Sunday, November 04, 2012

The Wesleyan Church Today (Black and Drury)

Now, the last chapter of Bob Black and Keith Drury's, The Story of the Wesleyan Church. I'll be deciding this week what book to work through next.  I think it's probably going to be Will Willimon's Bishop.

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
Chapter 9   Multiple Ministries
Chapters 10-11 Roaring Holiness 20s
Chapters 12-13 Institutional Solidification (30s/40s)
Chapters 14-15 Prelude to Merger
Chapters 16-17 The Wesleyan Merger
Chapter 18 The Decade of Evangelism (1970s)
Chapter 19 The Decade of Church Growth (1980s)
Chapter 20 End of the Century Wesleyan (1990s)
Most of this chapter is "state of the question" Wesleyan, but it starts with some features of the early 2000s.  For example, there was John Maxwell's Leadership Development Journey (LDJ) that started out the decade.  The engagement of the church with issues of social justice is also highlighted. "Since 2000 Wesleyans have produced strong and convicting position statements on domestic violence, human trafficking, global poverty, and immigration" (271).

Joanne Lyon became the first woman general superintendent in the history of the denomination and, as we now know, is currently the only general superintendent of the church.  This correlates to the first "go forward" item Black and Drury mention: women in ministry.  After some lost ground on this issue, it feels like the church has turned a corner.

This leads to an aside here.  In many respects, The Wesleyan Church remains in danger of simply sliding off into pop fundamentalism and even forgetting that there are some important differences between the Wesleyan tradition and some of the most powerful forces within mainstream evangelicalism. If the Wesleyan tradition abandons concern for social justice, it is ceasing to that extent to be Wesleyan. The same goes for items like women in ministry.

Another "go forward" item is church planting.  In its most innovative forms, church planting has clearly been a major focus of Wesleyan energies, maybe the biggest focus right now.  The rise of "venue planting" is a remarkable phenomenon right now, simply brilliant.  Churches like 12Stone, New Hope, and Seacoast have used this tool in planting in brilliant ways. And, if I may, I lead the Book of Common Prayer service mentioned on page 275, which Keith Drury attends :-)

The founding of Wesley Seminary is mentioned on p. 278, now led by Wayne Schmidt.  Wayne has led us to worlds unknown, with the possibility of online cohorts based at 12Stone and Bogota being discussed.  He launched us into strategic phase two a couple years ago, and a vibrant faculty are perhaps about to lead the curriculum into phase 2 as well--both very exciting!

The book ends with the hope that, when it's time, the Boomers will hand off the baton of the church to the next generation when it's time.  Great book! Congratulations to Bob Black and Keith Drury for the best Wesleyan history ever written...


John C. Gardner said...

The need for the Wesleyan church to regain an ethic of John Wesley's social holiness is important. I must admit that I have found some Wesleyan pastors to be quite sophisticated in their Christian theology and outlook(within a broader Christian historical consensus).

Keith Drury said...

Thanks for your thorough reviews Ken!