Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
June 22nd, 2014 by Joel Watts

What would Wesley expel you for?

John Wesley (1703-1791), founder of Methodism

“Don’t let the door hit ya, where the good Lord split ya’.”

In this age of looking out for the numbers and not hurting people’s feelings, Wesley’s view may not be too popular. To understand this, take a look at Bishop Willimon’s past blog posts about the numbers game in the UMC. He was greeted with a rather cool reception for suggesting numbers aren’t all there is.

Wesley called it: “But number is an inconsiderable circumstance.”

I’d agree.

Imagine, then, our struggles with numbers as we go on discussing the LGBT issue and the such. That seems to be something tossed around — inclusion will either destroy the Church or increase the Church. 

Oddly enough, I don’t think Wesley cared about numbers. Rather, he cared about holiness (or in simple terms, doing what was right before God). Yes, he cared about people, but sometimes that meant expelling them from the community  (vs. excommunication), something I’m sure he picked up from St. Paul.

To that end, he had no issue expelling members from his societies. For instance, he expelled 64 members from the Newcastle society. Guess what for?

The number of those who were expelled from the Society was sixty-four:

  • Two for cursing and swearing.
  • Two for habitual Sabbath-breaking.
  • Seventeen for drunkenness.
  • Two for retailing spiritous liquors.
  • Three for quarrelling and brawling.
  • One for beating his wife.
  • Three for habitual, wilful lying.
  • Four for railing and evil-speaking.
  • One for idleness and laziness. And,
  • Nine-and-twenty for lightness and carelessness.

Can you imagine Wesley coming into a local UMC congregation and expelling people because of their habits?

Holy cow… you talk about schism then! People would be all kind of upset. How dare anyone judge anyone else!

Also, I’d probably be expelled too.

Moral of the story? You aren’t too good for Wesley to have kicked you out of his society. Numbers don’t matter. Do what is holy.


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).

Comments

10 Responses to “What would Wesley expel you for?”
  1. Know More Than I Should says

    The history of organizations suggests they are founded by radicals and moderate over time. This observation goes back to a question that has been implied before in this forum: How well would Paul fit into the modern church?

  2. But the 64, were the ones that were caught. If everyone doing those activities were thrown out, there would be no one left. Except the plants.
    Oh oh.
    Two for habitual Sabbath-breaking. Healing, or pulling your donkey out of a hole on the Sabbath.
    Two for retailing spiritous liquors. Changing water to wine.
    Three for quarrelling and brawling. Turning over merchant tables in a holy place.
    Man, Jesus is in trouble.

  3. Wesley really was a prophet not a pastor.

  4. Great post, Joel. I fear that “lightness and carelessness” might get me on more than one occasion! 🙂 Picking up for UM Insight.

  5. Thanks for this post, Joel. it’s a good reminder — and I appreciate your moral at the end!

  6. I wonder how Wesley handled the possible restoration to fellowship of those who had been expelled if they afterwards repented?

  7. If he were able to speak to us today, it would be fascinating to hear what Wesley might have to say to proponents of the ‘seeker sensitive’ and ‘church growth’ approach.

  8. Sadly, I was asked to retire early (after 24 years of service) after an incident when I privately asked a volunteer youth director to step down from her leadership in the church because she was living with her boyfriend. All the kids in the youth group knew this, and had been to her home as a group. The youth director’s mother was a member of PPR. The district superintendent took this incident to the cabinet, and did not bother to discuss it with me.

    My conclusion is that I am TOO Wesleyan for The United Methodist Church.

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