The first Methodist church was established in 1784 in the USA. The United States of America had been founded the previous year, creating the first modern state, in which the separation of church and state was defined constitutionally.
The original intention had not been to start a new church. The Anglican clergyman John Wesley (1703 - 1791) was deeply concerned about the situation of the poor within society in 18th century England. The beginning of the industrial revolution had caused great social problems (unemployment, child labour, exploitation of workers, alcoholism and more). Together with several like-minded people, John Wesley founded a revival movement within the Church of England, who took on these people and their problems. They were mockingly named ‘Methodists’ because of the way in which they tried to live out their beliefs, consistently and ‘with method’.
As more and more people emigrated to the English colonies in North America, so the movement spread there, too. Following American Independence, the Church of England withdrew from the secessionist colonies as it was, after all, the church of the English crown, and the Methodists began to organise their own church in the vacuum left behind. The Methodist Church did not arise from differences in teaching, but rather from the need to provide pastoral care for people in this new country.
The Methodist Church has the Articles of Religion and the worship service of the Anglican Church, although both have been shortened and amended in keeping with the changing needs of the modern world.
Today, there are Methodist churches throughout the world with approximately 70 million members. While the Methodists are not directly a product of the reformation, we nevertheless belong to the family of Protestant churches and profess together the protestant beliefs, which are based on the love of God for all people and His unconditional acceptance of us despite our sinful nature as human beings. The bible forms the foundation of our beliefs and Jesus Christ is the central focus of our faith and our lives. Baptism and communion are our sacraments; God’s promise of His love made visible.
We anticipate that those who are baptised as children later freely acknowledge their faith and their responsibility within the Church.
We anticipate that those who acknowledge their faith live as Christians, exercise love and justice and act according to their faith within society.
All offices and posts within the Church are open to both men and women equally. Pastors and laity make decisions on questions of teaching and organisational matters together.
Everyone is welcome in the Methodist Church. We profess to be all-inclusive and so we invite all people, in all their diversity, to take part in our worship and our church life. For this reason, all those searching for God are invited to join us in (taking holy) communion.
There are Methodist churches, which are independent within the country they are situated (e.g. in Portugal) or who have joined with other protestant churches (such as in Belgium). The 1,500 members of the Austrian Methodist Church constitute a minority religious group and belong to the worldwide United Methodist Church, which is represented in many countries of the American, European, African and Asian continents and has 12 million members.
There has been a United Methodist Church in Austria since 1870. The denomination was officially recognised by the Austrian state in 1951. The church is committed to ecumenism and belongs to the Ecumenical Council of Churches in Austria. A state of full communion exists with the Protestant Lutheran and Calvinist Churches, including a community of preaching and holy communion, joint religious education and where possible, incorporates pastoral and diaconal cooperation.
Further information on the history and the teachings of the United Methodist Church can be found on the homepage of the United Methodist Church in Germany (in German) at: www.emk.de
or on the homepage of the United Methodist Church at: www.umc.org