THE WESLEY FELLOWSHIP QUARTERLY
Vol. 20, No. 2
The Wesley Fellowship – Founded 1985
Former Hon. Presidents:
Rev.Dr Arthur Skevington Wood (1986-1993); Rev. John Lawson (2000-2003)
Chairman: Rev. Dr Herbert McGonigle
Secretary: Mr Paul S. Taylor, M.A., Stonebridge Cottage,
Back Lane, Shearsby, Lutterworth, Leicestershire, England, U.K. LE17 6PN
Tel/Fax: 0116-247 8679. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Executive Committee includes the above officers together with:
Book Sales: Rev. Tony Tamburello, 13 Charles Street, Colne,
Lancashire, BB8 0LY
Tel/Fax: 01282-859014. E-mail: email@example.com
Publicity Officer: Mr Ian Lockhart
Editor: Mr William T. Graham
At our April meeting in Birmingham earlier this year we learned a lot from the two Papers delivered. Dr John Colville, from Spurgeon's College, London , spoke about John Wesley's understanding and practice of the Lord's Supper. He noted that Wesley's approach to this sacrament was very similar to John Calvin's understanding of it. And that's how it should be! Whatever might divide Christians in terms of particular doctrinal interpretations, surely we are truly ‘one in Christ' when we come to His memorial table. The second paper, given by the Chairman, dealt with John Wesley's doctrine of justification by faith. This great Pauline doctrine was the foundation on which Wesley built his whole theological system.
We look forward to our next WF meeting in Birmingham , on Saturday 22nd October. Two Wesley Fellowship members will bring papers. First, the Revd George Kime will bring a paper with the title ‘William Grimshaw: Methodist'; this will be followed by the Revd Dr John Haley who will bring a paper entitled ‘A Little Body of Experimental and Practical Divinity: Hymns in the Wesleyan Arminian Tradition'. Let's make October 22 nd a great day of inspirational fellowship!
Now something for the future. The year 2007 will be the tercentenary of the birth of Charles Wesley (1707-1788). We are planning a Residential Conference for that year, with all the attention focussed on the life, preaching and hymn writing of Charles – the Orpheus of Methodism! The precise dates for this Conference have not yet been finalised as we are trying to determine which time of the year is best for most of our members. This is a Conference you will want to attend ! We will release the dates as soon as possible.
Question: On a website I saw this quotation from John Wesley. Can you tell me where I can find it in his writings? ‘I want a whole Christ for my salvation, a whole Bible for my faith, a whole Church for my fellowship and a whole world for my mission field.'
Answer: John Wesley did not write these words! This is a fairly well known quotation and it has variations depending on where you find it. In its original form it is much older than Wesley's time. It is attributed to Bishop John Chrysostom (c. 348-407) who was appointed Patriarch of Constantinople in 398.
Question: In a book which I've just read there was a quotation from John Wesley but not in the form I've often heard. ‘The world is my parish and whoever is lost is in my parish.' Do you know of it?
Answer: The first part of this quotation is from John Wesley but not the second part. In a letter written on May 28, 1739, he said, ‘I look upon all the world as my parish; thus far I mean, that in whatever part of it I am, I judge it meet, right and my bounden duty to declare unto all that are willing to hear the glad tidings of salvation.' It is not certain to whom this letter, defending his itinerant ministry, was sent but there is good reason to believe it was a former member of the Oxford ‘Holy Club,' the Rev. John Clayton. The other words, ‘whoever is lost is in my parish' were not written by John Wesley.
Editor's Note: Dr McGonigle is willing to consider questions on Wesleyan theology, history and experience for answers in this Newsletter, also locating Wesley quotes, etc. Such questions should be sent in the first instance via the Secretary.
1. Membership Subscriptions 2005-6
Many of our members have already paid their subscriptions for 2005-6, which were due on 1 st April. We really do appreciate that so many help us with our cash flow in this way. So we want to say a big ‘thank you' for your loyal support and fellowship. If you have not yet let us have your subscriptions, we would be encouraged to hear from you.
2. Next Meeting of the Wesley Fellowship
Our next meeting is planned for Saturday 22 October 2005, at the usual venue, Zion Church of the Nazarene, Brearley Street, Handsworth, Birmingham – and, once again, we want to express our thanks to our friends there for their hospitality. The papers for the meeting will be presented by the Revd George Kime, B.Ed., M.A. on ‘William Grimshaw: Methodist' , and Revd Dr John Haley, M.A., on ‘A Little Body of Experimental and Practical Religion – Hymns in the Wesleyan Arminian Tradition' . We hope as many members as possible will join us for what promises to be a profitable, enjoyable and instructive day of fellowship. As usual, please remember to bring your own food for lunch. Drinks will be provided at lunchtime, as well as from 10.30am before the meeting begins formally at 11.00am. The meeting should end by about 3.30pm.
3. The Wesley Fellowship, Spring 2006 meeting will also be at the same venue in Birmingham on Saturday 22 April with similar beginning and ending times. The first paper at the meeting will be given by Revd Dr Martin Wellings with the title, ‘The Methodist Revival Fellowship'. In the afternoon, the second paper will be the 17 th Annual Maynard James Memorial Lecture, to be presented by the Revd Dr Ian Randall, of Spurgeon's College, London , who will lecture on ‘ Cliff College and the Evangelical Tradition'. Please put these dates and events in your diary and plan to be with us – and bring your friends too, if at all possible.
4. Wesley Fellowship Conference 2007
We are looking ahead to the year 2007 when we plan to celebrate the 300 th anniversary of the birth of Charles Wesley. The executive committee will bring forward some preliminary ideas at our next regular Wesley Fellowship meeting in October 2005, when we would welcome members' preferred views on practical matters such as venue and dates.
5. Wesley Fellowship Accounts
The accounts of the Fellowship for the financial year 2004-5 have now been audited. Copies of the Auditor's report are available to members on application to the Secretary.
Tribute to the late Rev. G. Harry Sutton by Paul Taylor
The Rev G. Harry Sutton at the age of 83 has recently been called to the heavenly place prepared for him by the Lord. Harry was an enthusiastic member of the Wesley Fellowship, attending Conferences and the regular Birmingham meetings. Harry was born in Cheshire and served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, being stationed at times in both India and Canada . During his time of service with the RAF, Harry came under the influence of the ministry of Pastor James A. Taylor at Ventnor Street Methodist Mission in Leeds , where he met and married his first wife, Joan Goodall. After service and training under Revd Percy Hassam, Harry was appointed to the pastorate of Bethel Evangelical Free Church, Wigston, Leicester, where he led a strong evangelical witness for 40 years. God gave him much fruit for his labours and the church gradually grew until new church planting became a policy that even saw a number of closed churches re-opened and a new church building and senior citizens' flats erected. Harry Sutton was a delightfully fresh and friendly pastor with a heart for the gospel and a love for people. After the death of his first wife he married Marion Allen, who regularly accompanied him to Wesley Fellowship events. He will be missed by all who knew him - not least by those who came under the influence of his wide and varied pastoral ministry. His ‘well done' will have been loud and clear in the courts of heaven.
WF member John Gibby reports briefly on some of his activities during a visit to the Bethlehem area in April
WF Members will remember that Gordon, a lecturer at Nazarene Theological College , Manchester , had to withdraw, due to serious illness, from his engagement to speak at a Wesley Fellowship meeting last year. A number of members have continued to enquire about how Gordon is getting on. This is an abstract from an email from him to his wide range of Christian friends who have been praying for him.
“I have been reminded this week that it is about time that I brought my story up to date. My impression of medical stories as published by Christians in days gone by was of nasty accidents or illnesses followed by wonderful blessings and healings. Well, I can't do that yet. To write about recent days is to describe some of the worst days of my life. Radiotherapy and I do not appear to get on well together at all….It was a relief to finish the treatment on the eighth day but I wasn't really ready for the increasing after-effects which followed. In the next ten days I ate very little and slept a lot. The positive side of this was that I lost about twenty pounds in weight. Other positives are harder to come by.…However, things levelled off after that. Also my hair started to fall out, so Betty-May shaved my head, leaving me bald but bearded….For the duration of those plateau-like weeks I was itchy to go out walking by myself, but Betty-May was faithful to the doctors. She had promised to accompany me everywhere, just in case I had a fit, and she kept her word. I could still read very little, so my time seemed to be divided between radio, TV and sleep. The only domestic chore I was committed to doing was the washing-up. Betty-May expressed more love to me than in all our 26 years of marriage, but I must have been so hard to live with. On my stronger days I wished to assert my independence. On weaker days I just felt like turning my face to the wall…. During these times I have begun to feel as though I am slipping inexorably away. It's like living in the body of a really old man. However, God graciously sent me specific encouragement to help me hold on. John Edgar, the college maintenance man, noticed that I had popped into my study and he poked his head round the door. He told the pair of us that he had been praying for me and that God had assured him that the cancer was going to die. A few days later my younger brother Keith phoned to recount what he saw while he was praying for me. I was sitting at a desk and my hands were on fire. As Keith continued to pray, my whole body began to flame. Eventually Keith suggested to God that this must be something to do with my health, to which the reply was "Absolutely not!" The overall sense he was left with was very good. I guess we both tend to see it as some sort of promise of spiritual renewal yet to come. The most recent shot in the arm came this past Monday. Henry Rack was about to give the inaugural lecture for the Manchester Wesley Research Centre. I was just entering the chapel when Herbert McGonigle , our former principal, detained me. He recounted how he had recently visited our Taunton Church and how Dianne and Nova, two godly ladies there, made him promise to pass on this message: the cancer was going to die but I was going to live. At the time of writing I don't feel like I'm going to live, but I do hold on to such assurances. The valley of the shadow, where I seem to be living these days, must be an excellent place in which to exercise faith…. In closing may I once again thank all the friends who ply us with cards, e-mails, bunches of flowers and baskets of fruit. But more than all those nice things, may I thank you all for your faithfulness in prayer. I can't see how I would still be in the land of the living without that. God is good. You people are the living proof.”
The first MWRC Annual Lecture, with the title ‘Recent Trends in Wesley Scholarship', was delivered on the 18 th of April 2005, at Nazarene Theological College, Manchester, by Dr Henry D. Rack, the distinguished Methodist scholar and historian, and Bishop Fraser Senior Lecturer in Ecclesiastical History Emeritus in the University of Manchester. Dr Rack's illuminating and beautifully delivered, yet scholarly lecture did not disappoint those who were present. It is good to know that the full lecture, together with extra material and full references, is due to be published in a forthcoming issue of the Wesleyan Theological Journal in order to give it as wide an audience as this important paper deserves. The WFQ editor is also very grateful to Dr Rack for providing us with the following book review.
McGonigle, Herbert B., John Wesley's Arminian Theology: An Introduction , 2nd edition (Shearsby: The Wesley Fellowship, 2005. Paper, pp. iv, 36. £3.50. ISBN 0-953747360). This book is obtainable directly from the Wesley Fellowship Book Sales Department, 13 Charles Street , Colne, Lancashire , BB8 0LY ; Tel/Fax: 01282-859014; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is a revised version, now enhanced with new material and references, of the Wesley Fellowship Occasional Paper No. 3, first published in 1988, with the title The Arminianism of John Wesley . The revisions reflect Dr McGonigle's continuing work on the subject, notably in the version of his doctoral thesis published as Sufficient Saving Grace: John Wesley's Evangelical Arminianism (Paternoster Press, 2001). The present pamphlet offers a lucid and concise introduction to the main findings of the larger work. After outlining the teaching of the Dutchman Arminius and the reception of Arminian ideas in England , Dr McGonigle discusses the sources, nature, and development of Wesley's version of this alternative to Calvinist predestination. Essentially, as Dr McGonigle says, Arminius was a scholastic Calvinist who modified Calvinism at a crucial point to make election dependent on God's foresight of who would respond to his grace, offered to all - but with all able to resist it if they so wished. Though Wesley shared this fundamental belief, the English version of anti-Calvinism on which he drew seems to have arisen largely independently. Dr McGonigle casts fresh light on two long-standing puzzles. He shows that Wesley probably did have some first-hand knowledge of Arminius's teaching, and that his crucial notion of prevenient grace probably derived from the Anglican theologian William Tilly.
One detail that is not mentioned here is that the Wesleys, apparently for some time, compromised with Calvinism by allowing that some might be predestined to salvation but all others are given the opportunity of salvation as well. They dropped this as allowing too much to the Calvinists (see letter: John Wesley to Charles Wesley, Aug.8, 1752, in Works [Bicentennial Edition], 26, 498-9).
Dr McGonigle's excellent account is an ideal introduction to a central issue in the 18 th century revival which splits its forces in fierce controversy and went far to establish a distinctive position for Wesley as a very unusual evangelical. This needs to be underlined for one has the impression that the issues involved, though a recurring feature of Christian history and of fundamental character for the understanding of salvation, seem to have much less interest for theologians today than used to be the case. For historians of evangelicalism the cluster of issues loosely labelled ‘Calvinism' cannot be ignored. What is really surprising is not that Wesley was an Arminian – for, as Dr McGonigle shows, this was already evident from correspondence with his mother in the 1720s (and most of the evangelical leaders began in the same way). But, sooner or later, they gravitated to a form of Calvinism after their conversion. Wesley was the odd man out in not doing so. Presumably this was bound up with his emphasis on the pursuit of holiness to the point of ‘perfection' that outraged other evangelicals and led to suspicions that he was reverting to salvation by works. Wesley was at pains to emphasise that all our achievements rest on grace but some of his language, particularly the notorious 1770 Minutes (see: Minutes of the Methodist Conferences … , Vol. I (1744-98), London : Mason, 1862, pp 95-6), show how far he was from the painstaking scholastic distinctions of an Arminius. He was certainly an evangelical Arminian – as Dr McGonigle rightly emphasises – and avoided what Calvinists tended to think was the inevitable slippery slope from denying predestination to unorthodoxy on the Person of Christ and the Atonement. Wesley's challenge to predestination is as cogent as ever (so some of us feel!) but one can see why good men of the other persuasion were so worried about his emphasis on good works and his impatience with arguments about the finer points of ‘merit'.
Henry D. Rack
The Wesley Fellowship 2005.