In an essay titled American Methodists on Calvinism and Presbyterianism, the distinguished professor of Church History at Candler School of Theology, Emory University (a United Methodist Seminary), Russell E. Richey, wrote

The union of 1968, bringing together Evangelical United Brethren and Methodist churches made the Reformed tradition a constitutive part of United Methodism. Our doctrinal standards now include the EUB 'Confession of Faith,' our theological heritage embraces the Reformed witness of Otterbein and the United Brethren, and through the EUB story United Methodists acquired Calvinist roots. Whitefield again looks increasingly like a full member of the family.

These words turned my whispers into shouts. They had broken me free from the small box of being a silent United Methodist with Calvinistic convictions, from the chaining fear of being disassociated, into a bold proclaimer of the doctrines of grace.

What follows are portions from the Book of Discipline of UMC which are major havens, places of safety, for a Calvinist like me inside this generally Wesleyan church.

From Section 1 - Our Doctrinal Heritage

Although Wesley shared with many other Christians a belief in grace, justification, assurance, and sanctification, he combined them in a powerful manner to create distinctive emphases for living the full Christian life. The Evangelical United Brethren tradition, particularly as expressed by Phillip William Otterbein from a Reformed background, gave similar distinctive emphases.

The distinctive Wesleyan emphases "for living the full Christian life" can be emphasized in Calvinistic background.

From Section 2 - Our Doctrinal History

The unfolding of doctrinal concerns among Jacob Albright's Evangelical Association and Phillip William Otterbein's United Brethren in Christ roughly parallels Methodist developments. Differences emerged largely from differing ecclesiastical traditions brought from Germany and Holland, together with the modified Calvinism of the Heidelberg Catechism.

Here, the Book of Discipline, acknowledges that the EUB has its roots to be traced with "modified Calvinism of the Heidelberg Catechism." Heidelberg Catechism is one of the most influential Calvinistic catechisms.

From Section 3 - Our Doctrinal Standards

Article VII—Sin and Free Will
We believe man is fallen from righteousness and, apart from the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, is destitute of holiness and inclined to evil. Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God. In his own strength, without divine grace, man cannot do good works pleasing and acceptable to God. We believe, however, man influenced and empowered by the Holy Spirit is responsible in freedom to exercise his will for good.

Article IX—Justification and Regeneration
We believe regeneration is the renewal of man in righteousness through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, whereby we are made partakers of the divine nature and experience newness of life. By this new birth the believer becomes reconciled to God and is enabled to serve him with the will and the affections.

These may not seem to be a Calvinistic haven, at first, but if it is remembered that these should be interpreted using the lens of the Heidelberg Catechism, then, its Reformed meaning is obviously established. And these are protected by

In the Plan of Union for The United Methodist Church, the preface to the Methodist Articles of Religion and the Evangelical United Brethren Confession of Faith explains that both were accepted as doctrinal standards for the new church.


It will be best to consider that Methodism started not as a theological movement. It started as a lifestyle movement focusing on Bible study and a methodical approach to scriptures and Christian living. They were familiarized to communion, fasting, abstinence, and visitation of the sick and poor. Therefore, just as a recommendation of a UMC pastor, it is possible to embrace the scholarship of John Calvin while maintaining the piety and passion of John Wesley. The two Johns can indeed shake hands. Will you shake hands with me?

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Let me first state my agreement with Ptr. John MacArthur when he wrote "The seven churches addressed in chapters 2 and 3 were actual existing churches when John wrote. But while not precisely duplicated, they also represent the types of churches that are generally present throughout the entire church age." Therefore I invite you to try to evaluate your church's type following the seven categories:

1) Love-Grew-Cold (Ephesus)
Commended for (2:2–3, 6):
  • deeds, toil, and perseverance
  • healthy judgment againts false teachings and teachers
  • hatred for antinomians
Rebuked for (2:4):
  • diminishing passion for GOD
2) Persecuted (Smyrna)
Commended for (2:9):
  • staying firm amidst tribulation, poverty and blasphemy
Rebuked for:
  • nothing (Wow!)
3) Worldly (Pergamum)
Commended for (2:13):
  • maintaining their faith despite difficult circumstances including death
Rebuked for (2:14–15):
  • mixing Christianity with worldly systems (as paganism)
  • some abuse liberty and embrace antinomianism (Nicolaitans)
4) Sin-Tolerating (Thyatira)
Commended for (2:19):
  • growing deeds of love, faith, service, and perseverance
Rebuked for (2:20–23):
  • tolerating a false teacher, a false teaching, and immoral practices inside
5) Dead (Sardis)
Commended for (3:4):
  • some who maintain their purity
Rebuked for (3:1d, 2b):
  • departing from the Source of spiritual life and from being a channel of spiritual life
6) Faithful (Philadelphia)
Commended for (3:8–11a):
  • though small in numbers, they have a powerful impact in the community for being faithful to GOD and to His Word
Rebuked for:
  • nothing (Wow! And wow!)
7) Lukewarm (Laodicea)
Commended for:
  • nothing (What?)
Rebuked for (3:15–17):
  • being lukewarm, neither are they genuinely saved (hot) nor are they rejecting the gospel (cold)
  • being arrogant and proud
  • being spiritually wretched, poor, and blind
How About the UMC?

Let me, then, diagnose my church, the United Methodist Church, as I observe its worship and practices here at our conference. I am confident yet sad to admit that my church does not fall on the unrebuked churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia. It is neither persecuted nor faithful. I can't even classify it under the passionless Ephesus. Never do I see a healthy discernment against false teachers and false teachings (false teachers are actually revered oftentimes). These, therefore, leave four feasible choices: Worldly, Sin-Tolerating, Dead, Lukewarm. Did I just describe my church with four adjectives?

Let me, therefore, proceed on exploring the commands given to these four churches. I assume that these are the same commands that my church ought to take heed to:
  • Commandment to Pergamum (2:16)
    "repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war"
  • Commandment to Thyatira (2:24–25)
    "the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this [false] teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them—I place no other burden on you. Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come."
  • Commandment to Sardis (3:2a, 3)
"Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die…. So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent."
  • Commandment to Laodicea (3:18–20)
"be zealous and repent"

Oh, GOD, please be merciful and gracious to the United Methodist Church. May You, in Your sovereignty, be pleased to send renewal, reformation, and revival.

I have borrowed a lot from MacArthur's New Testament Commentary: Revelation 1-11.

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