This semester will see the publication of three books that each promise to make important contributions to the field of Wesleyan/Methodist Studies.

First, John Wigger’s American Saint: Francis Asbury and the Methodists. This book is currently in stock on Amazon, which is earlier than I thought it was expected to be available. The book is described as follows on Oxford’s listing:

John Wigger has written the definitive biography of Asbury and, by extension, a revealing interpretation of the early years of the Methodist movement in America. Asbury emerges here as not merely an influential religious leader, but a fascinating character, who lived an extraordinary life. His cultural sensitivity was matched only by his ability to organize. His life of prayer and voluntary poverty were legendary, as was his generosity to the poor. He had a remarkable ability to connect with ordinary people, and he met with thousands of them as he crisscrossed the nation, riding more than one hundred and thirty thousand miles between his arrival in America in 1771 and his death in 1816. Indeed Wigger notes that Asbury was more recognized face-to-face than any other American of his day, including Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.

Wigger’s in-depth account of Asbury’s life promises to provide important insights into the key figure in the development of early American Methodism. And if it is as good as his previous book, Taking Heaven by Storm: Methodism and the Rise of Popular Christianity in America, it will not just be an important contribution to the field, but a delight to read. I am very excited to get my hands on this book!

Second, The Oxford Handbook of Methodist Studies, edited by Perkins School of Theology’s own William J. Abraham and James E. Kirby has forty-two essays that survey the development of the field of Methodist Studies. It is also published by Oxford and is described:

With the decision to provide a scholarly edition of the Works of John Wesley in the 1950s, Methodist Studies emerged as a fresh academic venture. Building on the foundation laid by Frank Baker, Albert Outler, and other pioneers of the discipline, this handbook provides an overview of the best current scholarship in the field. The forty-two included essays are representative of the voices of a new generation of international scholars, summarising and expanding on topical research, and considering where their work may lead Methodist Studies in the future.

Thematically ordered, the handbook provides new insights into the founders, history, structures, and theology of Methodism, and into ongoing developments in the practice and experience of the contemporary movement. Key themes explored include worship forms, mission, ecumenism, and engagement with contemporary ethical and political debate.

I thought the Oxford listing also had the titles of each essay as well as the authors, but I could not find it. With forty-two essays, I am confident that there will be many names that are recognized by students of Methodism, as well as contributions from the next generation of scholars of Methodism. Here is the only problem with this book – the price. It is listed at $150… I have a feeling that I am really going to want to have this book on my shelf, but may have to settle for having it there for a few weeks as the result of checking it out of the library.

Third, the Cambridge Companion to John Wesley, edited by Randy L. Maddox and Jason E. Vickers. This one, thankfully, will be available in a paperback edition, which means it should be much more reasonably priced. According to Cambridge’s listing for the book, it is scheduled to be published in December, 2009. The Cambridge listing does include the contents of the book:

Introduction Randy L. Maddox and Jason E. Vickers

Part I. Wesley’s Context:
1. The long eighteenth century Jeremy Gregory

Part II. Wesley’s Life:
2. Wesley’s life and ministry Kenneth J. Collins
3. Wesley in context David N. Hempton

Part III. Wesley’s Work:
4. Wesley as revivalist / renewal leader Charles I. Wallace
5. Wesley as preacher William J. Abraham
6. Wesley as biblical interpreter Robert W. Wall
7. Wesley as diarist and correspondent Ted A. Campbell
8. Wesley as editor and publisher Isabel Rivers
9. Wesley’s engagement with the natural sciences Randy L. Maddox
10. Wesley as adviser on health and healing Deborah Madden
11. Wesley’s theological emphases Jason E. Vickers
12. Wesley’s emphases on ethics Rebekah L. Miles
13. Wesley’s emphases on worship and the means of grace Karen B. Westerfield Tucker

Part IV. Wesley’s Legacy:
14. Spread of Wesleyan Methodism Kenneth Cracknell
15. The Holiness/Pentecostal/charismatic extension of the Wesleyan tradition Randall J. Stephens
16. The African-American wing of the Wesleyan tradition Dennis C. Dickerson
17. Current debates over Wesley’s legacy among his progeny Sarah H. Lancaster.

You may not care as much about this stuff as I do, but as a Ph.D. student working in Wesley Studies it is mind boggling that so much is coming out at the same time. These three books promise to shape the conversation about Wesley/Methodist Studies in the coming years. I look forward to engaging these works.