I love learning more about what we believe as The Wesleyan Church (TWC) and that’s why I’m especially enthusiastic about the Articles of Religion (AoR) series. I’m privileged to join an amazing group of contributors who will cover all our essential doctrinal statements, each highlighted in a brief, accurate and accessible article and video.

Understanding more fully what we believe benefits us individually as we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Increasing clarity in how we conceptualize our common beliefs also has the collective benefit of uniting us in our Christian faith.

As an introduction, I want to take us to the reason our AoR were created in the first place. “The Discipline of The Wesleyan Church 2022,” paragraph 200, states they were put into writing “in order that we may wisely preserve and pass on to posterity the heritage of doctrine and principles of Christian living transmitted to us as evangelicals in the Arminian-Wesleyan tradition …”

Let’s unpack the original reasons.

  • Preserve and pass on to posterity: That preservation involves protection of our AoR by placing them in the Essentials of TWC, which are the parts of the Constitution containing “the name, doctrines, and standards of conduct” and some “organizational articles,” paragraph 60. Any proposed change to an Essential goes through a rigorous process requiring two-thirds approval by vote through a vote of the North American General Conference, a two-thirds aggregate vote of all district conferences and a two-thirds vote of all General Conferences (currently North America, Caribbean, Philippines). Yet more than preserving, passing them on means teaching and proclaiming what we believe — which is a goal of this series.
  • Heritage of doctrines and principles of Christian living: These were shaped primarily by the authority of Scripture but also tradition (a “heritage” passed down through the church since it was born on the day of Pentecost), reason and experience. Our biblically rooted heritage is formative and transformative in what we believe (doctrines) and how we live (principles for Christian living).
  • Transmitted to us as evangelicals in the Arminian-Wesleyan tradition: We’re evangelical, from the Greek euangelion which means “good news” or “gospel.” We believe it’s important to experience personally and then share with others the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. We’re not only broadly and generically evangelical but distinctively in the Arminian-Wesleyan tradition, a theological position blending concepts developed by Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609) and John Wesley (1703-1791), an Anglican priest and scholar whose ministry resulted in a major revival movement in the British Isles and globally. John and Charles Wesley are the source from which TWC derives its name.

Throughout this series each article and video will unpack our biblical, orthodox, evangelical, Arminian-Wesleyan AoR. They capture biblical truth that defines the reality that every person is born spiritually dead and prone to sin. Yet every person has a free will and the possibility to be redeemed and live a holy life. While people are hopelessly lost in sin and headed for eternal death, the Holy Spirit works to draw them to where they can grasp their need to be made right with God. God’s prevenient grace offers the gift of faith, making it possible for any sinner to repent and believe in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Their new birth results in receiving forgiveness of past sins and experiencing the indwelling of the Holy Spirit so that person can understand the Scriptures and the will of God in order to live a holy life of Spirit-filled obedience.

Most of our AoR contain orthodox beliefs — those things traditionally recognized as correct teaching — and are shared by most who hold to orthodox Christian faith. Some are distinctive of the evangelical Protestant tradition, like justification by faith alone (Article 12) and the Scriptures as the “infallibly written Word of God” (Article 5).[1] But some of the Articles are more specific and distinctive to Wesleyans, such as Article 8 (Personal Choice), Article 9 (Sin: Original, Willful, and Involuntary) and Article 15 (Sanctification: Initial, Progressive, Entire) to name a few.

The AoR are succinct. Volumes have been written on each. People have devoted their whole lives to understanding just one doctrine, let alone the 22 we list.

I see a comparison to the Reader’s Digest that my wife, Jan, and I subscribe to and enjoy reading. I rarely read through it in one sitting — I enjoy taking in a little bit at a time. You have the same opportunity with this series on our AoR — take them in prayerfully, read or listen to the explanation and illustration of each offered in this series and reflect on what you’ve taken in. Maybe journal to capture something you’ve learned or want to live out more fully in your life.

You have an opportunity as you navigate this series to integrate belief and behavior, discerning how they’re related. Neither should stand alone — neither should be a substitute for the other. They are like two legs that allow you to maintain your balance physically, so what you believe and how you behave (obey) steady and strengthen your spiritual walk. In the Apostle Paul’s words, we’re working out our faith (Philippians 2:12). Or as the Apostle James puts it, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26, NKJV).

“Jesus Christ our Lord is loving and faithful. He has been pleased to choose us and call us to be with him as his special treasure. It is out of love for Christ that we serve him, seeking him with all our hearts, surrendering self-will in trust. We decided to be Jesus’ disciples, willing to trust him, following in his footsteps, honoring his name,” writes Pastora Graciela Ramírez Gámez, Wesleyan district superintendent of distrito Sur Iglesia Evangélica Los Peregrinos in Mexico.[2]

We’re followers, learners, believers. May what we learn about what we believe become fuel for how we behave, so that we might be shining lights (Matthew 5:16; 13:43; 2 Corinthians 4:6). “Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life” (Philippians 2:15-16).

Read the Spanish article here.


Dr. Wayne Schmidt is General Superintendent of The Wesleyan Church of North America.

 

“The Discipline of The Wesleyan Church 2022,” used by the permission of Wesleyan Publishing House: Fishers, Indiana.

“This Holy Calling: Daily Wisdom from Women in Ministry,” 2022, used by the permission of Wesleyan Publishing House: Fishers, Indiana.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[1] “The Discipline of The Wesleyan Church 2022,” 16.

[2] “This Holy Calling: Daily Wisdom from Women in Ministry,” 58.