Monday, December 22, 2014

The Flexibility of the Wesleyan Tradition

I have an old friend who started his faith pilgrimage in the Wesleyan Church. Somewhat unusually, he has attended a Roman Catholic church for several years now, but is now contemplating returning to the Wesleyan Church.

it reminded me again that there is nothing in the Wesleyan rules that forbids you from believing in transubstantiation (the idea that the communion elements literally take on the substance of Jesus' body and blood). Indeed, there is nothing in the Wesleyan rules that forbids you from believing that Mary ascended to heaven. These would be very unusual beliefs for a Wesleyan, but what group doesn't have people with unusual beliefs?!

Basically, I love the flexibility of my tradition. To be sure, most Wesleyans more or less act like they're Baptists, but you can still infant baptize in our church if you wish. You can sprinkle, pour. You can even not baptize at all, given some of the Quaker elements in our past. Most immerse with believer's baptism, but because we don't believe that the baptism actually is what saves you, all the options are theoretically on the table.

We are, in short, a Pietist, revivalist tradition. What is most important is a changed heart, filled with the Holy Spirit, then a life that bears the fruit of righteousness. Your leanings on a specific theory of atonement--that's not dictated. We are still open to the Spirit speaking directly to you through Scripture in ways that are not limited by the original meaning, unlike mainstream evangelicalism. While we affirm the inerrancy of Scripture on principle, we've wisely never set specifics on what an error is, thus keeping us from the self-destructive witch hunts of other groups.

We are a "middle way" within Christendom. And the middle way usually captures the best of the other extremes without the edges. What a great place to be!


Rick said...

How do you see the Wesleyan connection to tradition, and "standing on the shoulders of giants"?

It seems Wesley held to Anglican strengths, yet also tapped the teaching of Eastern Orthodoxy.

Anonymous said...

As a Wesleyan who has become Catholic, I think this is one of the reasons (among many) that I don't see myself as having given up Wesleyanism as much as having added Catholicism if that makes any sense. The two aren't really in even as much conflict as Wesleyans and most Calvinist denominations are truly.

Ken Schenck said...

I consider Wesley's practical and pietist eclecticism a model!

peter said...

What you claim as the wesleyan tradition is nothing of the sort. It is a distortion of the wesleyan tradition, it is modern day post modern pop evangelicalism.
Wesley condemned in the strongest of terms transsubsiation and he
Was a staunch pedo-baptist, so this pick and choose nonsense of baptizing or not baptizing infants only shows how far modern day wesleyan have deviated from wesley. What you call flexibility I call confusion and compromise. Traffic nothing to rejoice about.