Introduction

Authored by: William Gibson

The Ashgate Research Companion to World Methodism

Print publication date:  February  2013
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9781409401384
eBook ISBN: 9781315613789
Adobe ISBN: 9781317040996

10.4324/9781315613789.ch1

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Abstract

The publication of a research companion to world Methodism invites some explanation. This collection of essays seeks to capture some of the complexity of the phenomenon of Methodism, and does so by harnessing the talents of scholars from diverse disciplinary backgrounds. Historians, theologians, liturgists, scholars of business, material culture, literature and music provide insights into the character and development of world Methodism. The complex interdisciplinary picture that emerges from these essays is entirely appropriate, for Methodism, like many other churches and denominations, is itself complicated and multi-layered, and suffers from the reductionist urge to simplify and uncomplicate. Accounts of Methodism could be supplied which concentrate solely on its narrative history from a society within the Church of England in Oxford in the 1730s to a worldwide church with millions of adherents in 2011. Its theology could be reduced to a version of the Bebbington ‘quadrilateral’ – though perhaps in the case of Methodism that quadrilateral would consist of a present-centred Wesleyan rhombus of calling, conversion, conscience and cross. Methodist popular culture could be condensed into the hagiography of John Wesley and an emphasis on souvenirs and commemorative crockery. Local studies, biographies, sociology and the plethora of fashionable disciplinary ‘studies’ can all lend a hand in reducing Methodism to a two-dimensional form of religion. But this is not what this volume seeks to provide.

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