AS THINGS HAVE turned out, 1963 is a year for Methodism to remember for two reasons, one historical and the other contemporary: first, it brings round the 225th anniversary of John Wesley’s Aldersgate experience—an occasion which is being widely celebrated in Methodist circles; second, this year of grace has seen the publication of the report on the conversations between the Church of England and The Methodist Church. The former points back to the true heart of Methodism; the latter places Methodism before the crossroads of decision as it faces the future.

John Wesley, as is well known, was not a separatist. He was born, lived, and died in the Church of England. And the same was true of his brother Charles—though Charles considered it unlawful to separate from the Church of England, whereas John considered it inexpedient.

In the earlier years of his ministry the Rev. John Wesley could justly be described as a “high” churchman. He was a strict legalist, earnest in his devotion to duty and the observance of formalities, exemplary in his own high standard of morality, a disciplinarian of himself as well as of others. But the one vital thing was missing: a religion of the heart. In 1737, for example, when he was in Georgia, the exclusive view of episcopacy which he held caused him to insist on rebaptizing the children of dissenting families, to refuse admission to Holy Communion to all who had not been episcopally confirmed, and to decline to bury any who had not been baptized in the episcopal church. This discrimination extended even to the Moravian missionaries whom he so greatly admired for their piety. Thus, referring some years later to a letter he had received from the Austrian pastor, John ...

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