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Methodist Church Union in England.
The union of the English Wesleyan Methodist Church, the Primitive Methodist Church, and the United Methodist Church is confidently expected to be consummated, 1932, under the name, The Methodist Church. The movement is under the direction of The Methodist Union Committee. The United Methodist Church is itself the product of the merging of three bodies, 1907—the Methodist New Connection, the Bible Christians, and the United Methodist Free Churches, organized, respectively, 1797, 1815, 1836. The larger union now under way has been voted upon twice by the three uniting bodies and received from all the necessary three-fourths majority. The final and determining vote is to be taken, 1931, and, if favorable, the first United Conference will be held, 1932. In the meantime, preparation for the organic union is being made by the interchange of pulpits, inter-communion services at the Lord's Table, and gatherings for prayer. The necessary legislation has been passed in Parliament and recognizes that 'the religious doctrines held by each of the Churches or denominations are in substance identical' and that their differences concern matters of organization, procedure, and the tenure and disposition of property. The three denominations have together a membership of 850,000. The main object of the union is announced to be 'the more effective evangelization of the world and service of the age.'
Under the head of Doctrine, the Scheme of Union refers to the articles held in common by the three bodies, without designating them. They are given in this volume, pp. 807–813. The Scheme as it affects 'Doctrine ' runs thus:
1. The Methodist Church claims and cherishes its place in the holy Catholic Church, which is the Body of Christ. It rejoices in the inheritance of the Apostolic faith, and loyally accepts the fundamental principles of the historic creeds and of the Protestant Reformation. It ever remembers that in the Providence of God Methodism was raised up to spread Scriptural Holiness through the land by the proclamation of the Evangelical Faith, and declares its unfaltering resolve to be true to its Divinely appointed mission.
The Doctrines of the Evangelical Faith, which Methodism has held from the beginning, and still holds, are based upon the Divine revelation recorded in the Holy Scriptures. The Methodist Church acknowledges this revelation as the supreme rule of faith and practice. These Evangelical Doctrines to which the preachers of the Methodist Church, Ministerial and Lay, are pledged are contained in Wesley's Notes on the New Testament and the first four volumes of his Sermons.
The Notes on the New Testament and the forty-four Sermons are not intended to impose a system of formal or speculative theology on Methodist Preachers, but to set up standards of preaching and belief which should secure loyalty to the fundamental truths of the Gospel of Redemption and ensure the continued witness of the Church to the realities of the Christian experience of salvation.
2. The Conference shall be the final authority within the Church with regard to all questions concerning the interpretation of its doctrines. In any necessary Act of Parliament provision shall be made to secure the recognition of this power.
3. Christ's ministers in the Church are stewards in the household of God, and shepherds of His flock. Some are called and ordained to this sole occupation, and have a principal and directing part in these great duties; but they hold no priesthood differing in kind from that which is common to the Lord's people, and they have no exclusive title to the preaching of the gospel or the care of souls. These ministries are shared with them by others, to whom also the Spirit divides His gifts severally as He wills.
4. It is the universal conviction of the Methodist people that the office of the Christian Ministry depends upon the call of God, Who bestows the gifts of the Spirit, the grace, and the fruit which indicate those whom He has chosen.
5.Those whom the Church recognises as called of God, and therefore receives into its Ministry, shall be ordained by the imposition of hands, as expressive of the Church's recognition of the Minister's personal call.
6. The Methodist Church holds the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers and consequently believes that no priesthood exists which belongs exclusively to a particular order or class of men.
But in the exercise of its corporate life and worship special qualifications for the discharge of special duties are required and thus the principle of representative selection is recognised.
The preachers, itinerant and lay, are examined, tested, and approved before they are authorised to minister in holy things. For the sake of Church order, and not because of any priestly virtue inherent in the office, the Ministers of the Church are set apart by ordination to the Ministry of the Word and Sacraments.
The general usage of the three uniting Churches whereby the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper is administered by Ministers shall continue to be observed.
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