Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Theology in the Wesleyan Spirit - Sermon 2

The second in our series is Wesley’s sermon “A Caution Against Bigotry” which was originally preached in 1750.  During that time in England, there was a fear that the Methodist revival should cause ‘disruptions’ among the people who were still struggling with the peace founded after the Civil War and Restoration.  Part of the price of that peace was a lessening of partisan zeal and bigotry.  Methodism as a movement threatened to be a ‘new’ partisan group that could well threaten the peace.  Part of that fear was the fact that Wesley himself had a tremendous disregard for parish boundaries.  “The world is my parish,” Wesley famously said.  Yet that attitude did not set well with the established Christian churches who saw their parish as a fixed area of turf on which Wesley was often trespassing.  His use of lay pastors (persons not ordained as clergy) was also disturbing in that it threatened to overturn the hierarchical order of church structure the country was so very used to.

Methodist were actually the ones who were seen as the bigots in the sense that they were viewed as ‘irrational’ or ‘excessive’ in their movement.  They were a partisan group of zealous preachers and people.  Wesley could have well taken the movement in that direction, abandoning concern for the precepts and traditions of other denominations across England and claimed to be the “one true faith.”  However, Wesley took the opposite approach and studiously avoided taking such a stance.  To make that point he took the text from Mark 9 to argue that valid ministry should be measured by the fruits of its activity rather than its form (style). He also argued that those of more established traditions might be grateful for the works of the Methodists and that, in turn, Methodists should renounce all bigotry towards those who were not Methodists – even those who might not be Christian.  What he sought to do was to provide a positive plea for a carefully considered religious pluralism in theology and practice or, in other words, an open mind when it comes to the works of God in ourselves and others.

Wesley did not want to be viewed by other Christians as the founder of a zealous bunch of bigots.  Nor did Wesley wish Methodists to feel themselves to be superior to others.  In this sermon, Wesley sought to stress the fact that we all have to learn to work together for the greater good which is the establishment of the Kingdom of God.

- Pastor Charles

No comments:

Post a Comment