Methodists are among the largest of Protestant denominations; there are over 12 million members worldwide. The vast majority are part of the United Methodist organization. Methodists share a wide range of Christian beliefs from fundamentalist to liberal. The Methodist movement originated in the late 18th and 19th-century Enlightenment, and thus Methodists are tolerant of different theological beliefs. They are likewise tolerant of a wide range of political issues.

Liberal Protestantism

Protestant denominations vary on political and theological issues. In terms of theology, liberal Protestants do not hold that the Bible should be interpreted literally, and they accept scientific explanations for the origins of life. Liberal Protestants also tend to believe that people are rewarded in the afterlife according to how they lived, not how closely they followed religious dogma. While many possess personal objections to abortion, politically they are pro-choice. Liberal Protestants are also likely to affirm marriage rights for homosexuals.

Mainline Protestants

Methodist, Episcopal Church front with spires

Methodists are among the “mainline” Protestants, including Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Congregationalists and certain sects of Lutherans and Baptists, among others. Their beliefs are in contrast to those of evangelicals and fundamentalists like the Southern Baptists. Mainline theology is more liberal in terms of not accepting the contents of the Bible literally and typically believing there is more than one path to salvation. However, the mainline denominations are traditional in maintaining historical links with their founding theologies and hosting liturgical church services.

Liberal Beliefs of Methodists

Though varied, most Methodists, particularly the United Methodists, uphold the liberal Protestant tradition of open biblical interpretation and belief in multiple paths to salvation. The Methodists also allow clergy to marry as well as encouraging female ordination. Politically, they are more divided, but many Methodists hold liberal positions on gay rights and abortion. However, many Methodists are also as likely to hold conservative political beliefs and condemn both same-sex marriage and abortion.

Modern Methodist Schism

Couple's hands during a wedding ceremony

Political issues, particularly same-sex marriage, have divided Methodists and created a schism within the United Methodist organization. As a result, congregations exist on a continuum of those that are politically conservative, moderate and liberal. The United Methodist clergy are at odds with each other on the issue of same-sex marriage. Conservative Methodist clergy hold that the United Methodist Book of Discipline prohibits ministers from performing same-sex marriages, yet liberal ministers are openly willing to perform such marriages.