Reformers and Revivalists and Reconcilers

Luther-nailing-theses-560x538.jpgToday is Reformation Day.  501 years ago today, Martin Luther nailed 95 theses, or statements to the door of Wittenburg Chapel.  While we might think that doing this on a church door would be an act of rebellion, it was more than that.  Some suggest that Martin Luther nailed the thesis on October 31 because the next day was All Saints Day.  (This is a day when we celebrate the saints that have gone on before – more on that tomorrow.)  This means that many people would see the statements and see what was going on.  You may remember that Martin Luther had several disagreements with the church.  We often think that he was a rebel.  Maybe he was, but maybe Luther was trying to affect change from the inside.  When Luther nailed these statements to the door, there was really only one church, even though it was divided into two – the east and the west. That schism happened in 1054.  So for a thousand years the church was one, and for 500 years the church was two, and then the Reformation happened and things went crazy.

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As I said, I really believe that Luther was trying to affect change from the inside – not so much a radical, but a reformer.  Over the last 500 years, we have seen this pattern – at least on our side of the church family tree.  The man who founded what is now known as the Methodists – John Wesley was a reformer.  Wesley had a life changing encounter with Jesus and God stirred his heart and a revival began in England.  Some scholars tell us that was one of the reasons that the UK avoided a revolution like what happened in France.  You may remember that Wesley was an Anglican priest, but because of his views and his attempt to affect change from the inside, Wesley too would be on the outside looking in.

Orange ScottThis pattern would repeat itself in the mid-1800’s as Orange Scott and Luther Lee – again would now try to affect change from inside the Methodist Episcopal Church.  These two “radicals” were trying to get the Methodist Episcopal Church to abolish slavery from among its members.  However the bishops weren’t so keen on splitting the body over the issue.  In 1843, Scott and Lee, tired of the issue, split ways with the Methodist Episcopal Church and formed the Wesleyan Methodist Connexion of America.

The Wesleyan Methodists were highly involved in the revivals of the late 19th Century.  There were campmeetings and revival fires burned.   What is interesting is that these Wesleyan Methodists were reformers.  They spoke out against slavery. They championed women’s rights.  The first women ordained in America was ordained by a Wesleyan Methodist even though she was not a Wesleyan.  It wasn’t long before the Wesleyan Methodists did ordain their first women.  For most of its history, the Wesleyan Church has ordained women.  The first national convention on women’s rights was held in a Wesleyan Methodist chapel in Seneca Falls, NY.  Wesleyans were part of the Underground Railroad – even defying governmental orders to return escaped slaves.  Wesleyans were also fighting against the evils of alcohol. The holiness movement and the temperance movement were closely intertwined.  So the Wesleyans were reformers as were many of the holiness denominations.

Not only did the Wesleyans push for social reform, they pushed for heart transformation.  As a denomination, they were one of the first to put in their Discipline – their rulebook – a statement on holiness.  Look at this statement from our current discipline:

The Wesleyan Church has grown out of a revival movement which has historically given itself to one mission—the spreading of scriptural holiness throughout every land. The message which ignited the Wesleyan revival was the announcement that God through Christ can forgive men and women of their sins, transform them, free them from inbred sin, enable them to live a holy life, and bear witness to their hearts that they are indeed children of God. The message was based on the Scriptures, was verified in personal experience, and came not only in word but in the power of the Spirit. It was dynamic and contagious, and was communicated from heart to heart and from land to land.

I believe in all of this our Wesleyan founding fathers were about the business of reconciling people to God.  As I think about it, that should be the whole purpose of reformation and revival – to bring people back to God.  Listen to what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5 beginning in verse 17:

17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

It was Luther who re-emphasized salvation by faith alone.  That was one of his grievances with the church. The church was saying that you could buy your way into heaven – that you could spring your dead relative from purgatory, simply by giving to the church. This is part of what Luther was arguing against.

So today we remember what Luther did 501 years today – to correct wrong teachings.  We must always guard against unbiblical teaching.  Sometimes we need to be reformers — Sometimes we need revival — sometimes we need to reconcile.  At the moment I think we need all three in our country.  My prayer since we moved to McCrae Brook is that God would bring revival (specifically) to McKean County, but also throughout our state and throughout our country and throughout the world.  My prayer is this: “Lord start revival and let it begin with me!”

50 Years Ago | The Birthday of the Wesleyan Church

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The year 1968 was a turbulent year here in the US.  Both Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated; and there were riots in many US cities. But in Anderson, IN, the Wesleyan Methodist Church and the Pilgrim Holiness Church merged to become The Wesleyan Church.  I love the motto, “One, that the world may believe!”

We didn’t plan it this way, but one of the things that we did on the way home from Canada today we visited Seneca Falls, which was the site of the first National Women’s Right’s Convention.  That first convention was held in a Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Seneca Falls.  That convention was 180 years ago.

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The site of the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel.  The original frame is still intact, with new walls.

It seems we have ended up as several women’s rights sites this summer, but Wesleyan history has a strong connection with both the suffrage movement and the abolition  movement. Not only does the Wesleyan Church have roots in these social movements, but we strive to be a church that makes disciples.  We desire to be a transforming presence to the world around us…celebrating every time a disciple makes a disciple and the Wesleyan Church multiplies itself until we have a transforming presence in every zip code. 

This means loving God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength and loving our neighbor as ourselves.  James writes; “Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God the Father is this, to take care of the widows and orphans in their distress and to keep yourselves from being corrupted by the world.”

I think there are some great days ahead for the Wesleyan Church and I love being part of it.  Happy Birthday!

Renewing the Vows

Dove-Color-LogoTonight was our annual ordination service in the Shenandoah District of the Wesleyan Church.  During the service the candidates for ordination are asked a series of questions.  One of the things that I have done during this series of questions is to answer them anew – sort of a renewing of my pastoral vows.  Reminding myself of the covenant I made with God and his church.  I honor of that, I thought that I would post this series of questions that come from The Discipline of the Wesleyan Church.

This assembled congregation represents the church of Jesus Christ everywhere as they witness your responses to the inquiries we shall make of you. In this way we shall understand your mind and will in these things, and you may also be moved to greater faithfulness in doing your duties.

Question: Is it your sincere conviction that you have been called of God to the office and work of a minister, and are you persuaded that you ought to fulfill that call by serving as an ordained minister in The Wesleyan Church and among God’s people everywhere?

Answer: That is my sincere conviction.

Question: Do you believe the Holy Scriptures are the fully inspired and inerrant written Word of God, containing sufficiently all doctrine necessary for eternal salvation through faith in Christ Jesus? Are you determined to instruct people from the Scriptures in order that they may be born again in Christ, become committed to holy living, and be prepared to serve for the upbuilding of the Christian community in this present age?

Answer: All of this I believe, and accept as my duty.

Question: Do you cordially accept our Articles of Religion and Membership Commitments, and agree to declare and defend them? And do you recognize your responsibility and cheerfully accept your obligation to promote and support The Wesleyan Church and all institutions and ministries approved by The Wesleyan Church?

Answer: Yes, I do.

Question: Will you with diligence minister the doctrines, sacraments and disciplines of Christ, being always ready to challenge strange doctrine which is contrary to God’s Word wherever it may arise?

Answer: I will, as God enables me.

Question: Do you intend to make reading of the Word and effectual prayer your earnest pursuit, and will you seek to make your lifestyle and family government exemplary so far as is possible for you?

Answer: Yes, the Lord being my helper.

Question: Believing that accountability and acceptance of authority is God’s design for His church, will you cheerfully accept the direction of those whom the Church may place over you in the doing of your work?

Answer: I will cheerfully do so.

Covenant with the Candidate’s Spouse
It is the teaching of Scripture that a spouse shall be a loving companion in the ministry of a mate. You have witnessed the examination of your marriage partner in which commitment to the work and responsibilities of ministry has been stated. Your participation in God’s purposes for ministry through your marriage partner is important also. You will be needed to share in prayer, to extend love and compassion to all, to carry forward the example of marriage harmony and family wholesomeness. As the companion of your loved one who is now entering the ranks of ordained ministers in the Church, will you dedicate yourself to complement and embrace that ministry as God enables you?

Answer: I will, by God’s grace

Immigrant-Connection-5_focusFirst Wesleyan Immigrant Connection Site Approved by the Board of Immigration Appeals

The very first Immigrant Connection* site in The Wesleyan Church has been approved by the Board of Immigration Appeals (the governmental entity that certifies such work). Here is the announcement and the story behind the Church that has been transformed by reaching into its community with the hope and holiness of Jesus Christ:

Three years ago Riverview Wesleyan Church in Logansport, Indiana was headed for closing; but our God is in the business of resurrection! A little over two years ago Riverview became The Bridge Community Church, reborn with a desire to be a church that reflected the ethnic makeup of their surrounding community.

Ten years ago there was no need for Logansport schools to teach English to students who were from immigrant families. Now there are over 850 students learning English as second language. Nearly 1 in 3 individuals in Logansport are now immigrants or come from an immigrant family.

Continue reading about this exciting endeavor in the Wesleyan Church

Wesleyans Respond to Oklahoma

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General Superintendent Dr. Jo Anne Lyon writes, “We have all been grieving with the scenes from Moore, Okla. Wesleyan Emergency Relief is responding. Disaster work is done in stages. Officials in Moore have asked that no volunteers come for several more days as they are still in the search and rescue stage. The remaining stages include emergent, urgent, then rebuilding. Along with these are the mental health issues, as well.”

Read more here

At this time, we are recommending that you NOT send clothing, food, water, etc. Needs are rapidly changing and everything can be purchased nearby.

Funds, however, have immediate impact. Funds for everything that will be needed may be sent to WERF (Wesleyan Emergency Relief Fund) electronically or by mail. One hundred percent of all donations go directly to the disaster (nothing is deducted for overhead costs).

Rev. Wayne MacBeth, executive director of Communication and Administration, identified our “first stage” goal of $50,000 of relief aid. He said, “If God has blessed you as you end this fiscal year with available funds, this would be a wonderful way to reach out and help others who are literally struck down. We have three Wesleyan churches in the area, but beyond those church families, we want to help anyone in need in that area. Thank you for whatever you can do!”

And, please be steadfast in prayer that God would draw near to the broken-hearted and save those who are crushed in spirit. With God, we can help, but only He can bind up many of the wounds.

 

The Life of John Wesley: A Biographical Sketch

from Seedbed by Andrew Dragos

John Wesley was born in 1703 at Epworth, England, to parents Samuel and Susanna Wesley. His father was rector in the Church of England and his mother a parent to John’s nine other siblings, including renown hymn writer and minister Charles. John Wesley lived during a century when Deism—the idea that God is far-removed from and uninvolved in his creation—was rising in the academy and the Church. It was in this climate that John Wesley’s call and ministry came to fruition, and in which the First Great Awakening answered many profound needs of the culture.

The shape of John Wesley’s call and ministry were profoundly impacted by his upbringing, including his mother’s rigid approach to raising her children. The spiritual heritage of Puritanism, with its emphasis on discipline and personal religious affections, and of Anglicanism, with its sacramental orientation, made its way to Wesley originally through his parents. One event in particular marked his sense of vocation—the saving of his life from a fire at the Epworth rectory in 1709. After this experience, he was regarded as providentially set apart for God, and he referred to himself as a “brand plucked from the fire.”

Continue Reading

Women In the Ministry

This has been a historic week in the life of our denomination. We (the General Conference) has approved a restructuring of our headquarters.  We have gone from three General Superintendents to one.  Also in the process, we elected to the position of General Superintendent Dr. Joann Lyon.  There’s been an interesting conversation on Facebook and this morning I came across this video from N.T. Wright about women in the ministry and I thought I would share it with you.

It’s Who We Are

Last month was Black History Month and March is Women’s History Month.  Usually I always post something about our church’s history in February.  One of the things that I love about our church is its history.  The Wesleyan Methodist Church’s roots are found in the abolitionist movement of the 1800’s.  In addition to that, Wesleyans were one of the first denominations to ordain women in North America.  In celebration of that heritage, the link below will take you to a short video on the legacy of the Wesleyan Church.

It’s Who We Are.