Every generation must apply the timeless truths of Scripture to their contemporary questions. While it is enough under ordinary circumstances to profess faith in Jesus Christ, throughout the history of the Christian Church there have been major disagreements as to the proper explanation of our faith. We do not desire to be divisive, but we believe we are to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.
1. We are earnest Christians
God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us. We endeavor to love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind and with all our strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
We have no desire to break fellowship with any brother or sister whom God has accepted into the spiritual family. We seek to maintain the "Catholic Spirit" exemplified by John Wesley's famous sermon by that title. The word "ecumenical" refers to worldwide Christian unity and cooperation. In the early days of the Christian Church there were four major ecumenical councils which reaffirmed the teachings of Scripture and kept the Church on track. These councils did not convene because the Scriptures were not sufficient, but in the face of contemporary questions the councils convened to state a scriptural response.
In more recent times, though, ecumenical gatherings have even included those who have denied the faith. In order to reach a consensus these councils have sought unity at the lowest common denominator. Unlike the early councils which promoted orthodoxy, the modern ecumenical movement has been too willing to compromise orthodoxy for the sake of union. truth is not determined by a denomination board and we dare not surrender our conscience to any ecclesiastical hierarchy.
2. We are Protestants
Although some evangelicals are now expressing a willingness to cooperate with Rome, the greatest unresolved issue is the issue of authority. We maintain, along with Luther, that the Bible is the only infallible rule of faith and practice. What Luther means by sola scriptura is essentially what Wesley meant by homo unius libri (a man of one book). When challenged that he misunderstood the scriptural teaching on the new birth, Wesley wrote in his Journal, that he turned to his Greek New Testament "resolving to abide by 'the law and the testimony,' and being confident that God would hereby show me 'whether this doctrine was of God.'"
We reject the apocryphal books declared four hundred years ago to be Scripture by the Roman Church at the Council of Trent. In opposition to the Roman Catholic coupling of Scripture and church tradition as joint rules of faith we stand for the sufficiency of Scripture. There is no dual authority. John Wesley explained
The faith of the Protestants, in general, embraces only those truths, as necessary to salvation, which are clearly revealed in the oracles of God. Whatever is plainly declared in the Old and New Testament is the object of their faith. They believed neither more nor less than what is manifestly contained in, and provable by, the Holy Scriptures. The Word of God is a "lantern to their feet, and a light in all their paths." They dare not, on any pretence, go from it, to the right hand or to the left. The written Word is the whole and sole rules of their faith, as well as practice. They believe whatsoever God has declared, and profess to do whatsoever He hath commanded. This is the proper faith of Protestants: by this they will abide and no other ("On Faith," sermon #106).
In his statement on "The Character of a Methodist," Wesley affirmed "the written word of God to be the only and sufficient rule both of Christian faith and practice; and herein we are fundamentally distinguished from those of the Romish Church."
We watch with concern the developments surrounding the manifesto "Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium." The Roman Catholic Church pronounced at the Council of Trent over four hundred years ago that the doctrine of justification by faith alone is anathema.
John Wesley affirmed with Martin Luther that justification by faith alone was "the article by which the Church stands or falls" (see "The Lord Our Righteousness, sermon #20). We stand with Martin Luther and raise our voices in protest against all who deny that salvation is by grace through faith. Until this position is officially accepted by the Roman Catholic Church, we remain Protestants.