I had begun a separate page "journaling" my thoughts about being part of the United Methodist Church, but chose to just use this personal blog for the same purpose. In order to preserve my first couple months worth reflections I created this post.
Advent began this Sunday. We enter into the "new year" according to the liturgical calendar. I have come to appreciate the seasons of the Church's Calendar (see this helpful videohere). At the young/old age of thirty-two I need rhythm and rhyme. I need intentionality. The Church's Calendar gives that to me and it allows my year to have something to do with the story of how Creator, Christ, and Spirit has begun redeeming the cosmos.
What is distinctively Wesleyan about this time of the year? I'm not sure yet. I do know that liturgically the Methodist Church seems to share some aspects of high Church Anglicanism while also maintaining the ethos of low Church Evangelicalism. Our local congregation, La Trinidad, Latino in heritage and history, provides another angle. I'm absorbing it all right now. Hopefully I'll come to a point where I can better articulate my experiences and thoughts.
Changing the subject: what does being a Methodist mean regarding social justice, especially in light of recent events in Ferguson and Staten Island, and the unjust deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner? Well, again, I lack words, but I do know the Wesleyan heritage is one of social action and civil engagement. It has not allowed for their to be the false dichotomy of a "spiritual" Gospel vs. a "social" Gospels. Like the Hebrew prophets, like John the Baptist, like Jesus himself, the Gospel as told by Wesleyans is a Gospel of there here-and-now as much as it is the bye-and-bye. Salvation begins today! Salvation is more than just a pleasant afterlife. It is union with the Triune God now and that union is made possible by the God-Human, Jesus Christ, who reconciles humanity to God, God to humanity, humanity to humanity, humanity to creation, and creation to humanity. It is not that the Wesleyan tradition is the only tradition to emphasize this, not at all, but it does emphasize this and in my estimation this helps me to live a life of discipleship that is more holistic and healthy than some of the traditions with which I have affiliated.
Ordinary Time has come to an end. Advent begins today! This will be my first Advent as part of the United Methodist Church. Every year around this time I become "(Roman) Catholic Lite" because high Church traditions seem to celebrate Advent in such a way that it emphasizes the mystery of the Incarnation more than most low Church traditions. As I've said previously, we joined the UMC, in part, because it bridges high and low Church traditions. I look forward to a lot of high liturgy this season.
On Wednesday evening we participated in a Thanksgiving dinner with our community called a "Celebration of Providence" wherein we honored our Creator for all that has been given to us. La Trinidad felt like a real, extended family that evening. One of the highlights of 2014 will be becoming members of this congregation. It was the right decision.
Today I was reminded of why Christianity cannot be done alone, IMO. One of the most precious, elderly couples in our Church lost their son last week to a cardiac arrest. He was only 51. Today they were back with us worshipping. On the one hand, I know they were strengthen in their faith being back around their Church family as many came to hug, kiss, and console them. On the other hand, at least personally, their presence strengthened me in my faith. I complain a lot. I tend to be covetous and discontent. This couple has suffered one of the greatest forms of loss, the loss of a child, yet they had something I can only hope to have by the time I am their age. This is when the community aspect of the Church shines brightest.
Many people in our local Church are elderly. This can be difficult at times. Many practices are seemingly set in stone. While I would think older Christians would focus upon preparing the next generation, many want their faith to comfort them and provide them with some familiarity during their latter days. I understand this, but it does contribute to the generation gap we see among congregations. But today was one of those days when I am reminded why we didn't chose a Church where everyone is our age. We need to see Christians who are farther along the journey than we are, who've lived life, who've survived the challenges that are ahead for someone my age. I'm thankful for our "seasoned saints" and I wouldn't trade them to be part of a more hip, relevant Church.
We've entered November. In a few weeks I will participate in my first Advent Season as a member of the UMC. Last year at this time we (Miranda and I) were fellowshipping with the Mennonites, but we struggled with the sense that we didn't belong. This is no indictment on them, merely our reality. On occasion during Advent I would visit St. Rosa Lima RCC near where we lived because I felt like I could participate in the holy season there in a way that I could not with our Mennonite friends. Often, my wife calls me "Catholic-lite" which is probably more befitting of Episcopalians than Methodists, but Methodists do seek to honor the "Catholic Spirit" in all we do, so I see no contradiction in my preference for high Church Roman Catholicism during Advent over against low Church Mennonites.
Speaking of "Catholic-lite", this last Sunday was All Saints Day. That was also a first for us. Our Church honored the day by asking members to bring white votives to light near the front of the sanctuary to honor the departed saints. I haven't lost anyone close to me who was an active Christian. On my father's side of the family my grandfather passed over a decade ago, and at the very end of his life he showed signs of interest in the Gospel, but I don't know what was going on in his heart. He did not live his life as a Christian at all prior to those final months. I have no doubt that our Creator offers grace to all who ask, so maybe it would have been appropriate to bring my own candle for him, but his acceptance or rejection of the Gospel remains unknown to me. On my mother's side there are many who were faithful Roman Catholics, but I never met those who passed like my great grandmother and those I have met are alive. On the other hand, Miranda had two for her grandparents on her father's side and one for an uncle who passed this year. They were all Pentecostals. I wonder what they would think of their granddaughter/niece honoring them in a way that is so "Catholic" to them (many Latin@ Pentecostals have a hostile relationship to the RCC). Soon the Ecclesial Year will end and Advent will begin, my first as a Methodist. I anticipate a very holy season.
In part, personally, when I think of the word "Evangelical" (a hotly contested word among North American Christians) I think of something essentially Wesleyan. For many, Evangelical means something like The Gospel Coalition, i.e., Neo-Reformed, Neo-Puritan, hipster fundamentalism. For others it brings up images of the Moral Majority or Religious Right. When we consider recent history this makes sense, but I try to dig back further and when I do I find Evangelicalism to be more of a posture or modus operandi within the Church rather than "the Church". George Sumner's recent article "Wesley and Anglican Mission" sets forth what I mean. The key paragraph is this one:
“In mission, we are all Methodists now, at least in our root assumptions and many of our strategies. To understand what I mean, we need to consider the particular pattern of Methodist mission and ministry. It was focused on inwardness, conversion, the heart, and yet it was lived out in small groups, “class meetings,” in which the converted held each other to account. In those groups members could confess their failings, be exhorted and encouraged by their peers, and pray for one another. The leaders and the impetus were lay.”
Wesleyanism has become its own "Church" and Methodism its own denomination. This doesn't upset me. Anglicanism was part of the broader Roman Catholic Church and there was a split between Canterbury and Rome. The Methodist were part of the broader Anglican Communion and there was a split between Canterbury and these renewal communities of Methodists. It happens. It will happen again. That's Protestantism. But the idea isn't separatism, exclusion, or Fundamentalism, but renewal. Sometimes renewal creates mini-schism, but that's not the goal. The goal is the remind the Church that we are to be "holy" because we are the people of God and this is a message I need to hear daily. I recommend Sumner's article because in my mind what makes "Evangelicalism" is the same thing that makes "Wesleyanism"—people in the Church calling the broader Church back to its central message and mission in the Gospel.
For many year I have wrestled with understanding the difference between authentic discipleship and inauthentic legalistic behavior. When among the Pentecostals, disciplines such as fasting and prayer could become rotten. I was made to feel that I needed to fast more and pray longer if I wanted true spirituality, true results. This put the full burden on my back, but in many ways it resulted in a role reversal between me and my God. I was responsible for the actions that mattered, ultimately.
When leaving Pentecostalism I reacted strongly against this approach to spirituality. Instead, I took a page out of the Lutheran playbook emphasizing grace, the need to "sin boldly", and the centrality of Jesus Christ as my Great High Priest through whom I could "boldly enter" the presence of God as claimed by the author of Hebrews (Heb. 4:6; cf. Eph. 3:12). I am glad I made this shift toward a more graceful posture, but I would say the pendulum swung too far at times. The disciplines can be good for us just as their misuse can be bad for us. Frequent prayer can make us aware of the divine presence, our own heart, our need to support others. Fasting can remind us of the plight of others, our need to give from our resources rather than using them all for ourselves, and that food is not our only substance for survival (we need God, not for our bellies to be gods). Giving, studying, corporate worship, etc., all these disciplines keep us from become spiritually petrified, self-centered in thinking God is our Santa Claus here to give us stuff whenever we want it. They help us participate in tikkun olam. Oddly, this means that disciples in discipleship are the exact opposite of what I imagined when I was younger; disciplines are what keep us from thinking Christianity is about us.
I mention this in response to John A. Murdock's recent blog post at Seedbed titled "Recovering a Willardian Wesleyanism". In this solid, short article Murdock points to the writings of Dallas Willard as a means by which Methodists can regain their identity as disciples who disciple. I like what he has to say and I'm challenged by it. Disciples can be misused and destructive, but when use correctly they are life-giving, freeing. I recommend Murdock's entry.
Of course, the United Methodist Church has its politics like any denomination. On the one hand, there is a seriousness with which various issues must be engaged. On the other hand, in order not to take one's self too seriously, there must be laughter. Joel Watts contributes a little to both hands with his recent semi-satirical blog post "The (un)Official Via Media Methodists Lexicon and Illustrated Dictionary, 1st Edition" wherein he defines "Progressive," "Evangelical," "Third Way," "Via Media," Dudebro," and "Brogressive".
Ken Schenck wrote a nice, short summary introduction to Wesleyan-Arminian theology yesterday that I enjoyed. It speaks to John Wesley's Anglicanism, how Anglicanism itself was a "middle way" between Catholic and Reformed views of theology and the Church. But also how Wesleyanism is eclectic because Wesley was eclectic borrowing from Pietists, Lutherans, Calvinists, etc. This reflects part of what has drawn me to Wesleyanism. My wife calls me "Catholic-lite", which may be Anglican (!), yet as I've said elsewhere the vigor and energy of some forms of Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism prevent me from being too high Church (several doctrines prevent me from the RCC or OC) and it was Wesleyan thought that laid a seedbed for much of the best of Evangelical and Pentecostal thought, in my opinion.
According to A Dictionary for United Methodists by Alan K. Waltz (Abington Press, 1991), the so-called Wesleyan Quadrilateral was not formulated as a "succinct statement" by John Wesley, but instead summarized his thinking within the established Anglican tradition. Anglicans had emphasized the Bible as prima Scriptura, i.e., the primary authority for Christian theologizing, but Anglicans had placed emphasis on the role of the Great Tradition as well as reason/logic as an interpretive tool (likely influenced by Enlightenment ideals, some positive; some negative). Wesley added "experience" as a fourth category. Methodists have used this series of lens to develop a worldview: begin with their eyes on Scripture, the "one book" of the Church, but read it with the voices of "great cloud of witnesses" whispering into one ear (or, as G.K. Chesterton called it, "the democracy of the dead") and reason whispering in the other year. Lest Christian theology be all above the neck, Wesley added experience allowing one's mind to be informed by one's heart.
The Bible is the Church's book, so it is important to ask what the Church has said about her book over the years. This is contrary to biblicism which uses the Church's book acting as if canon is not tradition when canon is tradition. The same Church that has established/received the Bible as an authoritative library did so because they had been forming a Great Tradition and the imperfect process of canonization included the idea of works that informed orthodoxy in one direction while being judged by orthodoxy from the other direction. So to read the Bible as being outside of tradition is contradictory, yet to read the Bible as captivated and controlled by tradition is to ignore what sort of tradition we have in canon. Canon is the tradition that allows the rest of tradition to be tested, changed, and liquidated in order to be reformed. Canon is an established proposition that is actually a mixture of narrative, archive, poetry, law, prophetic, gospel, epistolary, apocalyptic, etc., by which all other propositions are forced to remain living propositions of the Spirit not petrified propositions. The Great Tradition forces us to read the Bible with the saints and recognize that the Spirit didn't start working in our generation alone. Scripture is the test by which the Great Tradition is filtered through the diversity of the human experience. What does a psalm tell us about God being Father and Creator? What does the Law tell us about Jesus' death and resurrection? What does apocalyptic tell us about life everlasting?
Reason keeps us from reading the Bible flippantly. We develop a hermeneutic that recognizes our place in time and Scripture's origins in the past. We read the Book of Genesis different that our ancestors in the faith because we reason through a different, scientific paradigm. We have more information that they did. It would be hubris to think that our theology is automatically purer than their theology because of our informed reasoning, but it is dead fundamentalism to try to ignore our place in time as if we are the people of God living in a time other then the twenty-first century.
Our mind is not the only thing that helps us engage reality though. For example, I am cautiously charismatic, not because I reasoned to the charismata, but because I've experienced it. Reason tells me that if there is a God like the Christian God there is nothing contradictory about the idea of charismata with my understanding of reality, but it is experience that adds another dimension of knowledge, truth, doctrine. Similarly, abuse of the charismata shapes my understanding of that particular experience as much as the Apostle Paul's warnings in 1 Corinthians!
In my last entry I said I don't reject the label "Evangelical" but I do reject biblicist Evangelicalism, the movement within Evangelicalism that is ironically trapped in a certain tradition but that thinks their tradition is just a "plain reading of Scripture". I reject biblicism not because I don't love the Bible. I do, but Wesleyan thought allows us to read the Bible as it is in reality, not as we might need it be to win the fundamentalist-modernist wars.
This summer when I was in Bristol, England, I had the opportunity to visit the "first Methodist building" in the world: the New Room. (I wrote about my "pilgrimage" for Seedbed here. Also, I shared some pictures here.) As a student of Trinity College Bristol/the University of Bristol I had been unaware of Methodism's roots in Bristol. I had applied, been accepted, and began my studies before joining the Methodist Church really was an option. In Portland, OR, I didn't once think of visiting a Methodist Church, which seems odd in retrospect, but it was an odd time. I did visit a Roman Catholic Church, tried to visit an Orthodox Church (but was confused about service time), attended a Evangelical mega-Church, visited a charismatic Neo-Reformed Church for a few weeks, and then attended a "Free Grace" Lutheran-esque Church, but nothing Methodist. As I spent time around conservative Evangelicals in the Pacific Northwest I began to realize that I was not one of them. I think I knew this already, but it was made more and more evident by the day and it began to become uncomfortable. I worked for Western Seminary where I was doing my ThM, but theologically I would have jived better with the more progressive Evangelicals at George Fox Evangelical Seminary (GFES) where Quaker, Methodist, and Pentecostal theologies are welcomed. Western Seminary was Neo-Purtian, Neo-Reformed, and the patron saint was Charles Spurgeon. As much as I am thankful for my time at Western Seminary, and the relationships created while I was there, I wish I would have visited people at GFES more often. I would have found that there were more Evangelicals like me and I wouldn't have felt like such an odd ball all the time. Maybe I would have visited a Methodist Church earlier? Who knows?
Prior to my first visit to Bristol things had changed. When Miranda and I moved to San Antonio, TX, we began visiting Church after Church and it was draining. We stayed with the local Mennonite USA Church for about a year, but we knew half way into it that we ourselves weren't Anabaptists. In February of this year we visited La Trinidad UMC. It wasn't until June that I went to Bristol and by then I had been seriously considering joining the UMC. I began reading about Methodists, Wesleyan theology, etc., but we had not yet chosen to commit as members. That wouldn't happen until August. This is where my visit to Bristol becomes so important. Now that I was finally considering ending my long wilderness journey from my former home in Pentecostalism to wherever I may rest it was deeply moving to realize that the place where I was getting my education was the home to such an important place in Methodist history. Here I was attending an Anglican College, the ecclesial home of the Wesleys, and the world of the Wesleys and early Methodism was brought alive to me in the city of Bristol. I knew that by the time I left the New Room I was Methodist in my approach to Christianity, but I'm still not completely sure what that means. In part, this little exercise of journaling is my way of sorting out that very question.
Yesterday I mentioned that my wife and I joined the United Methodist Church a few months ago. While it is true that we had been seeking a small "t" tradition with which we could unite, and a denomination into which we could invest ourselves, it was also very important for us to find a local congregation with which we could resonate. Miranda is a Tejana, i.e. a Latin@American born in Texas. For both of us it was important that our Church community be a place where our marriage could thrive and where the culturally diversity we represent as a couple could be mirrored to some extent. When we visited Churches during our first two years here in San Antonio we ran into a paradox: (1) either the Churches were white, as if Latin@s didn't exist or barely existed or (2) the Churches were Roman Catholic or Pentecostal. Now, while I have great respect for Roman Catholicism I also have many critiques (hence, I am a "Protestant" or an "Evangelical"). I am not alone in this. My wife may have even more problems with the Roman Catholic Church. She was raised amongst Pentecostals like myself, but her experience was among Latin@ Pentecostals, which was different than mine. We visited at least one Latin@ Pentecostal Church when we moved here. While we felt drawn to them culturally we struggled with their theology. There remained too much health-and-wealth, name-it-and-claim-it preaching. The liturgy had too much hype and this is coming from two people who do not fear emotional expression during worship. This saddened us because as much as we would like to acknowledge the contribution of Pentecostalism to Latin@ culture, especially as it is often "the people's Christianity" rather than the elite-and-affluent's, but there are some serious problems with popular Pentecostal theology and ecclesiology that we couldn't support in good conscience.
Our Church here in San Antonio is La Trinidad UMC. It was founded in 1876 as part of the Mexican-Methodist mission work. It has been a cornerstone of the community in the westside of San Antonio for much of its existence. While I desired both some of what high Church has to offer, like Anglicanism with its calendar and seasons, its Eucharist and liturgy, its balance of preaching and symbol that it retains over against hyper low Church Christianity, we noticed that the Episcopal Church here is mostly affluent whites totally disconnected from the everyday struggle of the everyday San Antonian. Similary, as I stated yesterday, we appreciate Pentecostalism. Personally, it is Pentecostalism's cultural adaptability that impresses me. I remember attending a Native American pow-wow in the Pacific Northwest. As I watched the people dance and express themselves during their religious rituals it dawned on me why Pentecostalism thrives in places like Latin America, Africa, and much of Asia: it doesn't equate the cultural imperialism and colonizing tendencies of European Christianity with the Gospel itself. One doesn't have to become English, French, German, or Italian to become Christian. This is important! Methodism is Anglo in origin. It is Anglo in expression most of the time. Yet like Pentecostalism it can be more fluid than most forms of Protestantism. So, our Church combines our desire for an "ancient-future faith" that is rooted in the better angels of the Church's pilgrimage through time without necessary being held captive by European cultural baggage. I say this to note that not everything European is bad or evil. Much of European Christianity is just the result of the evolution of Jewish to Graeco-Roman religious synchronization spreading westward over time: some things good, some things bad. Hence, Ecclesia semper reformada est.
Sadly, the United Methodist Church (for a variety of reasons, I'm sure) is extremely Euro-centric. This is a mixed bag. I find John and Charles Wesley to be wonderful theologians, and I gain so much from their writings, but living traditions evolve and develop a trajectory. Even Rome is not static! Our Anglican heritage as Methodists provides us with a lot, but we must not cease moving toward new horizons. According to a 2010 report the UMC is now 90% white. By comparison, the U.S. was 74% white in 2010. As regards Latin@s, many who would be Methodist are likely Pentecostal. The UMC has not been sensitive to the needs of minority communities. For example, it demands M.Divs from its leaders, but considering the income inequality faced by Latin@s, how can they afford it? Should they abandon a calling because they don't have enough money to afford an ATS accredited education? Of course not! This isn't to say that this education isn't important or that the UMC doesn't try to offer scholarships to some students. Nor is it to say that Pentecostal clergy without as many educational opportunities is ideal. Pentecostalism has ran into major problems with the cult of personality in part because of a lack of training among their clergy. But back to us Methodists: if we want to grow we will provide resources to the Church where we see the Spirit drawing the hearts of so many people. Pentecostalism is doing this. The Assembly of God denomination is doing this. We Methodists must do this!
Now, this isn't to say that Latin@ Christians need Methodism. Actually, if anyone needs anyone we Methodists need more Latin@ Christians. We need their contribution of culture, thought, insight. While I would never be able to be a minister in the AOG (for reasons like inerrancy, the doctrine of "initial evidence", etc.) I respect them over against my own denomination because they have listened to the movement of the Spirit and followed without letting too much of the bureaucratic baggage hinder their movement. I don't want the UMC to be the AOG. I'm not saying that at all. I am saying that maybe we can learn from the AOG? This isn't about meeting a quota. It isn't about saying "look how many minorities we reach!" That would be a shameful goal because it would imply that "we" United Methodist are reaching "them" (not UM?!) whereas ethnic and cultural diversity in the UMC should reflect the diversification of the Methodist Church, not the Eurocentrism of a Methodist Church that just happens to embrace a few PoC. This is about asking ourselves what it is about our tradition and denomination that refuses to change even as the cultural demographics around us do.
My wife and I joined the United Methodist Church on August 31st, 2014. Personally, this ended a decade long search for a small "t" tradition with which I could align myself in good conscience within the big "T" "Great Tradition" of Christianity. This is not to say that Methodism/Wesleyanism is theologically inerrant or without its ecclesial politics, but it is to say that as someone who retains an appreciation for many aspects of the Pentecostalism of my youth, who resonates with the vibrancy of Evangelicalism, and who is drawn to the rhythm of high Church Anglicanism, I have found that these streams intersect in the Methodist Church and in Wesleyan theology.
As I said above, it has been a decade since I unaligned myself from Pentecostalism. It should be noted that I was part of the toxic Oneness Pentecostal sect, which is why I don't lambast Pentecostalism in general. I find a lot of what Pentecostalism has to offer the Church and the broader world to be perfectly aligned with Wesleyan theology and practice. That said, certain doctrines like "initial evidence," and the culture of some charismatic Churches where emotionalism is the liturgy, kept me from ever seriously considering Pentecostalism as a long term option.
Some may ask why I need to a label, a denomination. The answer is that for many years I thought I didn't need one, but it turned out that I had one none-the-less: nondenominational or independent Christianity is a small "t" tradition. At best, independent Churches have a tradition and fellowship as deep and wide as their local congregation (or congregations for multisite). It has its influences (e.g., Willow Creek Association, Saddleback Church, etc.) and its organizations (Emergent, Missio Alliance, The Gospel Coalition, Acts 29). (Yes, I am aware that some of these organizations include Churches and personalities who are already part of a denomination and not necessarily independent—Tim Keller is Presbyterian and part of The Gospel Coalition; Scot McKnight is Anglican and part of Missio Alliance). When I chose to become a Methodist I wasn't forsaking the ecumenical attitude of "big tent" Evangelicalism. In fact, I have no qualms with being called "Evangelical" in that sense (but I do with the sense that it is equated with "Religious Right," "Moral Majority," "Fundamentalism," or "Neo-Reformed"). That said, pragmatically, we may acknowledge other Christians as genuine Christians while being unable to work with them on this or that project because of theological or ecclesial differences. I've come to realize that "big tent" doesn't mean "without boundaries". Even if I were open to working on a project with John Piper or Al Mohler that doesn't mean they'd work with me. Denominations don't mean that you know who will work with you "for sure" but at least a denomination gives you a general idea who may be on the same page as you, or at the very least over the next page.
This last decade I've tinkered with independent charismatic Churches, generic brand "Evangelical" mega-Churches, Neo-Reformed Churches, "Free-Grace" Lutheran-esque Churches, and the Mennonite Church. Along the way I learned a lot from these groups. I feel warmer toward some (e.g., independent charismatic, generic brand "Evangelical", and Mennonite) than others (e.g., Neo-Reformed, "Free Grace"), but little antagonism toward any of them. I spent time with these communities, learned their theologies and ecclesiologies, and realized that I didn't fit. There were some traditions that intrigued me (e.g., Anglicanism/Episcopalianism), but which I chose not to explore too in-depth due various reasons (still I say "thank you" to C.S. Lewis, N.T. Wright, John Stott, et al., for helping me think deeply about theology).
For the two or three people in the world who may have read this far let me promise that future entries will not be as long, nor as biographical, and that gets me to the point of this page. For a few years now I have been an online instructor in courses on Church History. (I am not the main instructor, or the content creator, so don't worry—my job was essentially that of a TA: assisting students and grading papers.) One of the assignments my students have had to complete is called the "theological mentor" project. They chose a prominent theologian, read several hundred pages by or about that theologian, then write a paper on him or her. In many ways, Methodism is Anglicanism with more adaptability to local culture and customs and John Wesley is the Anglican theologian whose insights allowed for Methodist Christianity to rise and thrive not only in North America, but globally. It is natural then to see Wesley as my "theological mentor" and this page is where I will journal my thoughts on Wesleyan theology and practice. It isn't a blog, though there will be entries like a blog, but instead it is more like a dated journal. My writings will be by date, not title or topic, and though John Wesley will get the bulk of my attention, I'll give some to Charles and Susanna, Coke, Asbury, and other important figures while also engaging in discussion on contemporary matters related to Methodist/Wesleyan Christianity. I don't know who if anyone will read this, but that isn't the main goal. As I said: it's like a journal, but I'd be happy to let you read it.
One final word: I am doing my doctoral studies in the field of biblical studies. Yes, this talk of Methodism/Wesleyanism means I am a Christian, even a confessional Christian, so of course there is bias and presupposition involved in my work. What I appreciate about Methodist Christianity, and Wesleyan theology, is the flexibility of it all. Now, I know some people hate it for this very reason, but I've found that this "bend-but-don't-break" theology allows for critical thinking and exploration. I am aware that I am unapologetically Christian, but I am also aware that this doesn't prevent me from testing ideas. Whether or not John Wesley himself would have approved of the quadrilateral (the Bible [canonical Christianity], tested by Tradition [Creedal Christianity], Reason, and Experience) it is the Wesleyan tradition that has allowed the idea of the quadrilateral to thrive and this approach to discipleship allows me to seek the balance between "faith and understanding" that I need badly