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." [1] As such, Methodism does not have any system whereby people are canonised. [1]


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.[ citation needed ] 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.

Honoring the saints

A United Methodist church dedicated to Saint Mark, in Atlanta, Georgia St. Mark United Methodist Church.jpg
A United Methodist church dedicated to Saint Mark, in Atlanta, Georgia

John Wesley's belief was that Christianity should be Christ-centered. Article XIV of the Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church states that

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. [2]

Explicitly, Methodism denies Purgatory, relics, and prayer to saints—considering them to be distractions from the Christ-focused life and unfounded in Scripture.

While Methodists as a whole do not practice the patronage or veneration of saints, they do honor and admire them. Methodists observe All Saints' Day, following the liturgical calendar, in which the Church Universal, as well as the deceased members of a local congregation, are honored and remembered. [1] [3]

In this, Methodism reflects the Anglican Christianity from which it derived and of which denomination John Wesley died a member. Article XXI of the Thirty Nine Articles of Religion of the Church of England, which were largely the work of Thomas Cranmer, were completed in 1552 and issued by Royal Mandate of Edward VI on 19 June 1553 as The 42 Articles, then revised and reduced to 39 by 1571, states, in similar terms, that

THE Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping, and Adoration, as well of Images as of Reliques, and also invocation of Saints, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God. [4]

Virgin Mary

Madonna and Child with a votive candle rack and kneeler in a Methodist church Madonna of the Child with votive candle rack and kneeler (United Methodist Church of the Saviour).jpg
Madonna and Child with a votive candle rack and kneeler in a Methodist church

The Virgin Mary is honored as the Mother of God (Theotokos) in the United Methodist Church. 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. [5]

Many Methodists, including John Wesley, have held that Mary was a perpetual virgin, [6] which is the belief that Mary was ever-virgin for the whole of her life and Jesus was her only biological son. [7] Contemporary Methodism does hold that Mary was a virgin before, during, and immediately after the birth of Christ. [8] [9] A small number of Methodists hold the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary as a pious opinion. [10]

Martyrs of the faith

The title is used to refer to historical martyrs, especially dating before the Reformation. The General Conferences of the United Methodist Church voted to officially recognize Dietrich Bonhoeffer in 2008 and Martin Luther King Jr. in 2012 as modern-day 'martyrs'. The vote recognized people who died for their faith and stand as Christian role models. [11] [12] [13] [14]

See also

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Methodism Group of historically related denominations of Protestant Christianity

Methodism, also called the Methodist movement, is a group of historically related denominations of Protestant Christianity which derive their doctrine of practice and belief from the life and teachings of John Wesley. George Whitefield and John's brother Charles Wesley were also significant early leaders in the movement. It originated as a revival movement within the 18th-century Church of England and became a separate denomination after Wesley's death. The movement spread throughout the British Empire, the United States, and beyond because of vigorous missionary work, today claiming approximately 80 million adherents worldwide.

Saint One who has been recognized for having an exceptional degree of holiness, sanctity, and virtue

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Mary, mother of Jesus Mother of Jesus, according to the Christian New Testament

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Sanctification is the act or process of acquiring sanctity, of being made or becoming holy.

Communion of saints

The communion of saints, when referred to persons, is the spiritual union of the members of the Christian Church, living and the dead, excluding therefore the damned. They are all part of a single "mystical body", with Christ as the head, in which each member contributes to the good of all and shares in the welfare of all.

Intercession of saints

Intercession of the saints is a doctrine held by the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Roman Catholic Churches. The practice of praying through saints can be found in Christian writings from the 3rd century onward. The 4th-century Apostles' Creed states belief in the communion of saints, which certain Christian churches interpret as supporting the intercession of saints. As in Christianity, this practice is controversial in Judaism and Islam.

Biblical infallibility Doctrine that what the Bible says regarding matters of faith and Christian practice is wholly useful and true

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Wesleyan theology Protestant Christian denomination

Wesleyan theology, otherwise known as Wesleyan–Arminian theology, or Methodist theology, is a theological tradition in Protestant Christianity that emphasizes the "methods" of the eighteenth-century evangelical reformer brothers John Wesley and Charles Wesley. More broadly it refers to the theological system inferred from the various sermons, theological treatises, letters, journals, diaries, hymns, and other spiritual writings of the Wesleys and their contemporary coadjutors such as John William Fletcher.

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Purgatory is, according to the belief of some Christians, an intermediate state after physical death for expiatory purification. There is disagreement among Christians whether such a state exists. Some forms of Western Christianity, particularly within Protestantism, deny its existence. Other strands of Western Christianity see purgatory as a place, perhaps filled with fire. Some concepts of Gehenna in Judaism are similar to that of purgatory. The word "purgatory" has come to refer also to a wide range of historical and modern conceptions of postmortem suffering short of everlasting damnation and is used, in a non-specific sense, to mean any place or condition of suffering or torment, especially one that is temporary.

Sacrament Sacred rite recognized as of and significance

A sacrament is a Christian rite recognized as of particular importance and significance. There are various views on the existence and meaning of such rites. Many Christians consider the sacraments to be a visible symbol of the reality of God, as well as a channel for God's grace. Many denominations, including the Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, and Reformed, hold to the definition of sacrament formulated by Augustine of Hippo: an outward sign of an inward grace, that has been instituted by Jesus Christ. Sacraments signify God's grace in a way that is outwardly observable to the participant.

Criticism of Protestantism

Criticism of Protestantism covers critiques and questions raised about Protestantism, the Christian tradition which arose out of the Protestant Reformation. While critics praise Protestantism's Christ-centered and Bible-centered faith, Protestantism is faced with criticism mainly from the Catholic Church and some Orthodox Churches, although Protestant denominations have also engaged in self-critique and criticized one another.

Protestant theology, refers to the doctrines held by various Protestant traditions, which share some things in common but differ in others. In general, Protestant theology, as a subset of Christian theology, holds to faith in the Christian Bible, the Holy Trinity, salvation, sanctification, charity, evangelism, and the four last things.


  1. 1 2 3 "Do United Methodists believe in saints?". United Methodism Church. Archived from the original on 13 April 2014. Retrieved 11 April 2014.
  2. "The Twenty-Five Articles of Religion (Methodist)". CRI / Voice, Institute. Archived from the original on 2008-11-22. Retrieved 2009-04-11.
  3. The Rev. J. Richard Peck (2011). "Do United Methodists believe in saints?". The United Methodist Church. Archived from the original on 18 July 2012. 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.
  4. "Articles of Religion". The Church of England. Retrieved 2020-07-16.
  5. "What does The United Methodist Church teach about the Immaculate Conception and the Virgin Birth?". 2006-11-06. Archived from the original on 2013-07-29. Retrieved 2013-09-30.
  6. Wesley's Letters, The Wesley Center Online, 1749, archived from the original on 2011-11-05
  7. "Mary's Perpetual Virginity". Archived from the original on 2012-08-25. Retrieved 2013-09-30.
  8. "What does The United Methodist Church teach about the Virgin Mary?". 2006-11-06. Archived from the original on 2012-07-01. Retrieved 2013-09-30.
  9. "Comparing Christian Denominations – Beliefs: Nature of Mary". 2013-07-30. Archived from the original on 2015-04-04. Retrieved 2013-09-30.
  10. 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).
  11. Mulenga, Maidstone (1 May 2012). "United Methodists declare MLK Jr. a modern-day martyr". United Methodist Church. Archived from the original on 23 September 2017. Retrieved 22 September 2017. Archive from General Conference 2012 website.
  12. Bloom, Linda (18 June 2008). "Dietrich Bonhoeffer first martyr officially recognized by United Methodists". Dallas News. Archived from the original on 23 September 2017. Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  13. "Recognition of Bonhoeffer (FO32-NonDis-A)". General Conference 2008 Legislation Tracking. United Methodist Church. 2 May 2008. Archived from the original on 12 January 2012. Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  14. Combs, Alan (9 August 2011). "Why Should United Methodists Have a Season of Saints?". Equipping Disciples. Discipleship Ministries (United Methodist Church). Archived from the original on 23 September 2017. Retrieved 22 September 2017.