Saints in Methodism
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Methodism has historically followed the Protestant tradition of referring to sanctified members of the universal church as saints. However, as a title, Saint is usually used to refer to biblical people, Christian leaders, and martyrs of the faith. While most Methodist churches place little emphasis on the veneration of Saints, they often admire, honor, and remember the saints of Christendom.
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, believed that there was much to learn from studying renowned saints, but he discouraged the 'worship' of them. He expressed concern about the Church of England's focus on saints' days and said that "most of the holy days were at present answering no valuable end." As such, Methodism does not have any system whereby people are canonised.
Honoring the saints
|“||The Romish doctrine concerning...worshiping, and adoration, as well of images as of relics, and also invocation of saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warrant of Scripture, but repugnant to the Word of God.||”|
While Methodists as a whole do not practice the patronage or veneration of saints, they do honor and admire them. Some Methodist congregations observe All Saints' Day (if they follow the liturgical calendar) in which the Church Universal, as well as the deceased members of a local congregation, are honored and remembered.
The title Saint in Methodist churches is commonly bestowed to those who had direct relations with Jesus Christ, or who are mentioned in the Bible. Occasionally, some esteemed, pre-Reformation Christians are addressed using the title Saint; the theologian Saint Augustine of Hippo being an example. However, there is no established rule as to the use of the title. Some Methodist churches are named for historic heroes and heroines of the faith such as the Twelve Apostles (excluding Judas Iscariot), Timothy, Paul, John the Baptist, Mary Magdalene, Virgin Mary, and Joseph; an example being the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew (New York City).
The Virgin Mary is honored as the Mother of God in the United Methodist Church and by Methodists of the High Church tradition. Methodists churches teach the doctrine of the virgin birth, although they, along with Orthodox Christians and other Protestant Christians, reject the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Many Methodists, including John Wesley, have held that Mary was a perpetual virgin, which is the belief that Mary was ever-virgin for the whole of her life and Jesus was her only biological son. Contemporary Methodism does hold that Mary was a virgin before, during, and immediately after the birth of Christ. A small number of Methodists hold the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary as a pious opinion.
Martyrs of the faith
The title is used to refer to historical martyrs, especially dating before the Reformation. The 2008 and 2012 General Conferences of the United Methodist Church voted to officially recognize Dietrich Bonhoeffer (2008) and Martin Luther King Jr. (2012) as modern-day 'martyrs'. The vote recognized people who died for their faith and stand as Christian role models.
- "Do United Methodists believe in saints?". United Methodism Church. Retrieved 11 April 2014.
- "The Twenty-Five Articles of Religion (Methodist)". CRI / Voice, Institute. Retrieved 2009-04-11.
- The Rev. J. Richard Peck (2011). "Do United Methodists believe in saints?". The United Methodist Church. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
We also recognize and celebrate All Saints' Day (Nov. 1) and "all the saints who from their labors rest". United Methodists call people "saints" because they exemplified the Christian life. In this sense, every Christian can be considered a saint.
- "What does The United Methodist Church teach about the Immaculate Conception and the Virgin Birth?". Archives.umc.org. 2006-11-06. Retrieved 2013-09-30.
- Wesley’s Letters, The Wesley Center Online, 1749
- "Mary's Perpetual Virginity". Davidmacd.com. Retrieved 2013-09-30.
- "What does The United Methodist Church teach about the Virgin Mary?". Archives.umc.org. 2006-11-06. Retrieved 2013-09-30.
- "Comparing Christian Denominations – Beliefs: Nature of Mary". Christianity.about.com. 2013-07-30. Retrieved 2013-09-30.
- Stepp, Todd (23 December 2009). "Theotokos; Mary, Mother of God". Wesleyan/Anglican Society.
We Protestants (for the most part) tend to say something to the effect that, if it is not found in Scripture it is not held to be required as an article of faith. Thus, the assumption of Mary would not be held as an article of faith (i.e., as a required doctrine). However, in as much as the Scripture does not say that Mary was not assumed into heaven, and, in as much as we do have other instances of some sort of "assumption" in Scripture (e.g., Elijah, as mentioned, before), there seems to be nothing that would require that a Protestant Christian could not have a private "opinion" (in the Wesleyan sense of the term) that agrees with Rome or Constantinople (at least regarding Mary's assumption).
- See United Methodist News Service, "United Methodists declare MLK Jr. a modern-day martyr" May 1,2012