Tag Archives: Methodism

Resources for Radical Living: The book and course, version 2.0–the revised case studies


This is the third in a series of posts on the Resources for Radical Living course(s) and book by Mark Van Steenwyk and me (Chris Armstrong). The first post presented the original version of the course. The second presented the revised structure of the course and book.

This third post presents the revised list of case studies.

Even more important, this post asks you, dear readers, to comment on these case studies and suggest any primary or secondary readings that you think will help Mark and me as we work on these new case studies and our students as they plunge into this challenging area of “radical Christian living.” Continue reading

The place of John Wesley’s conversion: The Fetter Lane Society in London


I am about to post my grad-school summaries and comments on the Nine Discourses of Count Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf, which the Moravian founder gave at London’s Fetter Lane Chapel in 1746. Before doing so, I thought it would be good to say (or rather, steal, from Wikipedia; and it looks like the data here is good) a few words on the Fetter Lane Society: nerve center of British Moravianism in the mid 1700s:

Fetter Lane Society

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Fetter Lane Society was the first flowering of the Moravian church in the UK, and an important as a precursor to Methodism. A short time before the great Methodist revival of the 18th Century in England, Moravians were avidly ministering throughout London. Peter Böhler, the London Moravian leader, and his followers established the Fetter Lane Society in May 1738 for the purpose of discipleship and accountability.

They began with the purpose of meeting once a week for prayer and fellowship. Most of their members consisted of Anglicans, most prominently John Wesley, Charles Wesley, and George Whitefield. John Wesley records in his journal for 1 January 1739: Continue reading

“Christian History Minutes”: John Wesley and women in ministry leadership


Back at Christian History, we were working for a while on getting a series of “Christian History Minutes” together for airing on a certain network of Christian radio stations. The deal never went down, but today I stumbled across the small series of “minutes” that I wrote at that point as a demonstration of what we might do. I’ll post a few of these today. Here’s the first, on a key moment in John Wesley’s career:

As all of us do, John Wesley one day faced a “moment of truth.”

I’m Chris Armstrong, editor of Christian History magazine.

The founder of Methodism had broken precedent by preaching outdoors. He had pioneered the “class meeting”—ancestor of today’s small group meetings. He had encouraged laypeople to travel as preachers.

But now some of those wanting to preach and lead class meetings were women. And John Wesley balked. This had never been done in England.

Then, he watched the ministry of class leaders like Mary Bosanquet. And he saw that the Holy Spirit was gifting these women. So, against his day’s prejudices, he decided to give their work his blessing.

An army of woman leaders and preachers filled England. And Wesley watched his beloved evangelical revival explode. He knew, despite often violent criticism, that he’d made the right decision.

Evangelicalism’s hidden liturgical and confessional past


Can revivalistic emotion and liturgical reverence co-exist? What about spontaneous worship and doctrinal carefulness? Yes, these can be part of the same religious experience–indeed, these seemingly contradictory elements coexisted at the very taproot of evangelical history. I explored this in a post on Christianity Today’s history blog:

Evangelicalism’s Hidden Liturgical and Confessional Past

by Chris Armstrong

The emotional energy of Cane Ridge and other early frontier revivals arose from a strong emphasis on the Eucharist.

Camp_Meeting_(Burbank_1839)_cropped.jpg

Many evangelicals – especially younger ones – are today re-engaging tradition. Other evangelicals worry about this re-engagement. They feel that to move toward a more liturgical form of worship or a more fixed, detailed style of theological “confession” is to give up the freer, more emotional worship style or more grass-roots, straightforward doctrinal and theological style won for us by such evangelical forefathers as the 18th century’s John Wesley or the 19th century’s Charles Finney.

I want to suggest that one way forward to healthier engagement with tradition for modern-day evangelicals is through a look at our own recent past. For American revivalism itself grew on unexpected foundations of liturgy and doctrinal confession. Continue reading

Quite possibly the most influential person in the early republic, Methodist pioneer Francis Asbury was NOT your typical leader


Francis Asbury WAS, in many senses, early American Methodism. Here’s my recent interview, for Christianity Today, with historian John Wigger, who has written a fascinating biography of this man, who was better known in his time than any other public figure in America.

Indelible Marker
John Wigger explains how Francis Asbury left his fingerprints all over American Christianity.
Interview by Chris Armstrong

Flash back to 1776 and consider the celebrities of the time: George Washington, and maybe Thomas Jefferson. Believe it or not, the horseback-riding preacher and leader of early Methodism, Francis Asbury, would have been more recognizable face to face than these leaders or anyone else of his generation. Chris Armstrong, associate professor of church history at Bethel Seminary, interviewed historian John Wigger about the imprint Asbury left on America, which Wigger details in American Saint: Francis Asbury and the Methodists (Oxford University Press).

What did Francis Asbury do that American Christians today should appreciate? Continue reading

How John Wesley changed America–though his one trip here was a failure


The 300th anniversary of John Wesley’s birth took place a few years ago, in 2003. For the occasion, I reflected on this famous British religious leader’s enduring legacy “across the pond,” here in the U.S. Interestingly, Wesley’s one ministerial experience this side of the Atlantic went hardly better than Edwards’s. However, and despite the fact that he spent very little time here, Wesley is arguably one of the two or three most influential leaders in American history. (Much of that influence came through the conduit of his indefatigable American bishop, Francis Asbury–my next post will talk about Asbury.) As usual, I can’t vouch that all the links are still active, but a quick Google search will turn up most anything you’d like to know about the extraordinary Mr. Wesley:

How John Wesley Changed America
Why should Wesley’s 300th birthday be a red-letter day on this side of the ocean?
Chris Armstrong

The world is now marking the 300th anniversary of the birth of John Wesley with celebrations, conferences, publications, and many other commemorations. (For trivia buffs and sticklers: The actual day of Wesley’s birth was June 17 or June 28, 1703, depending on whether you follow the “old style” calendar in use before 1752 or the “new style” calendar used after that year.) But Americans may wonder, What difference did Wesley make to our country? After all, while he served as a parish minister in Savannah, he didn’t last two years in the post before incurring the colonists’ wrath and before returning to England. Continue reading

Jonathan Edwards: Father of evangelicalism


It didn’t really come into focus for me until I was working on the Christian History issue on him: the Puritan theologian and revivalist Jonathan Edwards really was one of the two fathers of modern evangelicalism (interestingly, the other was the Arminian John Wesley). With some help from the work of historian Mark Noll, I explored Edwards’s influence in the editor’s note of that issue.

[For a few reflections on what Edwards could still mean to the church today, see this post. On Edwards as the original “ancient-future” evangelical, see here. On his ouster from his own church, this one.]

Jonathan Edwards: From the Editor – Papa Edwards
Chris Armstrong

Conversion. Revival. Biblical authority. A warm-hearted faith touching all areas of personal and social life. Billy Graham believes in these things. So did Billy Sunday, D. L. Moody, and Charles Finney. And so do countless others today who would place themselves in the Protestant family tree most often termed “evangelical.”

If you had to put someone at the very root of this tree, who would it be? Continue reading

Salvation Army: The church behind the kettles


It’s that time again: the bells are ringing and the red kettles swinging in front of grocery stores and other public places all over America. And in this holiday season, when even the staunchest of of Scrooges can’t help but think of what part they should play in “goodwill to all men,” a historical Wesleyan church has its hour of highest profile. That’s right. The Salvation Army is a church, and an “evangelical” one to boot. In 2004, this church got an extra dose of publicity when McDonalds heiress Joan Kroc sent 1.5 billion dollars their way. And we did an e-newsletter for Christian History about this much-misunderstood group:

The Blood-and-Fire Mission of the Salvation Army
Where did this tuba-playing, kettle-wielding social force come from, and what’s it all about?
Chris Armstrong

Joan Kroc’s 1.5 billion dollar bequest recently put the Salvation Army on the front pages of many newspapers (and raised important questions about the potential effects of wealth on Christian organizations). But we didn’t need the reminder—we’ve known all about the Army for a long time.

Or have we?

We tend to associate them with Christmas kettles, brass bands, and the upright, do-gooder stance gently mocked in the Loesser musical (and Marlon Brando movie) Guys and Dolls. Continue reading

Holiness in different guises: Charles Wesley and Charles M. Sheldon


Here’s another “People Worth Knowing” column from the pages of Christian History & Biography. Again we have brief, linked profiles of two people with a thematic connection. This time: holiness.

Holiness of heart, life, and pen
Charles Wesley and Charles H. Sheldon
Chris Armstrong

Charles Wesley (1707-88). Charles M. Sheldon (1857-1946). Separated by 150 years and a continent, these two men shared traits deeper than a common first name. Both believed Christians must respond to their Savior’s amazing love by loving others in practical ways. And both, desiring that others be captivated by a higher vision of life in Christ, expressed that vision in words that galvanized millions. Continue reading

Portrait of holiness: a mosaic of facts and anecdotes on the American holiness movement


The holiness movement is still too little-known, especially given that it was the incubator of the most explosive, fast-growing Christian phenomenon of the last century: global Pentecostalism. Issue #82 of Christian History & Biography, on the American holiness movement, started off with this “mosaic” of facts and anecdotes:

Did You Know?
Interesting facts about the American Holiness revival
Chris Armstrong

Reclaiming John

Methodist holiness advocates said their movement had started with John Wesley. They were just reminding Methodism of its founder’s teachings on entire sanctification or “perfect love”-the complete orientation of the heart toward God and away from sinning.

Camping out (in style) for Christ

During its post-Civil War “camp meeting phase,” the holiness revival spread quickly beyond Methodism’s bounds. In 1887, Presbyterian minister A. B. Simpson founded the non-Wesleyan Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) on the teachings of Christ our Savior, Sanctifier, Healer (a common holiness theme by the 1890s), and Coming King. For many years, the C&MA held annual camp meetings at a former temperance campground in Old Orchard, Maine.

Hoofing it

The Methodist holiness folk were known for their traveling evangelists-male and female. One day, on the “gospel trail” with her organist Treena Platt, evangelist Mary Cagle’s pony became ill. Having heard that John Wesley had once prayed successfully for the healing of his horse, Cagle decided to do the same. “I don’t know how to pray for a horse,” Platt protested. “Pray just like you would for a person,” said Cagle; “we need her in the service of the Lord.” Cagle wrote in her autobiography that they “prayed through to victory” in the house and then went to the barn to find the horse already mending. (Contributed by Jennifer Woodruff Tait.) Continue reading