What is a WESLEYAN hermenutic?

This is a "secret summer post" but if you found it, you are welcome to post your thoughts on a Wesleyan Hermenutic.



General conf 08 adjourned 11.49 am

More encouraged than ever…???

In the last 12 hours I’ve been asking folk how they feel about the general conference and the denomination and almost all comments are positive… something like, “I’m more encouraged about The Wesleyan Church than I’ve been for years” or “I’m really encouraged about our future after this conference.” This is not just from boomers, but from a generous number of 20 and 30something younger folk observing the conferenceWhy is this? What about this General Conference has “encouraged” so many? It may be too early but let me take a shot at it a hour after adjourning, the I’ll revisit this tomorrow…

1. “The people” prevailed. Since 1968 when this denomination was born there has been a 40-year gravitation of power and control away from “the people” and at this general conference that trend hit a brick wall. Some feel they “took back some power” even though the trend will probably kick back in before they get home today ;-)

2. Diversity. More diversity in gender & race—still not enough but the delegates and GBA are far more diverse than ever.

3. Debate. Finding a compromise on membership-alcohol etc. The debate was thoughtful, principled and once the conference fashioned a solution the final vote was strong. The spirit in the debate was a great example of people trying together to work out differences in holiness.

4. Social issues statements. At this conference Wesleyans put their foot down (with votes as high as 99%) to say we will determine our own stances on social issues like Immigration based on the Bible and not political parties and talk show hosts. Shawn Hannity has less authority for Wesleyans on Immigration than the Bible.

5. The GS Vote. While there were some “poor” percentages on the incumbents “the people” actually felt they got to “have a say” in these votes. 6. Holiness. If you cared about holiness this conference mentioned it constantly and if you don’t like the way we used to talk about holiness it re-minted the old coinage to include personal holiness along with social holiness… and even personal holiness was seen more broadly than some are used to.

7. Turning outward positively. The conference did not affirm isolation but involvement—turning outward to the world in compassion and love.

8. Vision. Repeatedly people mentioned Joanne Lyon’s “Vision and direction.” He acceptance speech was considered a fresh “casting of vision” by many.

9. Integrating our conservative past. Joanne Lyon refuses to reject our conservative past but builds on it, even utilizing its music in forging a vision for the future in the denomination… this seemed to encourage both conservatives and progressives.

10. The worship leader and support was not distracting—usually at these denominational gatherings people get all worked up about the worship. Jack lynn simply took all this out of the equation and “got out of the way” and let the people worship. He did not whip the audience into a frenzy nor did he say many words at all, but acted like a side-stage “prompter” and the people worshipped.

11. Joanne Lyon. As reflected above perhaps the number one factor mentioned was a person--Joanne Lyon. While the follow up explanation varied, the election of Lyon as “the people’s candidate” was so frequently mentioned that this is certainly the primary headliner factor in this “encouragement”…. Boy are folk expecting huge change from her! Oh, well, she is expecting to change things too .... this'll be fun to watch!

How will Lyon change GS job?

I'm posting this question to reserve a spot for any future (or present) discussion on this question... Everyone expects Lyon "to change the GS job" but how? What will she do differently? What will she stop doing? If you hear reports stick them here so we can watch.

M325 making all boards closed

M325 making all boards closed mtgs... 100 pct against

M190 monthly communion passes unanimously!!

M190 monthly communion passes unanimously!!

M164 passes... M166 passes... M180

M164 passes... M166 passes... M180 passes...

M102 need 25 mem 2

M102 need 25 mem 2 be est church. Passes

M103 allowing reclassification of church

M103 allowing reclassification of church down if unevanglistic... Passed

M366 domestic vilence stmt passes

M366 domestic vilence stmt passes 100 pcnt


After much talk m567 a strong statement on immigration passed by 96 percent!

The official statement will come out at the Wesleyan site I rpesume soon... but until then see the statement draft here with notes

Passed m368 & m369 on

Passed m368 & m369 on poverty & trafficing..Now dicussing 567 immigration

m125 failed. Not a good

m125 failed. Not a good yr 4 ds or gs 2 try 2 get more power

M305 & M360

M305 passed.

M260 bgs veto pwr of new ds nomination... Failed big.. 79 pct no... not a good year for sending power up the line ;-)

Officers being installed now

--General Officers and GBA members being "installed" now. LOTS of memorials left to consider... how will they determine which ones get time this morning and which ones get sent to the GBA whom they have already empowered to handle everything not approved here in memorial #3.

Election of new GBA

Based on the caucus nominations the new GBA was elected


Dr. Steven L. DeNeff
Mr. Carl L. Shepherd
Rev. Patty Bray
Dr. Delbert F. Green
Dr. Paul S. Hontz
Mr. Charles Montgomery


Dr. Karl D. Eastlack
Dr. Laurel D. Buckingham
Dr. David Babb
Dr. Philip S. E. Farrell
Dr. Harry F. Wood
Mrs. Betty Weatherby


Dr. Robert E. Black
Mrs. Sherry F. Alloway
Rev. David M. Emery
Dr. Daniel E. Gentry
Rev. Daniel E. LeRoy
Dr. Charles L. Joiner


Dr. Stephen F. Babby
Mrs. Anna Raga

Dr. James L. Garlow
Mr. Roger L. Metcalf
Rev. Isaac Smith
Dr. Everett G. Piper

M 740 & M319 passed

M740 is just legal stuff on incorporation, M 319 permits a GS to be assigned by the GBA to areas any way they want --not forced to rotate. Both passed before moving to install officers in the ceremony.

Tuesday evening service

Tonight’s service featured a double-header with two women preachers—the first Woman General Superintendent and perhaps the second. Both focused on social holiness—Christy Hontz Lipscomb on Samaria and Joanne Lyon the uttermost pats of the world.

The service kicked off with pastor Christy Hontz Lipscomb, who preached a nearest-to-possible perfect sermon that I suspect will be studied in future homiletics classes. Focusing on our own Samarias, she called us to cross over to nearby places where there are people with needs—as she and her husband Adam are doing in their own inner city church plant. Her sermon was in he genre of Seth Cook Rees and his son Paul Rees and anyone with any doubt that God calls and anoints women as preachers was sent scurrying for cover.

Christ’s sermon was followed by a second one from newly elected GS Joanne Lyon who started by commanding Megachurch pastor Karl Eastlack to go to the piano and accompany her as she led us in singing a half dozen camp meeting songs from the 1950’s emphasizing her power + Purity topic, then proceeded to do what she does best—weave stories into a sermon and inspire people to go somewhere and do something. It is amusing how GS Lyon commands strong men to do this or that—yesterday on her election she commanded the most aggressive reform-the-headquarters DS, Mark similarly. All these powerful men submissively obey her as if she is their new Mother Superior, which of course she is.

Immediately following the service there was a fancy reception for the Wilson bros. which offered long receiving lines to thank, shake and hug them and shorter lines for delicious snacks and coffee as well as roving waiters with little unhealthy things on balanced trays.

Tomorrow, Wednesday offers only a few hours to elect the GBA and complete a considerable number of memorials. Since the new GBA is empowered t decide on all memorials not considered there will be strong motivation to reduce the blowhards from long speeches tomorrow. The conference should end before noon. I will be inviting (and making some of my own) some after-the-conference post mortem observations in the coming week as we asses what this conference really means to Wesleyans. They will start tomorrow.


Reflections on memorial 116

GS Tom Armiger was an absolutely masterful Chair this afternoon navigating the conference through the waves of membership changes.... This issue has been nagging the denomination for more than a decade. The BGS and GBA hammered out a proposal (M116) that made it through the conference with only a few modifications.

Here are my long hand notes....

-Modified by amendment to make Community membership not required or automatically transferable (A genius move by Armiger from the chair by calling for a straw vote which led to making it local and not required universally--thus a local church has a right to not take a community member as a transfer... this was the compromise that freed up more delegates to vote for the proposal.

-This debate is a little like the PC/MAC ads--- the PC guys may have a bigger market share but the Mac people are gaining!

-Harry Wood will be remembered for this speech for years. Harry is a conwervative on this issue yet argued for passing it because of the needs of the church... he is considered the Goild standard for integrity--once he comes out for it it really might pass...

-one by one the major even-spoken heavy hitters like Eastlack, Hontz, Ott, and Schmidt plead for help ... Wood's speech made this batter than a 50-50 proposition, these guys now one after another piling up may push it over the hump?

--Not posted is the report on the "Marlin Mull" comments--if you saw it you know what we're speaking of--who among us has not tried to be cute or witty and it turned out being offensive? Let thoe of us without such sin cast the first stone... ;-)

FINALLY it passed strongly. The effect is to permit a church to let "Community members" vote on all local issues except recieving Covenant members, but they still can't hold office, or serve on the board or any other job requiring Covenant membershp, and it isn't transferable.... it isn't an "historic" change but will get the issue off the table for now...

M116 passes with percent ..70

M116 passes with percent ..70

Karl eastlack pleads 'help us

Karl eastlack pleads 'help us by passing this' wayne schmidu too same point.

Amended 116 to eliminate req.D

Amended 116 to eliminate req.D com mbrshp.. So non transfrble. Amendmnt passed w pct-71

Harry wood, a conservative, spends

Harry wood, a conservative, spends his huge clout to support memorial..

Attempt to eliminate more voting

Attempt to eliminate more voting rights 4 comm mem fails by 61 pct to amend by striking.

Now conf taking break fr

Now conf taking break fr membership to honor 3 pastors, hear norm wilson etc. Before taking a break.

Big discussion of 116... Lee

Big discussion of 116... Lee haines now making plea against giving more rights 2 com mem@

M76 passed. Next up membership

M76 passed. Next up membership m116

Special Directions – Memorial 78

The General Conference spent most of the morning fiddling with Memorial 78—"Special Directions" which collected numerous amendments as it went... for voting up or down. Words like “Recommended” "Strongly recommended," "encourages" "profanity" or obscene," “may or may not be” “Violence,” “Excessive violence” or “gratuitous violence” or exactly what it means to observe the Lord’s Day…

My summary is the original memorial loosened up a tad past statements (like eliminating the anti-social dancing statement) and virtually all attempts to tighten up things again failed.

The final memorial passed with a 85% vote.

9But since it was not made effective immediately with a 2/3 vote there will be no dances tonight--or until the Discipline is printed which makes these provisions become effective. ;-)

Hung up on mem 78

Hung up on mem 78 jots & tiddles...

Why was the GS vote so low?

I’ve been thinking about the GS vote this time. For decades General Superintendents simply expected to receive a “90% or better Yes vote” yet this time Armiger received a 72% and Pence a 58% vote. Why was this? What contributed to these lower than usual votes? Here’s my take. It is at least partially right, though I’m sure I’ve missed something. Here is how I see it:

1. I think it started in 2004 when people expected Earle Wilson to retire and he decided to run again…and his vote slid below 75% as a result. Earle Wilson accepted and served the next four years which lowered the bar for the future.

2. Delegates saw a pattern in the GBA-recommended memorials is toward centralization of power… moving power form the Districts and General Conference to the GBA, from the GBA to the BGS and from the laity to the clergy. It appeared to some that a centralized power grab was under way creating suspicion of existing leaders.

3. Several months ago the GBA used the “power of exigency” to respond to an “emergency” and simply merged two offices (General Secretary & Communications) without waiting a few months to let the General Conference decide this (like they did four years ago when Youth & LCE were merged into SF). Some delegates saw this as a arrogant use of “exigency power” when they could have asked “the people” just a few months later.

4. On Friday a group of GBA members tried to get through a late memorial to have an open ballot (instead of a yes/no vote) on General Superintendent. This was considered a “grass roots” power-to-the-people memorial that reduced the power of incumbency. The memorial failed to pass but its blockage was considered by some to be “entrenched power protecting their incumbency.”

5. On Saturday the “Pastoral Letter” was delivered using alternatively international figures and North American figures. Some delegates believed that the churches under Global Partners were used to paint a rosier picture of the church than it would have been if North American figures alone were used. While this has been a long-term approach to the cheer-leading expected form the GSs it grates on some people more this time, perhaps because “things have changed” (a common phrase being repeated this morning).

6. On Sunday morning and evening the General Superintendents featured themselves as the preachers. This is a 40-year tradition at General Conference but the response to it this time was different for many—as if the leaders were hogging these prime preaching opportunities for themselves and using it to campaign for office. Nothing has changed in what the GSs did—only the response was different this time.

7. As part of the Sunday evening service considerable time was spent honoring the retiring Earle Wilson (and his brother Norm). This is nothing new but it grated on some delegates—as if the GSs were spending too much time honoring each other. Again, this is nothing new…only the response was different this time.

8. On Monday morning the “general Officer reports” filled considerable time accompanied by videos which came across to some as “political campaigning from headquarters” –though they did not blame the specific General Officers it fit into a pattern of one more day of headquarters PR or campaigning. Once again this is nothing new in presentation—just more people were bugged by it. Delegates had been in town a long time and not been able to have their voice heard yet—everything was “coming down” to them.

9. The conference stumbled onto some messy work on several memorials that appeared (to some) to show a breezy attitude toward what the GBA does in following the rules. When a judge (quite familiar with parliamentary law) questioned the propriety of consideration of a GBA-created memorial that did not actually pass the GBA she was ignored. To some there appeared a pattern here—especially if they had already decided there was a pattern.

10. The suggested move to five years for General Conferences appeared to some to be one more way to give the General leaders a extra 20% on their terms and to reduce the power of “the people” at general Conference.

11. Since the strategy for an open ballot had failed in the GBA the new strategy to reduce the automatic re-election of incumbents was a motion to divide the house—which means in the yes-no vote for GS it would have to receive 50%+ of laity and also 50%+ of ministers, a provision long standing in our denomination. The Chair, Earle Wilson ruled the motion out of order and General Superintendent Emeritus Lee Haines backed him up. This decision was appealed to the body and the body backed up the Chair (though with more than 40% rejecting the ruling). This came across to some as the GSs using their “chair power” to make the re-election of the incumbents easier… i.e. “Why are they afraid of an open ballot?” Bringing retired GS Lee Haines into the discussion appeared to some to be one more piling up of GSs protecting their incumbency.

12. After the ruling against the division of the house was squashed a discussion came up about the required move to Indianapolis of General leaders. In the Chair’s (Earle Wilson) explanation of the details of how they allowed H C Wilson to keep legal residence in Canada while also having a residence in Indianapolis it appeared to some that the GSs had somehow circumvented the rules or made some sort of deal with another former GS. Then Dave Holdren rose to make a speech saying he would move to Indianapolis if elected to which Dr. Wilson responded with elongated muttering about “150 night in Indianapolis and 150 nights in Ohio or whatever, or wherever or etc. and by the time he was finished it appeared to some that there was more hanky panky going on circumventing the rule that people move to Indianapolis. After Holdren made to move-to-Indy statement people wondered if this wasn’t about Holdren but Joanne Lyon so she also went to a mic to say she’d move to Indy if elected. All this made the GSs appear to some to be making backroom arrangements fudging on the move-to-Indy requirement but the effect for some was adding to the level of suspicion of GSs.

13. So after all this, delegates got to press their buttons yes or no on the motion to elect Tom Armiger… 28% pressed no. Moments later 42% pressed their no button on Jerry Pence, about the same proportion who voted to overrule Earle Wilson’s ruling against the division of the house motion a bit earlier.


I suspect there are other factors operating too. The general change of atmosphere in the US desiring “change we can believe in” and rejecting any sort of “entitlement to office” by those holding office. But one thing is clear—the vote for the two incumbent GSs was lower than usual—and something caused it. This is now a considerable discussion in the hallways today—what has changed? What do you think?



Monday Evening Service--Jim Garlow

Jim Garlow spoke tonight more powerfully than I've ever heard at general Conference....

I won’t even try to outline his address —just trust me ... get a copy when it is posted on the E&M web site at headquarters… This is the best message I’ve ever heard for ministers on how God creates a holy people… maybe even simply the best message I've ever heard for ministers on any subject.... wow!

Reelected other gos...

Relected DUNN @ 94%
Relected Stephenson @95%
Relected KIND @ 89%
Relected HCWilson @ 95%

elections done...

Delegates went to dinner--then went to dinner & evening service...

more memorials tomorrow morning at 8.30

Elected kelly gensec 210 kelly

Elected kelly gensec 210 kelly 177 mansell

M58 lost giving pwr 2

M58 lost giving pwr 2 gba 2 elect gen sec

Vote gen sec-comm. Electrnc vote

Vote gen sec-comm. Electrnc vote not working. Used paper ballots.

Fasten your seat belt... In

Fasten your seat belt... In her speech she plans to shake things..& the people are with her. Is she the new boss @ hq?

Lyon vote. 390 cast lyon

Lyon vote. 390 cast lyon 234 holdren- 134...lyon accepting now

Lyon elected gs!

Lyon elected gs!

M58 c big resistance 2

M58 c big resistance 2 gba power grab in assuming they could merge dept 2 mo b4 gencof. Trend here?

M58 b... Pressure fr lay

M58 b... Pressure fr lay about 2 much pwr @ gba vs. Gen conf..

Counting gs vote now.. Vote

Counting gs vote now.. Vote 2

Gs. Lyon 181 holdren 133...

Gs. Lyon 181 holdren 133...

Break almost over

Break almost over

M58 gba 2 merge comm.

M58 gba 2 merge comm. & gen sec wo asking genconf? Discussing this shift of power... This is a big grass roots issue..Power

Gs vote cast.. Counting now

Gs vote cast.. Counting now

Discusion reminding a gs must

Discusion reminding a gs must move 2 indianapolis... Elw explaing h c wilson arrangement meeting this rule

Elw explaining lyon & holdren

Elw explaining lyon & holdren are not nominated- just listed by delegates... Vote 4 any ordained minister

Elw intro election of 3rd

Elw intro election of 3rd gs... The open slot...

Both armiger & pence accept

Both armiger & pence accept election.

Pence vote percent - 58

Pence vote percent - 58

Amiger elected 72 percent yes

Amiger elected 72 percent yes

Vote ststains wilson so no

Vote ststains wilson so no division of house...

Lee haines backs wilson ...

Lee haines backs wilson ... Calls 4 vote again

Mark gorvtte appeals elw ruling

Mark gorvtte appeals elw ruling

motion fr phil harris calling

motion fr phil harris calling 4 div of house on g s election... Elw just ruled out of order.

E wilson now reading retirmnt

E wilson now reading retirmnt stmt.

In gba motion 2 go

In gba motion 2 go 2 open ballot failed..Bv may come up fr floor...Would req. 2-3 vote 2 make effectve now.

1.00. Elections soon..

1.00. Elections soon..

New elw motion app task

New elw motion app task frce 2 giv gp area rep passes

M55 c. Passed easily

M55 c. Passed easily

M55 b. Elw pushes hard...

M55 b. Elw pushes hard... Seen as kicking out internatnals..

M55. Miss delgates... Debate

M55. Miss delgates... Debate

M375 gp. Passed name chngd.

M375 gp. Passed name chngd.

M50 fails

M50 fails

Mem50. 5-yr gen.Conf. Debated... seen

Mem50. 5-yr gen.Conf. Debated... seen as reducing local pwr.. Debate continues.

Mem317 c. Failed.

Mem317 c. Failed.

M317 b... Sherry alloway ,judge-nc,

M317 b... Sherry alloway ,judge-nc, says if gba org mem and doesnt rec it should die. Overruld or ignored.. Debate

M317. Area boundaries. Gba withdrew

M317. Area boundaries. Gba withdrew rec. Moved fr floor..So now in debate

M215 lay-min rep. Debated. Passed

M215 lay-min rep. Debated. Passed

M5 rep task rpt rec

M5 rep task rpt rec no chng - passed

Memorial 3 passed

Memorial 3 passed

Recess 9.50

Recess 9.50

Video reports are more intereresting

Video reports are more intereresting but less content & more pr?

Larry freels 2 retire fr

Larry freels 2 retire fr hepzibah head this summer.

9.30 still citing reports &

9.30 still citing reports & watching vids.

9.05 gen off reports... Just

9.05 gen off reports... Just citing & inviting questions, showing a vid sometimes. Then applause... These used 2 be read

9.05 gen off reports... Just

9.05 gen off reports... Just citing & inviting questions, showing a vid sometimes. Then applause... These used 2 be read

9.00 intro gs emerti... Emery,

9.00 intro gs emerti... Emery, haines, mcintire

Apparantly philippines minutes have 200

Apparantly philippines minutes have 200 seconds in them?

8.30 devos by gs of

8.30 devos by gs of philippines, alberto patacsil- ten min.-ten points


Gender & Delegates

I remember when general Conference had only one or maybe two women delegates so I went over the list of delegates to see if we have more women than we used to. My quick count tallied the following:

Of the 184 lay delegates there are 60 women. If women are going to get to vote at general Conference it is definitely better to be a laywoman than a minister—about 33% of the lay delegates are women.

Of the 183 ministers there are two (count ‘em!) women—Rev. Ruth Strand, pastor in Western new York, and rev. Joanne Lyon, GBA member--about 1/2 % of the ministerial delegates are women.

(On the other hand we just might elect half of our Women delegates as general Superintendent on Monday!)

Sunday @ General Conference

Instead of doing business, Sunday at General Conference is a semi-Camp meeting day.

The day started with Sunday school—Children, youth and adults. A couple hundred adults attended a class led by Jim Dunn where everybody got pre-printed quarterlies (though Jim had prepared the wrong lesson then switched and taught a lesson he’d never seen.)

The conference went with the contemplative easy-going reflective style of praise music led by Jack Lynn instead of the breathless driven style of past general conferences. GS Tom Armiger preached. Armiger is not known as an orator so when he did admirably well at the sermon from John 17 most everyone was impressed.

Instead of an afternoon service or “singspiration” this time the handed off the service to Kerry Kind and educators for a more academic approach. Chris Bounds delivered a 13 page paper outlining the various holiness positions in the Wesleyan church: Bounds outlined three Wesleyan positions—the “shorter way” that is the traditional approach, the “Middle Way” of seeking entire sanctification until God in his own timing grants it, and the ‘Longer way” of dying out over many years or until near death, He added a fourth Keswick approach for reference since some Wesleyans have that position—“God won’t deliver you from your rebellious spirit but you can sill have regular victory over sin.” His paper was followed by a McLaughlin group type roundtable response discussion with Keith Drury serving in the John McLaughlin role. You can get the paper by asking chris.bounds@indwes.edu

Honoring people took about an hour of this service starting with 188 ministers who have served 40 or 50 years in the ministry (including me—I took my first pastorate 40 years ago this summer). We all got a big fat medal like those the Russian generals wear. Then the retiring Wilson brothers were honored—Norman after 32 years at headquarters, 1700 Wesleyan Hour programs. Perhaps the greatest honor for Norm is he is considered –irreplaceable—the Wesleyan Hour will go out of business when he leaves this week. After about an hour, GS Jerry pence got to preach and focused on becoming a “Transformational people.”

Well, there’s really no an afterglow but everyone was tired of sitting in services today so all kinds of groups went out for ice cream, Cokes or whatever other excesses Wesleyans give themselves to at general Conferences.

Tomorrow @ 8.30 AM I will start text messaging from the floor of the conference…


Earle Wilson gives final Pastoral letter

After the formalities of calling the conference to order, taking the roll call by ballot and passing Memorial #1, GS Pence turned to retiring GS Earle Wilson to deliver the “Pastoral Letter” which is a sort of quadrennial state of the church address.

Using the theme for the conference “Building on our past; believing in our future,” white haired Wilson framed the address by painting a picture of the merger between Pilgrims and Wesleyan Methodists 40 years ago this summer in Anderson, Indiana. Wilson was an eyewitness in 1968 along with some others in their 60’s and 70’s who still remember the event. He told how 4000 people form the two denominations marched forward amidst thousands of petunias blooming on the campus at that time to give birth (or get married—the merger metaphors often get mixed) to this new denomination that is now 40 years old. He reminded us that we are approaching middle age and have firmed things up (he politely ignored any middle age lethargy or mid life crisis ;-)

The Pastoral letter is a tough assignment. The guy who delivers it is supposed to kind of give a cheer-leading speech to the church reminding us how well we’re doing. It also serves as a substitute to hearing the individual reports of the various General Officers and tends to other duties liker recognizing the death of GS emeritus Virgil Mitchell and others.

It is difficult to get too worked up while giving statistics and reports—but if anyone can bring drama to anything Earle Wilson can. He did, though at times he appeared weary and frequently took sips of the waterbottle on his pulpit.

He recited the various elections of the 2004 General Conference and noted numerous replacements by the GBA in the interim since, then one by one gave a mini-report including one or two outstanding facts and figures from the General Officers as their pictures flashed on the screens in front of the auditorium.

After rehearsing the “Core values” of the Wesleyan Church Wilson recited a litany of good news figures for the denomination using variously the 40 years since merger or the last four years, North American figures or international figures. Some highlights I heard are:
- Since 1968 churches grew from 3678 to 4960 internationally
- 135677 to 364755 in Sunday Morning attendance in 40 years
- from presence in 40 nations to 86 since 1968
- in 1968 we had 2 churches over 500—Skyline and High Point 1st—we now have 40 over 500 and 8 over 2000.’

Dr. Wilson did his best to use his force of personality, powerful voice and presence and his personal authority to remind us we’ve come far and are still doing well. But I sensed he was relieved when he got to move beyond giving the surrogate reports and statistics to the second part of his address—“Believing in our future.” Here he could something more like what Earle Wilson is best at—preaching.

Using John 7:6 Wilson argued that the Wesleyan Church’s time was now. He confessed that he was embarrassed by he church as a child but knows better now—the church is the best thing God has going for Him. He prodded listeners to refuse to yearn for other times—we can’t minister in simpler times, not the 70’s or 90’s or even in 2004—we must minister in this time and now.

Condemning the “attitude of some in our churches” who lean too far toward separation form the world he called for Wesleyans to “come down from the mountain and embrace this world” for Christ. He said “the church of the first century belonged to its time and the church of this century must belong to this time.” He reminded us that the church has a greater calling than to scold the world—reminding us to read the next verse after John 3:16..verse 17: God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world” intimating that we too are not called to condemn the world but save it. Then, just as the conservatives were about to freak out and assume he was condoning a worldly church Wilson reminded us that the other error is to make the church so worldly that is becomes “of the world” (John 17).

Somewhere in here he also reminded us that the growing popularity of lifestyle witnessing was not enough and Wesleyans had to pop the question eventually, but I forgot to write down where this occurred in the address.

Finally Wilson came in for a landing with his agenda of what he believes are the critical affirmations for Wesleyans calling us to stand firm on these. They included:

GRACE… we are not saved by keeping the membership commitments

HOLINESS… positive, dynamic, and both crisis and continuous

UNITY… we are one in diversity and with the larger community of believers

HOPE… Wesleyanism and despair are incompatible

SELFLESS LIVING… simplicity in the face opf the world’s need.

Then he simply walked away from the pulpit as Jerry Pence led a standing ovation which was unanimous as the crowd knew this grand old General Superintendent had just delivered his last denominational address.

I think I saw him sigh as he sat down.

Getting ready to go

Saturday morning.

Delegates are arriving today here at Shingle Creek, the site of the Wesleyan General Conference.

The classy hotel is significantly nicer digs than the conference sites of the 50's (Frankfort or Fairmount Camp meeting grounds or Winona lake conference grounds) or 40 years ago when the Wesleyan Methodists and Pilgrim Holiness merged (Anderson College) or even the post merger Methodist conference site at

Lake Junaluska. Wesleyans are now hotel people, not camp meeting folk. Even our youth conventions happen at classy hotels.

Rooms are fancy and feature wide screen LG TVs and there is one channel featuring back to back World Hope videos. Internet access here costs an extra 10 bucks a day and is not available next door in the convention center which mystified younger folk who consider Internet access an entitlement like air to breathe.
Some have grumbled about Wesleyans going to fancy hotels like this in the face of world needs, but most of those are not delegates coming at the denomination's expense. Actually the planners claim the total net cost here was actually cheaper. (All delegate travel and on-location expenses for general conference in TWC is borne by the headquarters budget not the various districts sending delegates).
The hallways and reception areas are full of folk meeting old friends. Dress so far is Florida-casual, though I saw three ties already, but one was on a candidate and the other two were old men.
Actual registration begins this afternoon, though many are already checked into their rooms already. The exhibits hall opens this afternoon at 4PM.
The First legislative Session begins at 6PM tonight when Earle Wilson delivers the "Pastoral Letter" which is the closest thing Wesleyans have to a papal statement.
Today--GBA meeting... there is wind of at least one "late memorial" being brought by some GBA members to eliminate the Yes-no vote for GS and go back to the open ballot method--no word yet on its fate.
1 Pm Monday--elections begin
I will be doing real-time text message from floor on the results of the voting on officers as well as the memorials-- see below the summary list of memorials with numbers and (if you are really interested) print out a copy of the official memorials from the site I list below)
OK going out into the hallways to sniff around....
--Keith Drury 11Am Saturday

The Memorials

My reporting from the floor will be by cell phone text messaging (there is no Internet access in the conference center) however form my hotel room I do have Internet acess..so here are the actual memorials, presumbably in the order we will consider them.

To print out your own copy of the PDF file of these memorials paste the following URL into your browser)
http://www.wesleyan.org/gc/assets/downloads/down.php?dfile=A - Official final version - memorials for 2008.pdf

Only recommended memorials are forthrightly considered unless someone move the adotion of a non-recommended memorial or offers it as a substitute. I have marked those memorials not recommended by the GBA and written my own take on the effect of each). print out your own pdf file from the above link to follow along during the debate since my text messaging from the floorr will be short.

mem # Effect
1. Chair empowered to appoint a journal committee.

3. Empowers GBA to do unfinished business after June 11

5. REPORT: Task force on Ministerial-lay ratio imbalance at District conference called for by 2004 conference … (memorial recommends no change—see 215)

215. Changes Discipline so that DBA may reduce number of lay delegates to DC downward to not less than highest number of ministerial delegates answering roll call each of last three years.

315. NC East solution to above problem—NOT recommended

316. W Mich memorial on GBA representation—NOT recommended—(GBA’s alternative plan is in 317).

317. Does away with the four past representative areas (NE, S, NC, W) and collapses them into the three administrative areas the GSs supervise without changing anything for the college areas.

50. Changes General Conference from every four years to every five years, extending the terms of general officials to five years too. (CONSTITUTIONAL—if passed by GenConf will also have to get a 2/3 aggregate vote of all district conferences)

375. Officially changes the name of “World missions” to “Global partners” which has already been effected practically-speaking.

55. Eliminates representative to gen conf from missions fields and makes the NA gen conf those form NA assuming international delegates go to the international conference instead of NA conference. (CONSTITUTIONAL)

58. Authorizes the new Gen Sec of Communications to be also the General secretary of the church and be elected by the GBA, not general Conference. (CONSTITUTIONAL)

77. Penn-Jersey’s recommendation on members watching leisure time activities (NOT recommended—GBA recommends their own revisions in 78)

78. The GBA’s changes in the “Special Directions” a)kicking off the statement with words on “personal convictions” and “collective witness” which we voluntarily accept; b) substance abuse “encouraging members” to self-discipline in eating, exercise and rest with more specific statements saying we “oppose” alcoholic beverages, tobacco, unprescribed drugs c) revised statement on Lord’s Day d)Changes statement on reserving right of parents to keep their kids out of dancing at school replacing it with more generic statement not mentioning dancing; e) entertainment—a generic-subjective statement except for gambling which calls for “total abstinence.” (See PDF copy

76-L [late memorial] Central Canada’s memorial cleaning up references to the USA and US constitution in the Discipline.

116. The GBA’s three-page plan for restructuring membership (see PDF file above for details) but includes Covenant, Community and student membership extending broader local voting rights to community members including voting on the p[astors and election of LBA. Effect is to make covenant membership the standard for leadership and expand voting rights of community members and make it completely transferable to other churches. This GBA-written memorial is considered the omnibus memorial that cares for many or most of the following memorials from the various districts.

60. Pacific SW memorial dealing with membership—NOT recommended

61. Dakota memorial on same—NOT recommended

62. Pacific SW memorial dealing with membership issue—NOT recommended

110. West Michigan memorial expanding voting rights of community members—NOT recommended

113. W Michigan memorial on community members (NOT recommended)

115. W Michigan memorial calling for a study committee on membership. (NOT recommended)

101. South Coastal’s memorial on reclassifying a church (NOT recommended—see GBA memorial103)

103. Chesapeake memorial empowering the DBA to reclassify of a church from being an “established church” to “developing church” if they do not accomplish “evangelism.”

102. Chesapeake’s memorial increasing from 10 to 25 the number of covenant members required to move to established church status.

100. Central NY memorial allowing for a LBA (with DS approval) to invite multiple staff to stay for one more year when a Senior pastor resigns rather then being forced to resign too. (NOT recommended)

144. Western NY’s memorial allowing for the firing of assistant pastor at any time with approval of DS. (NOT recommended)

146. Western NY’s memorial allowing for the firing of lay assistant at any time by senior pastor of LBA. (NOT recommended)

125. GBA’s memorial forcing local church to get DS approval for a special session of local church conference.

140. Central NY memorial allowing for members living away to vote electronically by email etc.. (NOT recommended)

142. Greater Ohio’s memorial making initial pastoral call 4 years (NOT recommended)

164. Central NY’s memorial providing 3-year rotating terms for LBA members.

165. Central NY’s memorial option for 3-year terms for DBA (NOT recommended)

166. Penn-Jersey’s memorial eliminating requirement of distributing finances report monthly to making them available upon request.

180. Elimination of church periodicals director position.

190. GBA memorial establishing expectation of offering Lord’s Supper as monthly instead of quarterly.

234. Eastern NY memorial requiring DBA members to be active in a local church in that district. (NOT recommended)

245. Pacific SW’s memorial making election of District board of review as needed instead of mandated (NOT recommended)

260. GBA memorial giving GS power to veto nominations for DS by the district DS nominating committee.

300. GBA memorial congratulating Nazarenes for 100th anniversary.

305. GBA memorial transferring “international delegates” from the NA general conference to the international conference.

307. Pacific SW memorial establishing General Conference at 400 members (NOT recommended)

310. Wisconsin memorial that a “plain English” edition of memorials be produced. (NOT recommended)

740. GBA memorial authorizing re-filing articles of incorporation in light of new laws.

319. East Michigan memorial eliminating the automatic assignment of GSs for four years and authorizing the GBA to do this assigning.

324. GBA memorial allowing for electronic notification of GBA meetings.

325. GBA memorial clarifying and outlining how LBA, DBA and GBA can have executive sessions and maintain confidentiality.

335. GBA memorial making Earle Wilson a GS Emeritus.

345. Central NY memorial to make USF contribute some to Global Partners (NOT recommended)

346. Wisconsin memorial to appoint committee to study alternative finding for Global partners. (NOT recommended)

347. West Michigan memorial to change USF percentages to include global partners. (NOT recommended)

350. Central NY memorial requiring that statistical report categories remain unchanged for four years. (NOT recommended)

351. Central NY memorial calling for return of TNT-Campus Challenge to the SF/youth department. (NOT recommended)

353. W Michigan memorial providing for after the elction of GSs then another elction will occur to elect a “chair” of general Superintendents (NOT recommended)

354. GBA memorial removing Wesleyan Native American Ministries from the Discipline and letting the GBA make these policies.

365. GBA memorial that is a position statement on “Creation care.”

366. GBA memorial that is a position paper on domestic violence.

367. GBA memorial that is a position statement on immigration.

348. Central NY memorial instructing the denomination to not use hotels for events when they offer porn channels or if they must make sure the channels are turned off. (NOT recommended)

349. Central NY memorial calling for a variety of more activist approaches to moral issues. (NOT recommended—see next memorial)

352. GBA memorial accomplishing most of what memorial 349 asked for.

385. BGS memorial authorizing editorial changes to reflect Spiritual Formation nomenclature in Discipline.

500. GBA memorial updating the way transfer ministers are received.

525. Pacific SW district memorial allowing for extension of time for ordination process.

850. Indiana Central memorial authorizing funds from sale of property to be used for program—not just new property… with GBA amendment assign ‘written approval of GS.”

852. Kansas memorial allowing a district to allocate 5% of sale of any property asset for compassion ministries.


See any trends or patterns here?


Test of text msg to

Test of text msg from cell phone to blog post... For real time reporting from genl conf.

Why NOT elect JoAnne Lyon GS?

I've been hearing reasons why NOT elect JoAnne Lyon General Superintendent this summer.

--Keith Drury 4/26/08


Summary of the “rules” of my denomination

(“Covenant Members are expected to commit to these)
1. Honor God’s name.
2. Honor the Lord’s day by going to church .
3. Honor the Lord’s day by avoiding detracting activities.
4. Total abstinence from the occult, witchcraft, & astrology.
5. Give to the church (“remembering” the idea of tithing).
6. Give to the needy.
7. Total abstinence from gambling.
8. Total abstinence from production, sale or purchase of tobacco.
9. Total abstinence from production, sale or purchase of alcohol.
10. Total abstinence from production, sale or purchase of non-prescription drugs.
11. Total abstinence from joining secret societies.
12. Total abstinence from sex outside of marriage.
13. Total abstinence from divorce for any reason other than adultery, homosexual behavior, bestiality or incest.
14. Total abstinence from child abuse.
15. Total abstinence from spouse abuse.
16. Live peacefully with others at home.
17. Nurture children in the home in order to bring them early to Christ.
18. Work together with others at church.
19. Walk in Christian fellowship with other Christians at church with gentleness and affection.
20. Pray for others at church.
21. Help others at church in sickness and distress.
22. Demonstrate love, purity and courtesy to everyone.
23. Attend public worship.
24. Participate in the Lord’s supper
25. Have family devotions.
26. Have personal devotions.
27. Practice fasting.
28. Total abstinence from teaching that tongues is a sign of baptism of Holy Ghost.
29. Total abstinence from speaking in tongues in public worship
30. Total abstinence from promoting a private prayer language of tongues.
31. Give food to hungry people.
32. Give clothing to the destitute.
33. Visit people who are sick.
34. Visit people in prison.
35. Respect individual rights regardless of race, color or sex.
36. Be honest and just in all of life’s dealings.

(Admonitions to members but not commitments)

1. Equal rights. We believe there should be equal rights and opportunities for all individuals politically, economically and religiously.
2. Peace. We take all legitimate means to avoid war & every means to seek peace.
3. Military Service. If a member thinks military Service is contrary to the teaching of the New Testament we will support that person.
4. Substance Abuse. We’re opposed to production, sale, purchase and use of alcoholic beverages, tobacco, narcotics and other harmful drugs.
5. Human Sexuality. We support chastity and purity and vigorously oppose sexual promiscuity. Sex is for enjoyment and procreation in a marriage. Homosexual practice is sinful but we believe God can deliver a person form the practice and the inclination.
6. Divorce and Remarriage. We accept divorce on Scriptural grounds but once a person is divorced no marriage remains and it is not the unpardonable sin.
7. Merchandising on the Lord's Day. We think merchandising on the Lord's Day should be illegal
8. Religion in Public Life. We believe prayer in government activities or in schools should be permitted.
9. Public School Activities. We don’t think schools should be teaching dancing and maintin the rights of our members to seek exemption.
10. Judicial Oaths. We reserve the right for our members to refuse to “swear” in court but rather “affirm.”
11. Abortion. We oppose abortion except in rare pregnancies where the life of the mother is threatened but even then only after prayerful counsel. We encourage our people to get involved in the anti-abortion movement.
12. Use of Leisure Time. We are carefully regulate what we read, listen to and watch on TV, refuse to participate in social dancing or go to the movies that feature the cheap, the violent or the sensual and pornographic. We also refuse to engage in playing games which tend to be addictive or conducive to gambling.
13. Modesty in Attire. We urge our people to dress modestly.

Summary by Keith Drury
January 15, 2005


SinAlert Personal Alcohol Detector


Catholics and Episcopalians have been drinkers for a long time. Evangelicals are newcomers to the drinking scene. Evangelicals once expected tee-totaling of all Christians but are recently coming to accept moderate drinking of alcohol. Even evangelical bastions like Wheaton, Messiah, and Bethel are melting down their hard line and opening up to drinking among faculty and staff. Evangelical denominations have followed suit and are gradually softening their total-abstinence stance. Even conservative “holiness denominations” like The Wesleyan Church have loosened up enough to permit “Community members” to drink, and have some resolutions headed to the 2008 General Conference to extend these provisions.

THE GENIUS OF THIS DEVICE: Those in favor of loosening up the abstinence stance on alcohol rightly say the Bible does not outright condemn a glass of wine and thus moderate drinking is OK. Yet they also insist that drunkenness is still a sin according to the Bible (1 Cor 5:11; 6:10 etc.)

So how will you know when you have crossed the line from moderate drinking (acceptable) into drunkenness (a sin)? By using this handy device! You simply flip the power button and it counts down 14 seconds while you prepare for the sin test. When the detector beeps, you blow into the vent until you hear a second series of beeps. PRESTO! The device gives you the percentage of blood alcohol content in your body on the backlit LCD readout. You can know for sure when you are about to sin—or if you already have. (Consult your own denominational standards to determine if .08 or .10 is the line where sin begins)

Click here to buy your own SinAlert device today!.


So what do you think?
During the first few weeks click here to comment or read comments

Keith Drury October 2, 2007


Total Abstinence... I'll Drink to that!

I don't drink alcohol, not even socially. That makes me a legalist to some of my readers, and a conservative to many of my boomer peers, who think it is totally uncool to be a teetotaler. So, in the interest in being more popular with my liberated boomer peers, and accepted as cool by the generation X wine cooler crowd, I've reconsidered my hard line position on alcohol. Maybe I should loosen up a bit and chug-a-lug along with the rest of 'em so that 'I might by all means save some.'Therefore, after considerable [sober] thought on the matter I've made my decision. I am not going to start drinking... I'll stick with 'total abstinence.' I know many of you will be disappointed that I'm still up here on the wagon, but I remain unconvinced of alcohol's usefulness. I'm sure you wonder why and are breathlessly waiting for my rationale. I find many nowadays are seeking for good rationale for total abstinence, heh heh heh. So, knowing of this hunger for sound argument, I herewith share my own reasons for sticking with diet Coke (except for an occasional shot of that nighttime sneezy stuffy nose cold so you can rest medicine). Here's why I don't drink:

1. I don't need it.
I realize that alcohol is the social lubricant of American business culture. And I know that when evangelicals' clientele came from skid row this was a clear-cut issue - reformed drunks know exactly where to draw the line. But we've moved up town now. Or, rather, to the edge of town. Evangelicals don't run many missions any more - we let Roman Catholics and the main line churches do that. Instead we cater to the dire needs of suburbia, and have been populating our churches with social climbers and 'quality people.' These folk use alcohol like their Daytimers - as a social and political tool greasing their career tracks. So, of course, following our newfound market share, most evangelicals will eventually come to approve the drinking habits of our wealthy patrons. The customer is often right. In fact, my own denomination will probably 'open up' and 'abandon legalism' sooner or later, adopting a more contemporary and pragmatic approach to alcohol. Not right away, but eventually I suspect. After all, 'some of our best people drink.' They also tithe. But even if my church legalizes drinking, I still won't drink. I just don't need it. It would take more than alcohol to grease my career tracks.

2. Social protest.
This is really the major reason I don't drink. To me, the alcohol industry is merely a group of drug pushers dressed up in suits. I think they are pushers running their dirty little industry at the expense of other people's pain. So I boycott them. Sure, I know it won't break 'em. I don't do it to run them out of business. I do it to keep from supporting them. I do it for me, not against them. Yeah, I know, their super bowl frogs are cute, and their 'I love you maaaaan' commercials are delightful. But when you strip away all the ad man cleverness, they are simply liquid drug traffickers and I won't support them. It doesn't matter to me that their customers want the drug, or even that it is legal. I just boycott them. Here in Indianapolis where I live and write there is a huge chain of liquor stores that purposely preys on poor people. I don't care if the owner of this chain dresses in classy $500 suits and attends a respectable church - he's no better in my mind than a street corner drug pusher is. I'm an old hippie who went without California lettuce for several years, to support the migrant workers. That was about fair wages. This is about destroyed families, and ruined livers, and perpetuating poverty. I know my abstinence won't change things, but I do it anyway. This is one industry that introduces plenty of hell on earth. So, I just boycott them.

3. Abstinence is a clear line.
OK, OK, I know the Bible doesn't forbid alcohol. It condemns drunkenness. But drunkenness is a foggy thing. When does a social drinker get drunk? After one drink? Three? Six? A dozen? See? I can't say for sure. Most Bible students agree that drunkenness is sin, but when does the drinker get drunk? In college I wondered what it would be like to get drunk. So I hustled a jug of wine out of a Jewish friend's party and pulled off the road in Allentown, Pennsylvania and glugged down the entire jug. Discarding the empty jug in a nearby trash can, I then drove 40 miles home. Was I drunk? Who knows? I didn't know. That's my point. Since then, I don't touch it at all. Total abstinence is an easier line for me to enforce on myself. If drunkenness is sin, and I therefore shouldn't get drunk, then how am I going to know when I've crossed the line? Carry my own Breathalyzer?

4. My denomination.
I am a member of a denomination who 'requires' tee totaling (as much as any denomination can 'require' anything any more). Indeed, many [American] evangelicals have a similar heritage. For 150 years, four generations of folk in my denomination have pretty well agreed that total abstinence is the way to go. Hey, I don't want to toss that overboard without a bit more thought. I like my denomination on most days, so even if I wanted to drink myself, if it is important to the people in this church for 150 years, I can think about it a little while longer.

5. Church History.
Not that I am locked in to the past. I recognize that the church has not always been against alcohol. In fact, abstinence [for the masses] is a rather recent notion, given 2000 years of Christian history. But, then again, so is opposition to slavery and the notion of ordaining women. So, while I respect Christian tradition, I am not locked into it, especially if the thing in question were eliminated from society, we'd all be better for it. That was true of slavery. Is there anyone who would argue it would not be true of alcohol?

6. For the kids.
I can't imagine drinking - even in moderation - then being a hypocrite enough to tell kids to abstain. 'Hey, kids, do what I say, not what I do.' Suuuuuuure! I don't want kids to drink - my kids or yours - so I don't drink. It's that simple.
Now I know I'll get some helpful responses from my fine readers who want to broaden my thinking and help me understand how a good stiff drink each day will delay my heart attack by three months and 13 days. Thank you very much for your concern. But, I'll give up eggs instead.Will most evangelical churches loosen up their tradition of total abstinence in the coming twenty years? Should they?
So what do you think?


Jewelry & Beer & the Bble & church rules

Six Reasons Why Women Should Not Wear Jewelry

When my students read this they will think I was raised in a cult or maybe among the Amish. But when I was a kid the women in my church did not wear jewelry—none. Though my dad never preached on it my mother lived it, as did every woman in my home church. They read articles about jewelry, heard sermons at camp meeting and listened to the quiet admonition of the older women in the church. In 1967 when Sharon and I were married, we had wedding rings—but we had to slip them on in secret before the reception line passed by us—and everyone glanced at them with astonishment. In 1976 when I took over the job of Executive editor of curriculum for the Wesleyan denomination the art center was still carefully blotting out all earrings and necklaces from the stock photos we used in the Sunday school take home paper Vista. Sure, we’ve mostly “moved past” those days of “legalism” but I want to remind us (or introduce these thoughts to younger people) of the logic of the sermons and articles we got about jewelry. I have a particular purpose in mind that I’ll mention later, but here is what we heard:

1. Jewelry is superfluous.
Jewelry is simply superfluous. It is unnecessary. Why add rings and bracelets and necklaces of gold and silver to what God has created? Nothing is gained for the kingdom of God by adding a chain of pearls to a woman’s neck. We are to be concerned with the kingdom of God first and last and always, not the fancying up ourselves like peacocks. Jewelry is simply not needed and our lives should be sober and simple not fancy and showy. Why do you need it?

2. Jewelry is worldly.
Why do some our women want to put on rings and bracelets and earrings? Is it not because they want to fit in with the world’s standards? Do they want to look like the pagans in order to glorify God or glorify themselves? God called us to come out from among the world and be separate. The desire for worldly adornment is merely a sign of a worldliness—the desire for the leeks of Egypt. God has not called women to be more like the world but more like Him.

3. Jewelry is poor stewardship.
How much money is wasted on purchasing bangles and trinkets and ornaments to decorate a woman’s face and wrists and ears? Why waste this money on the trinkets of mammon? Perhaps some will argue, “but my jewelry is inexpensive costume jewelry.” If that is so then why wear it at all pretending it is something it is not? You are deceiving others into thinking you have gold and silver when it is not. More, your inexpensive costume jewelry may become a snare to a wealthy Christian who will copy your ornaments by purchasing a diamond or gold ring for as much as a thousand dollars—you should not be a snare for other Christian women. If you have a thousand dollars to spend on a ring, shouldn’t you use this money to feed the poor or support the work of God or to send missionaries to faraway places to preach the gospel of Christ? All that you have is God’s; you are not free to squander these gifts on decorating yourself. How can you say, “I can afford it?” What real Christian can afford to spend on themselves what God has give

So what does all this have to do with beer?


Membership standards: Confusing categories

I don’t know about your denomination but when it comes to membership requirements my own denomination confuses its categories. Many denominations lump everything from promising to fast all the way to avoiding committing adultery into one big bucket of membership standards and expect people to sort between those actually required and the optional ones. My denomination has “two buckets”—one that full of required stuff and the other that are “admonitions” to its members and that’s a start but there are actually more than two categories when it comes to membership rules. Most of these other categories are unwritten ones. Here are some I’ve noted:

1. Rules we kick you out for breaking. There are very few of these. None among many of my mainline readers. In my own denomination if you repeatedly “womanize” or continually practice homosexual behavior you will probably get kicked out of a church. But actually these folk seldom really get kicked out—they usually self-select and stop coming anyway. Eventually their names are quietly dropped form the list of active members. There are precious few “membership rules” that will actually get you excommunicated from membership today—but some churches have some. Do you know which are the “capital offences” in your church?

2. Rules that keep you out. It easier to stay in the church than to get into it. Churches are more careful to examine new members’ lives and beliefs than those of existing members. Churches will check a candidate’s “beliefs and behaviors” fairly closely and sometimes keep them from joining if they speak up and say, “Well, I insist on using alcohol” or “I simply reject this church’s view on tongues.” Some of the standards in the “rules bucket” will keep you out—but not most. Do you know which?

3. Misdemeanor rules that get you corrected. You can break some rules—even regularly—and still get in the church and stay in forever. If people see you breaking these misdemeanor rules they’ll perhaps “correct” you (or if it is about pornography or other addiction, send you to get counseling). These are still serious rules yet nobody gets kicked out of the church for breaking them. Do you know which of your church’s rules are in this category?

4. Leftover “wink-wink” rules. Most churches have some rules left over from past generations that nobody pays any attention to. Like laws against spitting on the sidewalk they are “still on the books” but all the insiders know that they are never enforced or even believed. They are antiques. New candidates for membership don’t know this when they read their rule bucket. When they ask their pastor they only get a grin and a wink and are told that rule no longer apples. It is confusing to the new members. Do you know which are the wink-wink rules in your church?

5. Ideals we expect you to work toward. Many of our rules aren’t rules at all—they’re ideals. When we expect a promise to have personal devotions and family devotions in the same bucket as abstaining from homosexuality and adultery most churches aren’t saying that skipping family devotions is just as serious as committing adultery. Many of our standards are actually ideals we think people ought to work toward. If you don’t fast or have family devotions you can still join my denomination—we just hope you’ll head toward fasting and devotions eventually. When we list such things as “membership commitments” we are really saying you should commit toward that sort of lifestyle as your goal, not that you already live that way.

There are probably other categories of rules I’m missing but I think I’ve made my point. The church’s rule bucket often does not distinguish between these categories. This creates confusion among the candidates for membership and among churches. People like to say, Well I drink and you don’t fast—what’s the difference? Or, “You don’t visit jails and I practice homosexuality—what’s the difference—we’re both breaking church rules?” People don’t know which rules fit in which category. If one pastor can wink-wink her way past members gambling by buying lottery tickets why can’t another pastor wink-wink past a member practicing homosexual behavior? Especially when they are in the same list. Who guides us in knowing what these unwritten categories are?

To make it more confusing, church rules are moving targets. No denomination has a fixed and firm set of rules. Rules are always a moving target. The masses and local pastors are always making “informal interpretations” of these rules. A few stay firm but most are loosed informally as time passes. And denominations also add new rules (like my denomination’s new stance against abortion or its addition of a statement against spouse and child abuse). But while we all know what these rules means when we wrote them eventually they’ll come to be interpreted differently. “Trafficking in alcohol” in my denomination used to mean a member wasn’t supposed to work as a check-out clerk at Wal-Mart if ringing up wine was involved. And they couldn’t drive a beer-delivery truck. Today it might mean to refuse to own your own brewery for profit, if anything at all.

Take my denomination for instance. My denomination has 36 rules for its full members. One of those “rules” has to do with observing the Lord’s Day. That used to pretty much universally mean refusing to a restaurant or play ball or for most refusing to get a Sunday newspaper. Over the years that meaning has eventually gravitated by popular interpretation to mean “honor Sunday in whatever way you personally feel honors Sunday.” That is, the rule no longer means what it meant. Actually the rule no longer means anything at all. It is a useless rule. It is just words filling up a bucket ,making the rest of the words mean less. But try to get rid of that one was watch what the speeches. They’ll rend their garments and toss dust into the air condemning your attempt to defile a day of rest and worship. (These folk are like those people in your church who insist on a Sunday evening service yet never come/). It is all breast-beating posturing. Useless rules are confusing. My denomination has a half-bucketful of such rules in all kinds of categories and they ought to be gotten rid of. The point is rules are moving targets and that adds to the category confusion and when a rule no longer is embraced and enforced it should be eliminated or the whole bucket will become meaningless.

Which is why denominations ought to re-mint their membership commitments every few decades. Maybe even more often. I wish my denomination would.
What I think we ought to do every 20 years
Make the few “Capital offenses” very clear (an honest declaration of what we intend to excommunicate over).
Divide the measurable requirements from the hard-to-measure ideals to pursue. These ought to be in separate lists to avoid people saying “you don’t pray enough I’m not heterosexual enough—we both fail.”
Specify what we’re very serious about—even though we don’t excommunicate for these things. If we expect the church to confront certain behaviors or beliefs then we ought to tell new members that.
Move the stuff we’re not willing to enforce to “admonitions” (what we call our “Special Directions”) Everything else ought to go into the category “we urge you to life this way” and not be “rules” or “commitments” at all.
Or transfer many rules to a “leadership” standard. In the past my denomination was like Willow Creek church. “Membership” and “leadership” were one thing. We often had twice as many attending our churches every week than were actually members. To join the church was to commit to leadership. That is no longer true. Now we consider membership an early step in discipleship not a late one. We want people to join our churches to “get on the bus” that is going to help them grow and develop. This membership has been moved back in the sequence so that it soon follows conversion. The trouble for us is that we still have “leadership requirements” as our membership requirements. I think we need to either turn membership back into leadership (doubtful) or turn our membership standards back into entry-level rules. It is at least an idea we ought to consider.

So, don’t I worry about opening up our rules to reconsideration? I know I am often considered a “conservative” in my denomination (I’m not). So you might wonder don’t I worry about opening up the rules for change? Not at all. We’ll be OK. I think the Holy Spirit will guide the church in binding and loosing things just like he did in guiding the church in the first few hundred years of Christian history to select which books would go into the Bible and which would get left out. But of course there’s a hitch. We must seriously try to find God’s will when we make these decisions. I don’t believe “God always gets his way” in church decisions—I’m a free-will Wesleyan, remember. But I do believe that when the church gathers to make decisions the Holy Spirit will guide and direct that church if they seek it—and generally speaking God will guide is through the Holy Spirit to make the right decisions so that even in our membership standards we can “serve this present age.”

Keith Drury
January 15, 2005


Does a church have the right to require for membership anything not explicitly addressed in Scripture?

My own denomination will debate their "membership requirements" this summer. Specifically they are thinking about a new category of membership with fewer requirements and partial benefits including some voting rights. It's a sort of second-class membership or half-way covenant for those who don't want to give up social drinking and the like, yet still want to become a member of the local church.
The debate has caused us to take a healthy look at what we believe about the kingdom of God, the church, and the role of the Bible in determining "church rules." We are taking a good look at our ecclesiology for the first time in years. Our constitution/Discipline lists as an "elementary principle," "No person who loves the Lord Jesus Christ and obeys the gospel of God our Savior, ought to be deprived of church membership." That settles it, right? It's as plain as the nose on the face of a district superintendent -- "love Jesus and obey the gospel and you're in."
Sorry. Not so fast, Charlie! Elsewhere in our discipline we are more definitive in describing what we mean by "obeys the gospel." Included in this list is a tee-totaler rule (well, not exactly total abstinence… we can use alcohol for "proper medical purposes," which, given recent health research, has provided a gap in the fence large enough for some pastors to drive a large herd through). Further complicating things was an early 80's addition of "proof texts" for each of our statements, conveying the impression that these rules were obviously rooted in the Bible and thus required of all Christians, not just our members.
But the most interesting part of this debate is how it has led to discussions of our hermeneutic, (or lack thereof). We are asking what role the Bible plays in determining the "rules" for church membership. If the Bible condemns a practice are we obligated to refuse to accept members who do this? If the Bible is silent on a practice, are we then obligated to allow it? Or, to make things even more complicated, when the Bible seems to approve a practice (like moderate drinking) does the church have a right to disallow it for members? These are the questions which are leading us to clarify our hermeneutic -- our approach to understanding what the Bible means and how to apply it today.
So, does a church or denomination have the right to require of its members something not explicitly addressed in the Bible. I say, "Yes" for three reasons:
1. We want to condemn some sins about which the Bible is silent. OK, I know you have a proof-text for everything. But be honest, there are simply plenty of things we ought to condemn or require where the Bible is essentially silent. There are lots of new ways to sin. For instance, I bet most of us want to condemn abortion. But any honest student of the Bible will have to agree that this is implied from Bible texts, not explicitly stated. Sure, God knew and called Jeremiah while he was in the womb (actually before then, but that's another matter) But this text is not explicit teaching on abortion any more than the " body is the temple" is about alcohol. These things may be implied, but they are not what the Bible is explicitly addressing. And, concerning abortion there is an even more troubling silence in the Bible about the common first century practice of child-exposure, a sort of "post-birth-abortion." If we are limited to the Bible's explicit teachings for membership requirements then we can no longer take an anti-abortion stance. But that's not all. We certainly won't be able to say much against gambling, drugs, tobacco, marijuana or pornography either. Sure, we can use proof-texts on them, but we'll be hard pressed to find explicit condemnation of these things in Scripture. So, I am prepared for my church to "go beyond Scripture" in its membership requirements. Indeed, I hope my church will use the Bible, church history, and their reason and experience to determine "how shall we now live." There are some sins about which the Bible says little about we need to condemn -- and require of our members.
2. We need to condemn some sin the Bible seems to allow. Yikes! This sounds awful, but, the Bible seems to allow some practices which the church of Jesus Christ (presumably through the guidance of the Holy Spirit) now needs to condemn. Any honest reading of the Bible will show that it allowed slavery during the first century, even commanded slaves to "be obedient to their masters." In the 1850's Southern slave owners were fond of proof-texting their way around the Bible to show the Bible approved slavery. Yet the church finally rejected slavery as "against the whole Bible even if tacitly accepted by some passages." The Bible allowed it, we condemn it. I accept that responsibility for the church. Or, how about polygamy and other "temporary allowances" the Bible seems to permit? Or consider the nationalistic-racism in parts of the Old Testament. Alcohol falls into this category too. The Bible seems to permit moderate alcohol use, maybe even recommends it. Does that mean we can't make our membership alcohol-free. No more than we are unable to refuse slave-holders as members. A church has an obligation to condemn sin, even if the Bible seems to allow it.
3. We need to allow some things the Bible seems to condemn.
I'm not sure on this one. But could it be that the church may want to "loose" some things the Bible condemned? I don't know, this is a slippery slope. But, "due to the hardness of today's hearts" could the church permit things the Bible explicitly condemns? (Boy, this could be dangerous.) But, is it true? Does the Holy Spirit guide the body of Christ on earth today to "loose" itself (at least temporarily) from some of the Bible's explicit commands directed to the first century church? For instance, are we allowed to loose the New Testament's condemnation of materialism arguing that in those days their zero-sum game view of wealth (if you are "piling up treasures" you are taking it from someone else) has changed this sin into a sensible practice? In modern America we have a different approach to wealth, (at least Republicans do). We believe that increasing one's net worth is not automatically done at the expense of another. Does this shift in culture allow the church to take in members today who are annually increasing their net worth in defiance of Christ's explicit command in the Sermon on the mount? OK, that's an easy one -- try this one: the New Testament is quite plain in its teaching on divorce and remarriage. A pagan right off the street can understand the plain meaning of the text. Does the church have a "right" to loose this teaching on its members when they consider the changed social structure of marriage from Bible times? Can the church take in divorced members who openly and daily disobey the teaching of Christ and Paul on divorce? Can we loose things that the Bible requires?
I'm getting nervous. Where would this lead? If I adopt these views I'd have to have a really strong view of the Holy Spirit. I'd have to trust the Holy Spirit to guide the church in these decisions… almost as much as I trusted the Spirit's guidance when the early church selected the canon. Can I do that? Is the church that authoritative? Can my ecclesiology handle that much authority in the church?
Can yours?
So what do you think?
To contribute to the thinking on this issue e-mail your response to Tuesday@indwes.edu
By Keith Drury; April, 2000. You are free to transmit, duplicate or distribute this article for non-profit use without permission.

P.S. So, does my denomination have the right to require of its members something not explicitly addressed in the Bible. I say, "Yes," So, what then should we church require of members? My answer is equally simple: whatever we want to. A denomination should stand on the Bible, the last 2000 years of church history, then use its own good reason and experience to decide what "rules" it will impose on itself. A denomination is a voluntary organization that can require of itself anything it wants so long as they allow for others to be in the kingdom who are not in their denomination. These "rules" aren't about who gets into heaven. They are about who gets into our club -- they are similar to the old monastic "rule" -- simply a collection of agreements to which we submit because we think they (by and large) help us become more godly. Is being a tee-totaler one of those rules which helps us be more Godly? That's up to my denomination to decide. We can pick whatever rules we want to bind on ourselves in a social covenant. Church membership is as much about sociology as theology. In fact, if the above three points are true, then it is our obligation to decide how we will live together in "this present age." We can bind new rules on ourselves if we want to-- even those not explicitly prescribed in the Bible. We can loose old rules that no longer apply to today.
And, as we "bind and loose" these voluntary covenants we will determine who we will become. And, after all, isn't that the real question?

For papers read at IWU's Spring Colloquium on membership go to this page:


Who says what the Bible says?

The keys to the kingdom, binding & loosing

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. --Matthew 16:19; 18:18

Believing the Bible is easy. It is applying it that’s tricky.
Applying the Bible to today is harder than stating we “believe the Bible and that settles it. “ Take for instance the Bible’s teaching, “Thou shalt not kill.” It’s obvious this applies to outright premeditated murder, but does it also apply to War? Does it apply to killing in self defense? How about abortion—does the commandment apply to that? Does it extend to capital punishment? Who says what the Bible says on these things? Or, take another example: what does the Bible mean when it says “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?” It obviously explicitly applies to visiting temple prostitutes but does it extend to anything else? Alcohol? Tobacco? Obesity? Sugar? Who can say how far the Bible applies in such situations? You? Me? My denomination? One more example: the Old Testament teaches us to keep the Sabbath day holy. Is Sunday the Sabbath? Is going to the beach on Sunday wrong? Cutting my grass? Making unnecessary purchases? Is there no such thing as a Sabbath at all anymore? How can I know how the Bible applies in these situations? Who can decide what the Bible means—obviously I can’t just decide for myself—neither you nor I can be trusted to let the Bible mean whatever we decide it means ourselves. So who can we trust? Here are my answers to that question for your consideration.

1. In Jesus’ day the rabbis led this process.
The Jews of Jesus day had the same problem. Thinking Jews immediately saw that the Ten Commandments weren’t actually commandments at all in some cases but actually “principles” that needed application. The commandment on the Sabbath didn’t say specifically what it meant to work—just don’t do it. Was building a fire to eat “work?” A fire for warmth? For fun? Is collecting sticks for the fire working on the Sabbath? Feeding animals? Taking in the harvest before tomorrow’s rain? God commanded Sabbath-keeping but left the details up to us to figure out. It is the same with “Honor your mother and father.” What does that mean? Does it mean a Jew had to obey their parents even after they were an adult? Take them into their own house and care for them when they are old? Merely give parent them respect and admiration? How was a devout Jew to know how this commandment applied? Who gets to decide?

That is where the rabbis came in. Along with others, the Rabbis took up the task of applying the Scriptures to daily life—answering the question “How far should I go?” and, “How far is too far?” Each rabbi offered a “yoke” –a collection of his applications of the Bible’s teachings—a church Discipline or Manual of sorts. To determine the application of Scripture the Rabbis used a question and answer approach. The two schools of Rabbis of the first century (Hillel and Shammai) are the most famous. The rabbis examined the law and applied it. Someone might ask, “If I find a fledgling dove and keep it have I stolen?” The rabbi’s teaching then established the application of the commandment “Do not steal” to the real situation of a person’s finding a baby bird that had obviously escaped from someone’s cage. In this case the teaching was that if you found the bird within fifty cubits of the cage you had to return it, otherwise “finder’s keepers” prevailed. All this of course sounds really ridiculously legalistic to us until one examines our own church rules (and personal ones) which attempt to make similar applications of the Bible to today’s issues. Well, what is your answer? Ever found a wad of cash in a parking lot? A quarter? A penny? What did you do? Do you reimburse for personal photocopying at work? Telephone calls? Time sending personal emails? Use of the ink in an office pen for personal purposes? See? We all have to make ethical judgments every day that either bind us or loose us from “the law.” <1>

The rabbis used a particular phrase for this process—Bind and loose. It was not a matter of treating the Scripture lightly “loosing” it by tossing overboard, but rather the process treated Scripture with gravity, carefully attempting to discern how it applied to actual daily living. Any pastor who knows real people knows the need for this sort of thing. First, there are some folk who are simply too hard on themselves—their consciences are so tender that they’ll turn in a penny they’ve found to the Wal-Mart counter and if they keep it they feel like they are a thief. These people need loosed from the their hard taskmaster. But there are also others who are so liberal on themselves they will “loose” just about every command in Scripture—including explicit ones—as they “consider the circumstances” in their own life. They’ll be sinning boldly and pronouncing it good. These sorts of folk could use a bit of “binding.” The bottom line: individuals can’t be trusted to do their own binding and loosing—they needed a rabbi to help them and this was the situation in the first century when Jesus spoke these words.

2. Jesus Himself practiced “binding and loosing.”
In some ways the entire Sermon on the Mount is an example of Jesus’ binding and loosing. (“You have heard it said…I say unto you.”) He binds murder to include anger. He binds adultery to include divorce/remarriage. He binds/extends the commandment on loving neighbor to loving enemies. But he looses Sabbath-keeping so that one might harvest grain by hand and even heal people. He also looses the restrictions against idolatry by allowing tax payments to Caesar who considered himself a god. Rabbi Jesus did what rabbis did—they took the law and applied it to daily practical issues of morality—loosening the grip of some rules and tightening and extending others. He never disposed of the law, but applied it to real-life through the process of binding and loosing.

3. Jesus delegated the authority to “bind and loose” to the church.
Jesus granted these keys to the church. What else can it mean? The questions are: what are the keys and who got them? The keys seem obvious: they are the authority to apply Scripture to daily life binding and loosing it when applied to life. <2> If these are the keys then who got them? Peter and his apostolic successors? Every individual Christian personally? Or, (as almost all Protestants say) the church. I think the church got the keys. It is our job to apply Scripture to today’s world—being strict on some things and more loose on others. It is the church’s job to start with God’s word then look at real-life situations and decide where to bind and extend the meaning of Scripture and where to loosen up its application and turn people free. I think it is the church’s job to tell the person who feels guilty for the penny they stole from the parking lot that they’ve not stolen it at all—they should put it in the offering plate and quit fretting.

4. However our big question then is: “Who is the church?”
So if the church gets to bind and loose, who is the church? Once we decide it is not an individual’s job but the church’s responsibility to apply Scripture to daily life then we Protestants run into a problem—we must ask, “Which church—who is the church?” Catholics say “the church” decides through the Pope who is the direct apostolic successor to Peter who got the keys in the first place. Protestants rejected this idea 500 years ago. When the Pope determines that the command to be fruitful and multiple means abstaining from birth control pills the binding is done for Catholics (though the bind-ees don’t always listen). For Protestants it’s more complicated. If the church does this binding and loosing who is the church? My local church? My denomination? Some sort of average statement from all evangelical denominations? The agreed-upon meaning of Scripture of evangelical bible scholars? If I am wondering if the extra 15 pounds on my bodily temple is wrong what church would I ask? Who will loose me of this command or bind it and command me to shed those pounds? Or, more seriously, who will tell a person considering divorce that they are justified in doing so, or are being selfish? Or when a college student is plagued by sexual dreams and wonders if these are sin—who will tell him the answer? The church will. It is our job—Christ gave us the keys.

5. John Wesley might be a helpful example here.
I know some folk could care less about what someone said or did in the 1700s’ but perhaps he can be a test case of how a Protestant can get “binding and loosing services” from the church. There are two practices in the Methodist movement that provided the binding and loosing service to individual Christians at that time. Perhaps we need to return to them.

A. The “fourth question” in Wesley’s small groups. John Wesley organized the church into small groups of twelve people, called “class meetings.” In those groups four questions were asked each week, going around the circle with each person answering them in turn. The fourth question is of most interest to us here but for context I will list all of them:
1. What known sins have you committed since our last meeting
2. What temptations have you met with?
3. How were you delivered?
4. What have you thought, said or done of which you doubt whether it be sin or not?

Wesley’s fourth question is a glimpse at how he saw binding and loosing work in the church—in small groups. After confessing sins and then temptations over which they had been victorious, every member of the class was asked to report anything they were unsure about—thoughts, words or deeds that they were unsure if they were sin or not. This would not be hard to do—they had just gone around the circle sharing personal sins and temptations already! Once the member shared their uncertainty the group helped them decide—applying the Bible to their situation. They did not have a short prayer and send the member out into the woods to “sense from the Holy Spirit” if they had sinned or not. They did not even send them off to study the Bible. They had them share and the group bound or loosed the Bible’s teaching to them. This small group “directing” avoided individualized applications the person might make on their own that were either too harsh on themselves or too easy. The individual submitted to the “spiritual direction” of their class meeting under the direction of a class leader. Wesley’s answer to the question, “Which church?” would have included the small group. They had the keys and were to do binding and loosing. But Wesley did not leave ultimate authority in small groups on their own—for even a group of twelve can be mistaken. Wesley wrapped the small groups up in a package of “Christian Conference.”

B. “Christian Conference.” Wesley did not gather the Methodists in their annual conference to discuss mileage rates for District Superintendents or the deteriorating condition of the camp meeting buildings. They discussed theology. Reading the minutes of these old conferences is something like reading the work of the first century rabbis or the early church fathers. They are honest attempts to hammer out theology and behaviors based on Scripture—in short “binding and loosing” the bible for daily life. The “minutes” of these conferences were so helpful and instructive that pastors eagerly waiting for them to be printed so they could use them in local congregations in discipleship. The “conference” was a regional event for the hammering out of theology and the application of Scripture—a grand “binding and loosing convention.” Questions were posed just as to the rabbis in the first century and answers were hammered out and crafted into words that have endured. The minutes of these conferences became guidance to class leaders and small groups for helping individuals making ethical decisions on “how far to go” applying the Bible to life. Christian conference was so important in Wesley’s scheme of binding and loosing that he listed it as one of the five means of grace in his famous sermon on that subject—including conference along with Scripture, prayer, fasting and the Lord’s Supper! (I know of no person recently who considers their district conference to be such a “means of grace.) Wesley’s approach was to create an envelope of authority around the small groups with the conference minutes. It worked.

Thus the Methodist in Wesley’s day knew where to go to find “the church.” If they were wondering how the Bible applied to their own drinking of alcohol, smoking tobacco, playing the lottery, getting an abortion, joining a secret society or practicing homosexuality [anachronisms intentional] they knew whom to ask—they asked their small group. And around this small group was the collection of the serious thinking of the Conference. Yet there was more. In with the small groups and the conference was the prolific writing of the movement’s leader, John Wesley himself, who constantly bound and loosed scripture in application. In a way Wesley’s writings were (at least for a time) a huge container into which the envelope of the conference and small group was stored (though one could easily argue that Wesley himself may have said that the conference minutes took a place of higher authority). These envelopes-within-envelopes all together moderated error of interpretation—the small group correcting the individual, the conference and Wesley’s writings correcting the small groups.

But there were also some important “ghosts” at the table. To Wesley neither the class meeting nor the conference was supposed to be doing all this applying of the Bible in a present-day vacuum. He insisted that all of the Christian thinkers through history get to vote on these matters too—these were the “ghosts” at every class meeting in all the conferences (and with all of Wesley’s writings). This is Wesley’s emphasis on “tradition”—the historic teaching of the church on any matter. Wesley gave special attention to the early church fathers or “primitive church” to which he granted extra voting power. See where this article is heading? Binding and losing Scripture in community—small groups, large ones, all wrapped up in the largest community of all-Christians down through history to the present.

When we “reverse engineer” Wesley’s actual practice we see his own answer to our question, “Who is this church with the keys to bind and loose Scripture?” His practice answers that with, “It is your small group first of all, surrounded by the teachings of Christian Conference which are informed by all of Christian tradition and especially the earliest church fathers. In practice the so-called “Wesleyan Quadrilateral” <3> was NOT an tool for an individual to determine how the Bible applied to today but for a group. Seeing the quadrilateral in Wesley’s own writings may give a glimpse into his own thought processes but where the rubber met the road Wesley used community to apply Scripture. And these present-day communities (class meetings, conference) were joined by the great community of all time—“tradition” then they focused their reason and tested it in experience to determine how the bible applied to “this present age.”

So, my questions for this Tuesday morning are these:
1. Do most Christians today believe they have the sovereign right individually to bind and loose Scripture on themselves—no group or church has this right? If so, then if there is no authority above the individual how can the church condemn any sin at all?
2. What does all this say about church rules or membership commitments?
3. Is there any church anywhere on earth with small groups asking “the four questions” every week? And what is the result?

By Keith Drury November 21, 2005
Click here if you’d like to see some comments on this article…or make on yourself.

Click here if you’d like to read my personal response to this article

1. CREDIT. I am greatly indebted to Trinity Lutheran Seminary’s Mark Allan Powell for his clear and helpful article Binding and loosing: a paradigm for ethical discernment from the Gospel of Matthew published in the December 2003 Currents in Theology and Mission. His article has gathered into one place the ideas on binding and loosing and presented them in an easy-to-read writing style—so Luther(an)!—Kudos to you Mark! I am also indebted to my colleague Steve Lennox who sniffed this out from our library’s InfoTrack. Stave hearing from Ken Schenck that I was interested in the “Binding and Loosing” matter spied Mark’s article and passed it on to me knowing I had written about it the idea (less cogently) before –see that here. The connection with Wesley is my own and it is untested and not yet “peer-reviewed” by Wesley scholars who will certainly tear it apart. But hey, this is a blog designed for running things up the flagpole—have at it Wesley scholars.

2. OTHER INTREPRETATIONS OF BINDING/LOOSING. In fairness there are other interpretations to binding and loosing. Luther thought the process applied to the power of the church to forgive sin—retaining or loosing a person from their guilt for sin—but that authority is better derived from John 20 than from this context. Others of a more Pentecostal ilk have tried to made this verse talk about the power of Christians to exorcism but as Mark Powell wryly remarks, “but why would the church ever want to loose a demon?” However neither of these approaches is as satisfying to me as taking this teaching in Matthew’s context itself. The larger context (the Rabbi’s practice of binding and loosing application during the first century) and the narrow context of these verses themselves which clearly apply to some authority Jesus is granting the church with the keys.

3. QUADRILATERAL. Wesley himself never suggested he had a four way system for deciding things. It was coined by Albert Outler in 1964 as an explanation for how Wesley determined things—the model has four points (thus a quadrilateral) –starting with Scripture Wesley then went on to also consider Tradition, Reason and Experience in hammering out Biblical application and theology.