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Over the past several years, many of you have asked me when my dissertation would be available in print. I am pleased to announce that a revision of my dissertation, Pursuing Social Holiness: The Band Meeting in Wesley’s Thought and Popular Methodist Practice, has been published by Oxford University Press. Here is a summary of the book from the cover:

Kevin M. Watson offers the first in-depth examination of an essential early Methodist tradition: the band meeting, a small group of five to seven people who focused on the confession of sin in order to grow in holiness. Watson shows how the band meeting, which figured significantly in John Wesley’s theology of discipleship, united Wesley’s emphasis on the importance of holiness with his conviction that Christians are most likely to make progress in the Christian life together, rather than in isolation.

Demonstrating that neither John Wesley’s theology nor popular Methodism can be understood independent of each other, Watson explores how Wesley synthesized important aspects of Anglican piety (an emphasis on a disciplined practice of the means of grace) and Moravian piety (an emphasis on an experience of justification by faith and the witness of the Spirit) in his own version of the band meeting. Pursuing Social Holiness is an essential contribution to understanding the critical role of the band meeting in the development of British Methodism and shifting concepts of community in eighteenth-century British society.

OUP’s listing has more information about the book, including the Table of Contents. I think that readers of this blog will be particularly interested in the book’s description of Wesley’s understanding of holiness and how his emphasis on the importance of community is connected to sanctification. I also think readers will appreciate the extensive use of primary source materials from early Methodists, giving insight into the popular practice of communal formation in early Methodism.

OUP did a great job with this book. I am very please with the layout and production quality. The main factor that may keep many people from buying the book is the price. The book is listed at $74 (though it is currently available on amazon for $62.90), which will unfortunately price it out of many pastor’s personal libraries. For those not familiar with the world of academic publishing, I would note two things: 1) Authors do not determine the prices of their books. 2) Believe it or not, it could have been much worse. Hardcover academic monographs like this one often cost $150! All that to say, I completely understand if you are not interested in spending that much money on a book.

Here is what some reviewers have said about the book:

This is a brilliant study of one of the foundational institutions of eighteenth-century Methodism. Early Methodism was at its heart a community event. The bands, along with the class meetings, were what bound Methodist societies together. Anyone who wants to understand the rise of Methodism should give this account careful consideration. This is a book we have long needed.
John Wigger, Professor, Department of History, University of Missouri

Watson’s work on the band meeting is the definitive history of this practice of small-group confession within eighteenth-century English evangelicalism. Watson not only demonstrates the importance of this practice for the revival and the Wesleyan notion of ‘social holiness’ in the eighteenth century, but also outlines the reasons for its decline in the nineteenth century. This is a must-have for scholars of Methodism and eighteenth-century religious history.
Scott Kisker, Professor of Church History, United Theological Seminary

This groundbreaking study offers the most detailed account to date of band meetings in early Wesleyan Methodism. Watson first demonstrates the distinctive synthesis of Anglican and Moravian precedents in John Wesley’s mature model for the bands. He then engages a range of primary sources to provide a richly textured account of the practice of bands through the eighteenth century. Highly recommended.
Randy L. Maddox, William Kellon Quick Professor of Wesleyan Methodist Studies, Duke Divinity School