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Many 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.
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.
Only days after my reader Llew forwarded me the Spiked article, I read an article in The Telegraph which left me speechless.
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.
… 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.
The 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:
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:
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:
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.”
… 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.
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.
The 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?
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.S. By 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 making. This 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.
On 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 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.
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.
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
As we saw, pietism is based on the theology of Christian perfection, which comes from the perfection of Christ. Whilst all Christians are enjoined to sanctification — bearing increasingly holy attitudes and behaviours as a result of God’s grace and the Holy Spirit working through them — the danger is semi-Pelagianism. A list of proscribed activities — dancing, drinking and smoking — is not only a form of legalism but gives some believers in Arminian (‘free will’) denominations the idea that they can save themselves by obeying this checklist of behaviours.
denounced the basic aim of Pietism, to produce a “desired piety” in a person, as unbiblical.
Pietist denominations and Wesleyan denominations follow a doctrine called theosis in their interpretation of personal holiness and sanctification. Yet, everyone’s journey on the road to sanctification is different and personal piety happens in different ways at various times. One person might never be tempted by alcohol yet fall into sins of pride; another might drink in moderation yet conduct themselves in perfect humility. Nowhere in Scripture — as Bonhoeffer said — does the Bible proscribe or prescribe a variety of things that the pietists and Wesleyans say it does.
A case in point is Methodist Hillary Clinton banning smoking in the White House during her husband’s presidency. Mrs Clinton was trying to save other people from themselves and to get them to practice this little bit of holiness. Another aspect is social justice, also popular with many striving for Christian perfection. They like to impose this notional holiness on others by supporting government policies for higher taxes to ensure that wealth is evenly distributed. The Welsh, despite their increasingly secular nature, are still influenced by their Presbyterian Church’s teachings, which are more Methodist than Presbyterian with regard to morality. As such, they are becoming prohibitionists where drinking and smoking are concerned. They claim that society would be so much better if only these two pleasure outlets were done away with.
None of these ‘good for you’ policies works. We have seen this throughout history. Nevertheless, pietism and theosis of whatever kind can lead to mysticism, introspection and what is known as radical pietism, involving utopian communities. Radical pietism promotes separatist communal living rather than church membership, a Christian experience based on emotion and sensation rather than doctrine and holding each other to behavioural accountability — often publicly.
The word ‘heart’ features prominently in any pietist movement and, in some situations, can trump what the Bible says. What is important is what the person feels and what he does. Therefore, it is no surprise that Lutherans, Calvinists and orthodox Anglicans condemn it as works-based righteousness. These works are not necessarily spontaneous but carefully engineered by oneself and monitored by others. Many of the ‘holy’ behaviours are manmade diktats, based on a leader’s personal likes and dislikes.
However, one of the greatest perils of semi-Pelagianism is that Nature abhors a vacuum. And Satan enters in quite easily, constantly tempting people.
This is why a Christian who believes an orthodox confession of faith will be able to better resist temptation as he prays for more grace to guide him spontaneously in the direction of holiness in obedience to Christ’s commandments. Christ and the Apostles never said that faith was an ethereal experience or a lengthy to-do list.
That said, we come to the subject of Methodism and pietism as it developed in the 19th century to the present day. Emphases below are mine.
John Wesley’s legacy
Methodism’s founder, John Wesley, died in 1791 at the age of 87. His
call to personal and social holiness continues to challenge Christians who attempt to discern what it means to participate in the Kingdom of God.
Denominations which Methodism influenced include not only the Methodist churches around the world, but also the Methodist Episcopal churches, Wesleyan Church, the Church of the Nazarene and the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Charismatic and Pentecostal denominations also have their origins in Wesleyan holiness movements.
Wesley’s circuit riders helped to spread Methodism in the United States as did Anglicans emigrating from England who considered themselves more Methodist than Anglican. At the end of the 18th century, Methodists had their own chapels but without their own clergy, still received the sacraments in the Anglican church.
Wesley ‘laid hands’ on an Anglican priest — Thomas Coke — for his role as Superintendent of Methodists in the United States. He also ordained two presbyters who would accompany Coke on his journey. However, Wesley was loth to offend the Church of England by ordaining any more Methodist clergymen. Wesley and his brother died in the Church of England.
Francis Asbury joined Coke as co-Superintendent. Together, they founded the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1784. The name implied that a Methodists would meet in chapel and receive the sacraments in the Episcopal Church. Later, the word ‘Episcopal’ would refer to its church government of bishops.
The Methodist Episcopal Church relied on modestly-paid circuit riders, unsalaried local ministers, stewards who were administrators and
class leaders who conducted weekly small groups where members were mutually accountable for their practice of Christian piety …
The earliest Episcopal Methodists in North America were often drawn from the middle-class trades, women were more numerous among members than men, and adherents outnumbered official members by as many as five-to-one. Adherents, unlike members, were not publicly accountable for their Christian life and therefore did not usually attend weekly class meetings. Meetings and services were often characterized by extremely emotional and demonstrative styles of worship that were often condemned by contemporary Congregationalists and Presbyterians. It was also very common for exhortations — testimonials and personal conversion narratives distinguishable from sermons because exhorters did not “take a text” from the Bible — to be publicly delivered by both women and slaves. Some of the earliest class leaders were also women.
Note the pietist characteristics of behaviour monitoring, small groups and emotional worship.
The founding of the AME Churches
On a positive note, Methodism was egalitarian in welcoming active participation and leadership from women and slaves. It was also very much at the forefront of the abolition movement. A number of Methodists participated in the Underground Railroad, which helped slaves to freedom.
However, not all black freemen in the North felt welcome in Methodist congregations and formed their own:
– In 1799, Francis Asbury ordained freeman Richard Allen. The congregation to which he was assigned, St George’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, allowed him and another minister Absalom Jones to preach only to black congregations. Blacks could also only sit in specific galleries in the church. Consequently, Allen, Jones and others founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) in 1816.
– A similar situation took place in New York City at John Street Methodist Church in 1800. Blacks were told to leave worship. Blacks left to form their own congregation, the name of which was Zion. By 1820, other Zion congregations had grown from the original church. In 1821, elder James Varick was named the first General Superintendent of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and became its bishop the following year.
Both AME churches exist today. The AME Church has become increasingly involved in liberation theology. After the Civil War the AME Zion Church expanded into the American South and today has many missions in the Caribbean and Africa.
Mergers in the 19th century and German immigrants
At the end of the 18th century, other splits in Methodism were already occurring. In 1793, the preacher James O’Kelly rebelled against going where his bishop assigned him. He and other preachers who wanted the right to refuse a church assignment formed the Christian Church — Christian Connection — which later merged with the United Church of Christ.
There were also Methodist congregations which catered to German settlers in Pennsylvania. In 1767, Philip William Otterbein and Martin Boehm formed the United Brethren in Christ congregations, a branch of which is now part of the United Methodist Church. In 1800, German immigrant Jacob Albright (originally Albrecht) founded the Evangelical Association — the Albright Brethren — for German immigrants. Most of the group’s members became part of the United Methodist Church in 1968, however, a small group still exists as the Evangelical Church of North America:
probably in protest against perceived theological and social liberalism in American Methodism.
The German churches were heavily influenced by pietism not only from Methodism but also that from the Moravian and Mennonite communities. Albright placed a good deal of emphasis on his personal religious journey, brought about by adverse family circumstances during which he rejected the Lutheranism of his youth. He was known to preach in a moving, emotional style.
Otterbein was ordained a German Reformed (Calvinist) minister in Herborn in 1749 and was assigned to a church in Pennsylvania, where he met Boehm. Boehm was born in Pennsylvania into a Mennonite family and became a preacher. The two men developed a close friendship which resulted in Boehm’s excommunication from the Mennonites. Otterbein, like Wesley, remained in the denomination into which he was ordained although he, with Boehm, began organising the Church of the United Brethren in Christ. The two men were the first bishops of the new denomination.
The desire for holiness
Whilst most Methodist Episcopal Church members gradually merged into what is today’s United Methodist Church, a number of the offshoots of the Methodist Episcopal Church during the 19th century involved a quest for holiness and greater purity.
The Wesleyan Church was formed in 1843 in Utica, New York, and still exists today. Its members wanted a stronger abolitionist stance from the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1848, the Wesleyan Church also began its strong support of women’s rights and ordained its first female minister, Antoinette Brown Blackwell, in 1856.
However, revivals were sweeping across the United States and Canada in the 1850s, and the Wesleyan preachers, particularly the Revd James Caughey
brought in the converts by the score, most notably in the revivals in Canada West 1851-53. His technique combined restrained emotionalism with a clear call for personal commitment, coupled with followup action to organize support from converts. It was a time when the Holiness Movement caught fire, with the revitalized interest of men and women in Christian perfection. Caughey successfully bridged the gap between the style of earlier camp meetings and the needs of more sophisticated Methodist congregations in the emerging cities.
the denomination merged with the Alliance of Reformed Baptists of Canada and 1968 with the Pilgrim Holiness Church. It spread through revivals emphasizing a deepening experience with God called holiness or sanctification. Heart purity was a central theme. During this period of time, many small churches developed through revivals and the emphasis of sanctification (taught by John Wesley, but not emphasized by many Methodists). As many as 25 or 30 small denominations were formed and eventually merged with other groups to enlarge the church. The church was strong in missionary and revival emphasis. The merger took place in 1968 at Anderson University, Anderson, Indiana.
The Free Methodist Church was founded in Pekin, New York, in 1860, after disagreements with the Methodist Episcopal Church over a perceived lack of emphasis on holiness:
The name “Methodist” was retained for the newly organized church because the founders felt that their misfortunes (expulsion from the Methodist Episcopal Church) had come to them because of their adherence to doctrines and standards of Methodism. The word “Free” was suggested and adopted because the new church was to be an anti-slavery church (slavery was an issue in those days), because pews in the churches were to be free to all rather than sold or rented (as was common), and because the new church hoped for the freedom of the Holy Spirit in the services rather than a stifling formality. However, according to World Book Encyclopedia, the third principle was “freedom” from secret and oathbound societies (in particular the Freemasons).
The Free Methodist Church has a loose liturgical structure for its worship and professes
It supports egalitarianism, however, like the aforementioned Evangelical Church of North America, it draws a line with regard to the social and political activism which characterises the United Methodist Church.
In England in 1865, former Methodist minister William Booth began evangelising in London’s East End, dispensing soup, soap and salvation. His mission work became the Salvation Army and spread internationally:
The Salvation Army’s main converts were at first alcoholics, morphine addicts, prostitutes and other “undesirables” unwelcome in polite Christian society, which helped prompt the Booths to start their own church. The Booths did not include the use of sacraments (mainly baptism and Holy Communion) in the Army’s form of worship, believing that many Christians had come to rely on the outward signs of spiritual grace rather than on grace itself. Other beliefs are that its members should completely refrain from drinking alcohol (Holy Communion is not practised), smoking, taking illegal drugs and gambling.
Meanwhile, back in the United States, the holiness movement was gaining strength. Pietism, quietism (‘let go and let God’ and silent prayer) and Methodism through small meeting houses, Quaker influence, revivals and camp meetings stirred the emotions of many people in towns and cities:
Two major leaders of the holiness revival were Phoebe Palmer and her husband, Dr. Walter Palmer. In 1835, Palmer’s sister, Sarah A. Lankford, had started holding Tuesday Meetings for the Promotion of Holiness in her New York City home. In 1837, Palmer experienced what she called entire sanctification and had become the leader of the Tuesday Meetings by 1839. At first only women attended these meetings, but eventually Methodist bishops and hundreds of clergy and laymen began to attend as well. At the same time, Methodist minister Timothy Merritt of Boston founded a journal called the Guide to Christian Perfection, later renamed The Guide to Holiness. This was the first American periodical dedicated exclusively to promoting the Wesleyan message of Christian holiness. In 1865, the Palmers purchased The Guide which at its peak had a circulation of 30,000. In 1859, Palmer published The Promise of the Father, in which she argued in favor of women in ministry. This book later influenced Catherine Booth, co-founder of the Salvation Army. The practice of ministry by women is common but not universal within the denominations of the holiness movement.
Camp meetings attracted large crowds:
The first distinct “holiness camp meeting” convened at Vineland, New Jersey in 1867 under the leadership of John S. Inskip, John A. Wood, Alfred Cookman, and other Methodist ministers. The gathering attracted as many as 10,000 people. At the close of the encampment, while the ministers were on their knees in prayer, they formed the National Camp Meeting Association for the Promotion of Holiness, and agreed to conduct a similar gathering the next year. This organization was commonly known as the National Holiness Association. Later, it became known as the Christian Holiness Association and subsequently the Christian Holiness Partnership.
The second National Camp Meeting was held at Manheim, Pennsylvania, and drew upwards of 25,000 persons from all over the nation. People called it a “Pentecost,” and it did not disappoint them. The service on Monday evening has almost become legendary for its spiritual power and influence. The third National Camp Meeting met at Round Lake, New York. This time the national press attended and write-ups appeared in numerous papers, including a large two-page pictorial in Harper’s Weekly. These meetings made instant religious celebrities out of many of the workers. Robert and Hannah Smith were among those who took the holiness message to England, and their ministries helped lay the foundation for the now-famous Keswick Convention.
The Keswick Convention, founded by an Anglican Canon and a Quaker, still exists today as an ecumenical gathering of evangelical Christians in Cumbria (northwest England). It is connected with the 19th century Higher Life movement in England which promoted
“entire sanctification,” “the second blessing,” “the second touch,” “being filled with the Holy Spirit,” and various other terms. Higher Life teachers promoted the idea that Christians who had received this blessing from God could live a more holy, that is less sinful or even a sinless, life. The so-called Keswick approach seeks to provide a mediating and biblically balanced solution to the problem of subnormal Christian experience. The “official” teaching has been that every believer in this life is left with the natural proclivity to sin and will do so without the countervailing influence of the Holy Spirit …
Little by little, Methodist churches in the London area became open to the concept of Christian holiness, which was their rightful inheritance from their founder. Robert Pearsall Smith warned them that they would end up falling behind other churches who had embraced the movement, and they began to invite Higher Life teachers to explain the doctrine to them.
Back in the United States in 1871, the famous evangelist Dwight L Moody met with two Free Methodist churchwomen and, although he did not become part of the holiness movement, greatly admired their teachings.
In a quest for holiness, two other new denominations were founded in 1895. One was the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church, which Benjamin Hardin Irwin founded. Irwin was a Baptist minister in Lincoln, Nebraska, who met with members of the Iowa Holiness Association. (Iowa is the state east of Nebraska.) He ended up joining the Wesleyan Methodist Church and believed there must be more to faith than sanctification — an additional experience. As such:
After receiving this experience in October 1895, he began to preach this “third blessing” among holiness adherents in the Midwest, particularly among Wesleyan Methodists and Brethren in Christ. His services were highly emotional with participants often getting the “jerks”, shouting, speaking in tongues, and holy dancing and laughing. Thousands attended his meetings and his teaching was circulated widely within the holiness movement, with its greatest strength in the Midwest and South. His message was largely rejected, however, and was denounced as a “third blessing heresy”.
He disapproved of:
women wearing “needless ornamentation”. However, he also applied this prohibition to men, making it a sin to wear neckties. He also said it was a sin to eat anything forbidden by the dietary laws of the Old Testament.
As is the case with pietist clergy, Irwin, too, had trouble with serious temptation:
In 1900, Irwin confessed to “open and gross sin” which brought “great reproach” to the church. He resigned as general overseer and was replaced by Joseph H. King, a 31 year old former Methodist from Georgia.
The Fire-Baptized Holiness Church would help to pave the way for Pentecostalism.Through mergers with the Pentecostal Holiness Church it became the International Pentecostal Holiness Church in 1975.
The second denomination founded in 1895 is the better known and less emotionally charged Church of the Nazarene. Phineas F Bresee was a pastor in the Methodist Episcopal Church but joined with a physician, Dr Joseph Pomeroy Widney, and a number of laypeople in the Los Angeles area to form this new church. Widney thought of the name. Its focus was to create family-oriented congregations for and of the urban poor.
The Church of the Nazarene took root in San Francisco, then expanded eastward throughout the United States. By 1907, its congregations were dotted all over the country. Church planting was also taking place in Canada. Both of these developments were thanks to a merger with the Association of Pentecostal Churches of America which marked the denomination’s formal incorporation.
The Nazarenes are deeply committed to higher education and have undergraduate and graduate schools around the world.
They adhere closely to Wesleyan teachings:
Throughout its history, the Church of the Nazarene has maintained a stance supporting total abstinence from alcohol and any other intoxicant, including cigarettes. Primary Nazarene founder Bresee was active in the Prohibition cause. Although this continues to be debated, the position remains in the church. While the church does not consider alcohol itself to be the cause of sin, it recognizes that intoxication and the like, are a ‘danger’ to many people, both physically and spiritually. Historically, the Nazarene Church was founded in order to help the poor. Alcohol, gambling, the like, and their addictions were cited as things that kept people poor. So in order to help the poor, as well as everyone, Nazarenes have traditionally abstained from those things. Also, a person who is meant to serve an example to others should avoid the use of them, in order not to cause others to stray from their ‘walk with God,’ as that is considered a sin for both parties.
Interestingly, in light of the holiness movement’s origins in pietism, faithful Nazarenes are horrified (rightly so) to see their denomination move towards mysticism and contemplative prayer in their denomination. However, a study of pietism reveals that this is not uncommon. Some of their leaders are also questioning biblical inerrancy, another characteristic of pietistic churches where personal experience overshadows Scripture and doctrine.
Worship includes personal testimony, and camp meetings still take place annually although revivals are less numerous than previously. Also:
A distinct approach to worship, especially in the early days of the Nazarene church, was the belief that ultimately the Holy Spirit should lead the worship. Services that were considered to be palpably evidenced by leadership of the Holy Spirit were marked by what was called “the Glory.” Almost equal to the emphasis on the doctrine of entire sanctification was the emphasis on these unusual worship experiences. Church leaders were careful to avoid emotional techniques to bring about such services. Ritual and the usual order of services were not abandoned but were held loosely. While some of the services were marked by shouting, others were marked by testimony, weeping, and individuals seeking spiritual help.
Other holiness and Methodist churches
In closing, there are two other Wesley-influenced churches worth mentioning. One is the small group of snake-handling churches in the American South, about which I wrote in 2010. They are an offshoot of the holiness movement.
The other is the Primitive Methodist Church, whose members were sometimes called ‘ranters’. They had their origins in England during an All Day of Prayer in Mow Cop, Staffordshire, in 1807. Four years later, this group grew to encompass other camp meeting groups. The mainstream Methodists in England, called the Methodist Connexion at the time, frowned on the noise and unseemly emotions of this group of poorer brethren. Some groups fell into trances, some evangelists talked about the supernatural. Both evangelists and their audiences were uneducated people. For these reasons, Thomas Coke was very much opposed to the Primitive Methodists. However, mainstream Methodists feared that the Primitives were giving them a bad name, at a time when the Church of England had scant regard for Wesley’s teachings.
Primitive Methodists used child evangelists in their preaching. Their worship music was seen to be undignified, inspired by popular melodies of the day. By the end of the 19th century, however, they moved closer to mainstream Methodism and discarded their more eccentric denominational characteristics. In the 20th century, both Methodist groups were reconciled to each other. In 1932, the Primitive Methodist Church became part of the Methodist Union. However, offshoots still exist in the United States and, perhaps, in Australia.
The Temperance Movement
A commonality between mainstream Methodists and the Primitives was their dislike for alcohol:
both the Primitive and Wesleyan Methodists wanted to reform popular behaviour. Again the Primitives were more radical than the Wesleyans and less in keeping with bourgeois correctness. [Co-founder Hugh] Bourne was not just in favour of temperance, he disagreed with alcohol altogether and thought of himself as the father of the teetotal movement. The Primitive Methodists were a religion of popular culture. While the Wesleyans attempted to impose elements of middle-class culture on the lower classes, Primitive Methodists offered an alternate popular culture. They timed their activities to coincide with sinful events. For instance, as an alternative to the race week at Preston they organised a Sunday School children’s parade and a “frugal feast”. Both tried to inculcate the doctrine of self-help into the working class. They promoted education through Sunday Schools, though the Primitives distinguished themselves by teaching writing. Through a combination of discipline, preaching and education both Primitive and Wesleyan Methodism sought to reform their members morality.
Of Methodism in the United States, Wikipedia states that John Wesley abhorred alcohol. Similarly:
The temperance movement appealed strongly to the Methodist doctrines of sanctification and Christian perfection … Therefore, those who believe are made new in Christ. The believer’s response to this sanctification then is to uphold God’s word in the world. A large part of this, especially in the late-19th century, was “to be their brother’s keepers, or […] their brother’s brothers.” Because of this sense of duty toward the other members of the church, many Methodists were personally temperate out of a hope that their restraint would give strength to their brothers. The Methodist stance against drinking was strongly stated in the Book of Discipline. Initially, the issue taken was limited to distilled liquors, but quickly, teetotalism became the norm and Methodists were commonly known to abstain from all alcoholic beverages.
In 1880, the general conference included in the Discipline a broad statement which included, “Temperance is a Christian virtue, Scripturally enjoined.” Due to the temperate stance of the church, the practice of Eucharist was altered — to this day, Methodist churches most commonly use grape juice symbolically during Communion rather than wine. The Methodist church distinguished itself from many other denominations in their beliefs about state control of alcohol. Where many other denominations, including Roman Catholics, Protestant Episcopalians, Lutherans, and Unitarians, believed that the ill-effects of liquor should be controlled by self-discipline and individual restraint, Methodists believed that it was the duty of the government to enforce restrictions on the use of alcohol. In 1904, the Board of Temperance was created by the General Conference to help push the Temperance agenda.
The women of the Methodist Church were strongly mobilized by the temperance movement. In 1879, a Methodist woman, Frances E. Willard, was voted to the presidency of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, an organization which was characterized by heavy Methodist participation. To this day, the Women’s Division of the General Board of Global Missions holds property across on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, which was built using funds provided by laypeople. Women of the church were responsible for 70% of the $650,000 it cost to construct the building in 1922. The building was intended to serve as the Methodist Church’s social reform presence of the Hill. The Board of Temperance, Prohibition and Public Morals was especially prominent within the building.
Apologies for the long post, however, it shows in one place the recurring themes of pietism: small groups, behavioural control, personal religious experience, loose worship styles and less emphasis on doctrine.
Next: Pietism and Pentecostalism
Yesterday’s post explored the origins of pietism, which originated in the Lutheran Church in Germany as a reaction to a doctrinal, established church of the state which many regarded as lacking in moral and religious fervour.
From Germany, the movement spread throughout Scandinavia, particularly Norway, and to Prussia. It also extended beyond Lutheranism, bringing about a Moravian revival. Lutheran and Moravian immigrants took their pietism to North America. Pietism, however, also influenced the practices of some Calvinists, particularly Anglicans attracted to the preaching of John Wesley and George Whitefield. This, too, was due directly to a Moravian influence which had come to England and Wales.
Wesley’s Methodist movement would eventually inspire further pietism in other churches, mainly those under the Holiness and Pentecostal banners.
John Wesley and the Moravians
At Oxford in 1729, John Wesley’s brother Charles, George Whitefield and other students formed a society called the Holy Club. John Wesley, older and by then ordained in the Anglican Church, had already begun devoting his life to the pursuit of holiness.
The Wesleys, together with the members of the Holy Club, developed a methodical way to achieve what they saw as a sanctified, obedient life. This rigid system of holiness would become known as Methodism. The word ‘pietist’ was initially used by those critical of the movement; and so it was with the word ‘Methodist’, used against the Holy Club by its critics at Oxford.
The Wikipedia entry on pietism describes the German influence on Wesley as coming from both the Lutherans and the Moravians:
Moravians (e.g., Zinzendorf, Peter Bohler) and Pietists connected to Francke and Halle Pietism.
However, Wesley’s first encounter with their pietism initially occurred not in Germany but on his journey to North America with Charles in 1735.
A storm broke one of the ship’s masts en route to the American colonies. The story has it that, whilst the English (Anglicans and/or Calvinists) panicked, the Moravians on board remained calm by praying and singing hymns. Their reaction impressed John Wesley, and he befriended them.
Yet, the pietists’ way of life dovetailed with Wesley’s own and that of the Holy Club in Oxford. Therefore, it was natural that he would have been attracted to it.
Once Wesley arrived in the southern colony of Georgia at the invitation of Governor James Oglethorpe to head a new congregation in the city of Savannah, he maintained his connections with Moravian pastors which affected his ministry there adversely.
Common pietist problems: women and the law
Reading biographical details of pietist pastors reveals two common themes: legal and women troubles.
Wherever a dominant doctrinal and state-established church is in place, pietist pastors have run afoul of the law. As we saw yesterday, the Norwegian Hans Nielsen Hauge spent a number of years in prison for opposing the state church (Lutheran).
We will also see another Lutheran example — involving women — in a few days’ time. Further on in this post is a Welsh example.
Wesley also experienced problems in Georgia. Many settlers were Anglicans and, as such, opposed to his Methodism. However, he also became romantically involved with Sophia Hopkey, a woman who sailed from England on the same ship as the Wesley brothers. A Moravian pastor advised Wesley against further involvement.
Hopkey maintained that Wesley promised that he would marry her. However, she went on to marry another — William Williamson — and, attending Wesley’s church with her new husband, presented herself at the Lord’s Table for Communion. Wesley refused to give Mrs Williamson the Sacrament. This was an act which had grave overtones for a congregant’s or guest’s personal character.
The couple filed a lawsuit against Wesley, who stood trial, although the case was dismissed. Mr Williamson filed another suit against Wesley in an attempt to forbid his leaving Georgia. However, a shaken and debilitated Wesley managed to return to England, escaping the law.
Wesley’s return to England — more Moravian influence
Upon his return to England, John Wesley continued his Moravian associations.
Moravians in London worshipped in Aldersgate Street, then at the Fetter Lane Society, which Peter Böhler established in 1738. Both Wesleys and George Whitefield, as well as other Anglican clergy and laypeople, began attending Moravian services.
Although technically Anglican, John Wesley and George Whitefield were no longer allowed to preach in certain Church of England parishes. They had strayed too far from the established Church.
It was in Aldersgate Street that Wesley had a profound religious experience whilst listening to a reading of a Martin Luther sermon introducing St Paul’s letter to the Romans. He travelled to Germany to study at the Moravian headquarters in Herrnhut.
Upon his return, Wesley would go on to help to devise the polity of the Fetter Lane Society and publish a hymnal for them.
Eventually, however, Wesley and the Moravians broke their association over disagreements about assurance and faith. Some at the Fetter Lane Society believed in a type of quietism — a ‘let go and let God’ philosophy — of doing nothing until they felt they had the full assurance of salvation. Wesley rightly pointed out that this was heretical, which it is. He tried to impress upon the group the importance of nurturing a relationship with God through prayer, worship and study.
Pietistic worship style and revivalism
The Moravian worship style at the Fetter Lane Society was typically pietistic, inducing meaningful religious experiences, surges in emotion and a subjective notion of the presence of God.
This emotionally- and self-absorbed style of worship would become part of the First and Second Great Awakenings, which adopted an enthusiastic and revivalistic preaching style. It is one of the reasons that some Anglicans and social critics made fun of it.
As mentioned earlier, Wesley and Whitefield were restricted in what Anglican parishes they could preach. In 1739, Whitefield began preaching in the open air near Bristol to miners and encouraged Wesley to join him. Initially reluctant, Wesley went along two months later to preach outdoors in the same location.
Both men were powerful preachers, stirring the soul to give that characteristically pietistic sensation of an inner stirring — a notional religious experience which makes the listener feel a divine presence.
In pietism — then as now — doctrine matters little. Sermons are intended to be sensational and personal in order to encourage repentence and to goad one into a manmade pursuit of holiness.
The Second Great Awakening of the 19th century would bring revivals and their enthusiasm to full fruition. Preachers like Charles Finney in the United States would capitalise on this, lending a Pelagian flavour to certain independent Evangelical and Bible churches springing up throughout America.
Lay and itinerant preachers with little to no formal training would travel from town to town spreading their message, collecting money from the crowds to finance their ministries and sometimes dupe followers in the process.
Methodist polity and popularity in western England and in Wales
After joining Whitefield in Bristol in 1739, Wesley noted that he lacked preachers. Nonetheless, he opened Methodist chapels in the area and would later return to London to do so there.
In order to have enough preachers to serve the chapels, and as he (as an Anglican priest) was under no authority to ordain any, Wesley decided that laymen were the answer. Indeed, the Methodist movement expanded rapidly as a result. The Methodist Church relies heavily on lay preachers to this day. They preach and do pastoral work. For many Methodists lay preachers are the pastors in most respects.
By 1744, the Methodist movement had grown to such a size that a formal organisation and doctrine needed to be arrived at. However, 18 months prior to Wesley’s first conference to decide such matters, the Welsh — under the chairmanship of George Whitefield — organised their first Methodist Association. They would organise the movement in Wales into districts.
The Welsh also had Anglican preachers — some of whom had also studied at Oxford — who subscribed to a Methodist way of life. As such, they, too, preached at outdoor revivals. Whitefield would encourage and mentor the Welsh movement, which had its beginnings in 1735.
It was that year when Howell Harris had an awakening during an Easter church service and decided to begin holding services in his own house. He had wanted to pursue ordination as an Anglican priest but was refused because his approach was too Methodist. Like Wesley and Whitefield, Harris found pietism the pathway to holiness.
Harris ran into much difficulty, even physical danger, because of his religious views but he continued to travel around Wales preaching in a deeply moving style which attracted many people.
However, he, like a number of other pietist pastors, experienced problems with the opposite sex. Harris had developed a close friendship with a wife and mother, Sydney ‘Madam’ Griffith. Mrs Griffith’s marriage was an unhappy one. Already a devotee of Methodism, hearing Harris’s preaching in 1748 further moved her emotionally. She made Harris’s acquaintance as well as that of his Methodist associate, Daniel Rowland, another prominent preacher of the day.
For a short time, Madam Griffith was Harris’s constant companion. Although she had made considerable financial contributions to the Methodist cause, she was left without any income following her separation from her husband. Soon her health deteriorated, and Harris took her to London, where she died (her husband having died three months earlier).
Before she died, however, their association had become quite public and scandalous. As a result, Harris had returned to his home in Treveca in 1752. Following the Moravian example, he established a religious community there called Teulu Treveca (‘The Treveca Family’), where he presided as ‘father’.
However, in 1763, Harris resumed public preaching and is considered the founder of the Presbyterian Church of Wales, also known as the Calvinistic Methodist Church. To many, this name will appear an oxymoron. It combines Calvinist doctrine with Methodist polity and practice. I cannot but help wonder whether the influence of this church on the Welsh is one of the reasons they clamour so loudly for Government controls on tobacco and alcohol.
Back now to Wesley’s first conference in 1744. Whereas the Welsh Methodists had organised districts, Wesley organised circuits, which exist to this day in the Methodist Church. In fact, the first men to make the rounds of regional congregations rode on horseback — as did Wesley — and were called circuit riders.
Wesley wanted his lay preachers to move to a new circuit every two years, making them ‘itinerant’. Even today, many orthodox Christians disparage ‘itinerant preachers’ for this reason, asking, ‘What formal theological training do they have? What is their history? Where are they from?’
As for the possibility of ordained ministers, the Wesleys knew that the chasm between them and the Church of England was growing ever wider and deeper. The brothers both stayed in the Church of England and were loth to leave it or to cause too much offence. When John Wesley laid hands on an Anglican priest, Thomas Coke, in order to appoint him Superintendent of Methodists in the United States, he also ordained two presbyters to accompany him across the Atlantic. Afterward, Charles begged John to stop:
before he had “quite broken down the bridge” and not embitter his [Charles’] last moments on earth, nor “leave an indelible blot on our memory.”
Wesley and Whitefield part ways theologically
It is sometimes unclear to the casual reader exactly where Whitefield ended up on the theological spectrum. As he was part of the First Great Awakening and was an emotive, charismatic preacher, not to mention connected with Wesley, some might think that Whitefield stayed within Methodism.
However, he never really left his Calvinistic roots and eventually separated theologically from Wesley — as did his proteges in the Calvinistic Methodist Presbyterian Church of Wales. That said, the two ministers remained good friends. Whitefield’s patron was Selina, Countess of Huntingdon.
Sanctification and holiness
Wikpedia’s entry on John Wesley states:
Wesley taught that sanctification was obtainable after justification by faith, between justification and death. He did not contend for “sinless perfection”; rather, he contended that a Christian could be made “perfect in love”. (Wesley studied Eastern Orthodoxy and particularly the doctrine of Theosis). This love would mean, first of all, that a believer’s motives, rather than being self-centred, would be guided by the deep desire to please God. One would be able to keep from committing what Wesley called, “sin rightly so-called.” By this he meant a conscious or intentional breach of God’s will or laws. A person could still be able to sin, but intentional or wilful sin could be avoided.
Secondly, to be made perfect in love meant, for Wesley, that a Christian could live with a primary guiding regard for others and their welfare. He based this on Christ’s quote that the second great command is “to love your neighbour as you love yourself.” In his view, this orientation would cause a person to avoid any number of sins against his neighbour. This love, plus the love for God that could be the central focus of a person’s faith, would be what Wesley referred to as “a fulfilment of the law of Christ.”
Wesley believed that this doctrine should be constantly preached, especially among the people called Methodists. In fact, he contended that the purpose of the Methodist movement was to “spread scriptural holiness across England.”
However, it would seem that his subsequent followers — including some Methodists I knew in the United States — had a different notion of holiness. Alcohol was often eschewed and even actively discouraged for non-Methodists, to be covered in the next post which concerns the 19th century temperance movement, also associated with Wesleyanism.
Wesley Covenant Prayer and pietism
Early each January, Methodist churches in Britain and the Commonwealth hold a Covenant service, open to all. I have attended three and recommend that those who are interested go at least once. This is at least one service during the year where more traditional hymns and liturgy are used.
The traditional form of the prayer is as follows:
- I am no longer my own, but thine.
- Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
- Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
- Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
- exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
- Let me be full, let me be empty.
- Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
- I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
- And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
- thou art mine, and I am thine.
- So be it.
- And the covenant which I have made on earth,
- let it be ratified in heaven.
Next week: The Holiness movement, temperance and Pentecostalism