Monday, September 10, 2012

Multiple Ministries: Black and Drury

I only read one chapter this week in Bob Black and Keith Drury's, The Story of the Wesleyan Church.  So far it's been:

Chaps 1-2  About Wesley and the origins of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in abolitionism
Chaps 3-4  About its activist early days that were low church, pro-women (and anti- some other things)
Chaps 5-6  The post-Civil War let down, when the best and brightest returned to the Methodists
Chaps 7-8  Birth of Pilgrim Holiness Church

Today, chapter 9
I'll confess that I'm not 100% sure what to make of this chapter, mainly because I can't see beyond my own life's interaction with God's Bible School in Cincinnati, Ohio.  I grew up with quite a positive view of GBS, having a brother-in-law who taught there, as well as some extended family who attended there.  Then I went through a period of thinking it rather separatist and legalistic.  More recently I've picked up on a spirit of brotherhood and desire for broader engagement.

All that is to say that I'm not sure what to make of Seth C. Rees leaving the early version of the Pilgrim Holiness Church, soon for the Nazarenes, just as I'm not quite sure what to make of Luther Lee going back to the Methodists.  And how stupid of Martin Wells Knapp to deed GBS to God, creating legal problems after his premature death!  But what should we make of the fact that a number of very well known figures wandered through but didn't stay: Oswald Chambers, Lettie Cowman (Streams in the Desert)?  The Cowman's founded OMS.

Nevertheless, I resonate with the spirit of innovation that seemed to characterize the proto-Pilgrims.  They advertised revivals on umbrellas when the city told them they couldn't advertise.  They were quite disobedient to the city of Cincinnati--Eleanor Roosevelt stepped in at one point so they could bus in 30,000 poor children to a Thanksgiving dinner.  The Pilgrims knew no division between helping the poor and downtrodden and evangelism.

Some familiar Wesleyan Methodist features emerged around the turn of the century as well.  The YMWB I grew up with is one example--kids giving a penny a week for missions.  WMS, the Women's Missionary Society started about this time.  Both these elements of my childhood have been changed over time.  Predictably, the Wesleyan Methodists were strong supporters of Prohibition--along with most Protestants.  The anti-catholic/anti-immigration dimension to the movement thus peeks its head here.


Angie Van De Merwe said...

At least you are honest with yourself about your own experience being a "primer" for judgment, Ken. Most of us use such interpretive lenses, without even thinking about it. And you have mentioned over and over how modern fundamentalist Christians do this to the text (the Bible). But, metaphor is not different, as "many meanings" can be "found", and this is what happens when "God speaks".

Angie Van De Merwe said...

"this is what happens"= projection of our experiences, and psychological biases...

John Mark said...

One of the things that made an impression on me was the fact that the writers of perhaps the two most popular or endearing devotional books of the last century had connections with God's Bible School. I have known a few people who attended there, but not until I read Abandoned to God and this book did I know that Chambers and Cowman had been involved with GBS. Somehow, though I don't think it has ever been deliberate, this part of the history of the AHM has been ignored-or overlooked-by my denomination; along with the connection between Prohibition and anti-Catholic/Irish sentiments. Sections like this I found very interesting; though I did not approach it with the kind of critical eye you are using to review the book.

Jordan Litchfield said...

I attended GBS and graduated over a year ago with both ministerial and missions degrees. Though I think the school used to be much more separatist, and though it is still quite conservative, the current administration and faculty are the strongest driving force within the CHM to appreciate and value the strengths of other Christian traditions and less conservative movements. IMHO, this has been the result of an effort to return to more classical Wesleyanism, discarding some of the traditions which have become baggage within the broader CHM at times.

Of course this is interpretive, and no doubt some would still feel dispute my interpretation, but I do think this has been the school's intention. The recent cooperation between Wesley Biblical Seminary and GBSC is one contemporary example.

Ken Schenck said...

Thanks for that insight Jordan. I have picked up on a spirit of friendship recently and hope I have not offended anyone here. My inability to assess the early 20th century Pilgrims in my own mind goes well beyond GBS. I have some sentimental fondness but intellectual questions.

John C. Gardner said...

None of us are "fly on the wall" neutral and objective. But, all can sift and weigh evidence. How, for example, were Wesleyans, Pilgrims affected by macro-economic and political factors at the turn of the twentieth century? This was a period of American imperialism(cf Spanish American War and expansion in Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippines). It was the nadir of race relations(did that effect expansion into the south)? Today, some number of Wesleyans(certainly not all) seem to consider themselves as an outpost of pro-market Republicanism(as least in my experience). I have often wondered whether I would be accepted as a brother in Christ in our denomination if I was both a social conservative on moral issues and economically a Christian socialist(which I am not). I expect that my views might lead to tension if I voiced them in church or with lay members of Wesleyan congregations. What was it thus like to be a white Wesleyan in the south or Mid-West in 1900? These are the questions I would like to know.