A few days ago I said that I’d blog some reflections on our reading of Methodist history, some serious, some less serious. This is the less serious one.
Today, the popular slogan of The United Methodist Church …
Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors.
That slogan came to mind when we read a statement that the first bishops of American Methodism, Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury, wrote in their Notes to the Discipline of 1798 …
It is manifestly our duty to fence in our society, and to preserve it from intruders … We will have a holy people or none.
While this one statement doesn’t speak for all of early Methodism, I thought it might suggest a slogan such as …
Warm hearts. Holy people. Guarded doors.
What do you think? How do you explain the difference?
John Wesley wrote a document (a letter) called A Plain Account of the People Called Methodists, written in 1748. In part of it, Wesley addresses various objections he faced at the time.
One of the objections Wesley addresses relates to the classes he had recently developed. Wesley quotes the objector:
There were no such meetings when I came into the society first: And why should there now? I do not understand these things, and this changing one thing after another continually.
Wesley’s response included some great statements about change …
That … we are continually changing one thing after another, is not a weakness or fault, as you imagine, but a peculiar advantage which we enjoy.
And Wesley closes with this statement …
We are always open to instruction; willing to be wiser everyday than we were before, and to change whatever we can change for the better.
Are we willing to change whatever we can change for the better?
In the last few weeks, Joleen and I have been hard at work (as I alluded to in recent posts) working on studies in United Methodist history and doctrine (we had completed the polity part awhile back).
We finished yesterday and while our heads are still swirling (almost literally, we probably covered a semester’s, or more, amount of work in 3 weeks or so!), we did gain a greater sense of the history of Methodism, covering well over two hundred years time span.
While we knew a lot of the basics already, it’s always amazing to read about how Methodism spread across England and eventually to the American colonies, starting in the decade(s) before the American Revolution, and through the present day. In the U.S., Methodism experienced incredible growth as circuit riders and other Methodists literally sought to spread scriptural holiness across the land.
One of the things our whirlwind tour of Methodism did was to remind us that we’re part of something huge, something that started long before we were born, and God-willing, will continue long after we’ve done our part!
We want to be faithful to God, and we want to be faithful members of the “cloud of (Methodist) witnesses, those who’ve gone before us as well as those who will follow us!”
In the coming days, watch for other posts flowing out of our quick reading of the history of Methodism — some serious (e.g., Wesley & Change) and some less serious (e.g., what an Igniting Ministry slogan might have looked like in the late 1700s 😉 ).