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Wesleyan Spirituality
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Adult Study, Adult Study
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The Methodist Church traces its origin to a movement in eighteenth-century England led by two brothers, John and Charles Wesley. The Wesleys were born to an Anglican father, Samuel, and a Puritan mother, Susannah, and these two influences were present throughout their lives. John Wesley was educated at Oxford and became a priest of the Church of England. With his brother he led a small group that came to be known as the "Holy Club" at Oxford, and this experience of mutual accountability in the imitation of Christ was noted for its methodical character. Thus the name "Methodist" was born!

As a young adult John Wesley traveled to America, for the purpose of converting the native population, but he soon acknowledged this mission to be an utter failure. Upon his return to England, he attended a Bible study one evening on Aldersgate Street, and there he felt his heart "strangely warmed." This sense of assurance remained with him, and he plunged into evangelistic and missionary work with a renewed enthusiasm.

John Wesley would later build an organizational structure for the renewal of the church that included schools for the children of coal miners, homes for the aged, and small groups with a variety of expectations among participants (these were known as covenant groups or class meetings). His brother, Charles, is best known as the composer of almost two thousand hymns. Many have observed that the theology of John Wesley is present in the hymns of Charles and that the deepest spirituality of the Methodist movement is embedded in these hymns.

Today there are approximately seventy-five million Methodists throughout the world. The influence of the Wesleys can also be found in the Wesleyan and Nazarene Churches.

This two-session study looks at the Methodist movement and some characteristics of Methodist spirituality. The first session identifies and discusses five characteristics of Methodist spirituality. The second introduces participants to an examination of the movement of God's grace in a person's life. This provides a context for reflection on the relationship between God's gift of salvation and our human response. The participant will be acquainted with an understanding of grace that has three significant distinctions: prevenient grace, justifying grace, and sanctifying grace.

Kenneth H. Carter Jr. is Senior Pastor of Providence United Methodist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is author of A Way of Life in The World: Spiritual Practices for United Methodists.

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Kenneth H. Carter, Jr.
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Kenneth H. Carter, Jr.
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