There were strong reminders of John Wesley in Denver when delegates to the twelfth World Methodist Conference voted overwhelmingly to support a global, four-year emphasis on evangelism—an evangelism that stresses the importance of personal salvation but at the same time does not hesitate to speak out against the social ills of the world.
Methodism’s founder might have looked a bit askance at the apparent lack of evangelical fervor on the part of some of the more than 3,500 delegates, or their mixed notions of what the mission of the Church is, but he would have recognized strains of the tight Gospel that made Methodism the talk of Christendom for about 150 years.
The Methodists, from nearly eighty countries and almost sixty national conferences, debated the evangelism issue for two hours and with hardly more than a sprinkling of negative votes bought themselves a program of “intensified mission to the world.”
Yielding to the time-honored Methodist love for order and for independent decisions, the program, pushed strenuously by Bishop F. Gerald Ensley of Columbus, Ohio, included a timetable that would allow the national participants in the conference over two years to decide if and how they want to participate.
In 1974, if participation is approved, Methodists would join the growing list of denominations that are convening evangelism congresses. They would designate the following year for launching the most comprehensive evangelism effort in the denomination since the camp-meeting days of the Great Kentucky Revival at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
Ensley and others tried to steer the program as far as possible into the context of ecumenism, cooperating with as many other churches as possible. However, the resolution ...1
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