Today I started the reading for my independent study in the history of American Methodism. I am beginning with Frederick A. Norwood’s The Story of American Methodism: A History of the United Methodists and Their Relations
At the end of the Introduction Norwood tells of a document he wrote in 1966 that was put in a time capsule in Baltimore that was to be opened in 2066. Here is his hope for Methodism in 2066:
This is our hope for you, Methodist brethren of 2066: That our common heritage in Wesley may, as he himself always recommended, be placed in ‘catholic spirit,’ at the service of all Christians. If the Methodist Church in a hundred years matures into union with a larger ecumenical family, we rejoice in this fulfillment of our heritage. In this way the Wesleyan spirit shall enliven the whole.
I am certainly not against ecumenism or working towards greater unity within the Body of Christ. But this does seem to be a different focus than the stated goal of early Methodism to “reform the nation, particularly the church, and to spread scriptural holiness.” It would be great if our efforts to spread scriptural holiness were to lead to greater unity in the church. But, I would rather Methodists in 2066 be more effective at spreading scriptural holiness than they were in 1966 – or are now – than simply becoming a part of a super-mainline denomination that is primarily united by a willingness to spread nominal Christianity, rather than holiness.