Posts Tagged ‘Wesley Studies

24
Feb
17

A Window on early Primitive Methodist Meetings

While reading Hugh Bourne’s History of the Primitive Methodists (1823) at the Rylands library last summer I came across this interesting set of “advices” for leading meetings.  The context, as Bourne relates it, was that some in the PMC were allowing preaching to go on too long, thereby not allowing enough time for prayer.

There are several aspects of these outlines that I find interesting. One is how much attention is given to technique, and keeping things moving along. Not only is long preaching excluded, but so are long speeches from members in the class meeting.  I also find it interesting that, although these outlines are 200 years old, one can still recognize some features of these services in the routinized revivalism of many evangelical denominations (the “song sandwich” approach, for example, that many of us grew up with). Another noteworthy feature is the lack of attention to scripture. For several years now I have been quite concerned about the disappearance of the public reading of scripture from evangelical worship services. However, reflecting on these outlines causes me to think that the neglect of scripture readings is very deep-seated in the revivalist stream of evangelical worship.

Advices for Meetings

Primitive Methodist Connexion, 1819

Source: Hugh Bourne, History of the Primitive Methodists Giving an Account of Their Rise and Progress up to the Year 1823. (Bemersley: Printed for the author, at the Office of the Primitive Methodist Connexion, by J. Bourne, 1823), 59-60.

Outline of a Preaching Service.

“Let all the exercises, in general, be short. The preaching whenever it can, should be followed by a prayer meeting. From the beginning of the service to the end of the sermon, should up about three quarters of an hour; and the prayer meeting should continue about half an hour; the whole to conclude in about an hour and a quarter. After the conclusion, prayer must be made for mourners; or the society may meet for about twenty minutes. Long preachings generally injure both the preachers’ constitution and the cause of religion.”

Outline of a Prayer Meeting.

  1. Open with singing for about four, five, or six minutes.
  2. Spend four, five, or six minutes in prayer, ending with the Lord’s Prayer.
  3. Sing about two, three or four minutes.
  4. Let the members of the society prayer in quick succession, for two, three, or four minutes each.

When mourners are in distress, or in any other particular cases, the exercises may be lengthened. But, in general, long exercises in public, are improper and injurious; and should be carefully avoided. And if any one trespass by attempting to drag out to an improper length, the next meeting of the society may determine what remedy shall be applied to such impropriety.

  1. Let a little singing be occasionally intermingled to vary the exercises.
  2. If exhortations be given, they may be for two or three, or from that to six or eight minutes. Short exhortations are useful.
  3. Conclude in an hour or an hour and a quarter.
  4. On suitable occasions, prayer may again commence, and especially if there by souls in distress.
  5. This outline may be judiciously varied at any point, as circumstances may require.

Outline of a Class Meeting.

  1. Open with singing for about four, five, or six minutes
  2. Let for or five minutes be spent in prayer, ending with the Lord’s Prayer.
  3. Sing about two, or three minutes.
  4. Leader speak one or two minutes, chiefly to his own experience.
  5. Let fifteen, or from that to twenty minutes, be spent in conversation of the leader with the members.

In speaking to one, the leader, in effect, speaks to all; and it will on some occasions, be found difficult to keep up the attention of the whole meeting for twenty minutes together. But the leader passing from one to another in quick succession will be a great means to keep the attention alive. Also the leader may give out a verse and sing in the midst of the work.

If a class have fifteen or sixteen members, the average time of speaking should be under a minute with each member. If there be twenty or thirty members it should be still less. In particular cases, more time may be spent with any of the members.

If a member have acquired or be acquiring a habit of long speaking, then, the leader, after dropping a few words, must immediately pass on to the next, and begin at once to speak to the next. If this be not attended to the meeting will soon be injured.

  1. When the speaking is concluded, sing for two, three, or four minutes.
  2. Then let the members pray in quick succession, for about two or three minutes each. The leader must take care that none of them trespass upon time.
  3. Intermingle occasionally a little singing to vary the exercise.
  4. Be careful and exact in settling the class paper.
  5. Conclude in an hour, or an hour and a quarter.
  6. This outline may be judiciously varied in any point, as circumstances may require.
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07
Apr
16

Media from the Wesleyan-Pentecostal Symposium

We had a wonderful day at the Wesleyan-Pentecostal Symposium here at Tyndale on March 22. It was a pleasure to partner with Van Johnson and Master’s Pentecostal Seminary in hosting this event. Donald Dayton was his inimitable self and helped us to understand how significant it was to have a gathering of these two traditions, given our frosty relations in the past.  The other papers from scholars, pastors and graduate students provided a great deal of discussion material for the attendees.  More than one person commented to me about how engaged everyone was in the topic, discussing it over coffee breaks and lunch as well as in the sessions.

One of the benefits of moving to our new campus is that all our classrooms have very recently been outfitted with excellent audio-visual equipment. This made it very simple for us to record the presentations. The three plenary talks were recorded on video, and audio recordings of all the sessions were made as well. I’m grateful that all the presenters agreed to allow their recordings to be shared publicly after the event.

So, please take a moment to visit the symposium media page and make use of this excellent content.  I’ve embedded my own talk on Burns, Horner, and Burwash below.

 

09
Sep
15

Tyndale Wesley Studies News – September 2015

 

We are gearing up for another academic year at Tyndale, this time (finally) on our beautiful new campus.  It has been a bit of a chaotic summer, with all the disruption that comes along with a move, and I’m now looking forward to seeing this place filled with students in the next few days.

I’ve just sent out my most recent Wesley Studies newsletter, highlighting next year’s joint Wesleyan-Pentecostal Symposium on the role of experience in theology (March 22, 2016).  I’m really pleased to be bringing Donald Dayton to Toronto as our keynote, and I think we’ll have a great day of conversation about a topic that concerns both traditions.

There’s lots more in the newsletter about recent book releases (including the latest in the Tyndale Wesley series from Chris Payk and my own book, which I will blog about soon) and upcoming events and conferences in Toronto.  Take a look, and subscribe if you are interested.

bayview-chapel

 

10
Mar
15

A response to a Calvinist brother on predestination

NOTE: this post is in response to a lengthy comment from Jeff Kreisel on my previous post, “John Wesley on Predestination.”  See Jeff’s comment here.

*****

Jeff,

Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my post. I apologize for my slow reply.  I have been swamped the past few weeks with work, and didn’t want to reply too hastily to your comment.

I would also encourage others to read Whitefield’s response, and if they are serious about the debate, to study it in context.  Wesley’s Sermon, “Free Grace” is not one of his better theological writings.  It is very polemical and not as organized as it might have been.  A calmer and clearer statement of his views is found in the Sermon 58, “On Predestination.” A longer treatment of the subject is found in Predestination Calmly Considered. I don’t expect these writings will change your mind, but it is always good to engage with an opposing argument on its best terms.

I can’t respond to all that you’ve said, but let me offer a few thoughts and clarifications.

First, Wesley’s position was certainly not based on mere emotion; perhaps some Wesleyans base their theology on emotion, but I suspect that the same is true of people in every theological camp. Wesley’s view was based on scripture first and foremost, interpreting scripture by scripture in light of the whole “analogy of faith” (the overall biblical message).  It’s not that Wesley simply “felt” Calvinism presented God as unfair; rather, he believed the central message of Scripture is that God is love, as revealed in the gospel of Christ. You may disagree with his interpretations of scripture, but you can’t accuse him of not taking scripture seriously.

5952670-MRe: Calvinism and total depravity – there are some differences, to be sure. Some Wesleyans don’t use the term “total depravity,” though I think it can be applied to Wesley’s view.  My main point is that Wesley agrees with the Reformed tradition that unregenerate humanity is completely helpless and unable to save themselves. Without the grace of God we can only “add sin to sin.”  In our own power, we are not capable of not sinning. Wesley is quite clear on these matters.

One area of difference, however, relates to Wesley’s view of original sin and imputed guilt.  Wesley wholeheartedly affirms that all people are born totally corrupted at birth, and inclined to sin, such that they are not able to turn to God in their own power, as just noted above. He does not support, however, the idea that infants are counted guilty for Adam’s sin.  We are counted guilty for our own sins, which we will inevitably commit because of our inherited corruption. Therefore all are guilty, with the exception of infants and small children who have not reached an age at which they can be held accountable for their actions (though they are still totally corrupted).

Now, in relation to your charge that Wesley is inconsistent, and the question of those who do not have access to the gospel (these two issues are related): Wesley acknowledges that some people (such as himself) have significant advantages in that they have been raised in a Christian environment and have many opportunities to respond to the gospel. That is why he leaves such cases (those who have never heard the gospel) up to the judgment and mercy of God, and believes God will judge them according to the light they have received. And he would make such a case precisely on the basis of God’s justice and love for all. Those who have never heard the gospel would not be damned for rejecting the gospel, since they have never had opportunity to do so; therefore we are not sure how they might be judged, but we leave it in God’s hands. This is not grossly unbiblical, as you charge.  First, he is not saying that they will be saved apart from Christ or Christ’s work on the cross; Wesley was well aware of John 14:6. Rather he is saying that they will be saved by Christ, though they have not known Christ by name in this life (but have responded to the grace that was available to them). Second, in the sermon I noted, he explicitly appeals to Acts 10:34-35 as a scriptural example. We might also note the “holy pagans” or “pagan saints” of the OT as examples of God being mysteriously at work outside the visible bounds of the church (Rahab, Jethro, etc.).

Calvinists such as yourself say that it would be a “failure” of God’s grace if he was to draw someone to himself and yet leave them with the ability to resist God’s grace. We simply have a different understanding of divine and human action; it does not “take away” from God’s agency if human persons are able to resist grace. We cannot compete with God’s agency; this isn’t a tug-of-war.  We can only respond to God because he is at work within us; that means our response is not “work” on our part; and yet because God is at work within us we can respond.  Grace is enabling and transformative by its very nature. In much of this we agree; however, Wesleyans believe that God’s grace enables a genuine human response, which would not be possible if such grace were irresistible. This is the heart of the matter I referred to in my previous point: a sovereignty understood in a monarchist sense, or a sovereignty understood in terms of a loving Parent. It’s not a “failure” because this is God’s purpose – to save those who yield to his gracious work in their lives. God has freely chosen to work in this way with his human creatures, because it accords with his loving and just nature.

Finally, you say that Wesley asserts that every human is a child of God. Perhaps I was sloppy in my own language explaining Wesley’s position. Normally, he only uses the term “child of God” for believers. Indeed, it is a hallmark of his teaching that all Christians should have the assurance of salvation through the Spirit’s witness to their adoption as sons.  He is quite clear that this is the privilege of believers – to know that they are in fact God’s children.  I do not recall, off-hand, if he refers to all people as children of God; there is a sense in which this is the case, since God is the Father of all that lives. And if Wesley ever says something along those lines, I’m sure that is what he meant (simply that God is creator of all and therefore “Father” to all in that sense).  Do you have a reference to Wesley calling all humans children of God?

Perhaps your point is simply that if only believers are properly called children of God, then God’s loving character as Father does not apply to non-believers?  My point in stressing the “Parental” character of God is not to say that therefore all are in God’s Parental favour; it is, rather, simply a point about God’s own character and the way he exercises his sovereignty. The distinction between the “sovereignty of a king” and “sovereignty of a parent” should not be stressed too far, however. I’m not talking about absolute distinctions but differing emphases; Calvinists certainly draw upon parental analogies for God, and Wesleyans certainly draw on monarchist analogies.  But each tends to favour one or the other.

I’m sure I haven’t changed your mind, Jeff; you certainly haven’t changed mine. But I hope these comments clarify some of Wesley’s ideas.

Yours in Christ,

James

17
Dec
14

Wesley Studies News from Tyndale

Firefox_Screenshot_2014-12-17T20-17-25.932ZIn September I started a newsletter as a way to share information about events and resources of interest to the Canadian Wesleyan community.  Over the past seven years, the Tyndale Wesley Symposium has fostered a network of people interested in Wesleyan history and theology, and I hope this will be one more way of helping to connect that community. The second edition has now been sent out, and includes information on our 2015 Wesley Symposium, featuring Kevin Mannoia.  I’ll have more to say about the Symposium in a future post.

Go here to read the newsletter, and click the “subscribe” link in the top left corner if you want to sign up for future newsletters. The September edition can be accessed here.

19
Dec
13

Sixth Annual Wesley Studies Symposium at Tyndale Seminary

Registration is now open for Tyndale’s annual Wesley Studies Symposium, taking place on March 25 at Tyndale’s new Bayview Campus.

haykin_lg_sqThis year, in honour of the 300th anniversary of George Whitefield’s birth, we’ll be welcoming Dr. Michael Haykin as our keynote speaker.  I am very pleased that this distinguished Baptist historian has agreed to come and make a presentation to our symposium. His talk is titled, ““The Revived Puritan”: The Life and Piety of George Whitefield.”

Here is a bit more from our event page:

2014 marks the 300th anniversary of the birth George Whitefield, friend, partner-in-ministry, and sometimes theological enemy of John Wesley. Because the lives of these two men are so intricately intertwined with one another, we are going to feature a paper on Whitefield as our keynote address at the Wesley Symposium.

Dr. Michael Haykin is a leading Baptist historian, who has published on a wide variety of topics, from the Church Fathers to Jonathan Edwards. He studied at the University of Toronto, where he earned a BA at Victoria College, and an MRel and ThD in church history from Wycliffe College. In addition to his position at Southern Seminary he is Director of the Andrew Fuller Centre for Baptist Studies, and an Adjunct Professor at the Toronto Baptist Seminary, where he previously served as President. His many books include Jonathan Edwards: The Holy Spirit in Revival (Evangelical Press, 2005); The God who draws near: An introduction to biblical spirituality (Evangelical Press, 2007); and Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church (Crossway, 2011).

bayview-campus-frontOther speakers for this year’s event include Dr. Claire MacMillan (National Director, Church of the Nazarene, Canada) Rev. Leonard Chester (Archivist of the Brethren in Christ Church, Canada), Rev. Dan Sheffield (Director of Global and Intercultural Ministries, Free Methodist Church in Canada), Rev. Michael Tapper (PhD Candidate, St. Paul University), Rebecca Nicol (PhD Candidate, McMaster Divinity College), and Rev. Dale Harris (Pastor, The Freeway Free Methodist Church, Oshawa).  You can find more information about the paper topics here.  We will also have a book panel on Lift Up a Standard: The Life and Legacy of Ralph Horner, including presentations from myself and Dr. James Robertson, and responses from authors Rev. Laurence Croswell and Mark Croswell.

Visit this page to find more information and to register.

04
Aug
13

The Wesleyan Tradition’s Eastern Ontario Roots

I grew up north of Kingston, near the village of Sunbury, and I was raised in a church that is part of the Wesleyan family of denominations – The Salvation Army.  Most of my life, however, I had no idea that there was any significant connection between my geographical roots and my ecclesial roots.  As I’ve gone on to study Wesleyan history and theology, however, I’ve come to see that the historical roots of Wesleyan Christianity in Eastern Ontario are very deep indeed.

This has come home to me in a number of ways in recent months.

This summer, Tyndale Seminary received a generous bequest from Rev. Bill Lamb, who passed away in June.  Bill was a United Church minister and a historian of Canadian Methodism.  He left an amazing collection of historical literature to Tyndale’s library, and I was able to go to his home and help our head librarian, Hugh Rendle, sort through the materials.  Because the earliest Methodist churches in Canada were established in Eastern Ontario, Bill was also a student of Eastern Ontario history.

in 1925 the main Methodist body in Canada united with many Presbyterians and the Congregationalists to form the United Church of Canada – and that means that many of the United Church congregations that pre-date 1925 were in fact Methodist congregations.  Bill had written books on the history of two such congregations – Bridge Street Church in Belleville (Bridging the Years), and Wall Street Church in Brockville (The Meaning of the Stones).  He’d also written a book on the Old Hay Bay Church (The Founders), the first Methodist Church building in Canada, which still stands as a National Historic Site.  At the time of his death, he was working on books on two of the most important figures in Canadian Methodist history, William Case and William Losee.  Therefore he had amassed a very significant body of literature and archival material on Methodism’s spread in Eastern Ontario.

The fact that most Methodists joined the United Church in 1925 means that much of this Methodist history is not immediately apparent to a casual observer today.  People do not realize, for example, that churches like Bridge Street Church in Belleville, Wall Street Church in Brockville, and Sydenham Street Church  in Kingston are monuments to Methodist history.  All Belleville residents are familiar with Albert College and its beautiful campus, but most have no idea that this private school began as Belleville Seminary – a Methodist theological college.

Albert College interior by tjchampagne via flickr

But it is not only the mainline Methodist tradition that has strong Eastern Ontario roots.  The late nineteenth century holiness movement also had a significant impact on this part of Canada, especially in the legacy of Ralph Horner, whose biography I read and blogged about earlier this year.  Horner was from the Ottawa Valley, and had a ministry as an evangelist which centred around Eastern Ontario.   Originally serving with the Methodist Church of Canada, Horner eventually went on to found two holiness denominations: the Holiness Movement Church and the Standard Church of America.  Many of the churches that emerged out of the Hornerite revival in Eastern Ontario are still around today, although these two denominations also merged with others (HMC joined the Free Methodist Church in 1958 and the SCA merged with the Wesleyan Church in 2003).

Holiness Movement Church Hymnal via internet archiveIn addition to the fact that the Holiness churches have historically had a significant concentration of their congregations in Eastern Ontario cities and towns, there is also a rich history of revivals through camp meetings in rural locations.  Almost every little village was impacted.   Even Sunbury, where I grew up, had a Salvation Army corps at one time, and the Hornerite movement impacted nearby Inverary.   In Hastings County today, Ivanhoe may be known today as a place with a cheese factory along Hwy 62, but a century ago it was known as one of the most important holiness revival sites in Canada.  It was at the Ivanhoe camp meeting that Ralph Horner died in 1921, not long after preaching his last sermon.

The surprising thing for me has been the way that my life has now come full circle.  As a professor Wesley Studies at Canada’s largest seminary, my teaching and research interests now coincide with my personal history in a way I never thought they would.   The connection between between my geographical roots and my ecclesial roots, of which I was unaware for most of my life, now seems to have been established by providential design.




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