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The other day, one of my readers, H E, commented on my post about the latest Gallup poll showing a severe decline in religious affiliation in the United States, which is down to an all-time low of 47%.

H E’s observations are worthy of a guest post (emphases mine):

The news reports in your post mention how people have turned their backs on organized religion. I think a more important story is how organized religion has turned its back on its parishioners.

I can speak only for what I witness in the US. The mainline denominations have moved away from preaching God and the Bible to preaching political activism and pop-psychology. Observers are puzzled by the decreasing number of people who attend church services. This is no surprise to me. Why should someone go to church to listen to a second-rate political stump-speech for the latest left-wing cause when he could hear the same thing by turning on his television at home and watch the evening news?

A few months ago, I drove through a nearby city and I passed a church which had an electronic sign in front with a scrolling message. The message said the following:

We love you
So we are closed

I was so shocked by this message that I stopped my car and took pictures of the sign and its message. Last Spring, our governor ordered churches to close, but he lifted this restriction after a few months and churches may now hold services, but with limited capacity. This particular church decided to remain closed, as a “service” to its parishioners.

The church was a Methodist church. I recall reading about the Wesleys and the early days of their ministry and how they would travel from city to city and ask permission to preach in the local church. If they were refused permission to preach in the church, they weren’t deterred. They would look for a large open field nearby and preach there.

I wonder what they would think if they knew their spiritual descendants thought so little of God’s Word that they suspended preaching as a service to their parishioners.

Another reader of mine, CMinTN replied:

Very good points. This is how I see things as well. I am 45 and my wife is 35. She came from a devout Catholic family while I come from a Methodist family on my mother’s side. We were very active at Church until the covid. Now, there is no choir, mandantory distancing, must make an appt. to attend. Very few people are going to our Church anymore and the bishop and conference seem to want to stay locked down out of a combination of fear and social justice virtue signaling. We still keep the faith though

One day, misguided clergy will have to answer to the Lord, in person. One wonders how they will spin their answers.

My thanks to H E for another excellent commentary. H E has also written about coronavirus through the lens of history, the lack of support for John MacArthur’s court battle and today’s Democrats.

My prayers go to the victims, friends and families in the horrific attacks that took place in Sri Lanka on Easter, April 21, 2019.

In my archive of copious bookmarks, I ran across another attack on Sri Lankan churches at Easter — in 2009.

The article from ten years ago states that churches were already a frequent target around Easter in the island nation.

2009 attacks

There used to be a news service called Compass Direct, which reported on Christians being persecuted for their faith. Archives can be found on Eurasia Review and the Christian Post.

Thanks to Free Republic, I still have a Compass Direct article from 2009 concerning Easter weekend in Sri Lanka. At the time, Buddhist extremists were targeting Methodist churches. Emphases mine below:

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, April 16 (Compass Direct News) – Buddhist mobs attacked several churches in Sri Lanka last week, threatening to kill a pastor in the southern province of Hambanthota and ransacking a 150-year-old Methodist church building in the capital.

On April 8, four Buddhist extremists approached the home of pastor Pradeep Kumara in Weeraketiya, Hambanthota district, calling for him to come out and threatening to kill him. The pastor said his wife, at home alone with their two children, phoned him immediately but by the time he returned, the men had left.

Half an hour later, Kumar said, the leader of the group phoned him and again threatened to kill him if he did not leave the village by the following morning. Later that night the group leader returned to the house and ordered the pastor to come out, shouting, “I didn’t bring my gun tonight because if I had it with me, I would use it!”

“My children were frightened,” Kumara said. “I tried to reason with him to go away, but he continued to bang on the door and threaten us.”

Police soon arrived on the scene and arrested the instigator but released him the following day.

Subsequently the attacker gathered Buddhist monks and other villagers together and asked them to sign a petition against the church, Kumar said. Protestors then warned the pastor’s landlord that they would destroy the house if he did not evict the pastor’s family by the end of the month.

Fearing violence, Kumara said he canceled Good Friday and Easter Sunday services and evacuated his children to a safer location.

The attack on the 150-year-old Pepiliyana Methodist Church in Colombo took place on Palm Sunday that year — April 5. That day, the congregation held a Passiontide procession:

The gang entered through the back door and windows of the building late that night; witnesses said they saw them load goods into a white van parked outside the church early the next morning.

“They removed everything, including valuable musical instruments, a computer, Bibles, hymn books and all the church records,” said the Rev. Surangika Fernando.

The church had no known enemies and enjoyed a good relationship with other villagers, Rev. Fernando said, adding that the break-in appeared to be more than a simple robbery.

“My desk was completely cleaned out,” he said. “They took important documents with details of parishioners such as baptism and marriage records, which are of no value to thieves. They even took what was in my wastepaper basket.”

Local police agreed that robbery was an unlikely motive and that opponents from outside the area were the most likely culprits. Investigations were continuing at press time.

A third attack took place in Vakarai, eastern Batticaloa district. Anti-Christian mobs intimidated worshippers attending Holy Week services. There was no mention of the church’s denomination, but the pastor made a statement:

“What can we do?” pastor Kanagalingam Muraleetharan told Compass. “The authorities and the police say we have the right to worship, but the reality is that people are threatened.”

The article says that anti-Christian attacks in Sri Lanka began a few years before:

many of them instigated by Buddhist monks who decry the growth of Christianity in the country.

In 2009, legislation designed to restrict ‘forcible’ religious conversion was being discussed in the Sri Lankan Parliament:

Human rights organizations and Christian groups have criticized the vague terminology of the legislation that, if passed, may invite misapplication against religious activity.

The article concluded:

According to the most recent government census, Protestant Christians number less than 1 percent of the total population in Sri Lanka, but they remain the primary target of religiously motivated violence and intimidation.

The bill to restrict ‘forcible’ religious conversion still has not become legislation, at least as of 2018. Christian groups made their objections known in 2009. You can read more about various religious cases that have come before Sri Lankan courts in recent years.

2019 attacks

Ten years later, the 2019 Easter attacks were on Catholic churches. Hotels hosting Easter breakfasts were also targeted.

The Christian Post had two harrowing reports.

The first is an overview, ‘Explosions in Sri Lanka target churches, at least 185 dead on Easter Sunday’:

Three churches were attacked in Sri Lanka, with explosions killing dozens of Christians as they celebrated Easter Sunday morning.

Three hotels — Shangri-La Colombo, Kingsbury Hotel in Colombo and the Cinnamon Grand Colombo — that were holding Easter breakfast buffets were also targeted in the attacks. Two additional explosions were confirmed by media in Dehiwela and Dematagoda areas.

Police and hospital sources say at least 185 people, including children, have been killed and 469 have been injured in the attacks.

At least 81 people are reported to have died at St. Sebastian’s church in Negombo. St. Sebastian’s posted photos of the carnage to its Facebook page showing distressed and injured worshipers and extensive damage to the building. Officials from the church reported that there were 500 people attending Mass at the time of the explosion.

Local media reports say at least 27 people died at Zion Church in Batticaloa in Eastern Province; 24 people were killed at St. Anthony’s Church in Kochchikade.

The first of the explosions was reported to have occurred around 8:30 a.m.

The article says that Catholic churches in and around the capital, Colombo, cancelled all Easter services that evening. All state schools were closed on Monday and Tuesday.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe:

condemned the violence and has ordered the military and police to launch an urgent investigation into the attacks.

“I strongly condemn the cowardly attacks on our people today. I call upon all Sri Lankans during this tragic time to remain united and strong,” he said in a tweet. “Please avoid propagating unverified reports and speculation. The government is taking immediate steps to contain this situation.”

As of Easter Sunday evening:

No group has come forward yet to claim responsibility. Police found a suspicious package in Colombo as well as explosive materials in a house near the Dematagoda blast site.

The second article concerns what happened at Zion Church in Batticaloa, Eastern Province: ‘Minutes after Sunday School class said they would die for Christ, half killed in Sri Lankan bomb blast’.

This must have been unimaginably horrifying:

“Today was an Easter Sunday school at the church and we asked the children how many of you willing to die for Christ? Everyone raised their hands. Minutes later, they came down to the main service and the blast happened. Half of the children died on the spot,” Caroline Mahendran, a Sunday School teacher at the church said according to Israeli public figure Hananya Naftali.

One of the priests had an encounter with a suicide bomber, who was not Buddhist:

Fr. Kumaran, a pastor at Zion Church, told Times of India that he witnessed the death of many of the children shortly after arguing with the suicide bombing suspect he did not recognize.

It was about 8:30 a.m., Kumaran said, when he saw the suicide bombing suspect carrying a bag at the steps of the church already filled with worshipers.

“I asked him who he was and his name. He said he was a Muslim and wanted to visit the church,” Kumaran said.

Kumaran said he was ushered away from the encounter by other priests because it was getting late for Mass. As he walked toward the podium he heard an explosion. When he turned around, the blood of his congregants, including many from the children’s Sunday School class, was splattered on the church walls.

Twenty-eight people were killed, among them 12 children. Two are critical,” a distressed Kumaran told the publication.

A taxi driver lost his only child, a son, who had been part of Sunday School class that morning. The driver’s elder sister also died in the blast. His two other sisters and a brother-in-law were in critical condition as of Monday.

The driver also lost his friend in the explosion:

Ramesh, who had also questioned the suicide bombing suspect and “pushed the man outside the church door,” also died too as the man blew himself up shortly after that.

One priest just missed being killed. This was one time when being late had an advantage:

Fr. Kanapathipillai Deivendiran, who was scheduled to deliver the Easter Day message at Zion Church on Sunday, told The Hindu had he not been running late, he may have been killed too.

“I went a little after 9 a.m. I was a few minutes late or you will not be speaking to me now,” he said. “I didn’t know that there had been a blast a few minutes before that, I just walked into the premises. As I entered, I was shaken by the sight — walls had collapsed completely, there were bodies all over the floor,” he said.

The article gave additional statistics:

the death toll from the bomb attacks on several churches and luxury hotels in the island nation, where Christians make up less than 10 percent of the 20 million population, rose to nearly 300 Monday with at least 500 wounded.

By Monday, April 22, news emerged that Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said that Sri Lanka’s intelligence services had received a warning ten days beforehand. They had not taken any action — and they had not informed him. From The Epoch Times:

Wickremesinghe told reporters on April 21 that the warning to Sri Lanka’s police hadn’t been acted upon and that the information hadn’t been passed to him.

The following tweet is from an MP and government minister:

The responses to his tweet were scathing, including these:

The Epoch Times says the alert reads, in part:

A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ (National Thowheeth Jama’ath) is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo.

The NTJ is a radical Islamic group in Sri Lanka.

Out of 24 persons arrested, 13 suspects were in custody when The Epoch Times filed their report:

While no one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, Sri Lanka’s defense minister, Ruwan Wijewardene, identified the culprits as religious extremists. He said that although they have been identified, their names won’t be released to the public for security reasons.

Wijewardene confirmed that suicide bombers have been found to be responsible for most of the bombings on April 21, and that a single group is believed to be responsible for the coordinated explosions that all went off around 9 a.m. local time.

Interestingly enough, this was:

the first major attack in the country since the end of the Sri Lankan civil war between the Marxist Tamil Tigers organization and the government in 2009.

The Tamil Tigers were ‘innovators’ in suicide bombs.

Someone from St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, north of the capital, recalled the horrors of the country’s civil war:

We are all in shock. We don’t want the country to go back to that dark past where we had to live in fear of suicide blasts all the time.

Although Sri Lankans were the majority population who were victims, there were also tourists from all over the world: Europe, the United States, Turkey and China.

A reformist imam, who divides his time between Washington DC and Australia, tweeted:

On Tuesday, the imam disagreed with Sri Lankan findings:

This news, which also emerged on Tuesday, did not escape his notice:

He responded:

He posted something that got him in hot water with Zuckerberg’s crew:

This is the imam’s view of suicide bombing:

He also praised the response from the United States and criticised CNN:

He isn’t too keen on Democrats, either:

He also had a go at Al Jazeera:

He also tells us this about Sri Lanka. Interesting:

In closing, he offers good advice:

I was going to go into the ‘Easter worshippers’ controversy, but the reformist imam seemed more worthwhile.

More on Notre-Dame starting tomorrow.

slipperyMany thanks to loyal reader Llew, who sent in the link to the Spiked article cited below!

The UK Parliament will be debating assisted dying in September 2015. Over the past few years, several high profile cases have come to light of older Britons who have ended it all with professional help. Sometimes this was because of terminal illness, however, not always.

Secularist supporters

In August 2015, university lecturer and author Kevin Yuill wrote an article for Spiked — the UK’s libertarian, secular humanist/atheist site — about the curious case of retired nurse Gill Pharaoh.

Pharaoh was 75 and relatively healthy when she died on July 21, 2015, at the LifeCircle clinic in Switzerland. Yuill says she was ‘healthy’, but her final entry states that, in recent years, she’d suffered an attack of shingles, ongoing tinnitus and joint pain. A lot of other older people have these ailments, too. But she wanted to end her life her way.

Yuill cites Pharaoh’s blog. She wanted

people to remember me as I now am – as a bit worn around the edges but still recognisably me!

But how was she to know what she would be like in five or even 15 years’ time? Only the Almighty knows that. Maybe she would have continued to age gracefully apart from physical complaints which are entirely normal, albeit annoying, aspects of growing old.

Pharaoh had no faith. She objected to British law with regard to assisted death because it

originates from a god in whom we have no belief.

Pharaoh blogged about her decision-making regarding ending her own life. She also gave a interview to The Times (Murdoch paper, ergo paywall), summarised in the Daily Mail. Yuill says she was searching for validation and recognition. He introduces his article with a précis of Christopher Lasch‘s excellent 1979 book, The Culture of Narcissism. If you can buy or borrow a copy, it will be more relevant today than when it was written. I read it in the early 1980s in the US and was shocked. Needless to say, my work colleagues told me the man was talking out of his hat. Yet, how correct he was. His book warns about attention-seeking behaviour which demands that everyone else acquiesces to one’s wishes. What Pharaoh wanted was a change in the law.

The Daily Mail article quotes Pharaoh as saying that her mother had dementia and that, if she could have done so, she would have helped her mother die. My family members and I have had parents with dementia and Alzheimer’s, for shorter and longer periods of time. None of us, even the agnostics, ever thought of putting them to death.

Another high profile case in Britain was that of 68-year old Bob Cole, who ended his days at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland on August 14, 2015. Cole’s wife Ann Hall, who suffered from progressive supranuclear palsy, had died at the clinic 18 months before.

Cole had mesothelioma, a lung cancer, which left him doubled over — in his words, ‘crouching like an animal’. He, too, wanted a change in the law. The Telegraph reports (aforementioned link) that he told The Sun (another Murdoch paper, like The Times) in an interview:

I should be able to die with dignity in my own country, in my own bed. The law needs to change. How do you change the law? People have got to take a stand. So that’s what I’m doing today. 

The politicians need to have the guts to change this law. Just bite the bullet. Accept that the British public want this change. If they don’t it will be forced upon them because the public feeling is overwhelming.

Is ‘public feeling overwhelming’ on this issue?

In any event, there are British organisations promoting legalised assisted death. Dignity in Dying were informed once Bob Cole died. Gill Pharaoh had been a member of the Society for Old Age Rational Suicide (SOARS). What role do such groups play in encouraging personal publicity for past and future high profile assisted suicides?

Yuill has a point when he says that people who want to terminate their lives through assisted dying should do so quietly with no publicity.

Judeo-Christian supporters

Only days after my reader Llew forwarded me the Spiked article, I read an article in The Telegraph which left me speechless.

‘”There is nothing sacred about suffering”, insist faith leaders in assisted dying call’ shocked me.

Among these faith leaders are

Rabbi Danny Rich, chief executive of Liberal Judaism and Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain a leading figure in Reform Judaism …

That is bad enough. However, there are Christians, too: Baroness Richardson, first female President of Methodist Conference, along with prominent Anglicans such as Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, The Bishop of Buckingham, the Rt Rev Alan Wilson, and ‘a handful of Anglican clerics’.

It should be noted that the Church of England officially opposes euthanasia.

These men and women, Jews and Christians, are opposing the government — and God.

In a letter to The Telegraph, the article says, they wrote that:

far from being a sin, helping terminally ill people to commit suicide should be viewed simply as enabling them to “gracefully hand back” their lives to God.

There is, they insist “nothing sacred” about suffering in itself and no one should be “obliged to endure it”, they insist.

Wow. Just. Wow.

How can one ‘gracefully hand back’ one’s life to God by terminating it? He gave us life. Only He can legitimately end it. It is not up to us to decide when that moment is. Not so long ago, this sort of attitude would have been rightly condemned.

Well, Rob Marris (Labour) will have his Assisted Dying Bill debated within the next few weeks. May life-respecting and God-fearing heads prevail.

Why the law should stay as it is

The Telegraph article included the following rationale for maintaining the status quo:

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, co-chair of the Campaign group Living and Dying Well, which opposes a change, said: “The law exists to protect us, all of us and especially the most vulnerable among us, from harm – including self-harm.

“People who are terminally ill are especially vulnerable. As a society we go to considerable lengths to discourage and prevent suicide.

“Licensing assisted suicide for terminally ill people would fly in the face of that.”

I couldn’t agree more. In 2014, I pointed out that children’s euthanasia was already legal in the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium. There’s no minimum age in Belgium and in the other two countries a child only needs to be 12 years old before he can request his own death. These kids could be disabled, suffering from terminal illness or have a curable condition such as anorexia. This is a very slippery slope.

Returning to the Spiked article, Kevin Yuill pointed out that, on the other end of the age spectrum, a Dutch citizen’s initiative Uit Vrije Wil (Out of Free Will) received 117,000 letters of support in 2010 for a relaxation of the Netherlands’ law which would allow persons over the age of 70 to end their own lives just because they were tired of living!

And this isn’t a European phenomenon, either. My aforementioned post from 2014 gave these statistics:

In 2005, Gallup’s poll on the subject found that a majority of Christians in the United States support euthanasia: 75% of Catholics, 70% of Protestants and 61% of Evangelicals. A majority of Catholics and Protestants also support physician-assisted suicide, PAS — 60% and 52%, respectively — although only 32% of Evangelicals do.

It’s pretty clear that the rise of secularism in the 1960s, possibly before, brought about legalised control over life and death, beginning with abortion. A person can be his own god, making decisions only the Almighty rightly has control over.

Does God pardon Christian suicide?

John MacArthur’s Grace to You (GTY) ministry team wrote a worthwhile article, ‘Can one who commits suicide be saved?’

It’s short and well worth reading. On the one hand, as Christians are saved, in principle, suicide

can be forgiven like any other sin.

HOWEVER … on the other hand …

GTY say that this would be (emphases mine) only 

in a time of extreme weakness.

They explain:

… we question the faith of those who take their lives or even consider it seriously–it may well be that they have never been truly saved.

In which case, there is the issue of the second death at Judgement Day leading to eternal condemnation.

Their article cites Scripture saying that a true Christian has hope and purpose in his life. As such, suicide would not enter into the equation. And:

Furthermore, one who repeatedly considers suicide is practicing sin in his heart (Proverbs 23:7), and 1 John 3:9 says that “no one who is born of God practices sin.” And finally, suicide is often the ultimate evidence of a heart that rejects the lordship of Jesus Christ, because it is an act where the sinner is taking his life into his own hands completely rather than submitting to God’s will for it. Surely many of those who have taken their lives will hear those horrifying words from the Lord Jesus at the judgment–“I never knew you; Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23).

The article concludes:

So though it may be possible for a true believer to commit suicide, we believe that is an unusual occurrence. Someone considering suicide should be challenged above all to examine himself to see whether he is in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Bible verses against suicide and assisted death

There are many web pages with notional Scripture verses against suicide which includes assisted death. However, most of the verses are not very helpful.

The best page I have found is Adrian Warnock’s on Patheos.

Warnock is a physician and author. He also serves as part of the leadership team at Jubilee Church London.

Any Christian who is considering ending his own life through assisted dying would do well to read Warnock’s selection of Bible verses, meditate on them then pray fervently and frequently.

Here are the first three (emphases in the original):

This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it (John 11:4).

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:10).

For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. (2 Corinthians 1:8–10.)

His page has several more.


Christians who listen to their clergy and leaders who advocate for euthanasia or assisted dying are in danger of dying an everlasting death. As they are making a considered, premeditated decision, they are guilty of murdering themselves.

Clergy advocating assisted dying would do well to examine their hearts humbly before the Lord, repent and publicly say they were wrong. They could be sending Christians — and themselves — to an eternal death. Theirs is such an irresponsible and reprehensible position to adopt.

No one knows why the Lord sends us debilitating and lengthy illnesses. However, He works everything to His purpose. In these situations, Christians must have hope, faith and pray whilst seeking palliative relief.

The basic problem is — and this seems to include certain clergymen, too — lack of faith, a love of self and pride in one’s own abilities and decision-making. I’ll return to these themes soon in another context.

j03138821The frequency of Holy Communion in Protestant churches has increased in the last quarter of the 20th century.

Many Protestants have deplored the sparsely scheduled Holy Communion service, which, until recently, had been monthly or perhaps twice-monthly.

However, historically, everything is relative. At the time of the Reformation, most Catholics received the Sacrament once a year at Easter.

Therefore, even a Protestant reception once a month would have been 12 times more frequent than a Catholic one in that era.

The words ‘frequency’ and ‘regular’ have made many Protestants over the age of 50 forget the traditions that we grew up with. I have an Episcopalian friend in the United States who says that every Sunday service has long been one of Holy Communion. Yet, we were both longtime members of an urban Episcopal church which had such a service only once a month. The other Sundays featured Morning Prayer. Granted, as that congregation was a large one, the 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. services were those of Holy Communion. It seems an appropriate middle way.

Lutherans are receiving Communion much more often, although when I was growing up, my neighbours’ church — along with all the other many Lutheran churches in our town — had such services only once a month. This has been blamed on a shortage of clergy in the 19th century; the infrequency became the norm (see item 7, page 3 of this PDF).

Yet, almost no Protestant church held Communion services more than once a month. To cite another example, Methodists have had varied attitudes towards the Sacrament. As with Lutherans, they, too, historically had fewer ordained clergy and, as such, fewer Communion services. John Wesley advised them to go to the local Anglican church for Communion. Our local Methodist church has monthly Communion; the celebrant is either the pastor, in charge of three other churches in his Circuit, or one of the Anglican priests.

This paper from the Methodist Church in Great Britain describes the history of Communion frequency and what Methodists think of the Sacrament (see page 2 of this PDF, emphases mine):

2 The early Methodists were expected to practise constant and frequent Communion, either at the parish church (although in the first century of Methodism, 1740 to 1840, it was not the custom to celebrate Communion every week in most parish churches) or in their own chapels, receiving Communion either from Church of England clergy or, later, from their own itinerant preachers (ministers). However, in each of the branches of Methodism before the 1932 union, the number of Sunday congregations far exceeded the number of such ministers. This was usually the main reason why the Lord’s Supper continued to be celebrated no more than monthly in the town chapels and usually only quarterly in the villages.

3 Today Methodists vary hugely in their attachment to Holy Communion. For some it is at the very heart of their discipleship, for some it is one treasured means of grace among others and for a small minority of Methodists Communion is not perceived as either desirable or necessary.

Although many today will disagree, there is also a danger in receiving Communion unworthily: not being in the right frame of mind, being unbaptised or living a dissolute life.

In the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, the 1662 Holy Communion liturgy has a very long prayer in which the priest exhorts members of the congregation to determine whether they are worthy to receive the Sacrament. Although no longer read in BCP services, it is based on Articles 28 and 29 of the 39 Articles of Religion:

The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another, but rather it is a Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ’s death: insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith, receive the same, the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ; and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ.  (Article 28)

The Wicked, and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth (as Saint Augustine saith) the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ; yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ: but rather, to their condemnation, do eat and drink the sign or Sacrament of so great a thing.  (Article 29)

Decades earlier, Martin Luther wrote:

It is useful and good that arrogant, godless blasphemers be so cut off that they should not join in partaking of the holy sacrament, for one should not ‘throw to the dogs what is holy, nor pearls before swine’ [Matt. 7:6] … It is very good and useful that our possession should not be scattered among the unworthy but kept holy and pure among the humble alone. (“That These Words of Christ, ‘This is My Body,’ etc., Still Stand Firm Against the Fanatics,” Luther’s Works, Vol. 37 [Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1961], pp. 131-32)

Some of the Reformed (Calvinist) churches required ministers to interview their congregants prior to the Holy Communion service. Worthy Huguenots received a méreau — token — to present at church that particular Sunday. Other Reformed churches had the same tradition in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries:

Participation among communion among 18th Reformed protestants was slim as well. Usually, in the days leading up to Communion, prospective communicants had to go through an inquiry with a minister into the state of his soul before being admitted. They called it fencing the table. If the man passed the inquiry, he received a Communion token. Then on Communion Sunday, he presented the token to receive Communion. At a Presyberian museum in Montreat, NC they have a collection of tokens. Someone named Tenney I think wrote a book about them and included photos.

This provides evidence as to why Holy Communion services and reception of the Sacrament were infrequent.

Catholics themselves only began frequently approaching the altar for Eucharist in the early part of the 20th century:

Lack of frequency in reception of communion was not unusual in that period. In 1905, Pope Pius X, in Sacra Tridentina Synodus,[20] exhorted Catholics to receive communion frequently, even daily.

The ‘regular’ and ‘frequent’ ‘celebration’ of Holy Communion has led to another issue of improper reception of the Sacrament: universal Communion, available in most mainstream Protestant denominations — Anglican, Episcopalian, ELCA (Lutheran) and PCUSA (Presbyterian) among them.

A few years ago, I made a case against universal Communion from Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and Reformed perspectives. These historically have stemmed from St Paul’s warning to the Corinthians about improper reception of the Sacrament (1 Corinthians 11:27-30):

27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.[g]

Therefore, receiving Holy Communion should be an awesome and fearsome occasion, done with a reverent mind and humble heart.

It is no accident that the faithful have been receiving the Sacrament infrequently until recent decades.

May we be mindful and prayerful when we approach the Lord’s table.

When is ‘Wesleyan’ synonymous with John Wesley?

Anyone could be forgiven for thinking that Wesleyan University in Connecticut is a Methodist institution of higher learning.

In recent weeks, two news items about the university have hit the headlines (H/T: Stand Firm).

On February 23, 2015, ten students and two visitors were hospitalised after overdosing on a pure crystalline form of MDMA known as Molly. At the time the Hartford Courant reported the story, what happened was still a mystery. One student told the paper:

I don’t understand why so many people were doing Molly that night, at one time.

There’s a lot of alcohol, there’s a lot of weed on campus. I’m not necessarily in contact with anything harder than that.

Some of the students had attended an on-campus rave at the social house of the university’s Eclectic Society.

Wesleyan’s president Michael S Roth pleaded with students not to use illegal drugs. Quite rightly, he said:

One mistake can change your life forever. If you have friends who are thinking about trying these kinds of drugs, remind them of the dangers … These drugs can be altered in ways that make them all the more toxic. Take a stand to protect your fellow students.

Yet, Roth was less sensible in his sanction of one of four male fraternities, Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE). The university’s administration told them they would all have to admit women or be closed down with the frat house left empty. All Wesleyan students must live on campus.

It is unclear what the other four frat houses have done, but DKE claim that they were given three years to admit women until the university accelerated the transition. The Daily Caller tells us they have decided to file a lawsuit.

The irony is that Wesleyan has specialised, identity-specific housing, so why not allow fraternities the same politics? The Daily Caller reports:

For instance, the Women of Color house caters to non-white females, the Womanist House is for students “committed to the issues of Wesleyan women,” and the Turath House exists for Arab, Middle Eastern, and Muslim students.

Most spectacular of all is the Open House, which defines itself as (we are not making this up) “a safe space for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, Flexual, Asexual, Genderf**k [spelled out in full on the university’s website], Polyamourous [sic], Bondage/Disciple, Dominance/Submission, Sadism/Masochism (LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM) communities and for people of sexually or gender dissident communities.”

But we can rest easily, because Wesleyan University fully commits its students to Community Standards. We should all be happy (not) to see that, whatever else goes on there — crystalline MDMA, cannabis or sexual violence in a safe house — this policy appears in bold on their website:

Smoking Policy

In order to limit exposure to environmental smoke, the University prohibits smoking in all residence halls, program houses, apartments, and Wood frame houses, as well as within 25 feet of university residences.

Why does the ‘w’ in ‘wood’ need uppercase?

As for the university’s name, many readers are under the impression that once Wesleyan always Wesleyan, that is, Methodist.

And we would be wrong, because the website tells us (emphasis mine):

Ties to the Methodist church, which were particularly strong in the earliest years and from the 1870s to the 1890s, waned in the 20th century. Wesleyan became fully independent of the Methodist church in 1937.

Goodness me — 1937.

Today, Wesleyan University expresses pride in being

a New England liberal arts college that is far from traditional.

Isn’t that the truth!

Advice to parents — please read university websites in full before going on name alone.

Last week, the story about the Methodist minister in Telford, the Revd Patricia ‘PJ’ Jackson and her refusal to wear a red poppy for the upcoming Remembrance Day service she will lead made news here in England.

I found out about it thanks to fellow contributor Quiet_Man at Orphans of Liberty. He cited the Telegraph‘s article, which said that the ‘Rev PJ’ — as she likes to be known — believes it is her ‘democratic right’ not to wear a red poppy to commemmorate the soldiers who have died for our freedom.

The Telegraph reported:

She refused to give a reason for her decision but a spokesperson at the Telford circuit said it was because Rev Jackson is in favour of peace.

A church spokesman said: “Reverend Jackson is happy to wear a white poppy but doesn’t want to wear a red one because she feels it advocates war which is something she does not believe in.

Jackson is originally from the United States. My American readers can feel free to correct me in the comments on this one, but, as far as I know from my friends living there, veterans have not collected donations to the American Legion or VFW for 25 years or more. I remember donating and receiving a poppy every year. Sometimes they were light blue instead of red; a veteran told me that colour represented the Pacific Theater.

Therefore, it is unclear whether Jackson would have ever known about the tradition of the poppy and Armistice Day, or as we call it in Britain, Remembrance Day.

I wrote more about the story at Orphans of Liberty. It’s a long post with several points, so what follow are just a few.

One related to the wording on Jackson’s church website:

Although a website does not seem to exist for Hadley Methodist Church, there is one for the nearby Leegomery Methodist Church, the minister for which is one Revd P J Jackson.

It is standard for pastors to fashion their websites to focus primarily on Christianity. Best practice in this area includes a statement of faith and mention of denominational affiliation.

This is what the Leegomery Methodist Church proclaims on its About page (emphases in the original).

The Mission of the Church is to be a “Hug for the Community” through Worship, Prayer, and being loving and caring.

Leegomery Methodist Church was built in 1878, with the Sunday School/Community Room being added in 1953.   The Community Room was refurbished in 2010 and work was completed on the refurbishment of the Church in 2012.   All facilities, which include fully fitted kitchen and toilets, comply with the Disability Act, Health & Safety, Fire Regulations and are Eco Friendly.

The Friends committee organise an Annual Community Family Fun Day, Bingo Evenings, Social Activities, Concerts, Religious Festivals and much more throughout the year. See Forthcoming Events for full details.

All Leaders of our Children and Young People’s Groups are CRB checked and the Church has a Safeguarding Policy for Children, Young People and Vulnerable Adults.

Morning Worship is held every Sunday at 11am for which everyone is welcome.

A fun Sunday School for children & young people from 0 upwards also meets each week at 11am.  This is nothing like day school, those attending take part in games, crafts, listen to stories and have lots of fun.

Being a ‘Hug for the Community’ is not a doctrinal, or a particularly Christian, statement.

Even worse, we don’t even find out what time the Sunday church service is until we’ve got past a mention of the toilets, Bingo Evenings and CRB checks.

I wondered whether Jackson had arrived recently in England and didn’t really understand the place the poppy has in British hearts:

It just seems odd that anyone who has been here for a time, especially a clergyperson, would be so obstinate in wearing a white poppy — or none at all — if (s)he were about to lead a Remembrance Day service.

Any visitor or newcomer to these shores cannot miss the red poppies that men and women wear at this time of year, including nearly everyone appearing on television news broadcasts. It’s abundantly clear that Remembrance Day is — quite rightly — an important day to the British.

Of course, we cannot forget the spiritual state of seminaries these days:

They outdo The Guardian in their adoption of ‘peace and justice’ as well as identity politics. For them, Scripture is but a footnote and none of it is history but rather liberation allegory. I know someone relatively conservative who went through the system over 20 years ago, when female seminarians began holding church services with prayers addressed to ‘God, our Mother’. Even now, having served in churches for a few decades, she gets more radical by the year. It sounds as if Ms Jackson might have experienced something similar.

I concluded by saying I hoped the minister would change her mind after talking the issue over with local members of the Royal British Legion, councillors and congregants.

Jackson’s local paper in Telford, the Shrophsire Star, spoke to local people planning on participating in the Remembrance Day service:

David Moore, president of the Hadley and Leegomery Royal British Legion, said: “From the military members who attend the service, and there are a lot, we were very shocked.

“If someone decides they don’t want to wear a poppy, that is down to the individual, but if they are officiating a remembrance service, just for an hour, an hour and a half, it’s not going to cut anyone’s throat to wear one.”

Quite right.

UKFred, who kindly commented on the aforementioned post, is an Englishman and a Methodist. He also wrote about the Telford poppy controversy and had this to say about war:

… I can understand that the Rev PJ Jackson does not want to glorify war. Neither do I. It brings to a sudden end too many lives for questionable reasons, as in the Iraq ‘adventure’ for the glory of Tony Blair and George Bush.

We need to think about who causes wars. It is not the rank and file soldiers, sailors and airmen. It is the politicians. The rank and file servicemen are the ones who pay the price, in terms of lives and limbs, lost sight and lost mental faculties. Wearing a red poppy is a means of remembering and honouring those were killed and injured allowing politicians to make their quests for glory and a place in the history books. Serving one’s country in the armed services is an honourable profession and a dangerous one …

We all accept that we need clean water and a separation of the foul water in sewage from the water we drink, but not all of us will work to maintain the sewers and get our hands dirty. Sometimes we need a similar separation of the clean and the foul in world politics, and it is the military, the ordinary servicemen, who get their hands dirty to keep these two apart …

I’ll end with Quiet_Man’s observations on Orphans of Liberty:

… I do believe the idiot woman is misinformed as to the red poppy’s significance as it does not commemorate war, does not glorify war nor does it advocate militarism. It reminds us of sacrifice and those who fell as well as those who served. There is precious little glory in war as any conversation with soldiers, sailors or airmen will tell you. Nor does the horror of seeing your friends killed or maimed give them anything other than grief.

As for the white poppy, well it was used by the Women’s Cooperative back in 1933 as a symbol to end all wars, six years later the UK was fighting for its life agains the Nazis, there was the horror of the concentration camps and the systematic murder of foreign nationals on their own soil by the Einsatzgruppen der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD. The white poppy to me symbolises the peace at any price mindset of the hard of thinking aka the left who are happy to disarm civilisation, though no one else. These were the same people who wanted to ban the bomb (only for the UK) spied upon their own citizens and raved about the socialist paradises across the iron curtain and who still bitterly regret the people there throwing off the yoke of the communists.

The white poppy to me does not symbolise peace, but surrender, this is my view and one which I hold to …

I hope that, for those who are unfamiliar with it, this explains the meaning of the red poppy, discourages people from wearing a white one and calls all of us to pray this Monday, November 11, for the families of those who died whilst in service to their country, and us.

Let us also remember those who have returned from war injured, maimed and, possibly, forgotten. Too many are sleeping rough with no home and no job, through no fault of their own.

Continuing from yesterday’s post on the United Brethren churches, today’s will look at what happened to the Evangelical United Brethren (EUB), a denomination created in 1946 with the merger of the Evangelical Association and the ‘Liberal’ group of United Brethren churches.

It will also look at the subsequent merger of the EUB with the Methodist Church to create the United Methodist Church.

In 1979, David Oberlin wrote an informative paper on both called ‘Two Separate Unions Formed One United Church’. It is well worth reading in order to understand what can happen — good and bad — with church mergers.

Whilst much of it is a general history, it also focusses on what happened at the local level in Union County, Pennsylvania, which had Evangelical Association, United Brethren (‘Liberal’ branch) and Methodist churches.

This post summarises the main points of his paper.

The EUB merger, 1946

The first half of the 20th century saw a unifying mood among a sizeable minority of American Protestants.

In 1922, the United Evangelical Church and the Evangelical Association merged.

In 1939, the Methodist Episcopal, Methodist Episcopal South and Methodist Protestant churches merged to become the Methodist Church.

Given this unity, it was not startling to find that in 1946, the United Brethren Liberals merged with the Evangelical Church (or, as the United Brethren website states, Association) to create the Evangelical United Brethren Church (EUB).


– were originally German-speaking churches.

– combined pietism with Methodism.

– used itinerant preachers (circuit riders).

– had a similar organisational structure modelled on the early US government structure.

– were of a similar size.

Three important things resulted from the merger:

– First, preachers were required to have at least two years of college or university education. They were also strongly encouraged to attend seminary. Women were not allowed to become ministers although existing United Brethren (UB) female clergy were allowed to exercise their ecclesiastical functions.

– Second, the new EUB denomination pooled their former respective mission resources into The Board of Missions, helpful during a postwar era when money was tight and travel difficult.

– The EUB formed The Commission on Social Action which emphasised social justice within a moral framework.

Congregations were generally happy with the merger. Their polity was largely unaffected, and some church members wondered why the union of the two churches hadn’t occurred earlier. Shortly before the 1946 unification, those organising the merger sent pamphlets to local churches explaining what would and would not happen to individual congregations. Similarities between the two denominations was emphasised.

Moving towards merger with the Methodists

From their common origins in the 18th century, the Methodists and United Brethren leaders had a good rapport and similar theological outlook. John Wesley and Francis Asbury — Methodists — conferred with the United Brethren founders William Otterbein and Martin Boehm.

The two denominations sometimes shared the same church buildings. The Methodists preached in English and the United Brethren — called ‘German’ or ‘Dutch’ Methodists — held separate services in German.

Despite this cordial relationship, the two denominations could not agree on merging until 1956. In 1958, the first Joint Commission meeting took place in Cincinnati, Ohio.

By 1960, the Methodists decided to drop plans to merge with the Episcopal Church. Remember that the Wesley brothers were lifelong Anglicans. On a personal note, where I live in England, a few decades ago there were talks between an Anglican church and the local Methodist church with regard to a merger; it never happened, although the Anglican priest regularly conducts a Communion service at the Methodist church when their pastor is preaching at another of her churches.

Plans proceeded apace in the mid-1960s for a merger between the EUB and the Methodist Church at their respective conferences.

Trouble ahead

Concerns arose within the EUB because the Methodists were so much greater in number. There were fewer than 800,000 EUB members and 10 million Methodists.

A new demoninational name concerned church members. Some aspects of church administration, such as the terms of bishops, also had to be resolved. The greatest of these was the appointment of district superintendents. Methodist bishops appointed theirs whereas the EUB elected theirs.

David Oberlin says that, strangely, denominational theology never came up in the discussions. Yet, this would be the greatest stumbling block post-merger.

The United Methodist Church, 1968

On April 23, 1968, two bishops — one EUB and the other a Methodist — announced the merger of the two denominations. This meant 738,000 EUB members and 10,289,000 Methodists. The EUB members were outnumbered 14:1. However, a larger denomination was considered as a powerful missional tool. Size is everything.

There was a significant difference in proportion of those approving the merger. Nearly all the Methodists participating in the merger talks — 94.9% — approved the union, whereas only 78.7% of the EUB participants did.

Furthermore, there had to be an aggregate vote of agreement by each denomination. For the Methodists, this was 87% in favour. For the EUBs it was only 70%.

Until 1979, each facet of the United Methodist Church (UMC) had to ensure that a proportion of the decision makers at a central level were EUB. Ten years was thought to be enough time for everyone to consider themselves United Methodist.

One positive move was that black conferences were abolished and their clergy and representatives were given a full voice in UMC proceedings and decision making.

It should be said that not every EUB or Methodist congregation merged. Some went independent, particularly EUB congregations in the Pacific Northwest, formed in 1853 with the first wagon train mission expedition from Iowa to Oregon.

In terms of Oberlin’s Union County, Pennsylvania, there were more EUB members than Methodists. That said, the EUB members worried about the bigger national picture of Methodist dominance and loss of EUB heritage. A few of the former EUB churches do not use UMC hymnals. EUB members were also dismayed an increased financial outlay; Methodist policy stated that ministers must have a washer and dryer in their residences. EUB ones had not. Furthermore, each congregation had to assume the expense of modernising minister’s houses, something of sigificance in poorer rural areas.

How the merger of church agencies unfolded

The Confessing Movement site’s ‘Restructuring and United Methodist Decline’ explains what happened in the wake of the Methodists and EUB merger in 1968.

Emphases mine below:

At the time of merger the more open, more relational, and less imposing institutional culture of the EUBs was simply eclipsed and discarded by the more liberal, more social-class conscious, and more dominating Methodist corporate culture. There never really was a merger. It was a take-over.

The EUBs had a strong Sunday school program. The S.S. enrollment of the EUB Church at merger was 94% of its membership. The Methodist S.S. enrollment was 68% of its membership. EUB S.S. literature was open to evangelical themes. The Methodist S.S. material was not. But in the merger the whole EUB educational enterprise and its way of doing education was shut down and incorporated into the Nashville way of thinking and doing. The whole EUB missions enterprise was shut down and moved to New York and incorporated into Methodist mission philosophy. The social action arm of the EUB Church was shut down and moved to Washington D.C. where it was dominated by the Methodist way of social action. The EUB youth program was shut down and moved to Nashville. The EUB women’s work was closed down and moved to New York.

The EUBs gave up, in many instances, their camp grounds, their conference sites, and their conference offices. In local communities with both EUB and Methodist churches, there were a number of forced mergers, few of which really worked. The one contribution of the EUB Church in merger was the EUB Program Council which was incorporated into the merged church structure as the Council on Ministries. But it often did not work in the merged church–not on the local level, nor district level, nor conference level. It for sure did not work on the general church level …

The EUBs gave up one of their two seminaries (Evangelical Seminary in Naperville) through merger. Their last seminary, United Seminary in Dayton, has been under pressure to merge or close

The EUBs for years had been given freedom of conscience in regard to matters like baptism. The EUB ritual contained a service of infant dedication and EUB churches were given assurances that EUB traditions would be respected and that their freedom to dedicate infants would carry-over to the merged denomination. This never happened. When inquiries were made as to what happened to these “promises,” the answer was given that the people who made the assurances were not authorized to do so. In a few years the understanding of infant dedication as the EUBs had understood and practiced it was declared un-United Methodist. And within a short time to re-baptize, as many EUBs had, became a violation of the Discipline and a chargeable offence.

The United Methodist Church today — remnants of EUB

The article goes on to describe what happened with regard to local congregations:

One small group of EUBs refused to enter the merger. 62 (mostly small) EUB churches in the Pacific Northwest knew that, given the extreme liberalism of the Methodists in their area, they would simply be crushed in a merger. They were given permission to separate. They formed a denomination, the Evangelical Church of North America. The EUB churches that entered the merger were swallowed up. The Evangelical Church of America (later joined to another small denomination) now has about 12,500 members.

One study of former county-seat (the more prestigious) EUB “first” churches in North Indiana revealed that of 27 churches studied 30 years after the merger, 25 had closed, merged, or were greatly declined. Less than 10 years after the merger the United Methodist had lost more members than the nearly 750,000 the EUBs brought into the merger. Many of those were former EUBs.

The article concludes with an allusion to a restructuring currently in place. Who knows what will happen?

A comment from a Methodist on the Episcopalian site Stand Firm said that the EUB members were responsible for the proliferation of social justice theology in the UMC.  Yet, the EUB points the finger at the Methodists.

The Confessing Movement

That said, there are conservative evangelical groups gaining currency among kindred souls in the UMC. One of these is the aforementioned Confessing Movement. However, their main obstacle is acceptance by the UMC hierarchy.

In ‘Keeping Up With The Renewal Groups (Part 3)’, Dr Riley Case traces the recent history of groups within the UMC which are trying to spread the Gospel, not the social variety.

In 1968, a group called Good News attempted to return to a proper evangelism. Unfortunately, a decade later, the Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA) accused Good News of

a social and political agenda which was the New Far Right.

Pastors were told to shy away from Good News or their careers would be limited.

Meanwhile, Case writes that a number of pastors from larger UMC churches were meeting together. They found

that the disconnect between the pew and the church bureaucracy was getting worse rather than better. They understood the church was drifting doctrinally and morally. They understood too that the leadership of the church, including the bishops, seemed hopelessly caught up in the drift. The 1972 doctrinal statement had diminished the place of Scripture, had disdained confessions of faith, and had touted “pluralism” which, practically, communicated the idea that for United Methodists “anything goes.”

In April 1995, 900 Methodists met in Atlanta, Georgia, to agree and approve a confessional statement for the UMC. The Confessing Movement was a product of this meeting.

Readers will not be surprised to discover that the UMC hierarchy level the same criticisms at the Confessing Movement that they did at Good News a few decades ago.

Nevertheless, Case writes:

Perhaps the most exciting project currently is the Doctrine and Renewal Project which is being jointly sponsored by The Confessing Movement and United Theological Seminary. The project will involve some leading U.M. scholars, including some who are John Wesley Fellows, who by study, writing and publishing will seek “to recapture the theological vision that once gave Methodism its spiritual power and appeal.” Stay tuned as this project develops.   

At present over 700,000 persons, 7,400 clergy and nearly 1,600 churches have identified themselves as supportive of The Confessing Movement.

I wish them all the best in their endeavour.

As a description of the book The Churching of America: 1776-2005 concludes:

[Roger Finke and Rodney Stark] argue that … When theology becomes too logical, or too secular, it loses people.

United Methodist Church logoThe theologically conservative Episcopalian-Anglican site, Stand Firm, recently featured a post about the 31 Methodist pastors who plan to jointly officiate at a same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania this month.

Stand Firm’s discussion centres on the fact that same-sex marriage is not allowed as per the United Methodist Church’s discipline statements.

The clergymen are showing their solidarity with their colleague, the Revd Frank Schaefer who — six years after the fact — faces Methodist Church discipline for marrying his son to another man.

That delay, to me, has just as much to do with Schaeffer’s story than with their disregard of Church rules.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports (emphases mine):

At the time, Schaefer told his supervisors about the ceremony but not his congregation. Then and for nearly six years after, he said, officials took no disciplinary action.

But in April – 26 days before the church’s six-year statute of limitations was set to expire – a member of his congregation filed a complaint with the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church.

A spokeswoman from the conference last week declined to answer questions about why charges were filed now.

In a statement, Bishop Peggy Johnson, one of three Methodist bishops in Pennsylvania, said complaints are confidential.

This 11th hour action seems to have propelled the renegade pastors into action. If Schaefer were not going on trial on November 18, 2013, would this have happened? One wonders.

The 31 clergy are now ready to press for change in the United Methodist Church. The Church has global disciplinary statements, which is no doubt why same-sex marriage is disallowed whereas the Episcopal Church (TEC), the ELCA (Evangelical Lutherans) and PCUSA (mainstream Presbyterians) perform such ceremonies.

The renegade Methodist clergymen maintain that Schaefer’s marrying his son to another man was an

an act of love, not a prosecutable offense.

Schaefer said that his son Tim had experienced a deep conflict about his sexual orientation for many years:

Schaefer said that as a teen, Tim prayed to be cured of his homosexuality and considered suicide when that didn’t happen.

Even before going to seminary, Schaefer thought the church’s doctrine would “be in trouble” if it was proved that homosexuality is genetic.

His son, he said, offered him that assurance.

“To me that was the ultimate proof at that moment. For heaven’s sakes, he didn’t choose this,” Schaefer said at his office last week, his eyes raised to the ceiling and palms reached out, “He didn’t want this.”

Though he knew the possible consequences, Schaefer said he didn’t hesitate when Tim, now 29, asked him to officiate.

At the afternoon ceremony at a restaurant overlooking a marina near Boston, Schaefer settled on pronouncing the couple married “in a holy union ratified by God.”

“Those whom God has joined together,” he said, “let no one put asunder.”

When Schaefer goes on trial at the Spring City, Pennsylvania, retreat centre in a few weeks’ time, the 31 clergy plan to attend.

As for Schaefer, currently pastor of the Zion United Methodist Church of Iona in Lebanon County:

[he] doesn’t plan to deny performing the ceremony. Instead, he will present a team of religious experts he hopes will prove that his decision upheld other church doctrines – namely that pastors should minister to at-risk teens who have contemplated suicide due to confusion over their sexuality.

Schaefer said Tim was one those kids. His son’s story will be central to his defense.

The paper adds:

Critics say Schaefer could have avoided a trial several ways, first by denying his son’s request.

“Good parenting 101 is realizing that not everything that your child asks you to give him or her is necessarily always the best thing for them,” said John Lomperis, a director at the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a conservative think-tank.

Church officials also offered to forgo a trial if Schaefer agreed never to officiate at another same-sex wedding.

Schaefer says he couldn’t do that.

Three of his four children are gay.

That’s incredible — three of his four children are oriented to their own sex. How does that happen?

At Stand Firm, reader ABQ Methodist had these insights on Methodist church discipline and the denomination’s move leftward:

Those in the United Methodist Church who favor heterodox positions on sexual ethics are becoming desperate.  It became very apparent last General Conference that the United Methodist Church has no interest in changing the Discipline statements related to homosexuality—at least not in the direction that they want changes made.  Although it is little reported, the United Methodist General Conference has resisted such changes by increasingly large majorities since the issue was first raised in the 1970s

From what I have read of the history of Methodism, we began departing from John Wesley’s original vision in about the 1850s in the U.SBy the 1960s when the Methodist Church merged with the Evangelical United Brethren Church, the leadership of the denomination was liberal and many of them wanted to move further from Wesleyanism to to become more modern, focusing on “social gospel” and transformation of the world rather than disciple makingThis has increased the rate of decline of the United Methodist church in the U.S. This whole process is detailed, from a secular sociological perspective in The Churching of America .  The polity on sexual morality almost certainly will not change in the way that they want it to …  The “facts on the ground” strategy … will be more difficult to accomplish in the United Methodist Church than it was in TEC.  The United Methodist church has an ecclesiastical court system to enforce the requirements in The Discipline.  Although the members of the Judicial Council, our Supreme Court, may be liberal and disagree with the specific provisions of the Discipline, they know that if they let the “facts on the ground” strategy succeed, they become as useless as a fifth wheel.  So they will enforce positions that they personally disagree with in order to maintain their power and authority.  Therefore, the liberals are either going to have to live with the current polity, waste precious time and effort that a domestically declining denomination doesn’t have in protests, or leave the denomination.  As in most denominations, the churches that are more faithful to scripture tend to be the fastest growing (though not the most well known).  Therefore, God may be using this issue to bring His church back to greater scriptural faithfulness.  I am in a wait and see and pray mode.

I’ll look at the United Methodist Church’s decline in more detail tomorrow.

Margaret Thatcher torystoryOn April 27, 2013, BBC2 aired a 90-minute documentary on Margaret Thatcher’s early years, Young Margaret.

The programme content was based largely on the many letters the future (late?) Prime Minister exchanged with her sister Muriel, four years older.

It is still difficult for people to imagine that Margaret Thatcher was ever a youngster — or human. The debate goes on in our own home. SpouseMouse maintains she ‘ruined Britain forever’. I say she was preferable to James Callaghan or Neil Kinnock. My better half replies, ‘She killed off our society. End of’.

Anyway, onto the programme, which I found fascinating. I touched on some of these topics after Lady Thatcher died several weeks ago. Young Margaret elaborated more on them.

The Methodist Church

Alf and Beatrice Roberts were faithful Methodists.

Alf did not allow Sunday newspapers in the house. He did not find them suitable Sabbath reading material.

For Alf, the Methodist Church was the only church. He was dismissive of other Protestant denominations and had a particular distrust of the Catholic Church. He became concerned when Margaret made friends with one of her schoolmates, Mary. Alf feared that Mary would lead Margaret to Catholicism.

Alf was a lay minister. As such, the Roberts family attended church services three times on Sunday. Alf preached at many of these. Margaret absorbed these sermons, which in many ways, defined her spiritual and temporal values.

Although Margaret later attended more Anglican services as an adult, she and her husband Denis (Anglican) were married in the Wesleyan Chapel in City Road, London.

High fashion and impeccable appearance

Alf and Beatrice raised their two daughters above Alf’s corner grocery in Grantham, Lincolnshire.

Beatrice preferred to stay in the background, and it does not appear as if the girls were particularly close to her. That said, Beatrice was a seamstress and the girls absorbed their knowledge of fabric and fashion from her. Beatrice made items of clothing for Margaret, including lingerie. Beatrice also sewed a variety of items for the home, including curtains.

As an aside, anyone who has had a tailor or seamstress in the family cannot help but be interested in good taste with regard to clothes and appearance. Some readers might wonder why I place such value on aesthetics. It is because my paternal great-grandfather (whom I never met) was a tailor. Like Beatrice Roberts, he made many outfits — including coats — for his daughters, among them my grandmother. My grandmother took all of this on board, and what she couldn’t sew for my late father and aunt when they were young, she bought with a particular eye for fabric and cut, even during the Great Depression. My aunt didn’t sew too much but always bought stylish suits and skirts. Similarly, my father was very careful in choosing his attire. My mother also had an eye for clothes — quite possibly because my maternal grandmother spent hours at the sewing machine for her daughters. Along with attention to clothes goes hair and accessories. Dad had two or three pair of high-quality cufflinks which he wore; he was particular. The women in the family chose jewellery with care and their hair was immaculate.

So it was with the Roberts girls, Margaret in particular. Although Alf did not allow his daughters to go to dances until they had finished secondary school, both had fashion sense. When Muriel was away in Birmingham studying physiotherapy, Margaret would write her asking if she could borrow a strand of pearls for social events.

In an interview from 1982, Mrs Thatcher (as she was then) explained why she enjoyed wearing pearls:

They give the face a little lift.

She also advised:

Never press a hem. If you want to let the skirt down, you won’t be able to [because of the crease].

In letters to Muriel, Margaret described in great detail what she wore to dances and, once she went up to Oxford, dates with her beaux.

In fact, even one of Margaret’s boyfriends from Oxford — Tony Bray — could recall years later what she wore when they once went out for a country pub lunch. It was a fetching blue dress with matching coat. Bray said his date looked stunning.

Incidentally, the programme revealed that it was Tony Bray who, years later, mooted the idea of council tenants purchasing their own flats and homes. He and Margaret — then Prime Minister — discussed the plan privately at his suggestion.

Margaret also illustrated her letters with new additions to her wardrobe, including lingerie. She was particularly delighted when another suitor, Willie Cullen (more about whom later), gave her a beautiful black leather handbag with a monogram on the flap: MR. She wrote Muriel saying that, although she had no intention of marrying Willie, she was duty bound to continue dating him now that he had given her such a lovely gift.

Margaret also went into great detail about every meal she had, including drinks. She described the restaurant or ballroom decor in a way that must have made Muriel feel she was there with her.

Mark Thatcher — her son — told the interviewer that he rarely saw his mother in trousers. She wore them only when instructed to for certain official visits (e.g. military).

Home life in Grantham

Alf ran the corner shop, conveniently placed right at the dividing line between the middle and working class neighbourhoods of Grantham. By all accounts, he was a good grocer.

Conversation at home revolved around either the church or politics. In later years, Alf became mayor of Grantham and an alderman.

Therefore, it is no wonder that Margaret became politically active as an adult.

Alf was conscious that he was providing Muriel and Margaret with advantages that few of their contemporaries had. He later wrote Muriel about this, lamenting that Margaret did not seem very appreciative of the sacrifices and trail blazing he had done on their behalf.

He was right. My late mother-in-law was about the same age as Margaret Thatcher. She desperately wanted to go to university, but her father — an executive — said that girls were unsuited to higher education. My mother-in-law waited until she was married to pursue her interest in painting and art history. As a young mother, she also earned her City and Guilds certification in tailoring. She sewed many of her own outfits as well as items for the home: curtains, silk lampshades and cushions.

Schooldays and a love of America

Margaret was a diligent student and won a scholarship to Kesteven & Grantham Girls’ School, which describes itself as ‘a specialist science school’.

Note that she later took the title Baroness Thatcher of Kestaven (pron. ‘KESS-tuh-vun’), not Grantham!

It was at this time that she and Muriel began many years of correspondence. Margaret wrote of teachers she disliked, students whom she considered academic deadbeats and her own detailed school reports.

Margaret became a prefect and, in 1943, head girl. Her classmates remember her as a young woman with presence who was self-contained, mature beyond her years. One said that most were ‘impressed’ and ‘in awe of her’.

In her free time, Margaret enjoyed going to the State cinema in Grantham. She wrote Muriel about the films she and Beatrice saw. The same year she became head girl also saw the arrival of the United States Air Force at a base near Grantham.

The combination of American films at the State and American military in her town started her lifelong love affair with the United States. Thatcher biographer, journalist Charles Moore, explained that Margaret would have known of Ronald Reagan from the movies she saw and that he represented the American man she knew from the Second World War. Therefore, it was normal that the two would create or cement ‘the special relationship’ between the two countries in the 1980s.

Somerville College, Oxford

When Margaret went up to Oxford to read Chemistry at Somerville College, her life and connection with Grantham ended.

Again, Alf deserves much credit, especially for encouraging Margaret to apply to Oxford. Many fathers would not have done so. In fact, as Kesteven & Grantham Girls’ School did not offer Latin, Alf hired a a local schoolteacher to tutor Margaret in Latin so that she could pass the entrance exam.

Oxford students were encouraged to do their part for the war effort and Margaret, not surprisingly, joined the committee which provided entertainment for American troops stationed nearby.

It took Margaret time to settle in to life in college. She wasn’t close with the other girls at Somerville. Some of her contemporaries interviewed said this was because Somerville was known for being left-wing. However, I think Margaret had the outlet for her feelings and experiences in her correspondence with Muriel, so that need was already answered. It is also worth noting that both young women had similar forthright and feisty personalities.

The other girls, those interviewed said, noticed that Margaret was self-contained and had an intellectual curiosity.

It wasn’t long then before she needed an outlet for this. She joined the Oxford University Conservative Association. One of her contemporaries was the Duke of Buccleuch (pron. ‘Bookh-lew’). (The Duke, incidentally, is probably the most qualified by heritage to be our monarch.) He described Margaret Roberts as

very focussed — she knew what she was doing.

These qualities impressed not only the Duke but also the other members of the aristocracy who belonged to the university’s Conservative Association. In fact, the Duke once organised a whipround for Margaret when she was low on funds. Other members donated gladly.

Margaret’s social life largely involved around parties and dances with Conservative Association members. They frequently met at the city’s iconic Randolph Hotel, which features in a number of Morse episodes.

So esteemed was Margaret that the Conservative Association elected her president.

She earned a Second Class degree in Chemistry in 1947.

The world of work — and courtship

As is common for many university graduates, the real world is a letdown. Margaret had the same experience as she interviewed for her first job.

She also had the handicap of being a woman who was forthright and knew her own mind — qualities which, even today, are valued in men but not the ‘fairer sex’. One ICI interviewer wrote that she was too overbearing to ever have a career there. This may go some way towards explaining why there is no ICI today.

Margaret Thatcher thatcher-chemist Washington PostMargaret was hired by a plastics firm in Manningtree, Essex, on the River Stour. Manningtree was close enough to London, which pleased her as she had hoped to enrol in law school. However, letters to Muriel reveal that Margaret found the work tedious and, contrary to what she had thought, the post to which she was assigned offered no advancement to management.

Still, work, as we know, pays the bills and finances social activities. Margaret missed her sparkling Oxford social life and decided to join the Colchester (Essex) Young Conservatives.

Another aside here. In the years following the Second World War, the Young Conservative associations were a gateway to courtship and marriage. My mother- and father-in-law met through the Young Conservatives as did their closest friends, with whom they maintained lifelong contact. Friendships and marriages formed there were strong and, from what I understand, the enthusiasm was infectious not only on the hustings but at social gatherings.

Margaret briefly dated a fellow Young Conservative, Brian Harrison, who had recently graduated from Cambridge. He remembers her as being a very good dancer.

In October 1948, Margaret was part of Oxford’s graduate delegation attending the Conservative Party conference that year. It was through that meeting that she met the people who would later propose her in 1950 as Conservative candidate for Parliament in Dartford, Kent — a safe Labour seat. One Dartford Conservative described her enthusiasm:

Hearing her speak was exciting!

Margaret began dating a farmer, Willie Cullen, aged 35 — the man who would later buy her the monogrammed handbag. Margaret seemed to find out all sorts of financial details about Willie and described his situation to Muriel. Whilst he seemed to fit the bill, she was unsure whether she could live as a farmer’s wife. She also wrote Muriel about a dinner party he had where the other farmers’ wives went off to the sitting room afterward. Margaret stayed with the men to talk politics, which was not well received by some of the farmers. One leapt to her defence saying that there was no way the women would be discussing politics. Margaret was allowed to remain with the men.

Margaret enjoyed being with men a few years older than she. Those who were interviewed for the programme suggested that she actively sought them out. In the latter days of her relationship with Willie, she also met 36-year old Denis Thatcher and 47-year old Dr Robert Henderson. Thatcher, divorced, owned his own business. Henderson, never married, was the inventor of the British version of the iron lung. He worked at a hospital in Dartford.

In 1950, Margaret was the Conservative candidate for MP of Dartford. At a local civic event, her Labour opponent expressed his fascination with her and asked her to dance. Although Margaret later lost the election, she was able to increase the number of Conservative votes by several thousand.

It was at this time when Margaret was seeing more of the doctor and less of Willie. She felt obliged to make the break as painless as possible for Willie. In a letter to Muriel, she effectively handed the farmer over to her sister, provided she was in agreement. Muriel met Willie and within several weeks they were engaged. Margaret was maid of honour at their wedding. Muriel settled in to farming life easily and the couple raised three children. One of them, Andrew, was interviewed for the programme. Muriel bequeathed her letter collection to him.

Meanwhile, Margaret had concerns about Dr Henderson, despite her great admiration for him. She was aware that they had come from different social classes and feared he would marry someone else. She believed it was only a matter of time.

Life in London — and marriage

In 1951, Margaret moved to London. She worked hard to fix up her own flat with some assistance from decorators. Denis Thatcher proved a welcome distraction from hours spent on DIY.

Three months after moving into the flat, Margaret broke off her relationship with Dr Henderson. However, she seems to have remained friends with him as evidenced by a medical question she put to him some years later when her son Mark was born.

Although Margaret was not keen on Denis when she first dated him — prior to moving to London — he grew on her and they enjoyed each other’s company. Alf also gave his stamp of approval to the relationship.

Later that year, Margaret ran again as Conservative candidate for Parliament for Dartford. Again, she lost to her Labour opponent but continued to build on the Conservative votes from the preceding year. Denis helped to campaign for her but they kept their engagement a secret; as Denis was divorced, it would not have looked good for her. Recall that, two years later, Princess Margaret was forced to break off her relationship with Group Captain Peter Townsend for the same reason. It would not have reflected well on the Royal Family, especially the young Queen.

Margaret Thatcher wedding day_107484309 Walking in MayOn December 13, Margaret and Denis were married at the Wesleyan Chapel in City Road, London. In a 1985 documentary, she exclaimed:

This [marriage] was the biggest thing in life!

The couple spent their wedding night at the Savoy before flying to Madeira for their honeymoon.

And so it proved an enduring, loving union. Denis was a reliable and unfailing source of support for his wife. He was happy to remain in the background, offering advice in private. He also acknowledged that he didn’t care much for meeting people, although he did meet many. He had a close circle of loyal friends. Private Eye parodied these friendships whilst Margaret was Prime Minister in the series Dear Bill, a collection of fictional and witty letters from Denis to one of his friends.

The Thatchers lived in Denis’s home in London’s fashionable Chelsea, where they often entertained their friends.

It wasn’t long afterward that Margaret began studying law. As if this were not enough, she applied to Conservative Central office in June of 1952, asking them to put her forward as a Parliamentary candidate. Even then, the Conservatives were looking for more female candidates — this is nothing new. Yet, this proved difficult. Margaret’s forthright personality did not always gel with the local Conservative associations. Central Office made other excuses: she didn’t understand farming; industrial constituencies needed men, not women.

In August 1953, Margaret gave birth prematurely to fraternal twins Mark and Carol. Denis, who hadn’t expected his wife to go into labour so early, was at a test match at the Oval at the time.

Five months later, Margaret passed her law exam. A nanny minded the babies, but Margaret wrote Muriel that she was conscious that the nanny also needed her rest, so she shared night duty with her. To give her more time at home, Margaret decided to specialise in tax law.

It was around this time that Margaret and Muriel wrote each other less. Each had their own lives by now. Muriel was on the farm in Essex and Margaret was still eyeing a political career. However, the families still visited each other, which continued even when Margaret spent prime ministerial weekends at Chequers.

Andrew Cullen said that Margaret Thatcher — one of the most famous women in the world for over a decade — was an affectionate aunt, ‘like anyone else’s aunt’. He added that she remembered the Cullen children’s birthdays and big occasions. He described their parents and the Thatchers as

all good friends.

Life in politics

In 1958, Margaret was selected as candidate for Finchley and won the seat in 1959 with a majority of 16,000 votes. One of her constituents at the time said:

We were lucky to have her!

At last, Margaret Thatcher was able to take her place as a Member of Parliament.

Alf was ‘proud as punch’ to see Margaret in the House of Commons. He died in 1970, so never saw her become Britain’s first Prime Minister in 1978.

Once she became an MP, Margaret’s correspondence with Alf became rarer and rarer. Alf wrote Muriel with his concerns. Muriel’s contact with her sister was somewhat more sustained.

All credit to Alf and Denis

Mrs Thatcher was careful to credit Alf with her success.

Indeed, it could be Methodism’s prominent placement of women as church leaders which influenced Alf in ensuring his daughters were well educated. He also had no objection to Margaret’s entering politics.

John and Charles Wesley’s mother Susanna was a powerful influence not only in the home but during Mr Wesley’s absences. Susanna, a lay preacher told me, used to lead prayer meetings in the family home whilst Wesley was in London.

John Wesley granted a licence to preach to six women, the first being Sarah Crosby in 1761. It seems unlikely that these women softened the church. As he was such a keen evangelist, I doubt he would have chosen women who were seen to dilute the Methodist message.

This is what Wesley had to say in a sermon of his from 1786, ‘On Visiting the Sick’. He, like I, believed that keeping women submissive is Islamic (emphases mine):

It has long passed for a maxim with many that “women are only to be seen but not heard.” And accordingly many of them are brought up in such a manner as if they were only designed for agreeable playthings! No, it is the deepest unkindness; it is horrid cruelty; it is mere Turkish barbarity. And I know not how any women of sense and spirit can submit to it.[3]

It is heartbreaking to read today of ‘Christian’ men — Catholic and Protestant — who want to restrict women in society.

My Catholic maternal grandfather was guilty of this around the time when Alf was encouraging his girls to fly the coop. My mother, Lady Thatcher’s age, was forbidden to move out of the house until she married. My mum — gifted, responsible and diligent — dreamed of moving to the big city and pursuing her own career, but he said no. My mother did not marry until she was 35. She had a long wait. Even then, she was handed over to my dad. She never had any independence in between. Yet, her Catholic friends from childhood did; by the time my mother got married, her girlfriends had been living on their own for years.

Therefore, finding out more about Alf’s fatherly example is important to me. We need good models of manhood, fathers who do not fear or denigrate women.

Denis Thatcher falls into this category, too.

Again, it is soul-destroying to read about Catholics and Protestant husbands who think it’s all right to beat their wives into submission.

I give Denis full credit for being such a wonderful husband and support to his wife. Her ambitions were not his, yet he was there for her. He was his wife’s confidant. They were best friends as well as a married couple.

I would ask all men to reflect carefully on their attitudes towards women. Some are angry at them. Some love them as long as they are subjugated. Some fathers have a really unhealthy relationship with their daughters (purity rituals). Some husbands have a pathological and abusive relationship with their wives.

To those men, my message is to look at the example of Alf and Denis and to learn well from it.

It doesn’t matter what we think of Margaret Thatcher’s politics. What does matter is that she had a father who raised her to lead and a husband who faithfully encouraged that leadership.

Yesterday’s post introduced Swedish pietists and alluded to Dwight Moody’s popularity among them in the 19th century.

Although I plan to post on David Gustafson’s book on Moody and Swedish pietists (mentioned therein) early next week, it seemed apposite to explore the possibilities for their appetite for Anglo-American holiness.

A likely place to begin is with two men, Carl Olof Rosenius, Lutheran pietist and George Scott, an English Methodist.

However, in the early 19th century, Napoleon imposed the Continental Blockade against Great Britain in retaliation for his defeat at Trafalgar. Napoleon wanted to isolate Britain from trading with Europe. He not only had his French Empire, but satellite states which included Scandinavia and much of Eastern Europe into Russia. Sweden refused to participate, and, consequently, was able to trade with Britain in a flourishing exchange of her raw materials for Britain’s colonial products.  Whilst that oversimplifies the situation, it also meant that a number of enterprising Britons settled in Sweden to establish their own businesses, from engineering to manufacturing to shipping.  They assimilated into Swedish society, married Swedes and became philanthropists.

As religious life was still essential, they invited their British clergymen to join them. These clergy came largely from what the British call non-Conformist churches, that is, those which are not established state churches (e.g. Church of England [Anglican], Church of Scotland [Presbyterian]). They came from the Free Church in Scotland (so called because it is free from state control), the Methodists as well as various Evangelical groups (e.g. Religious Tract Society and the Salvation Army).  The Methodists gained an extra boost with Nordic sailors on the floating mission in New York Harbor, the Bethel (Betel in Swedish). Led by a Swede, it was in operation for many years and resulted in numerous conversions of Scandinavian sailors, who then returned to their homes and encouraged the spread of Methodism among their families and friends.

Therefore, by the time Dwight Moody’s sermons and Ira Sankey’s hymns reached Sweden in the 1870s, Lutheran pietists were well acquainted with English and Scottish non-Conformist evangelists.

The early 19th century also saw Britain at the forefront of the age of steam during the Industrial Revolution.  A Englishman by the name of Samuel Owen (1774 – 1854) indirectly helped to shape not only industry but pietism in Sweden.

Owen was a brilliant inventor and engineer. Although born in Shropshire, he moved to Leeds (South Yorkshire) where he worked for a steam engine manufacturer, Fenton, Murray & Wood’s.  Swedish companies were naturally eager to purchase these revolutionary new engines and ordered four from the company. Fenton, Murray & Wood’s sent Owen to Sweden to help install them.

Owen made his home in Sweden in 1807 and had 17 children with three wives. It is unclear what happened to his first wife, an Englishwoman, but afterward, he married two Swedes, the first of whom died. Owen’s third wife, Lisette, was one of playwright August Strindberg’s aunts.

In the meantime, Owen had opened his own manufacturing works in Stockholm in 1809. Less than ten years later, he held the distinction of being the first person in Sweden to build a ship with a steam engine. He became prominent in Swedish society and is remembered today with a street named after him located near Stockholm City Hall, Samuel Owens gata.

He is known as the ‘founder of the Swedish mechanical industry’ and was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1831.

Although Wikipedia doesn’t mention it, Projekt Runeberg says that, in 1830, Owen and other British immigrants requested that the Methodist preacher George Scott move to Sweden.

Information on Scott is scant, unfortunately, but he met Carl Olof Rosenius and mixed in Swedish pietist circles for several years.

Rosenius’s father Anders was the local pastor in Nysätra in Västerbotten. Anders Rosenius became involved with Swedish revivalism in the 19th century. The younger Rosenius completed secondary school and went on to study theology at the University of Uppsala. However, for financial and health reasons, he had to give up his studies and become a tutor near Stockholm.

Rosenius experienced his ‘conversion’ moment at the age of 15. He was no doubt always a Christian, but certain pietist, Baptist and holiness denominations refer to the one big moment of being born in the Spirit as conversion. The Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon, although steeped in faith from infancy, even had a ‘conversion’. Therefore, in this context it doesn’t mean they went from non-believer to believer but instead had a much deeper experience.

After his conversion, Rosenius preached to the school holidays conventicle (small group). He also impressed his local bishop with his deep understanding of the Lutheran doctrine of justification by grace through faith.

As a young tutor in Stockholm, however, Rosenius began to have doubts. There, he made the acquaintance of George Scott. In 1840, the two became good friends and Rosenius felt his faith buoyed by the association. Rosenius abandoned his goal of pursuing the priesthood and instead began working for Scott as his assistant. He lived in the grounds of Scott’s church Betlehemskyrkan — the ‘English Church’ (unrelated to the Church of England) — which the Foreign Evangelical Society helped to finance.

In 1842, the two men founded a journal called Pietisten, which became popular among its newly evangelical readership who were sceptical of the Lutheran Church and seeking a greater holiness and Spener-type religious experience.

However, that same year, Scott had criticised the Swedish government and, in reaction, a small riot broke out in front of Betlehemskyrkan on Palm Sunday. Scott left Sweden soon after for Gravesend, Kent, where he stayed until 1845, after which time he became Superintendent and Chairman of the Aberdeen District of the Methodists in Scotland. He also served in Glasgow, Liverpool and Newcastle. In 1866, he presided at the Wesleyan Methodist Conference of Eastern Canada.

Pietisten lived on, though, under Rosenius’s editorship. In 1868, Paul Peter Waldenström succeeded him.

After Scott’s return to England, Rosenius became more involved in the Swedish revival movement, known as ‘neo-evangelicalism’. He travelled around the country, speaking to various conventicles. He also rented premises in Stockholm.

In 1856, he joined a group of fellow pietists to found the Evangelical Mission (EFS) and edited their magazine Mission. The following year, a foundation which had bought Scott’s Betlehemskyrkan reopened it.  The Wikipedia image on the right shows Rosenius in the pulpit there.

In 1867, whilst preaching at St John’s Church in Gothenburg, Rosenius suffered a stroke and died a year later.

Like the Wesley brothers who never left the Church of England, Rosenius remained a member of the Lutheran Church in Sweden, as did his wife and children. Similarly, as the Wesleys felt resistance from the established Church, so did Rosenius from the Lutherans.  Rosenius opposed free and open Communion, which he and his family still received in the Lutheran Church.  He was also against schism.

Throughout his life, Rosenius continued to place primary importance on the Lutheran doctrines of objective atonement and justification by grace through faith.  However, he liked the warmth and personal approach of the Herrnhut school.  He found Scott’s Methodism helpful for its works-based emphasis on outward signs of holiness.

Rosenius’s legacy was probably what he would have wanted: a cross-pollination of pietism into the Lutheran Church and reinforcement of a core element of Lutheran doctrine into pietism.

One of his many followers, a lay preacher named Nicolaus Bergensköld, emigrated to the United States and became involved with the revival movement taking place in Scandinavian settlements in the Midwest.  He founded the mission church in Galesburg, Illinois, in 1868.

Next week: Moody’s effect on Swedish pietists

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