Unity is the Methodist Tradition – John Wesley

umc logoWith minor various, these paragraphs goes back to the 1784 Book of Discipline, the very first one. This is from the 1920, ME Book of Discipline

V. Necessity of Union Among Ourselves

138. Let us be deeply sensible (from what we have known) of the evil of a division in principle, spirit, or practice, and the dreadful consequences to ourselves and others. If we are united, what can stand before us? If we divide, we shall destroy ourselves, the work of God, and the souls of our people.

139. In order to a closer union with each other, 1. Let us be deeply convinced of the absolute necessity of it. 2. Pray earnestly for, and speak freely to, each other. 3. When we meet, let us never part without prayer. 4. Take great care not to despise each other’s gift*. 5. Never speak lightly of each other. 6. Let us defend each other’s character in everything so far as is consistent with truth. 7. Labor in honor each to prefer the other before himself. We recommend a serious perusal of The Causes, Evils, and Cures of Heart and, Church Divisions.

If you track this well enough, you will see that the 1784 version of the Book of Discipline largely goes back to John Wesley himself. Directly. The 1784 Book of Discipline was adopted largely from the Large Minutes of Wesley and his British societies. In other words, paragraph 139 was written by Wesley — except for the “We recommend…” part which seems to come from Asbury.

In looking at the Large Minutes (linked above), you cannot help but notice that Wesley strove for unity, not merely among those of the same theological persuasion, but so too of Christians.

If only we, as United Methodists, would work to that same goal — perhaps beginning with ourselves. Shoot, we aren’t even convinced that it is necessary.

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2 Replies to “Unity is the Methodist Tradition – John Wesley”

  1. Much like longevity in marriage, denominational unity over time requires accommodation — even compromise. Yet, as John Boehner famously explained to the American public a few years back, compromise has been redefined to mean “sell…out.” Much like appeasement before it, compromise has become a dirty word.

    Yet, had my wife and I not made some compromises over the years, we wouldn’t still be married. Instead, whatever marriage remained would have long ago bore a striking resemblance to today’s Washington gridlock.

    Much the same thing is true when it comes to raising children. Believe it or not, parents have to negotiate with their older children almost as much as they do with each other. Tragically, it is a lesson some parents never learn. Hint for novices: Trying to treat a 12-year-old as if he or she is a 2-year-old doesn’t work very well!

    Whether in marriage, parenting, politics, religion, or revolution, one has to choose one’s battles carefully in order to be successful. At the same time, one must have an ultimate objective. Of course, hopefully, it is not the same for marriage as it is in revolution! Nor should one use the same strategies.

    It is also worth pointing out that sometimes marriages are too far gone to salvage. By the same token, divides in religion may eventually become so deep that close communion becomes impossible.

    Quite often, the root of these difficulties can be traced back to someone or clique that had to have their way. They ALWAYS had to be right or have the final word. A common causality is a lust for power.

    Hubris has sunk many a human enterprise. Even divine ones seldom escape unscathed.

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