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Methodist Church and Education
Methodist Education is shared by Universities, Colleges and Schools linked to the Methodism Movement since its origins. Methodism arose between students from the University of Oxford in England, in the first half of the eighteenth century. Their purpose was to foster greater commitment by young people with Christian values. The main leader of the movement was John Wesley, who was raised in a Christian environment, being literate in childhood by his own mother. Wesley always gave value to education from his own experiences.
Wesley and nascent Methodism developed peculiar sensitivity and the ability to offer answers to social issues such as the fight to end slavery and for the education of children from the poorest social strata. A certificate of this was the founding of Kingswood School in 1748, on the outskirts of the city of Bath, England, dedicated to the children of workers in coal mines.
In addition to texts about the education of children, Wesley wrote and published materials to be used specifically in educational settings. For instance, there are five grammar books of English, Greek, Latin, German and French, a History of England in 4 volumes, a Christian Library in 50 volumes and a Compendium of Logic, among other textbooks for Kingswood School.
Therefore, there is the embryo of a concept of education in which the production and socialization of knowledge hold hands together in the work of John Wesley and the early Methodists. Methodist schools, colleges and universities are present in more than 60 countries, with more than 800 institutions.
History and presence in the world – Methodist Movement and John Wesley
‘Methodist’ was first used as a nickname to refer to a small group of students from the University of Oxford in England. In the early years of the 1730s, that group met regularly to study the Bible, to pray, to receive the Holy Communion and perform charitable actions with people in situations of social vulnerability. As a result, these students have given rise to a spiritual renewal movement in the Anglican Church, being led by the brothers John and Charles Wesley. These behaviors of piety and social commitment were unusual in those times, and several times resulted in ridicule of the group members by those who were not connected to it. In addition, the way those students studied the Bible represented a differential in relation to what was done in those days in England. His method of study and practice the biblical teachings also seem to be at the origin of the name that was applied to them. Their behavior and ethical principles have come to represent a standard for the evangelical revival that followed.
In 1735, John and Charles Wesley responded to an invitation to serve as chaplains in the British colonies of North America. For various reasons, they were not successful in the work and returned to England in 1738. Influenced by the religious group of Moravians, the Wesley brothers started attending meetings of a Religious Society in London. In May 1738, both had a profound spiritual experience. In his Journal, John reported that on May 24, 1738, while listening to Martin Luther’s comment to Paul’s Letter to the Romans about the change which God works in the human heart through faith in Christ, he felt his heart strangely warmed. He felt he trusted in Christ for salvation and an assurance was given to him that Christ took upon Himself the sins of humankind and of himself John, freeing him from the law of sin and death.
Charles also had a religious experience and wrote more than 6,000 hymns, since then, as John became the organizer who has made what was a spontaneous movement configuring it in a structured body that gave rise later to Methodist Church present in the world, today. Initially, people who adhered to the movement formed corporate groups and ‘classes’ that met weekly. John Wesley traveled regularly throughout England to visit, encourage and guide those corporate groups, as well as preach. He encouraged the Methodists to continue participating in religious services and communion in the Anglican parishes, and meet the Methodist meetings themselves. Through the Methodist societies, members supported each other in matters of faith. Workers and women’s groups there found human dignity that was denied them in other spaces.
Works and faith came to be understood as essential to the integrity of Christian life in the Wesleyan design, making care for the poor, prisoners, widows and orphans assumed considerable importance in that perspective. This Methodist way of understanding the Christian life also resulted in considerable changes in English society, exemplified in the eradication of slavery, prison reform and the promotion of education for the children of workers.
The certainty of God’s grace was the experience of the early Methodists like the Wesley brothers who embraced the Christian tradition which emphasizes free will and a godly life as a result of faith, toward Christian perfection.
Although John Wesley had declared that he would live and die as a member of the Church of England, the strength and impact of the Methodist movement became inevitable separation of the group, in relation to that church. In the 19th century, the Methodists were present in Britain and the United States, growing in number in order to become a great, respectable and influential social force in those countries. Its main features were the ‘nonconformist conscience’ and temperance. The missionary movement also caused the Methodist message was spread around the Earth.
Currently, the Methodists are present in all of Earth’s continents, from East to West, from North to South. The Methodist Church is part of the Church of Christ without regard itself as inferior or superior to the other branches of Christianity, welcoming with open arms to all people who want to worship God and confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, accepting the commandment to serve him in the Church and in the world.
Established in Brazil since 1881, Methodist educational institutions combine tradition; a commitment to ethical, Christian principles and values; quality to build an integrated system.
The objective is to strengthen the quality of the Methodist brand in the educational sector, as well as improve the services provided, optimize resources and make the processes involving the institutions more flexible.
The Methodist educational institutions are committed to providing a special educational experience that combines academic, scientific and technological quality with the deepest ethical and Christian values, the Gospel and the Methodist identity. Its religious character stresses the importance of developing individuals who, in addition to being skilled professionals, are also agents of change in society.