Reclaiming the Heart of the Wesleyan Way #4 ©

Methodism at Conference

Sitting on a shelf above my computer is a little ticket which reads:  “Methodist Episcopal Church, Founded A. D. 1784, Quarterly Ticket.”  The following quote from Romans 8:16 is printed on the face: “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.”  It is a primal reminder that Methodism began as a movement of the heart and head for the Lord.  It lived in the disciples of “methodical” faithfulness.  Central to such discipline was the original class meeting.  Out of coming together in the class meeting to “watch over one another in love,” Methodists were naturally led to gather together in Conference.  It is here, in Conference, that The Methodist Church as an institution was shaped and formed. John Wesley described the first conference of Methodists this way:  “In June, 1744, I desired my brother and a few other clergymen to meet me in London, to consider how we should proceed to save our own souls and those that heard us.  After some time, I invited lay preachers that were in the house to meet with us.  We conferred for several days, and were much comforted and strengthened thereby”  (Albert C. Outler, John Wesley, p.134). The agenda for the first conference was straight forward.  They wrestled with:
  1. What to teach
  2. How to teach
  3. What to do; that is, “how to regulate our doctrine, discipline, and practice.”
Since that day, gathering in Conference together has been the governing center of the Wesleyan Way for Methodists. To this day I am convinced that Annual Conference at our best is when we gather to worship, learn, and celebrate.  If you compare my list to Mr. Wesley’s they have considerable overlap.  In worshipping and learning we are exploring together “what to teach, how to teach, and what to do.”  This is a Methodist Annual Conference at its greatest. We were blessed this year by wonderful hosting from First United Methodist Church of Mansfield, Texas.  The music and worship transported us to another state of being.  Tuesday’s ordination service was a tremendous celebration as we greeted a large class of those were commissioned and those who were ordained.  Dr. Kevin Watson, Assistant Professor of Wesleyan and Methodist Studies at Candler School of Theology, led us in deep learning that called on “reclaiming a forgotten and essential small group experience” (The Class Meeting).  Most of all God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit showed up in marvelous and wonderful ways. Over the next few blogs I will be sharing the content of my Episcopal Address which was delivered Monday morning, June 12.  It is entitled “A Time for Courage.”