Saints in Methodism

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Methodism has historically followed the Protestant tradition of referring to sanctified members of the universal church as saints. However, as a title, Saint is typically prefixed to the names of biblical figures, and pre-Reformation Christians, especially martyrs of the faith.[citation needed] While most Methodist churches place little emphasis on the veneration of saints, they often admire, honor, and remember the saints of Christendom.

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, believed that there was much to learn from studying renowned saints, but he discouraged the 'worship' of them. He expressed concern about the Church of England's focus on saints' days and said that "most of the holy days were at present answering no valuable end."[1] As such, Methodism does not have any system whereby people are canonised.[1]


The title Saint in Methodist churches is commonly bestowed to those who had direct relations with Jesus Christ, or who are mentioned in the Bible. Occasionally, some esteemed, pre-Reformation Christians are accorded the title Saint—for example, the British Methodist Church addresses the British national patron saints as Saint George, Saint David, and so on.[2][3] However, there is no established rule as to the use of the title. Some Methodist churches are named for historic heroes and heroines of the faith such as the Twelve Apostles (excluding Judas Iscariot), Timothy, Paul, John the Baptist, Mary Magdalene, Virgin Mary, and Joseph.

Honoring the saints[edit]

John Wesley's belief was that Christianity should be Christ-centered. Article XIV of the Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church states that

The Romish doctrine concerning...worshiping, and adoration, as well of images as of relics, and also invocation of saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warrant of Scripture, but repugnant to the Word of God.[4]

Accordingly, Methodism formally rejects relics and prayer to saints, considering them to be distractions from the Christ-focused life and unfounded in Scripture.

While Methodists as a whole do not practice the patronage or veneration of saints, they do honor and admire them. Methodists observe All Saints' Day, following the liturgical calendar, in which the Church Universal, as well as the deceased members of a local congregation, are honored and remembered.[1][5]

Virgin Mary[edit]

Madonna and Child with a votive candle rack and kneeler in a Methodist church

The Virgin Mary is honored as the Mother of God (Theotokos) in the United Methodist Church.[citation needed] Methodist churches teach the doctrine of the virgin birth[citation needed], although they, along with Orthodox Christians and other Protestant Christians, reject the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.[6]

Many Methodists, including John Wesley, have held that Mary was a perpetual virgin,[7] which is the belief that Mary was ever-virgin for the whole of her life and Jesus was her only biological son.[8] Contemporary Methodism does hold that Mary was a virgin before, during, and immediately after the birth of Christ.[9][10] A small number of Methodists hold the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary as a pious opinion.[11]

Martyrs of the faith[edit]

The title is used to refer to historical martyrs, especially dating before the Reformation. The General Conferences of the United Methodist Church voted to officially recognize Dietrich Bonhoeffer in 2008 and Martin Luther King Jr. in 2012 as modern-day 'martyrs'. The vote recognized people who died for their faith and stand as Christian role models.[12][13][14][15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Do United Methodists believe in saints?". United Methodism Church. Archived from the original on 13 April 2014. Retrieved 11 April 2014.
  2. ^ "Saint George - more than dragons". Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  3. ^ "Saint David - who was he?". Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  4. ^ "The Twenty-Five Articles of Religion (Methodist)". CRI / Voice, Institute. Archived from the original on 2008-11-22. Retrieved 2009-04-11.
  5. ^ The Rev. J. Richard Peck (2011). "Do United Methodists believe in saints?". The United Methodist Church. Archived from the original on 18 July 2012. Retrieved 31 October 2011. We also recognize and celebrate All Saints' Day (Nov. 1) and "all the saints who from their labors rest". United Methodists call people "saints" because they exemplified the Christian life. In this sense, every Christian can be considered a saint.
  6. ^ "What does The United Methodist Church teach about the Immaculate Conception and the Virgin Birth?". 2006-11-06. Archived from the original on 2013-07-29. Retrieved 2013-09-30.
  7. ^ Wesley's Letters, The Wesley Center Online, 1749, archived from the original on 2011-11-05
  8. ^ "Mary's Perpetual Virginity". Archived from the original on 2012-08-25. Retrieved 2013-09-30.
  9. ^ "What does The United Methodist Church teach about the Virgin Mary?". 2006-11-06. Archived from the original on 2012-07-01. Retrieved 2013-09-30.
  10. ^ "Comparing Christian Denominations – Beliefs: Nature of Mary". 2013-07-30. Archived from the original on 2015-04-04. Retrieved 2013-09-30.
  11. ^ Stepp, Todd (23 December 2009), Theotokos; Mary, Mother of God, Wesleyan/Anglican Society, We Protestants (for the most part) tend to say something to the effect that, if it is not found in Scripture it is not held to be required as an article of faith. Thus, the assumption of Mary would not be held as an article of faith (i.e., as a required doctrine). However, in as much as the Scripture does not say that Mary was not assumed into heaven, and, in as much as we do have other instances of some sort of "assumption" in Scripture (e.g., Elijah, as mentioned, before), there seems to be nothing that would require that a Protestant Christian could not have a private "opinion" (in the Wesleyan sense of the term) that agrees with Rome or Constantinople (at least regarding Mary's assumption).
  12. ^ Mulenga, Maidstone (1 May 2012). "United Methodists declare MLK Jr. a modern-day martyr". United Methodist Church. Archived from the original on 23 September 2017. Retrieved 22 September 2017. Archive from General Conference 2012 website.
  13. ^ Bloom, Linda (18 June 2008). "Dietrich Bonhoeffer first martyr officially recognized by United Methodists". Dallas News. Archived from the original on 23 September 2017. Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  14. ^ "Recognition of Bonhoeffer (FO32-NonDis-A)". General Conference 2008 Legislation Tracking. United Methodist Church. 2 May 2008. Archived from the original on 12 January 2012. Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  15. ^ Combs, Alan (9 August 2011). "Why Should United Methodists Have a Season of Saints?". Equipping Disciples. Discipleship Ministries (United Methodist Church). Archived from the original on 23 September 2017. Retrieved 22 September 2017.