Because the Wesley brothers were both Anglican priests, today we might say the United Methodist Church is a sister to the Anglican and Episcopalian denominations. Truth is, just like Luther never wanted to break from Catholicism, the early Methodists still considered themselves part of the Church of England. For obvious reasons however, during the Revolutionary War, American Methodism finally broke from England giving the American Methodist Church a distinct flavor.
Because the Wesley brothers read so deeply into writers from the Eastern Church, theologically, one finds an unexpected affinity between Methodist and Eastern Orthodox theology – especially in our understandings of grace and human salvation. United Methodists believe that salvation is a free gift given to us from God because of Christ’s work on the cross. But after we are justified by Christ’s sacrifice, we are then empowered by the Holy Spirit to live into new resurrection life. Because Jesus’ tomb is empty, not only are our sins forgiven, but as Christ was raised from the dead as the firstborn of God’s new creation, Christians are empowered to become participants in, and agents of, this new creation in the world. For United Methodists, Christianity is about much more than simply having our sins forgiven, it is about new life in God. Christianity is about growing up as new creations in the world. The Orthodox call this “theosis” while United Methodists call it sanctification or growth in holiness. The Wesley brothers understood the two most important marks of one who was progressing in theosis to be their profound love of God and their liberal love of neighbor – these are the marks of one who is becoming more like God.