Methodism 101: Theology Through Charles Wesley's Hymns

Thumbnail Image
Felton, Joshua Stuart
Issue Date
School of Theology, University of the South , School of Theology Thesis 2017 , Charles Wesley , United Methodists beliefs , United Methodist doctrine , Hymns by Charles Wesley , The United Methodist Hymnal
Project under the direction of Professor Joe Burnett Why should United Methodist members care about their Christian foundational beliefs? United Methodist members know less and less about the theology of the church. Charles Wesley’s hymns, specifically those in The United Methodist Hymnal, grounded in Methodist theology. This study utilized Wesley’s hymns, found in The United Methodist Hymnal to instruct the learner about foundational United Methodist beliefs. The aim of the study was to use the hymns to increase knowledge in a believer’s faith, which leads to a deeper relationship with God. This, in turn, motivates the believer to witness and use their gifts to serve others within the church and their communities. A program model of a church group study was used to encourage the education in the United Methodist doctrine. The studies were held on Wednesday evenings at a rural Appalachian church, Central United Methodist, in Bean Station, Tennessee. Central United Methodist Church averages sixty-four attendees per Sunday morning service. This program was ten sessions in length, lasting 1-1.5 hours each. The study was a lecture-style approach with Power Point visuals, along with audio and video of Charles Wesley’s hymns from The United Methodist Hymnal. Furthermore, a written pre-test was administered prior to the study starting time and then a written post-test was administered at the end of the lecture to assess if learning had increased. Average attendance was twenty-two individuals. The average pre-test grade was 40.9%, and the average post-test grade was 88.7%. The ten session titles, along with their respective hymns from The United Methodist Hymnal, are as follows: Introduction to Charles Wesley/Trinity/God the Father (Maker), (“Maker in Whom We Live”); Jesus Christ, (“Hark the Herald Angels Sing”); Holy Spirit, (“Spirit of Faith, Come Down”); Prevenient Grace, (“Come, Sinners, to the Gospel Feast”); Justifying Grace, (“And Can It Be that I Should Gain”); Sanctifying Grace and Perfection, (“Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”); The Means of Grace, (several hymns, see session 7); The Sacraments, (communion –“O the Depth of Love Divine,” baptism – “Come, Let Us Use the Grace Divine”); The Church, (“Christ, from Whom All Blessings Flow”); Resurrection of Saints/Concluding Statements on Charles Wesley’s Life, (“Come, Let Us Join Our Friends Above”). Developing a deeper knowledge of the key concepts of United Methodist doctrine is vital for a Christian’s foundational understanding of their faith. Targeting individual concepts in the Christian faith through dissecting Charles Wesley’s hymns gives the learner insight to why they believe what they believe. Increasing their knowledge could have a profound impact on their faith development. The Trinity/God the Father (Maker) teaches about who the Trinity is: God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and the Maker, meaning God is the creator of humanity. Next, the learner understands that Jesus is the reconciler between humanity and God, as well as our redeemer through his crucifixion and resurrection. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit makes God known to the unbeliever and inspires the Christian’s faith. Through prevenient grace, the learner can understand that God loved all humanity before humanity understood they needed it, God welcomes all into a relationship through salvation. Justifying grace shows the learner that by accepting God’s love through faith in Jesus Christ, one is saved from sin. Sanctifying grace and perfection is striving to live out the love of God in one’s life. The learner is taught the means of grace are channels to experience God’s grace through prayer, worship, fasting and scripture. Through the sacraments of communion and baptism, the learner understands the importance of remembering Christ’s crucifixion and their own commitment to God and the church. Session nine on the nature of the church instructs learners in the significance of keeping Jesus Christ the head of the church, and the importance of unity among the church members. In the resurrection of the saints session, the learner understands more about eternal life and Christ’s second coming. In conclusion, Methodism 101: Theology through Charles Wesley’s Hymns was a study to promote increased learning about the United Methodist doctrine utilizing Charles Wesley’s hymns in The United Methodist Hymnal.