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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7 Response for the "Two Johns Shake Hands: Major Havens of a Calvinist while being a United Methodist"

  1. Matthew says:

    In your opinion could a pastor within UMC have Calvinistic leanings? Do you know of any? Thanks again for your input and website. Great stuff!

  2. The feed for this blog reveals that you have already visited multiple times now. Thank you very much. You even created your Blogger account just to be able to comment.

    Considering the Book of Discipline, there are, I believe, more statements allowing a United Methodist pastor to have some Reformed convictions than hindering him. In fact, I haven't read, so far, anything that restrains him to be so.

    May I know why you are asking these questions? You may send an e-mail instead:

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thanks again for directing me to this post.


  4. George Whitefield was a Calvinist and a Methodist.

  5. Indeed, Gryphon Hall. And so is Martyn Lloyd-Jones and numerous others.

  6. LOVED THAT BLOG! A "Reformed Charismatic" at home serving as a Youth & Worship pastor at a United Methodist Church... it's clear that God called me here, & I whole-heartedly agree with your closing statement: "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." That is partly why I'm where I am... I'll be following your blog more closely. Thanks!

  7. Thanks, Shannon. Those were the kindest words that I received this day.

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