Wesley on “Being a Christian First”

John Wesley was the founder of the Methodist church.  He never meant to found a separate movement, and until his dying day he insured that Methodism remained only a movement within the Anglican church.  Nevertheless, the movement continued to move and developed its own organization and ordination.  

Timothy Tennant is the President of Asbury Theological Seminary.  In a recent blog post he reflected on how John Wesley models how Christians of all stripes must learn to reflect on the whole Christian tradition, and not focus myopically on their little branch.  He said,

John Wesley models for us the power of learning from other Christian movements.  He was a great student of the Reformation.  He was a student of Puritanism.  He was a student of pietism.  He was a student of Eastern Orthodoxy.  He was a student of the Patristics.  Over the course of his writings he criticizes all of these movements, times and writers.  But the “people called Methodist” also learned to glean the best from all these movements.   The Methodist emphasis on experience (fourth plank of the quadrilateral) is clearly drawn from the German pietists.  The Methodist emphasis on prevenient grace is drawn from the early Greek fathers of the church.  Wesley’s emphasis on salvation by faith alone resonates fully with the Reformation, even while Wesley embraced so much of the “catholic” tradition.  What a great model for us today.  We are Christians first before we are Methodists or Baptists or Pentecostals.  We must be good students of the whole movement, always learning, always listening and always reflecting. 

Sounds just right to me.  

What do you think?  What have you learned from other traditions, and where have you allowed other traditions to influence or challenge your thinking?  If you cannot think of an example, is that the result of a conscious decision, or might it reflect an isolated perspective?  


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