Wesley’s Historic Questions

In my recent post, 150 Days of Preparation for Ordination, I listed a few things I’d like to read/reflect on between now and ordination in June.

I’m adding John Wesley’s historic questions to the list. These questions, found in The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church (2008) have been asked of those being ordained since the beginning of Methodism. According to the Discipline, “At the time of examination, the bishop shall also explain to the conference the historic nature of the following questions and interpret their spirit and intent.” (I like that the Discipline acknowledges that the questions may need some interpretation/explanation.)

  1. Have you faith in Christ?
  2. Are you going on to perfection?
  3. Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this life?
  4. Are you earnestly striving after it?
  5. Are you resolved to devote yourself wholly to God and his work?
  6. Do you know the General Rules of our Church?
  7. Will you keep them?
  8. Have you studied the doctrines of The United Methodist Church?
  9. After full examination, do you believe that our doctrines are in harmony with the Holy Scriptures?
  10. Will you preach and maintain them?
  11. Have you studied our form of Church discipline and polity?
  12. Do you approve our Church government and polity?
  13. Will you support and maintain them?
  14. Will you diligently instruct the children in every place?
  15. Will you visit from house to house?
  16. Will you recommend fasting or abstinence, both by precept and example?
  17. Are you determined to employ all your time in the work of God?
  18. Are you in debt so as to embarrass you in your work?
  19. Will you observe the following directions? a) Be diligent. Never be unemployed. Never be triflingly employed. Never trifle away time; neither spend any more time at any one place than is strictly necessary. b) Be punctual. Do everything exactly at the time. And do not mend our rules, but keep them; not for wrath, but for conscience’ sake.

The Bishop will ask these questions of the ordinands at annual conference. We will also have opportunity to reflect on them at a retreat with our Bishop in May when she meets with those being ordained or commissioned.

I’m guessing that in 200+ years of asking these questions that no one has ever answered no to any of the questions!

(Edited to add: See The Historic Questions 2.0)

10 thoughts on “Wesley’s Historic Questions”

  1. I’m guessing that in 200+ years of asking these questions that no one has ever answered no to any of the questions!

    Not and gotten ordained, I bet.

  2. Indeed, a buddy of mine said yes to #18 and the bishop threw him out.

    JK, but my friend was so nervous that he forgot that question was a no and he ended up saying yes to that one and no to the next question… Which we thought was funny.

    Good luck on your ordination.

  3. Thanks for the comment, Jason.

    Thankfully, my wife and I were ordained last year. We’re especially breathing a sigh of relief as candidates participate in interviews today and tomorrow!

  4. You’ve added the sense of Wesley’s questions (as written in my copy of the Book of Discipline), but they way they are written is different–hence, the need for interpretation is immediately evident right there! When we say most anything, someone is liable to ask, What do you mean? Then, we try to say it again, often saying: “in other words”! The paragraph addresses the questions to those judging or evaluating whether or not those presenting themselves as candidates are worthy of ordination, then it is transformed that each of us answering God’s call and presenting ourselves for ordination answer the questions, too.

    From Paragraph 310 “…let those who consider recommending such persons for candidacy as licensed or ordained ministers in The United Methodist Church prayerfully and earnestly ask themselves these questions:

    1. Do they know God as pardoning God? Have they the love of God abiding in them? Do they desire nothing but God? Are they holy in all manner of conversation?
    2. Have they gifts, as well as evidence of God’s grace, for the work? Have they a clear, sound understanding; a right judgment in the things of God; a just conception of salvation by faith? Do they speak justly, readily, clearly?
    3. Have they fruit? Have any been truly convinced of sin and converted to God, and are believers edified by their service?

    As long as these marks occur in them, we believe they are called of God to serve. These we receive as sufficient proof that they are moved by the Holy Spirit.” a

    The discernment process is necessary, but it also can devolve into a judging process that lacks the spirit of God’s love.


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