Incorporating The Wesley Fellowship Quarterly
Chairman : Rev. Dr Herbert B. McGonigle
: Mr Paul S. Taylor, M.A., Stonebridge Cottage, Back
Lane, Shearsby, Lutterworth, Leicestershire, England, U.K., LE17 6PN
The Executive Committee includes the above officers together with:
Book/Tape Sales : Rev. Tony Tamburello, 13 Charles
Street, Colne, Lancashire , BB8 0LY
Mr John Gibby
STILL NOT TOO LATE TO BOOK!This year, 2007, is the tercentenary of the birth of Charles Wesley, who was born at Epworth, Lincolnshire, in 1707. As members will know, to mark this important occasion we have arranged a Residential Conference, from Tuesday 3 rd to Thursday 5 th April 2007.The Conference will include Papers and activities celebrating the life, hymns and preaching of Charles Wesley. The two main speakers will be (DV): (a) the Revd Dr John A. Newton, C.B.E., the distinguished Methodist scholar, former President of the Methodist Conference, former Chair of the Archives and History Committee of the Methodist Church, and author of the ‘definitive biography’ Susanna Wesley and the Puritan Tradition in Methodism (2 nd ed. 2002); and (b) the Revd Dr Herbert McGonigle, former principal of Nazarene Theological College, currently Director of the Manchester Wesley Research Centre, and author of the highly regarded Sufficient Saving Grace: John Wesley’s Evangelical Arminianism. This should be an inspiring occasion and a Conference not to be missed! The number of bookings already received suggest that this will be one of our best ever attended Conferences. If you have not already done so, we do hope that you will be able to book and join with us at the Hayes Conference Centre on this very special occasion. We promise that the Conference will include a large selection of Charles Wesley's hymns to be sung! A booking form and further contact details are enclosed with this mailing of the Bulletin.
FROM THE CHAIRMAN
As 2007 begins there are indications of a growing number of events being planned for every month of the year to celebrate the birth of Charles Wesley, three hundred years ago. Charles, the most prolific hymn-writer of all time, and often referred to as ‘the sweet singer of Methodism,’ is being remembered in a variety of ways. Although his birth date is December 18, the events planned for this tercentenary year stretch across the whole of 2007. At least one new biography of Charles is about to be published and there will be scores of articles in Christian periodicals and magazines. A service of praise, from Wesley’s Chapel in London, is being planned, and many Methodist circuits in Britain are arranging their own tributes and celebrations. One of the major tercentenary events is an International Conference taking place at Hope University, Liverpool, in September.
Our Wesley Fellowship will be ‘first in the field’ of the larger events with its April Residential Conference. The dates are Tuesday-Thursday, April 3-5, and the venue is the Hayes Conference Centre in Derbyshire. We are planning a programme of papers, preaching, fellowship, a love feast, an open discussion forum – and the singing of lots of Charles Wesley’s great hymns! It promises to be a memorable occasion of spiritual inspiration - and we want YOU to be there!
Our main speaker is the Revd Dr John A. Newton. Dr Newton is a noted authority on the Wesley family. His book on Susanna, Susanna Wesley and the Puritan Tradition in Methodism, is the authoritative biography on Susanna Wesley. Dr Newton will bring four Papers dealing with Charles Wesley and they all promise a feast of good things! The first will be about Charles Wesley as a family man; his marriage to Sarah Gwynne, their gifted children and their family life, first in Bristol and then in London. Many interesting biographical facts will be highlighted that are not generally known. Dr Newton’s second Paper will deal with Charles as a preacher of the gospel. Such is Charles’ fame as a hymn-writer, it is often overlooked that he was a travelling preacher for some seventeen years. Over those years he travelled and preached across the country and God wonderfully owned his ministry. The third Paper will concentrate on some of Charles’ large output of hymns on the Atonement. The fourth Paper will look at the lives and work and ministries of John and Charles Wesley as ‘brothers in arms.’ A fifth Paper, the annual Maynard James Memorial Lecture*, will deal with ‘The Bible in the Hymns of Charles Wesley.’
Now, with a menu like that, who could stay away!? Interspersing these inspiring Papers will be two praise and preaching services, a Love Feast, an open forum to discuss many Wesley topics – and much else. The WF committee has worked hard and long to prepare a programme that will truly bless, inform and inspire all who attend. Most of us have loved and treasured and joined in singing Charles Wesley’s hymns since we became Christians. This Conference is an opportunity to learn more about Charles, the most prolific hymn writer in the history of the Church.
Now, two final words about this exciting Charles Wesley Conference! First, we need every member to consider seriously about attending on April 3-5. In addition we need to make this Conference known among our friends and Church members. Many Christians are so interested in Charles Wesley’s hymns that they would consider this Conference a ‘must.’ So, let’s tell them about it! Second, a word on finance. The booking of any Conference premises these days is expensive and the Wesley Fellowship has to pay the going rate. We have, however, pared the costs down to the lowest possible pound, in order that everyone who wants to come will be able to come.
Well, there it is! This is my personal appeal to you to join us for these three great days together!
* Editorial Note : Our Chairman has, as is his wont, refrained from promoting himself in his above letter. Members may need to be reminded, however, that the Revd Dr Herbert McGonigle will in fact be presenting the 19 th Maynard James Memorial Lecture at this Wesley Fellowship Charles Wesley Tercentenary Celebration Conference. For those who know Dr McGonigle, his contribution alone on the subject of ‘The Bible in the Hymns of Charles Wesley’, is clearly one of the several outstanding reasons why this Conference is one NOT TO BE MISSED! It is also worth noting that the Conference is also open to Day Visitors on much reduced terms. If you, or someone you know, is only able to attend the Conference on a non-residential basis, please contact the Wesley Fellowship Secretary, Mr Paul Taylor, for further details on how to book as a Day Visitor. The Secretary’s full contact details are given on the enclosed Booking Form (Tel: 0116-247 8679).
Wesley Fellowship member, Revd David R. Rainey, BSL, ThB, MDiv, MTh, DMin, PhD (London), Chaplain and Lecturer at the Nazarene Theological College, Manchester, has provided the following review with some thought provoking comments on a recent Wesley Fellowship publication, written by another of our WF members (Revd John M. Haley, BA, MA, PhD, minister at Ridgeway Methodist Church, Plympton, and honorary research fellow at the University of Wales, Bangor). The book was sent to all our members in 2006.
‘A little body of experimental and practical divinity’: Hymns in the Wesleyan-Arminian Tradition. John M. Haley (The Wesley Fellowship: Shearsby, Leicestershire, 2005. pp.27, pbk., ISBN: 0953747379).
John Haley has made an important contribution to the study of the Wesley hymns by identifying the secondary sources that have contributed to the ongoing study of Wesley hymnology. Comments were made on the significance of the experiential hymns, on theology learned through singing, and the use of the German tradition in Wesley’s hymnology. All of this makes this publication very useful as it also emphasised John Wesley’s own description of the purpose of the 1780 hymnbook as ‘a little body of experimental and practical divinity’. The hymnbook was a massive collection of hymns on Christian experience and the hymnbook’s outline verified this.
But John Haley’s publication created two questions. Is it accurate to describe the 1780 hymnbook as, “The definitive collection of Methodist hymns in Wesley’s lifetime” (p. 4); and, is it accurate to say, “In some sense he unwittingly produced his own systematic theology” (p. 4)? The second question is rather important. John Wesley never claimed, in any sense, that this was a form of systematic or doctrinal theology. Even if one argued it as, ‘unwittingly’ a systematic approach, there is too much not in the hymnbook to label it with that phrase. In the hymnbook there is no section on the Trinity, Christology, Pneumatology, atonement, Ecclesiology, etc., to give it that type of designation. The first question comes out of the second. It does not appear that the statement that the 1780 hymnbook is ‘a definitive collection of Methodist hymns’ could be accurate. Let me explain it in this manner, the 1780 hymnbook was not designed for the Sunday morning worship service. The hymnbook was designed for the weekday Methodist society meetings where human experience was emphasised. The Sunday morning worship service would have followed the liturgical calendar and Charles Wesley wrote hymns for the liturgical year. Charles Wesley was a genius, as implied by John Haley, in writing doctrinal hymns with experience embedded into the doctrine. But Charles Wesley could also write experiential hymns with doctrine embedded into the experience and the 1780 hymnbook followed this second pattern. Because this hymnbook followed the experiential pattern I am not convinced, so far, that it could be designated as ‘definitive’. But, perhaps others would like to comment on the 1780 hymnbook as ‘definitive’ and ‘systematic’.
David R. Rainey
Please see the enclosed details of the newly published book, Bold as a Lion: The Life of John Cennick (1718-1755) Moravian Evangelist. It is a very attractive, interesting and readable book, jointly authored by WF members Peter Gentry and Paul Taylor. It is a brave venture for these two ‘retired’ brothers in the Lord, to have published this book themselves. They deserve to be supported because the book is not only very good value but it is also the result of some careful research that throws some new light on this remarkable evangelist who was a contemporary of John and Charles Wesley.
© The Wesley Fellowship 2007