"WHAT IS A METHODIST?"
Rev. Ralph W. Sockman
New York City
Sir:--The declaration of Matthew Prior, the English poet and diplomatist, that "When people are once wrong, each line they add is much too long," came to mind while reading your What Is a Methodist? in LOOK magazine, which is a compilation of wrong reasoning, based upon a wrong concept of things Christian.
The Methodist church (that is the first of the 20 different kinds of Methodist churches listed in the U.S. Census Report) owes its existence, as you say, to John Wesley, a minister of the church of England. His intention was to have the Methodist Societies he organized remain within the Anglican church. But, as you confess, "when the Bishop of London would not ordain ministers to serve the Methodist societies, Wesley had to take irregular steps of ordination and consecration." Disregarding the regularity of the Anglican church, John Wesley, the father of Methodism, "consecrated" Thomas Coke, an Anglican Minister, as "Superintendent" of the Methodist churches in the United States, in 1776, who took the title "Bishop," which a "Superintendent" was supposed to be. This caused John Wesley's brother Charles to hit off that irregularity in these poetic lines:
How easy now are Bishops made
At man or woman's whim,
Wesley his hands on Coke had laid,
But who laid hands on him?
From this irregularity stemmed the "Bishops" of the Methodist churches, including the 'bigoted, loquacious "Bishop" Oxnam. This "consecration" of Coke was a repudiation of the principle of Apostolic Succession, through which the continuity of the Church that Christ established is traced to its origin on the First Pentecost Day. Wesley dubbed Apostolic Succession "a fable," perhaps because he realized that it led through the Popes to Peter.
In saying that "the Bible is a library of inspired books," you echo the declaration made by the Catholic Church over a dozen centuries before the birth of Methodism, when she selected the books that formed the library of inspired writings. The devious interpretation of the contents of the Bible by Methodists, and the other Protestant sects, transforms the Word of God into the word of man; aye the word of the devil, who quoted Old Testament texts while tempting Our Lord in the desert (St. Matt. 4:6). This is due to the thing you boast about, "leaving the individual man free to make his own interpretation of the Bible's contents." That is a repudiation of 2 Peter 1:20, which says "that no prophecy is made by private interpretation."
The Methodist anarchistic denial of authoritative interpretation accounts for the existence of hundreds of Protestant sects, all of them claiming to be of Christ, when everyone of them is man-made.
That anarchistic principle accounts for a denial of belief in the Virgin Birth on the part of many Methodists, who "do not feel it necessary to believe that Jesus Christ was born without a human father," despite the fact that the Virgin Birth is proclaimed in St. Matt. 1:23 and St. Luke 1:31-38.
That anarchistic principle caused Methodists to "vary widely" in their "concepts of heaven and hell," despite the fact that the Divine concept of Heaven and Hell is plainly proclaimed in St. Matt. 25:41-46; St. Mark 9:47; and St. John 5:29.
That anarchistic principle causes "Methodists (to boast that they) do not pray to Saints," as "no intermediary is needed," despite the fact that the "prayers of the Saints" for others are said by St. John to ascend to God "like the smoke of incense" (Apoc. 5:8; 8:4).
The length of this letter, which I purpose to present to THE PILOT, the Boston Catholic Archdiocesan weekly, for publication, caused me to refer only to four of the dozen evidences in your explanation of What Is a Methodist? that prove the anti-Bible result of the anarchistic principle of repudiating authoritative Scriptural interpretation. St. Augustine was wiser than you, even though you are the author of 15 books, and the foremost Methodist broadcaster in the U.S.A.
Knowing that the Catholic Church was the Divine Selector of the books that formed the library of inspired writings; and that she is Divinely protected from error in matters of faith and morals, St. Augustine said:---"I would not give credit to the Gospel unless the authority of the Catholic Church induced me to it" (Contra ap. Fundan, p. 154). Please to bear this indisputable historic fact in mind when discussing the Bible, that the Catholic Church existed for over three-and-a-half centuries before there was a Christian Bible, hence the Church comes first in right reasoning.
The difference between the Methodist church and Catholic Church is that the Wesley-originated church was "born in England," as you say; whereas the Church in which I am privileged to be incorporated was born in Palestine. A vital difference between your Wesley church and Christ's Church is seen in your boast that "Within the 40,000 American Methodist churches, there is probably as wide a variation in types of thought and worship as there is between Methodists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and others"; whereas there is no variation in belief in the Catholic Church as to Who Christ is; the seven Sacraments; the form of worship due Him; and the obligation to apply Christian principles to the domestic, civic, and social spheres of man's activity.
Oneness is a basic requirement to be in accord with Our Lord, as St. Paul said (Rom. 15 :6). That oneness exists in the Catholic Church, and in the Catholic Church only. The recognition of this caused John Dryden, the famous poet and dramatist, to say in The Hind and the Panther, that the Catholic Church is
One in herself, not rent by schism, but sound. Entire, one solid shining Diamond,
Not Sparkles shattered into Sects like you.
One is the Church, and must be to be true:
One central principle of unity,
As undivided, so from error free,
As one in faith, so one in sanctity.
Thus She and none but She, th'insulting Rage,
Of Heretics oppos'd from Age to Age:
Still when the Giant-brood invades her Throne,
She stoops from Heav'n and meets em half way down, And with Thunder vindicates her Crown.
Think this letter over prayerfully, my dear Methodist publicist. It may lead you to tell the world, at some future date, What a Methodist is Not from a Bible Viewpoint.