Sunday, November 2, 2014
“A man of one book, a student of many.” ― John Wesley
Why I am sort of like the founder of Methodism. From the quote above, I got the name of the One Book Foundation which a man named Gordon Allison and I founded back in 2003. It was also apt because I have advanced degrees in literature and have always read voraciously. Now, how are this man from the 18th century and me here in Tanzania similar? John Wesley is the founder of the Methodist Church which dates back to 1784 in America and the Methodist Movement within the Anglican Church which dates back to 1738 or so. John Wesley was ordained an Anglican priest in 1728 and stayed within the Anglican Church all his life but founded the movement that later became the Methodist Church in England. When the Revolutionary War ended in 1783, all of the Anglican priests in the colonies had fled back to England. Wesley pleaded with the Bishop of London to send some back because the church members in the U.S. were threatening to run their churches themselves if no one was sent. The Bishop refused, so Wesley ordained (with no authority other than his own) Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury and sent them to the U.S. to be General Superintendents of the church there. On the voyage over, they decided to declare themselves as bishops (which angered Wesley but he could do nothing to stop it), and in December of 1784, the Methodist Church was founded in America. What is ironic about all this is that Wesley himself had traveled to the Colonies in 1735 (almost fifty years earlier) as a missionary to convert the Indians in Georgia. Not only did he fail to convert a single Indian, his refusal to give communion to a woman he had loved but who married another man resulted in a warrant for his arrest being ordered and his fleeing America to return to England. On the journey back he wrote, “ It is now two years and almost four months since I left my native country in order to teach the Georgian Indians the nature of Christianity. But what have I learned myself in the meantime was (what I the least of all suspected) that I, who went to America to convert others, was never myself converted to God.” Wesley returned to England in February of 1738 and a few months later was still worrying that he had no faith, even though he had been a priest for ten years at this point. He went to a chapel at Aldersgate, and while someone was reading from Martin Luther's Preface to the Epistle to the Romans, he felt that his heart was "strangely warmed." He describes it as: “I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.” John Wesley became a true Christian ten years after being ordained a priest and just a few months after returning from a failed missionary journey to the U.S. Sometimes, God acts in mysterious ways to us. There are roughly 75 million Methodists in the world today, and there are Methodist Churches in almost every country in the world. All of this from a man who didn’t want to start anything new, just wanted to make the Anglican Church services more meaningful, and who didn’t himself become a Christian until ten years after becoming a priest and after failing as a missionary. I guess I am sort of following in his footsteps (except for the missionary part). I had been a pastor for four years before I became a Christian, and am serving as a missionary not because the United Methodist Church wanted me as a missionary but rather because I became one on my own. Karen, John, and I are officially (within the United Methodist Church) Individual Volunteer Missionaries having received three days of training and the blessings of the General Board of Global Mission in 2005. We receive no money or any other support from the denomination, but here we are, doing what God called us to do. We can do no other as we try to live up to the quote in the picture at the right. Who knew?