Friday, February 25, 2011

Not Again: What is a Wesleyan?

Sorry to do this again!!!

You may not know how big Indiana Wesleyan University is, but we have about 16,000 students now.  I just found out yesterday that we have more graduate students in education that IU or any other institution in the State of Indiana.  Our Adult and Professional Studies college is where most of these numbers are and they are all keen on our mission as a Christian institution.  The problem is that I don't think they have a clue what it means to be Wesleyan--certainly not what the undergraduate School or seminary thinks it means to be Wesleyan.

So I find myself once again wanting to capture the identity of our brand of Wesleyanism in about 15 pages of writing that could be printed in a booklet like my little piece on women in ministry.  My last attempt ended up 44 pages long--too long for a booklet, too short for a book.  What's worse is that I wrote it with "audience drift," meaning that I did not consistently have one audience in view as I wrote.  There's also a tightrope to walk between a sense of openness and generosity and being proud of certain identity features.  I do fine in front of one audience or another, but I struggle to do justice to both at the same time.

I thought I would just try an outline today.  Things to say with no more than one or two pages in each instance to say it.

1. Generous tradition toward other traditions (gen. orthodoxy, identity among diversity, flexibility in practice)
2. Heart oriented tradition (not afraid of postmodernism, pietist, revivalist, heart more than hands or head)
3. God as heart oriented (according to light, wanting to save everyone, not absolutist)
4. The cross as love and wooing (not primarily as justice)
5. Free will (which affects our politics, our parenting, our discipline)
6. Love as the law (and optimistic about it, our sense of sin as intent, as defeatable)
7. Love beyond spiritual (beyond evangelism to material needs, social justice)
8. Love into the structural (past on slavery and women, present, not fundamentalist)
9. Importance of faithfulness (works part of the equation, nature of grace)
10. Scripture as sacrament (of transformation, of divine encounter)
11. Scripture as story (of our identity, of God's walk with humanity and his people)

Any thoughts?


Josh said...

I like this a lot, Ken! Thanks for sharing!

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Wesleyans are chameleons, in some ways, as there is also the "scholared Wesley" of Oxford, as well as the "warm hearted" Wesley of revivalism. You have chosen to focus on the "heart aspect", because it is the "completion" of "love"...which is the second work of grace. This is the dixtintive factor for the Wesleyan, i.e making disciples..this view is based in a particular distinct way of viewing scripture.

Since you have focused on
"the Wesleyan heart" emphasis, you didn't mention "character formation" (which actions reveal, while heart might not), "good works" are considered to be the completion of "love", which I imagine can be judged by scripture, even though Wesleyans are not "officially based" in fundamentalism. Habits of heart is the frame in forming character, and just might be the means to justify another's demand of conscience (which one must submit to, "out of love", which means, "leaving one's head and own conscience, "at the door")!

The Wesleyan is piestic. "Good works" are equatable to the social justice" movement, which just "happens to conincide with "Jesus as moral model" identity/atonement model..(character/reconcilliation/social justice) has to ask what is meant by social justice? Is social justice economic? status? inclusion?

It seems to me that "social justice" is at odds with group identification factors, and maybe this is the point, since Wesleyans are so focused and formed on/by reconcilliation/revivalistic experientially oriented group defining factors. Why not call yourself "charismatic"?

Since scripture is used as sacrament, and the Wesleyan holds to free will, then, scripture can be useful for whatever the individual chooses to do as long as it doesn't conflict with scripture. Each man's conscience is the determining factor for his personal commitments as to faith.

So, what is the "Wesleyan"? scholars, humanitarian activist, works for the poor, creation steward, business "adventures", "soul saving", disciple-making, social structure maintenance...

John C. Gardner said...

This list is interesting. Would that be an example of generosity to others? It would be interesting is the Wesleyan church has a bit more emphasis on the intellectual side of our faith since we are called to also love God with our minds.
I recognize of course that we should love God with our hearts and our entire existential selves.
John C. Gardner