The Rev Preben Andersen has suggested this letter is given a wider audience
The Revd Steven J. Wild
President of the Conference
Pastoral Letter to all ministers
Sisters and brothers in Christ,
John Wesley’s Christianity was not a set of beliefs, it was a process, an experiential way based on orthodox doctrines; an inwardness that resulted in outward practice. He applied this to the lives of men and women and the impact was enormous both in spiritual journey and practical holiness.
Our Methodist belief in prevenienent grace can be seen in the life of John Wesley; from the home at Epworth, to his experience of call to a deeper life in 1725, to being part of the group at Oxford seeking perfect love, to a wilderness time in Georgia in 1735. Then in the evening of the 24th of May 1738 he … ‘went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.’ This was a phenomenal moment for John Wesley but we mustn’t overvalue it by denigrating all that had happened before, the Holy Spirit was at work then, and would be ahead of him as he moved on.
The personal reality of the Holy Spirit in all human experience was emphasised by early Methodists; so vital and wide is the role and range of prevenienent grace that it was identified by the Wesley brothers as the ‘special work of the Holy Spirit’. I first heard this as a student at Cliff College and it changed my view of mission; rather than thinking it depended on me, I realised God’s Spirit was at work ahead of me and that I needed to discern and join in with a missional God. Throughout the faith conversations I have had while travelling this year, when hearing about people’s lives, it is often clear how God’s grace has broken in at different points. As an evangelist I have sought to outline the love of Jesus and it has seemed natural for them to respond in a positive way.
In Devon recently I challenged people to respond to the message by coming to touch the large free-standing mahogany cross, the focus of our worship, as a sign of commitment. To my amazement almost all the congregation were moved to do this. Standing nearby I discovered how many different paths people had come; some requested a prayer for healing as they touched it; some couples came and stood together at the foot of the cross; some people instead of touching it, almost embraced it. This was a response to love. I don’t know how God moved but like John Wesley in 1738, they felt that they did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation.
My the 24th of May be a day of re-dedication for us all.
With prayers for our continued ministry,