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Showing posts from May, 2015

Under This Banner...

I walked around a large religious conference where the constituents are struggling as an issue drives a wedge in their group.  The issue comes down to the role and authority of scripture in human life. How will understanding of its advice, wisdom, commands, and lessons be applied in and through their expression of faith?  Should the scriptures assume the role of a quaint outdated writing that has some nice things in it or as a vital and real guide for living a life of faith? If I have the control over what I believe and can pick and choose my views cannot apply to anyone else.  If each man or woman does that which is right in their own eyes...well, we have been over that territory and the story is in the Bible. Throughout Christian history there have been times when it was crucial to proclaim, "This I Believe" and to be able to lay out the argument using scripture, reason, experience, and tradition. Colorful stoles used as solidarity for a position become the banner under w…

Schism and Reunion in the Methodist Church

Schism is defined generally as a 'split or division between strongly opposed sections or parties' and this is usually 'caused by differences in opinion or belief.'

In the 1820's a group of Methodists broke away over the issues of church government and the role of the laity.  This group felt the clergy and bishops were too powerful and made decisions and then expected the local church to simply abide by these decisions with no input from the lay persons of the church. This group formed The Methodist Protestant Church.

In 1844, conflict emerged between the abolitionist northern churches of the Methodist Episcopal Church and the slave owning and permitting M.E. churches of the southern states (primarily). As a result,  the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South developed from a formal split.

In 1939, the Methodist Protestant, the M.E. and the M.E., South reunited to form the Methodist Church.

In 1968, The Methodist Church, the United Evan…

Potholes in the Splendid Road

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Earle E. Cairns (1910-2008) was for many years chairman of the history department at Wheaton College. An expert in the field of church history, Dr. Cairns has authored a number of books including Christianity Through the Centuries. This is where I first encountered him in some six hours of Church History courses. It was a readable book and the classes were taught by a skilled instructor. Cairns wrote other works, including God and Man in Time, and The Christian in Society.  As an expert in his field his also served as consulting editor and contributor to several now standard reference works: The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church and was senior reviser of The Wycliffe Biographical Dictionary of the Church. Dr. Cairns holds held the MA and PhD from the University of Nebraska. In reading a 1986 Tyndale House edition, I noted several apparent errors in facts presented and was somewhat surprised. It serves as reminder that there is sound value in the use of footnotes an…

Mr. Spangenberg and Mr. Wesley

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In February of 1736, John Wesley was preparing, along with his brother Charles, to launch out into a ministry in the wide open spaces of colonial Georgia in North America.  Up to this time, John Wesley and his brother had been committed to a steady, disciplined approach to living up to the requirements of their faith. They faithfully rose early each morning to read scripture, the set an appointed time to apply themselves to prayer, and established routines that served to do good works, fulfill charity, and teach the faith. They held fast to the traditions of the faith, observed and agreed with the theological platforms of the historic church (the Apostle's Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Heidelberg Confession, and the 39 Articles of Faith of the Church of England). From before dawn to after sunset their days were arranged to be always in some productive and godly activity of helps, instruction, prayer, or service. Mr. Olgethrope came from Savannah with one of the Pastors of the Germ…

Envisioning a Church

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Researching into church history is often found the stories of schism, of division and the establishment of new groups that better reflect certain styles, beliefs, values, or purposes.  No church, congregation or collection of people is ever perfect. In finding the best fit compromises are sometimes made along the lines of what is most agreeable to personal convictions of the Christian life.  In recent years, with the emergence of the Post-Modern movement of the later 20th century, there has been a return to the basics. This has been illuminating but also very challenging.  It is sometimes very clear how far off course some denominations and groups have traveled from their foundational principles or beliefs.  Tides of social trends, cultural waves, and even political eddies have shifted the flow of their rivers of faith. Current trends seem to indicate that there are some common factors in the churches that are growing and being successful in the Biblical definitions of church. These g…

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Women Evangelists

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In Oklahoma City in 1904 a woman from the Methodist Episcopal Church preached a revival in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. At this point, both groups were busy building and there was apparently some sharing of resources.  Oklahoma at this time was more open to the idea of the two fractured sections of Methodism working together than the general denominational structures of both. They were also, apparently, open to the idea of a woman preaching a revival as well.
The event was duly reported in the local newspaper, with numerous tidbit or pithy quotes as was the custom, and she was referred to always as "Mrs. Mather."
She was Margaret Alice Moody Mather from Spencer, Iowa. She was born 27 January 1862 in Clayton Co., Iowa. She married in 1883 Luther Pearson Mather (b. 1838, Fenner, NY).   She was mentioned in The Northwest Christian Advocate of March 17, 1897 (pg. 20) as an "evangelist" and that she assisted Pastor A.R. Cuthbert, pastor in a revival that saw m…