Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Papers for the Wesleyan Theological Society

By way of an update of my WTS post, below: My paper, as well as a number of other papers to be presented at the upcoming meeting of the Wesleyan Theological Society can be found at the WTS website by clicking here.


circuitrider said...

I was raised and confirmned in the United Church of Christ,with a liturgical form of worship incorporated into the services.Later in life I became a Wesleyan (Church of America). As Wesleyans, we seem to have adopted the evangelistic form of worship like the Baptists and most other evangelical churches. I agree with your paper that worship today has become consumer oriented instead of praise directed towards God.Much of the simplicity in our services is due to the fact that most of our churches were Pilgrim Holiness before the merger in 1968. I would love to see a return to at least some of the liturgical elements. At the minimum the inclusion of the doxology, some responsive readings, and communion more often than quarterly, which we sometimes do well to celebrate this often in some of our churches.For those who prefer a mix of some contemporary type worship music, these changes could still be beneficial in bringing back a sense of true worship. Old habits are hard to break...Keith

Stephen said...

For a number of years, I have heard elements of the Holiness Movement eagerly lament the lack of liturgy in the adherents of the movement. Sometimes advocates speak of a "return" to such practices. What does Dr. Stepp mean when he reflects such sentiment? This certainly was not the Methodism of Asbury or Jesse Lee (See Lee's History). To call for a return to liturgy in the Holiness Movement is not a call for a return to pristine American Methodism--it may be the Methodism of Wesley, Clarke, Benson, Watson, etc., but it is not American. It was not true for Asbury, Lee, or any of the unprinted (see Life of Nathan Bangs) early Holiness leaders. Neither was this true for the German Methodists--Otterbein, Boehm (or other United Brethren leaders), or Albright or any of the Evangelical Association leaders. Among the Nazarenes, Dr. William Greathouse has been a advocate for liturgy. But when Nazarenes plead for a "return" to the use of liturgy, they do not appeal to their American evangelical roots. This appeals echos the pleas of the Anglo-Catholic revivalists. Show to me an evangelical denomination which has permitted its message to be dominated by pleas to "return" to the use of liturgy, and I will show you a denomination that has lost its evangelical interests--it appeals to form rather than substance. Proof of this statement is found in statistics of such denominations. Few have a greater admiration for the "First Theologian of Methodism" than I, but it is evident John William Fletcher never would have allow his affection for Anglicanism to mute his clarion evangelical call. The Holiness Movement in American never has been liturgical!!! Because of the rancorous spirit of the magisterial denominations of Europe, American Christianity (for the most part) wished to go another way. For this reason, Jesse Lee decried Asbury's use of clerical attire on one occasion only (see Lee's History). In the plea for a "return" to the use of liturgy, Methodist/Holiness leaders remarkably have overlooked why American Methodism and other denominations distanced themselves from their European past. If there is a call to "return," let that call be to the message of Asbury, Whatcoat, Otterbein, Lee, Bangs, Weaver, Hill, Albright, Miley, Wiley, and a host of others. These contemporary calls for "return" miss the real message/lesson of early American Methodism and her daughter Holiness Churches!! This is an Anglo-Catholic appeal destined for the same course as the Anglo-Catholic "Revival"!!

Todd Stepp said...

Just found the above comment (on my blog!), nearly a year after its post, as I was doing a google search for something else.

I won't comment much. My blog, I think, expresses my views.

The appeal is for a "return" to a whole-Wesley. My WTS paper that is referred to in my original post expresses the position.

It is clearly recognized in that work that the Holiness Movement was not a liturgical renewal movement. - There is no claim in my writings of such a thing.

It is also acknowledged that the frontier setting of early American Methodism greatly influenced the mode of Methodist worshp.

However, it should be noted that Wesley's "The Sunday Service of the Methodists in North America," was originally adopted by the MEC. And, it was used, at times (even by Asbury).

Again, it is freely recognized that the frontier setting in American did lead to a different worship expression.

It is, however, historical fact that the MEC came into existence, and ordination of Methodist elders took place in order to meet the needs of American Methodists to have access to the sacraments.

It is further historical fact that Wesley intended that American Methodist elders administer the LS every Lord's Day. This they seem to have done, but with the numbers of elders, it still turned out that each local church on the circuit ended up celebrating the sacrament about once a quarter.

This "accident of history" was never corrected when the number of elders increased.

It must also be acknowledged that the Methodist led camp meetings often culminated in (or began with) the observance of the Lord's Supper.

The call to "return" to a whole-Wesley is a call to embrace the full balance of Wesley's strong evangelical (and holiness!) emphasis with his strong commitment to sacramental worship.

So, yes, it is a call to return to Wesley and to the historic Christian understanding of worship.

I must say, Stephen, I reject your "either/or" logic as a clear FALSE dichotomy. An either/or over against Wesley's both/and. If your false dichotomy were true, the evangelical revival in Wesley's England, which spawned the American revival of Methodism would never have taken place. Indeed Wesley's evangelical revival could never have taken place being led, as it was by an Anglican "High Churchman!"

Did Wesley allow his "affection for Anglicanism to mute his clarion evangelical call"? I think not!

There is no call to give up or dilute the clear evangelical faith and mission. There is no call to give up or dilute the call to holiness of heart and life, including the call to entire sanctification as a definite second work of grace.

Not that membership in organizations necessarily mean a lot, but as an illustration of this "whole-Wesley" that I advocate, let me say that I not only value my membership with the liturgical/sacramental Order of St. Luke, but also my membership in the strongly evangelical Order of the FLAME (through World Methodist Evangelism), and my membership in the Christian Holiness Partnership.

Again, the call to "return" is not a call to return to the liturgical and AWAY from the evangelical/holiness. Rather it is a call to a full Christian expression; a "whole Wesleyan" expression of Christian faith.

BTW, there is no "overlooking" (remarkably or otherwise) of why American Methodism distanced themselves from their European past, but to imply that it was because of liturgical or sacramental worship shows a "remarkable" misunderstanding.

Further, there is not an appeal to form over substance. There is an appeal to allow the substance to fully shape us; to not to presume upon God while ignoring the God given means of grace.

Todd Stepp said...

The Wesley brothers address this type of objection in # 54 of their Eucharistic Hymns:

1. Why did my dying Lord ordain / This dear memorial of His love? / Might we not all by faith obtain, / By faith the mountain sin remove, / Enjoy the sense of sins forgiven, / And holiness, the tast of heaven?

2. It seem'd to my Redeemer good / That faith should here His coming wait / Should here receive immortal food, / Grow up in Him Divinely great, / And, fill'd with holy violence, seize / The glorious crown of righteousness.

3. Saviour, Thou didst the mystery give / That I Thy nature might partake / Thou bidd'st me outward signs receive, / One with Thyself my soul to make; / My body, soul, and spirit to join / Inseparably one with Thine.

4. The prayer, the fast, the word conveys, / When mix'd with faith, Thy life to me; / In all the channels of Thy grace / I still have fellowship with Thee: / But chiefly here my soul is fed / With fulness of immortal bread.

5. Communion closer far I feel / And deeper drink the' atoining blood; / The joy is more unspeakabl, / And yields me larger draughts of God, / Till nature faints beneath the power, / And faith fill'd up can hold no more.