The first chapter was amazing to me. I glaze over at the beginning chapters of most American histories with their tales of Native American migrations and distant figures of no direct impact on my life. This book begins in medias res, with a dramatization of the founding of the new denomination in 1968, followed by a flashback to Wesley at the end of the chapter. Brilliant!
There is so much mediocrity, all around, everywhere. This is excellence!
Chapter 2 deals with the origins of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in the abolitionist movement. I continue to process what I think of the abolitionist movement. I'm obviously on board with their values. But I also think some of the abolitionists were extremists. Gladly, I don't get that impression of the founders of the WM church. For example, Luther Lee only joined the movement after Elijah Lovejoy was murdered by a mob.
I am sympathetic with the early attempts of the Methodists (and the Congress) to do away with slavery gradually. But I am also sympathetic with those who finally gave up on gradualism and decided more decisive action needed to happen. I admire Orange Scott for taking a stand in the way he did and hope I would have done the same.
A couple of applications. One is that civil disobedience is no disgrace. Sometimes I feel that Wesleyans today can't tell the difference between US law and God's law, as if breaking the speed limit was like bearing false witness. Getting arrested for protesting against discrimination fits well with our heritage.
The second is a warning. Standing against sin, as it is often preached today, is not the same spirit as standing against slavery. Those who stood against slavery were standing up for people. It's not the same as protesting against liberalism or homosexuality.
So my take away so far:
- I'm proud that we stood for unity, merger, and coming together in 1968.
- I'm proud of Wesley and Asbury's innovation to accomplish the mission, working around the respectable rules of society.
- I'm proud of their optimism about what God wanted to do in people's lives, assuring them that they are right with God, delivering them from the power of evil over them.
- I'm proud of the abolitionist heritage.