Thursday, May 11, 2017

Recommended Reading: David N. Field on a Wesleyan Theology of Church Unity

United Methodist scholar and regular UM & Global contributor Dr. David N. Field has just released a book on Wesleyan theology and church unity, a topic relevant to this blog. He describes it as follows:

"For the last ten years I have been engaged in an intense study of John Wesley's theology as part of my preparation of course material in Methodist Studies for the Methodist e-Academy. One of my discoveries was Wesley's deep concern for unity amongst Christians; yet it surprised me that this aspect of Wesley's theology had not been explored in greater depth. The more I examined this aspect of Wesley's theology, the more I became convinced that a passionate commitment to the unity of the church is an integral dimension of Wesley's understanding of holiness and thus ought to be an integral aspect of Methodist identity.

"Sadly this has not always been the case. As I watched the unfolding divisions within the United Methodist Church, I was perplexed that people were not mining the rich resources in Wesley's theology to develop a theological basis for a church that experienced genuine unity in the midst of diverse and even contradictory theological positions and practices.

"My book  Bid Our Jarring Conflicts Cease: A Wesleyan Theology and Praxis of Church Unity is an attempt to uncover these resources as a gift to Methodist Churches as they struggle to maintain unity and I trust to motivate them to greater ecumenical engagement. My present experience as a member of the UMC's Commission on a Way Forward has convinced me again that Wesley's theology has enormous potential for our church. To put it starkly, I am convinced that taking the path to division is a denial of our Wesleyan identity and heritage.

"The chapter titles of the book are:
  1. What has holiness got to do with it?
  2. Participation in a diverse community as a means of grace
  3. Wesley in his historical context
  4. The Catholic Spirit - Being one on heart
  5. A Caution Against Bigotry - A common mission
  6. Theological roots - anthropology
  7. Theological roots - Epistemology
  8. The identity of the church and the threat of schism
  9. Sanctified and sanctifying conferencing
"The conclusion includes a section which applies the insights gained to the current debates around human sexuality.

"Some of what I write will be familiar to Wesley scholars, some I think is new and some will be controversial. I invite you to read it critically and engage with me in critical dialogue in the service of the Church and God's kingdom."

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