So many plans about how to preserve The United Methodist Church, but how many turn to Wesleyanism in order to chart a path forward? This is interesting:
The most striking ecclesiological feature of Methodism is its ‘connexional’ structure. This stresses the relatedness, cohesion and interdependence of the Methodist Church. It links the local churches, circuits and districts to each other and to the ‘centre’. Oversight is vested in the Conference, which teaches, authorises ordination, deploys ministers and deacons, legislates and supervises the life of the Connexion. As a number of Methodists themselves have pointed out, the Conference acts as a sort of corporate bishop. Perhaps because British Methodism takes episkope seriously and has a strong central government in Conference, it has tended to be fairly relaxed about episcopacy. The British Conference has repeatedly stated its willingness in principle to adopt episcopacy (in the form of the historic episcopate) in the context of the quest for unity. Methodist bishops would be subject to Conference, however (just as, in questions of national policy, Church of England bishops are subject to the General Synod—though the Church of England does not usually think of it in that way).
Oversight is delegated by Conference to Circuit Superintendents and Chairs of District. Methodism is conceived as a single whole, unlike the Church of England which is made up of forty-four dioceses that are distinct units of oversight, each under the oversight of their bishop. It is as though the Methodist Church of Great Britain is one diocese, a single effective unit of oversight. Methodism unites synodical government and pastoral oversight into a single focus, whereas Anglicanism sees these as distinct though related foci and consequently experiences the tension between the roles of the General Synod and the episcopate. Methodism thus has a more centralised practice of authority than Anglicanism where it is more dispersed. To an Anglican observer, Methodism may well appear more hierarchical, authority-conscious and hide-bound by constitutional procedures.
You can pick up the book on Logos.
How does Methodist Ecclesiology give us a way forward? It denies factionalism – either as ACs, JCs, or other regionalism embodiments. It also removes the concept of diocesan bishops. The connexional system provides for an accountability that is nearly unique in Christianity. It worked for a very long time — and as we moved away from it…
I’m with ]] who writes,
At seminary, I “discovered” John Wesley. I was shocked to find out that he had had a religious experience similar to my own. I couldn’t remember Aldersgate ever being talked about in any of the Methodist churches I had attended. I devoured his sermons. Reading them during my job at the circulation desk in the University Library, I brainwashed myself theologically. I found in Wesley and historic Methodism a glimpse of the kind of Christian community I was looking for—a spiritual depth only possible through relationships and mutual discipline, the sacred boundaries of mutual accountability. That glimpse has given me hope. It is why I am United Methodist. I know enough about Wesley and the movement to know that the kingdom of God did not come in its fullness in the eighteenth century. Yet eighteenth century Methodists certainly seemed more earnest about seeking it first, and the power of the kingdom certainly seemed more evident in their midst. Can it happen again