Repairing the 18th Century Methodist-Episcopal Schism in America

Yesterday I discussed the 18th century schism that separated the Methodist movement in America from its Anglican roots, primarily citing the work of John Wigger in American Saint: Francis Asbury and the Methodists. The recently announced proposal for full communion between the United Methodist Church and the Episcopal Church addresses the 18th century schism between the two groups.

We affirm the ministry of bishops in The United Methodist Church and The Episcopal Church to be adaptations of the historic episcopate to the needs and concerns of the post-Revolutionary missional context. We recognize the ministries of our bishops as fully valid and authentic. We lament any ways, whether intentionally or unintentionally, explicitly or implicitly, that Episcopalians may have considered the ministerial orders of the United Methodist Church or its predecessor bodies to be lacking God’s grace. It is our hope and prayer that in this full communion proposal we may heal these divisions, right the sin of separation from the 1780s, and share in these mutual adaptations of the historic episcopate for the greater unity of the church in mission and ministry.

A Gift to the World: Co-Laborers for the Healing of Brokenness
The Episcopal Church and The United Methodist Church
A Proposal for Full Communion

You can read more about how American Methodists “adapted” the historic episcopate to the American missional situation in post-revolutionary America at United Methodists and Apostolic Succession.

The Failed Union Between the Methodist and Episcopal Churches

On May 17, the United Methodist Church and the Episcopal Church announced a proposed framework for full communion between the two denominations. Perhaps the proposal will produce better results than the first efforts at reconciliation which took place in when both churches were very young. Within the first decade of Methodism’s existence as an independent church, two half-baked attempts at reunion with the Episcopal Church failed.

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John Wesley’s Definition of Evil Speaking

… to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. Titus 3:2

In his sermon on The Cure of Evil Speaking, John Wesley describes the sin of evil speaking this way:

“Speak evil of no man,” says the great Apostle: — As plain a command as, “Thou shalt do no murder.” But who, even among Christians, regards this command. Yea, how few are there that so much as understand it what is evil-speaking. It is not, as some suppose, the same with lying or slandering. All a man says may be as true as the Bible; and yet the saying of it is evil-speaking. For evil-speaking is neither more nor less than speaking evil of an absent person; relating something evil, which was really done or said by one that is not present when it is related. Suppose, having seen a man drunk, or heard him curse or swear, I tell this when he is absent; it is evil-speaking. In our language this is also, by an extremely proper name, termed backbiting. Nor is there any material difference between this and what we usually style tale-bearing. If the tale be delivered in a soft and quiet manner (perhaps with expressions of good-will to the person, and of hope that things may not be quite so bad,) then we call it whispering. But in whatever manner it be done, the thing is the same; — the same in substance, if not in circumstance. Still it is evil-speaking; still this command, “Speak evil of no man,” is trampled under foot; if we relate to another the fault of a third person, when he is not present to answer for himself.

In a world increasingly ruled by social media, that would be quite a standard to follow.

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The Bishop’s Strange Translation

United Methodist Bishop Bruce Ough has issued a pastoral statement on the refugee situation. I have a number of questions about the letter, but the first thing that caught my eye was a really odd, off-the-wall translation of Matthew 16:25. Of this verse, the bishop wrote:

The original Greek language is far more poetic, powerful and prophetic. In finer translations of the Greek language, we hear Jesus saying: “Whoever seeks to build a wall around their soul shall destroy it; whoever tears down the wall (around their soul) shall bring their soul to a living birth.”

Huh? I’m not a great Greek scholar, but the passage seems rather straight-forward to me.

ὃς γὰρ ἐὰν θέλῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ σῶσαι, ἀπολέσει αὐτήν· ὃς δ’ ἂν ἀπολέσῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ, εὑρήσει αὐτήν.

“Whoever wishes to save his or life will lose it, but whoever loses his or her life because of me will find it.”

Or, if you want to make the subjunctive verbs more visible,

“Whoever should wish to save his or her life will lose it, but whoever should happen to lose his or her life because of me will find it.” 

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Do You Expect to be Made Perfect in Love in this Life?

All the healing, provision and deliverance for which I now pray is just a brief preview of the great age to come when Jesus appears in power and majesty. Every manifestation of the kingdom in this age is temporary, local and incomplete.

So I recently wrote in Awaiting the Day. Does this apply as well to the Wesleyan doctrine of entire sanctification? In my mind, it does.

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