Community and Further World Peace

The World Methodist Council seeks to address social and political issues as they arise in different parts of the world, using the resources of the Methodist/Wesleyan people in those particular areas with support from the larger Methodist family.

Human Rights and Justice Concerns

World Methodists join in efforts to respect the human rights of all persons, to uphold justice, and to inspire service to the world in the name and spirit of Jesus Christ.

The Council is also pledged to stand alongside persecuted and Christian minorities in need and others who suffer because of injustice, want, or tyranny.

International Initiatives

The Council’s World Methodist Peace Award recognizes persons who, by their courage, creativity and consistency, make exceptional contributions to the cause of reconciliation and peace. During its first 20 years, the Award was presented to 17 persons and to one community of faith. Nominations for consideration by the Peace Award Committee may be sent to the Council Executive Committee Chairperson or the General Secretary at the International Offices by October 1, each year.

IV. The Council Works for Unity in the Faith Through Engagement and Dialogue with other Christian World Communions

Unity among the world’s 1.8 billion Christians “that the world may believe,” is an urgent and continuing concern.

The World Methodist Council readily acknowledges that Methodists form only a part of the Church universal. As a part of this larger Church, the Council is committed to seek new understandings and promote mutual trust with all other Christians.

World Organizations

The Council’s Geneva Office develops and maintains important relationships between the Council, the World Council of Churches, and Christian World Communions based in Geneva.

The Council represents churches belonging to the Methodist/Wesleyan tradition in the Conference of Secretaries of Christian World Communions held annually. This global forum is comprised of most of the world families of Christian communions and churches.

International Dialogues

Bilateral, church to church, and dialogues jointly sponsored by the Council and other Christian World Communions or “families of churches” formally express new understandings and commitments. Such conversations have been held in meetings between the Council and the Lutheran World Federation (1979-1984), the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (1992-1996), and the worldwide Anglican Communion (1992-1996).

The International Joint Commission for Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Methodist Council has met and regularly reported to the Council and to the Vatican since 1967.

Steps taken to begin formal conversations with the Orthodox through the Ecumenical Patriarchate affirmed by the Council meeting in Rio de Janeiro, are now under discussion with Orthodox Church officials.

This all-too-brief introduction describes ways the World Methodist Council seeks:

  • To link the Methodist and World Methodist Council-related United Churches worldwide;
  • To spread the Good News of Jesus Christ through world evangelism;
  • To give encouragement and support to those who work for justice and endeavor to create conditions that make for community, foster human reconciliation and world peace;
  • To work for greater unity in the Christian community through new common agreements that arise from study and faithfulness to the Gospel and result in greater respect for those who, through different Christian traditions follow the same Christ.