Avoiding Conversation is No Way to Advance the Debate

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Jurisdictional Solutions

I read John Wesley's Sermons 38 & 39 to prepare myself for the perspective of our new pastor, who is a Wesley scholar. Sermon 38 is "A Caution Against Bigotry". Sermon 39 is "On a Catholic Spirit”. I tried to find the true character of Wesley's thought process, not just his immediate application to his contemporary situation: First, to understand the direct meaning at the moment of delivery. Second, to understand the more general meaning during that time period and why someone bothered to write the passage down for others to read. Third, to understand the thought process and what insight we might glean and apply today.

Applying these principles to Wesley, I would boil Sermon 39 down to: know scripture, worship the best way you know, be disciplined by one particular congregation. Then, with regards to others working for God in another tradition, “I mean, Lastly, love me not in word only, but in deed and in truth. So far as in conscience thou canst (retaining still thy own opinions, and thy own manner of worshipping God), join with me in the work of God; and let us go on hand in hand.” [Section II, para 7]

And I would boil Sermon 38 down to: if someone of a vastly differing opinion or tradition (even if they be a “Papist, Arian, or Socinian” or a “Jew, Deist, or Turk [presumably a Muslim]”) “casts out demons”, do not forbid them or you convict yourself of bigotry [Section IV, para 1, 2, 3, & 4]. “’But what is a sufficient, reasonable proof, that a man does (in the sense above) cast out devils?’ The answer is easy. Is there full proof, (1) That a person before us was a gross, open sinner? (2) That he is not so now? that he has broke off his sins, and lives a Christian life? And (3) That this change was wrought by his hearing this man preach? If these three points be plain and undeniable, then you have sufficient, reasonable proof, such as you cannot resist without wilful sin, that this man casts out devils. [Section 3, para 3]” Not only do not forbid or hinder them, but, “Encourage whomsoever God is pleased to employ, to give himself wholly up thereto. Speak well of him wheresoever you are; defend his character and his mission. Enlarge, as far as you can, his sphere of action; show him all kindness in word and deed; and cease not to cry to God in his behalf, that he may save both himself and them that hear him. [Sec 3, para 5]”

My point is that if the proposals in the Jurisdictional Solution (either the 2- or 6-Jurisdiction version http://www.jurisdictionalsolution.org/ ) allow Methodists to collaborate on areas where we agree, like UMCOR, Mission & Service projects, VIM, healthcare projects, housing & development relief, retirement centers, etc., perhaps we can love each other as family through this period of divisive disagreement. Then, when the next realignment conflict comes, we can reconvene and love each other through it, too. Full schism would only serve the Devil’s purposes.

Terry Tremwel more than 2 years ago


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