Liberty and Equality in British Methodist Thought: From John Wesley to the Present Day.
Date: 11 May 2020
University of Exeter
Masters by Research in Theology and Religion
From its genesis the Methodist movement, which would become the Methodist Church, has had a deep concern for the values and ideas of liberty and equality that comes from its theology and practice; sharing the gospel message amongst the poor and disadvantaged. However, there have been times when the Methodist Church has struggled to ...
From its genesis the Methodist movement, which would become the Methodist Church, has had a deep concern for the values and ideas of liberty and equality that comes from its theology and practice; sharing the gospel message amongst the poor and disadvantaged. However, there have been times when the Methodist Church has struggled to develop a theological ethic on human rights that is fully integrated with its theology. Through an exploration of the teachings of John Wesley, the Eighteenth Century leader of the Methodist societies, and particularly those that concerned liberty and the anti-slavery movement and the American Revolution, it is possible to determine key theological tenets in his thought: Wesley’s teaching is that all people have been endowed with liberty by their creator; the liberty of conscience being preeminent among these. Furthermore, that all people should have the integrity of their liberty respected, slavery being an afront to this principle. That in God’s salvation love, being for all people, is recognised when we conceive of people being made by the creator in the natural and political image of God. From this starting point, in Wesley’s theology, it is then possible to explore one of the most significant issues of liberty and equality, or rights, in the 20th century, connected with the 18th century struggles: Racism in society, that permeates into the Church. In examining the Methodist Church’s response to racism, it can be determined to what extent it has endeavoured to implement a radical theological ethic. Moving into the 21st century, examining recent commitments by the Methodist Conference to forge an ‘inclusive church’, with new resources such as the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Toolkit, it can be confidently stated that there is a commitment to engaging with a theological approach to liberty and equality issues, that can draw much from our Wesleyan theology, practice and heritage.
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