What Makes Theology “Wesleyan”?

Sarah Heaner Lancaster, Catherine Keller, Donald A. Thorsen, Dennis C. Dickerson, Charles M. Wood

Abstract


In an address to the 1982 Oxford Institute of Methodist Theological Studies, Albert C. Outler outlined an agenda for what he called “Phase III” of Wesley Studies, proposing a slogan for Methodist theologies: “Back to Wesley and his sources, and then forward—with his sense of heritage and openness to the future as one of our models.” Subsequently, much work has been done in the area of Wesley Studies to illumine Wesley and his sources. This has led to questions about the possibility of, and need for, what might be called a “Phase IV” of Wesley Studies—moving beyond Wesley Studies per se to apply the results of research in the area more broadly to the constructive theological work that is now being carried out in the life and thought of the body of Christ (and not only in those church traditions having a historical connection to John and Charles Wesley).  Some theologians use Wesley and Wesleyan themes in their work, but they may or may not self-consciously identify themselves as standing in the broad Wesleyan (or Methodist) tradition.  Some make specific reference to or use of the theology of John and Charles Wesley in their own constructive theological work; others do not. The panel discussion presented here, from a Wesleyan Studies Group session at the 2008 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, focused on the question of whether a “Phase IV” of Wesley Studies can yet be discerned by addressing the question “What makes theology ‘Wesleyan’?”

Keywords


John Wesley; Wesleyan; Theology; Methodism

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