Wednesday, January 09, 2019

We are all Indebted to the Wesleys

general james oglethorpe

We  are all Indebted to the Wesleys
By Rev Dr Ed & Janice Hird
After General James Oglethorpe rescued 10,000 people from Debtors Prison, he recruited John & Charles Wesley to serve these exdebtors as Anglican priests in the new colony of Savanah Georgia. The Wesleys were Oxford University academics with little pastoral experience. When they arrived in Georgia, they encountered one disaster after another.  One time when the Wesleys put the only doctor in Savannah, Georgia, in jail for getting drunk, a woman died in childbirth. Another time John Wesley refused communion to Sophia Hopkey his ex-girlfriend who had married another man. After being sued for one thousand pounds for character defamation and challenged to a duel, John Wesley had to escape in the middle of the night.

John famously said: “I went to America to convert the natives. But who will convert me?” During a violent storm while returning by boat to England, he was impressed by the calm faith of the Moravian Brethren. Attending their London chapel, his heart was strangely warmed. Many people in England were angry with hIm once he started preaching outside. Sometimes his opponents attacked Wesley, calling for his crucifixion. Wesley didn’t let anything stop him.  Some historians credit the Wesleys with having prevented the French Revolution from happening in 18th century England, because Methodist revival peacefully improved the lot of the working class.  At that time, adults and even children could be legally hanged for 160 different offenses –from picking a pocket to stealing a rabbit.  In London, 75% of all children died before age five.  Among the poor, the death rate was even higher.  In one orphanage, only one of 500 orphans survived more than a year.  Alcohol abuse was rampant, even among children, with over 11 million gallons of gin consumed in 1750.  Charles and John Wesley believed that changed hearts could lead to a changed society.  By setting many free from alcoholism and teaching the children to read, Methodism gave parents hope for a better life for their families.
Since the 1925 birth of the United Church of Canada, few Canadians hear much about Methodism, which was once an Anglican renewal movement that transformed Canada. Methodists were well known for their summer Camp Meeting revivals, weekly c  lass meetings (ie home groups), and vigorous hymn singing.  Suspected of being disloyal after the War of 1812, Canadian Methodists over time became the quintessential Canadians.  Both sides of our families had Methodist circuit rider preachers. On Janice’s side, her Methodist ancestors were named John Wesley Cline and Charles Wesley Cline.  The most famous Canadian Methodist Egerton Ryerson helped create free Canadian public schools rooted in Judeo-Christian values at a time when less than half the children were attending school.  Ryerson, the founding editor of The Christian Guardian, the first Canadian Christian newspaper, advocated that education “should be as common as water and as free as air. Education among the people is the best security of a good government and constitutional liberty…The first object of a wise government should be the education of the people.”
ryerson egerton
We are all indebted to the Wesley brothers who brought Methodist revival to Canada.
-previously published in the Light Magazine

1 comment:

Peter Black said...

Thank you Ed, for providing this valuable background on the Wesleys and Methodism's impact on Canada. Despite the church's failures and colonisation's negative impacts, surely much good has been - and continues to be - wrought through the positive foundations that were laid. ~~+~~

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