DOCTRINES & SACRAMENTS
The Doctrines which the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas hold and teach are “The Doctrines of the Evangelical Faith" which Methodism has held from the beginning. These doctrines are based on the Divine Revelation recorded in the Holy Scriptures, which the Methodist Church acknowledges as the supreme rule of faith and practice. They are expounded in Wesley’s Notes on the New Testament and in the first four volumes of his sermons.
The notes and sermons are intended to “set up standards of preaching and belief” in order to secure loyalty to the fundamental truths of the Gospel of Redemption and to ensure the continuing witness of the Church to the realities of the Christian experience of salvation. While the doctrines themselves are “unalterable, whether by Conference or otherwise”, the Connexional Conference is the final authority within the Church on all questions concerning the interpretation of its doctrines (Constitution p. 30).
Methodist preachers, both ministerial and lay are committed to the evangelical doctrines as contained in Wesley’s Notes on the New Testament and in the first four volumes of his sermons, and it is their solemn duty to preach these doctrines and nothing contrary to them. John Wesley helps us to understand what a doctrine is: A Theological doctrine is a body of teaching on a particular subject, which is grounded in the Holy Scriptures.
The evangelical doctrines which are preached include the following:
The Holy Trinity
The Divine Creation of the World
The Universality of Sin and its Consequences
The Incarnation and Atonement of Christ
The Universality and Completeness of Salvation in Christ
The Witness and Work of the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Believer, the Church Conversion and the New Birth
Christian Justification and the Assurance of Salvation
The doctrine of Sanctification or Perfect Love
The Church as the Body of Christ
The Sacraments as Means of Grace
The Resurrection, Judgment and the After Life
The Kingdom of God
In all its teachings, the Methodist Church emphasises that all Christian doctrines must be based on the Holy Scriptures. However, we place more emphasis on true Christian living and practice-” practical divinity” as some scholars call it, or “true religion” as Wesley himself preferred to call it. True religion is the religion of love, “The love of God and of all of mankind”, which produces both faith and good works in the believer.
It begins with repentance and regeneration, is motivated by the Holy Spirit and is manifested in a life of sanctification and service.
The Methodist Church recognizes two sacraments:
The Lord’s Supper, also called Holy Communion
We accept these as "of Divine Appointment and Perpetual Obligation”, and we urge that it is the duty and privilege of all members of the Methodist Church to avail themselves of them.
In his “Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church”, John Wesley wrote, in “Article XVI”
Sacraments ordained of Christ are not only badges or tokens of the Christian’s profession, but rather they are certain signs of grace and God’s good-will toward us, by which He doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm, our faith in Him. There are two Sacraments ordained of Christ: Baptisms and the Supper of the Lord.
Those commonly called sacraments: Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony and Extreme Unction, are not to be counted for sacraments of the Gospel because they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God. The Sacraments were ordained that we should duly use them.
The Sacrament of Baptism
This is done by affusion or emersion and is administered both to those who are not able to answer for themselves (infants) and to those who can (adults). It is the initiatory sacrament, which enters us into a covenant with God. It is not the new birth, but a sign of regeneration and a mark of Christian discipleship.
On the meaning and benefits of Baptism, Wesley wrote:
Baptism is the initiatory sacrament, which enters us into covenant with God. It was instituted by Christ, who alone has power to institute a proper sacrament, a sign, seal, pledge and means of grace, perpetually obligatory on all Christians.
The matter of this sacrament is water; which as it has a natural power of cleansing, is more fit for this symbolic use. Baptism is performed by washing, dipping, or sprinkling the person in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. By Baptism we are admitted into the Church, and consequently made members of Christ, its Head. As the Jews were admitted into the Church by circumcision, so are the Christians by Baptism. By baptism, we who were “by nature children of wrath”, are made the children of God being grafted into the body of Christ’s Church, we are made the children of God by adoption and grace”. (Treatise on Baptism).
Baptism is not the new birth: They are not one and the same thing and they do not constantly go together. (Sermon on “The New Birth”). On the whole, therefore, it is not only lawful and innocent, but meet, right and our bounden duty, in conformity to the uninterrupted practice of the whole Church of Christ from the earliest ages to consecrate our children to God by baptism, as the Jewish Church was commanded to do by circumcision. (Treatise on Baptism).
The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper
For Methodists, the Lord’s Supper is a representation of our redemption, a memorial of the sufferings and death of Christ, and with one another.” It is both a converting and confirming ordinance, administered in both kinds (that is, bread and wine) to all who sincerely desire to be saved from their sins through faith in Jesus Christ and who earnestly seek to become His faithful disciples.
In his Journal for Saturday 28, June 1740, John Wesley wrote:
I showed at large that the Lord’s Supper was ordained by God as a means of conveying to men (and women) either preventing or justifying or sanctifying grace, according to their several necessities, that the persons for whom it was ordained are all those who know and feel that they want the grace of God, either to restrain them from sin, or to show their sins forgiven, or to renew their souls in the image of God, that in as much as we come to His table to receive whatsoever He sees best for us, there is no previous preparation indispensably necessary, but a desire to receive whatsoever He pleases to give, and that no fitness is required at the time of receiving, but a sense of our state of our utter sinfulness and helplessness; everyone who knows he (or she) is fit for hell being just fit to come to Christ.
Methodists do not believe in transubstantiation or consubstantiation since neither view is scripturally based. We believe that those who rightly, worthily, and faithfully eat the bread and drink the wine do partake of the body and blood of Christ in a spiritual manner. This view, sometimes called “spiritual presence”, emphasises the enabling presence and power of Christ, which is available to the faithful communicant. Thus, it becomes a means of God’s grace.
The grace of God given herein confirms to us the pardon of our sins and enables us to leave them…This is the food of our souls. This gives strength to perform our duty and leads us to perfection. If therefore, we desire the pardon of our sins, if we wish strength to believe, to love and obey God, then we should neglect no opportunity of receiving the Lord’s Supper. (Sermon: “The Duty of Constant Communion”).
Every Minister of MCCA is expected to be thoroughly grounded in the Scripture, and to have a firm grasp of the doctrines of the Christian faith in general and of Methodism in particular. This is essential. For Wesley, salvation is the end result of all that Methodists do, and he gave us this summary:
Our main doctrines, which include all the rest, are three, – that of repentance, of faith, and of holiness. The first of these we account, as it were, the porch of religion; the next, the door, the third religion itself”.