Why I Am a United Methodist by William H. Willimon
(Abingdon Press, 1990, 128 pages)
This is a good, brief introduction to the distinctives of Methodism and the theology of John Wesley. Willimon has spent his entire life in attendance at and preaching in United Methodist churches. He has been a student and a professor in their educational institutions. He knows the denomination’s particular strengths, and he isn’t shy about calling out its weaknesses.
One of the major features of Methodism that Willimon draws out is the denomination’s social character. Methodists have a social conscience, and the impulse to pursue personal “perfection,” as Wesley taught it, often translates into a concern for social justice and political participation. While Methodism has some important doctrinal distinctives, Willimon sees it as a very practical and flexible approach to the Christian faith.
Willimon makes the point that he didn’t choose Methodism, but that he was born into it. He doesn’t see this as a problem, given that the Christian faith emphasizes grace that is received rather than earned or chosen. His assessment of the denomination is creative and sympathetic, though still tough-minded and critical.