A frequent question I hear being asked is, “What does The Wesleyan Church believe?” The reason it’s asked varies, but my answer is consistent.
First, look to the Bible to know what we in The Wesleyan Church believe. Every official document regarding our Wesleyan beliefs builds upon biblical truth. It is a standard woven within the founding fabric of The Wesleyan Methodist Church and Pilgrim Holiness Church. For The Wesleyan Church, it is both our heritage and conviction.
We can easily access documents online and in print including “The Discipline,” booklets and position papers that address various topics relevant to how we live and minister. When you wonder what The Wesleyan Church believes about a topic, start with our documents. The words written and approved by elected church officials and delegates, past and present, are there to equip and guide us.
Most of what I have heard the past few months is so encouraging — more Wesleyan churches being opened than closed, Wesleyan lay leaders strategically turning their workplaces into ministry spaces, Wesleyan women and men stepping into leadership roles across North America and around the world. We are Unleashing a Kingdom Force that is multigenerational, multiethnic, multieconomic, women and men, lay and clergy, from everywhere to everywhere. Even now, preparations are being made for Wesleyans to be Together again on Pentecost Sunday, to worship and pray, to celebrate our God and one another. We seek the Holy Spirit’s power to persevere.
Some of what I have heard the past few months is painful — words of accusation and distrust — that cause personal and community harm. Because I spend little time on social media, my absence has been interpreted in various ways. When I’m asked, “Who speaks for The Wesleyan Church?” I always want to point to Scripture and the collective authority of the Church (General Conference, General Board) first and foremost.
My hope for all Wesleyans is that as we seek to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20), our conversations and dialogue are within the spirit of The Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40). On this point, I am challenged by Rev. Luther Lee, one of the founders of The Wesleyan Methodist Connection of America. In his “Elements of Theology,” when talking about how Christians position themselves in the society, Lee quotes two Matthew passages:
Matthew 22:37-40. “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Matthew 7:12: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
Lee points out that Christians are called to love all of humanity as the highest expression of the law, and Christians are called to reciprocal love. He is careful to point out that reciprocal love is qualified as a principle and not an emotive response.
His words remain true today. We are still called to love our God fully and faithfully, and we are still called to love our neighbors as ourselves. I join you in seeking guidance from Scripture and the written resources of The Wesleyan Church, striving to honor one another in every exchange, for God’s glory and our collective good.
Dr. Wayne Schmidt is General Superintendent of The Wesleyan Church.