Over the weekend in Alexandria, Virginia, about sixty traditionalist Methodist theologians convened to draft a declaration of Wesleyan doctrine. Here’s their news release:
Over sixty Wesleyan scholars from various theological disciplines met in Alexandria, VA for the Next Methodism Summit, Jan. 21-23, 2022. The Summit was sponsored by The John Wesley Institute under the direction of Dr. Ryan Danker. Scholars to this invitation-only gathering gathered to write a document entitled “The Faith Once Delivered: A Wesleyan Witness.”
Keynote speakers for the event included Dr. David Watson and Bishop Scott Jones. Preachers during the four worship services of the Summit included: Dr. Maxie Dunnam, Dr. Mathieu Gnonhoussou, Dr. Joy Moore, and Dr. Michael Pasquarello. Worship leadership was provided by Bishop Jones, Rev. Jessica LaGrone, Dr. Jonathan Powers, Rev. Tesia Mallory, and Dr. Stephen Rankin.
Scholars were invited to participate from around the country and the globe. Covid-19 restrictions hindered most international guests. Those gathered were primarily from the United Methodist Church but included participants who are Anglican, Episcopal, Nazarene, Salvationist, and Church of God, Cleveland.
Sessions for the Summit were primarily dedicated to working groups where portions of the larger document were composed in dialogue. Dr. Kenneth Collins has agreed to write a shorter and accessible version of the larger document. Both documents and videos of addresses will be released soon.
One address came from United Theological Seminary Dean David Watson, who said:
This is a gathering of scholars who in one way or another find themselves among the “traditionalists” in our neck of the Christian woods. Some people don’t like the name “traditionalist.” I do. I like tradition. Some don’t like the word conservative, but I think we would all acknowledge that there are important aspects of our tradition that we need to conserve. I should also note that there are excellent scholars who are not here this weekend, some because they can’t make it, some because they represent other theological positions and camps. Our gathering here is not to diminish them, nor to exalt ourselves over them, nor to neglect the significance of their scholarship. It is to gather as a group of scholars who share some important commitments, and to think about what the future of Methodism might look like in light of these commitments.
The saltiness of the church is that which sets us apart. It is our inherent distinctiveness. It is what makes us, us. Christians should be different. We should be a peculiar people as the King James Version renders 1 Peter 2:9, and the people called Methodist should be a peculiar subset of this peculiar people.
We in the West are going to have to recognize that the Next Methodism will not be primarily a Western or white phenomenon. And as scholars of the next Methodism, we are going to have to learn to speak and write and listen across cultures. We would do well intentionally to collaborate with people from the majority world. It cannot simply be the colonial model of us teaching them. They will also teach us. We are going to have to make our work accessible to people who make less than $100 a month. We are going to have to think about post-secondary and seminary education according to new paradigms. All of this will require not just conversation, but genuine relationships of Christian love and fellowship. It will require humility and vulnerability. Majority-world Christianity is here. These brothers and sisters in Christ have already begun to re-evangelize the West. And the question for us is, “How can we, as scholars, serve this burgeoning global church, preserving and passing on those beliefs and practices that are most central to our Methodist identity?
The summit also included release of a new book The Next Methodism: Theological, Social, and Missional Foundations for Global Methodism, with chapters of counsel for future Methodism by 36 Methodist thinkers, including myself. Most of the authors were at the summit.
I attended the summit, which I smilingly called a Methodist “Council of Dort,” as an observer. Its collection of great minds committed to orthodox Methodist theology and spiritual vitality was magnificent. Its impact may endure for decades and even centuries, perhaps ultimately equaling the Council of Dort’s impact for global Calvinism over the last 400 years.
If God be for it, who can be against it?