Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
January 6th, 2017 by Joel Watts

Wesleys as non-jurors

Stripped image of John Wesley

Stripped image of John Wesley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For those of you not familiar with the Non-Jurors, see here, here, and here. If we place Wesley within this context, it becomes a different take on their evangelical and “paleo-orthodoxy.”

The Wesleys, much like modern Wesleyan Theologian, Thomas Oden, sought no innovation in doctrine, but only to hold to what was once delivered. They sought, frankly, a revival for the Church of England — to bring once again the Apostolic and Evangelical faith — a revival needful in their day due to generations of strife wherein the orthodox were replaced with innovators. This is the great non-juror controversy of the late 17th century, one the Wesleys seemed to have become embroiled in during the 18th century.1

I heard that Cowley living was disposed of; and rejoiced. With my brother I waited on the Archbishop. He showed us great affection; spoke mildly of Mr. Whitefield; cautioned us to give no more umbrage than was necessary for our own defence; to forbear exceptionable phrases; to keep to the doctrines of the Church. We told him we expected persecution; would abide by the Church till her Articles and Homilies were repealed. He assured us he knew of no design in the governors of the Church to innovate; and neither should there be any innovation while he lived: avowed justification by faith only; and his joy to see us as often as we pleased. – Charles Wesley, 21 February 1739

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Far from wishing you to be ignorant of any of our doctrines, or any part of our discipline, we desire you to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the whole. We know you are not in general able to purchase many books: But you ought, next to the word of God, to procure the Articles and Canons of the church to which you belong…

…We cannot omit noticing, before we conclude this section, the strict examination which the characters of the preachers pass through, in the yearly conferences. When that eminent saint of God, and great writer, John Fletcher, was once present, in the British conference, at the examination of the characters, he seemed astonished, and expressed his surprize and approbation in very strong terms. The examination is equally strict in all the conferences throughout the connection. And we know of no church where the purity of the morals, the orthodoxy of the doctrines, and the usefulness of the lives and labours of the ministers (for all these are included in the examination) are more strictly attended to than in ours. – Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury, “Notes on the Doctrines and Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church,” 1792.

  1. Mark D. Chapman, Anglican Theology (London; New Delhi; New York; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2012), 167.
Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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