Published on January 9, 2019
1. Creation, Justice, Compassion and Love: a 21st Century Methodist Quadrilateral Barry Jones Methodist Honorary Research Fellow Visiting Scholar Sarum College, Salisbury Methodist Local Preacher, SW Worcestershire Emeritus Professor of Manufacturing Metrology Brunel University London Email: email@example.com Website: bedwardjones.com 3rd Annual Methodist Research Conference, Manchester, Thursday 19th April 2018
2. Existing Methodist Quadrilateral Idea of moving to four “credited “ to John Wesley. Four sources of authority : Scripture, Tradition, Reason, Christian Experience. The Problem In Britain today few people read the bible, social fragmentation and individualism disrupt tradition, post-modernism makes truth relative, and the recent two generations of non- church people have broken the chain of christian experience. The existing Methodist Quadrilateral is no longer fit-for-purpose in mission and evangelism.
3. Methodist Church decline in Britain In the year 1932, 1 in 16 of the population was a Methodist Church adherent. By the year 2032, on present trends with present belief and practice it is estimated that only 1 in 700 of population will be a Methodist Church adherent. The most rapid decline of a British main-line christian church since the Reformation. “Business–as–usual” represents CHURCH DEATH; almost anything would be better than present belief and practice. The Christian Church has acute and unresolved theological problems now in an interconnected world. Must rapidly create new and very visible and attractive distinguishing and “unique selling points” everywhere to survive, or history will surely win.
4. Authority versus Outcome In Britain trust in “authorities” is now low(even the clergy and church charities are loosing public trust). People tend now to make judgements based on feelings, emotions and self-referenced transient truths. “Belief” has become difficult for people. So main-stream British christianity needs to focus more on “Flourishing”. People do find meaning in “outcomes”. Understanding current culture is as important as doing theology based on the past.
5. Creation Psalm 104,v.24 “How many are your works,O Lord! In wisdom you made them all.” Intrinsic value of all creation, not merely human beings; ecosystems and biodiversity to flourish. In 2015, the Sustainable Development Goal adopted by 193 member states of the United Nations.
6. Justice Isaiah 32,v 7: “...the poor just cry out for justice…” St Augustine (b.354 AD): “…charity is no substitute for justice…” Archbishop William Temple (in 1941): “…the State is a servant and instrument of God for the preservation of justice…”
7. Compassion Psalm 86 v15: “(God)is….compassionate….abounding in love…”. James 5 v11: “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy…”. Matthew 20 v34: “Jesus had compassion on them…”. Colossians 3 v12: “…clothe yourselves with compassion…”.
8. Love Jesus sanctifies our humanity. We are who we are because of the creative source of life in the universe, and Jesus brings that energy and defines it as love. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs”. 1Corinthians 13,v 4-5. Original sin is a rebellion against Creation, and forgiveness cannot bypass victims. We are accountable to God through others. Jesus died because of our sins, not for our sins.
9. Flourishing or Languishing A flourishing life is one lived well, that goes well, and that feels good; “the good life”; “life worth living”; a nourished beautiful life; it is a gift of religious faith. It evokes an image of a living thing, thriving in its proper environment. A languishing life is pessimistic and dominated by threat feelings; sees no or few values in reality; living against the odds; dominated by denial and nihilism; inventing happiness and arbitrary values. The unity of meaning and pleasure, experienced as joy in the creation, is given as a gift with the God who is Love: the wellspring of flourishing, personal contentment, global solidarity and care for the planet.
10. Richard Holloway ( former Bishop of Edinburgh) “... in Christian history….there has always been a theology of life that emphasised the goodness of creation, rather than its fallen state…a theology of natality and flourishing” ; “…compared with the theologies of anxiety and fear…” Richard Holloway ,“Doubts and Loves”, Canongate Books 2001
11. Biblical Flourishing Psalm 19 nature’s flourishing: a God-given course. Psalm 92 “…the righteous will flourish…”. ……the challenge to the church is therefore to define and promote human flourishing in accordance with biblical teaching…..christian theology has a role to play in assisting the church to meet this challenge…..
12. Purpose of a 21st Century Methodist Quadrilateral To see God in creation and in the person. Support principles of solidarity and subsidiarity; build “bridges not walls”. Encourage integral fulfilment of the whole person in the local community. Aim for flourishing, human dignity, altruism and the common good. Preaching which is creative, imaginative and challenging for the current culture.
13. Implications for main-line churches in Britain True, faithful, vital, contextual and meaningful theology for identity transformation in the current culture: the Bible in four words; nonconformity! Culturally-relevant ecclesiological structures de-centralised Connexion. Emphasise “feedback from the future” as well as “feedforward from the past”. Concentrate on what God is doing now.
14. Point to our God-sustained creation and the Jesus Spirit active today in the world. Concentrate more on “flourishing and engagement” and less on “belief”. Work for the right public “tone” in a locality to influence attitudes and behaviour and underpin local networks. Point to engagement, community, shared values and relationships.
15. References 1. Daniel P M Chapman , “Whither Methodist Theology Now? The Collapse of Wesleyan Quadrilateral”, Lecture at Methodist Sacramental Fellowship Public Meeting, Portsmouth, 2010 (available as Kindle download). 2. Jonathan Sacks,“Cultural Climate Change”, Lecture at Chautauqua Institution,New York 13 July 2017 (edited edition at http://togetherforthecommongood.co.uk/viewpoints/opinion- pieces ). 3. Virginia Moffatt, “Reclaiming the Common Good---How Christians can Help Re-Build our Broken World”, Darton- Longman-Todd, London 2017 (collection of essays).
16. 4. Hilary Russell, “A Faithful Presence: Working for the Common Good” , SCM Press, 2015. 5. Miroslav Volf, ”Flourishing: Why We Need Religion in a Globalised World ”, Yale University Press, 2015.