Tag Archives: Methodism

How can John Wesley help us find social forms geared to human flourishing?


wesleyAs I mentioned in a previous post, back in April of this year (2013) I spoke twice at an event centered around a new book by Indiana Wesleyan University Provost David Wright, How God Makes the World A Better Place: A Wesleyan Primer on Faith, Work, and Economic TransformationI was invited to introduce a couple of the meetings at the conference with some remarks tied to David’s work and to Wesley’s thinking on work and economics.

This is what I said at a lunch event with a roomful of SPU professors:

“How God Makes the World a Better Place: Wesleyan Contributions to a Social Framework for Human Flourishing”

Introduction

First, I want us to understand the service that David has done to the church by opening the conversation on Wesley and economics in this little primer.

When I first knew that I’d be here today with you to think together about this topic, I contacted the smartest scholar of Wesley and things Wesleyan that I know: Randy Maddox, who is now at my alma mater, Duke University. “Randy,” I said, “A group is getting together in your old stomping grounds in April to talk about what Wesley can teach us about work and economics. Can you point me to some sources on that?”

Now I had full expectation that Randy would set me in a good direction. After all, this was the man who decades ago, in a chance conversation on an airplane, basically gave me an entire starting bibliography for my dissertation on the American Wesleyan holiness movement.

Instead, Randy said: “That’s great. So glad you’ll be talking about this. But this is a seriously understudied area. Almost nobody has written about this. There just aren’t that many sources I can point you toward.” Shocking! One of the world’s leading experts on Wesley not only couldn’t tell me much about this topic, but he couldn’t even point me to scholarly sources on it. That’s when I knew I had my work cut out for me. Continue reading

Wine to grape juice: Why? And what else was involved in that decision?


David Ligare, Still Life with Grape Juice and ...

David Ligare, Still Life with Grape Juice and Sandwiches (Xenia), 1989

OK folks, here’s my review of (the first half of) my friend Jennifer Woodruff Tait’s University of Alabama Press book, The Poisoned Chalice: Eucharistic Grape Juice and Common-Sense Realism in Victorian Methodism (2011). Dr. Woodruff Tait  is (I say it frequently) the best writer I know, hands-down. She has 18th-century clarity and 19th-century passion for her topic.

True confession: This blog tour has hit me at an extraordinarily busy time. I did read Jenn’s dissertation all the way through several years ago—and not just because she cited my dissertation several times in her first chapter. I was fascinated by the story she tells. I can say that this time around, I read 69 of her 129 pages, and I remembered why I appreciate her historical scholarship so much, and why I hope she will research and write again, to our edification.

Without further ado, then: Continue reading

The pellet with the poison’s in the flagon with the dragon!


OK, now that I’ve got the attention of all the Danny Kaye fans (yes, the headline quotation comes from the wonderful movie The Court Jester) . . .

Watch this space tonight for a brief review – part of a “blog tour” – of Jennifer Woodruff Tait’s fascinating book The Poisoned Chalice. All I’ll say now is that it’s about the 19th-century shift in American Methodism from wine to grape juice in the Eucharist. And if that seems a small or limited topic, you won’t believe how many other things come spilling out when Jennifer pulls that thread (or that cork?).

The deepest values of early American evangelicals, revealed in what Methodists said about their dead; part IV, conclusion


Continued from “The deepest values of early American evangelicals, revealed in what Methodists said about their dead; part III

Early 1800s - evangelical preacher at camp meeting

Preaching prowess

Certainly prowess in preaching—or at least the appearance of spiritual power attending preaching—was highly valued by Methodists writing about their dear departed. Of Rev. Cicero L. Dobbs it was said:

Brother Dobbs was no ordinary preacher.  He preached a pure, simple gospel that was in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. Continue reading

The deepest values of early American evangelicals, revealed in what Methodists said about their dead; part III


Continued from “The deepest values of early American evangelicals, revealed in what Methodists said about their dead; part II

The highest virtues:  “the courage of one’s 

Peter Cartwright, Methodist circuit rider and "man's man"

convictions” and the boldness to speak them

Along with this manly work-ethic, Methodist memorialists of the 19th century seem most to admire the traits of unshakeable conviction and bold speech.  In fact, the phrase “the courage of his convictions” is liberally laid on throughout the 19th century.   As early as 1793, Benjamin Carter, an ex-soldier, was noted as “a pointed, zealous preacher, and a strict disciplinarian,” who “appeared not to fear the face of any.”  Ninety years later, in 1884, the eulogist of Tennessee’s Robertson Fagan wrote, “He was of ardent temperament, indomitable will, and commanding faith,” “not a man of half measures,” whose “power over men seemed to be almost magical.” Continue reading

The deepest values of early American evangelicals, revealed in what Methodists said about their dead; part II


Continued from “The deepest values of early American evangelicals, revealed in what Methodists said about their dead; part I“:

Illustration from Edward Eggleston, The Circuit Rider: A Tale of the Heroic Age (1906): A Methodist circuit rider on horseback

One purpose of these “memorials,” and certainly a primary purpose of the separate volumes of memorials which were reprinted, was to present to people everywhere, Christian and non-Christian, the “moral example” of these dedicated ministers of Christ.  This purpose perhaps ran deeper as the Victorian age wore on.

For example, at the front of the Black River and Northern New York Conference Memorial, Second Series, edited by Rev. P. Douglass Gorrie, and published in 1881, the editor presents the following wish:

The Author begs leave to present his feeble, yet grateful Tribute of Respect to the Memories of Departed Worth and Moral Heroism.

His subjects he goes on to describe as “the noble dead.”  In the preface of the same book, the only regret expressed in its publication is “that each and all had no more worthy pen to portray the virtues that adorned their Christian character.” (v-vi) Continue reading

The deepest values of early American evangelicals, revealed in what Methodists said about their dead; part I


The Methodist Mission in the Willamette Valley...

The Methodist Mission in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, United States, as it appeared in 1834.

While at Duke in the late 1990s, I enjoyed a seminar led by historian of American Methodism Dr. Russell Richey. Each week we read stacks of old Methodist documents: letters, histories, reports of annual conferences, newspapers, and – the genre I remember best and enjoyed most – obituaries and memorials of departed ministers (and in a few cases, laypeople). Continue reading

Poor, black, and female: Amanda Berry Smith preached holiness in the teeth of racism


What follows is this week’s talk in the series I am doing at Messiah Episcopal Church, St. Paul, MN, on people from my book Patron Saints for Postmoderns who model aspects of social justice:

In the first decades of the nineteenth century, Christian revival kindled on the American frontier, drawing new strength through camp meetings and circuit riders. By the mid-1800s, however, the Victorian era was in full swing, and evangelical churches founded in the white heat of frontier enthusiasm were building lavish faux-gothic facades and enjoying the refined preaching of educated, citified ministers.

In reaction, many Victorian Americans yearned to experience again the fiery devotion of their parents and grandparents. Continue reading

Resources for Radical Living: The book and course, version 2.0–the revised case studies


This is the third in a series of posts on the Resources for Radical Living course(s) and book by Mark Van Steenwyk and me (Chris Armstrong). The first post presented the original version of the course. The second presented the revised structure of the course and book.

This third post presents the revised list of case studies.

Even more important, this post asks you, dear readers, to comment on these case studies and suggest any primary or secondary readings that you think will help Mark and me as we work on these new case studies and our students as they plunge into this challenging area of “radical Christian living.” Continue reading

The place of John Wesley’s conversion: The Fetter Lane Society in London


I am about to post my grad-school summaries and comments on the Nine Discourses of Count Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf, which the Moravian founder gave at London’s Fetter Lane Chapel in 1746. Before doing so, I thought it would be good to say (or rather, steal, from Wikipedia; and it looks like the data here is good) a few words on the Fetter Lane Society: nerve center of British Moravianism in the mid 1700s:

Fetter Lane Society

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Fetter Lane Society was the first flowering of the Moravian church in the UK, and an important as a precursor to Methodism. A short time before the great Methodist revival of the 18th Century in England, Moravians were avidly ministering throughout London. Peter Böhler, the London Moravian leader, and his followers established the Fetter Lane Society in May 1738 for the purpose of discipleship and accountability.

They began with the purpose of meeting once a week for prayer and fellowship. Most of their members consisted of Anglicans, most prominently John Wesley, Charles Wesley, and George Whitefield. John Wesley records in his journal for 1 January 1739: Continue reading