John Wesley and Schism

I love John Wesley. I took a seminary course on his brother Charles at Tyndale under Dr. Victor Shepherd. During that course I learned of the constant temptation the Wesley’s faced to break away from the Church of England. Many evangelical Methodists who converted under Wesley’s preaching became distraught at the apathy of the established church. Many Anglicans believed Wesley’s teaching on the necessity of the new birth, justification by faith and the need for the work of the Spirit on the soul to be new and dangerous doctrines. At numerous times the Methodists were viciously persecuted. And yet Charles and John refused to leave. In 1758 John published “Reasons against separation from the Church of England.”

This is an important document because of what is currently going on in the worldwide Anglican church. The American Anglican (Episcopal) church is breaking asunder as their leadership moves away from orthodox positions on sexuality.

The pertinent question is: what are the faithful to do in times such as these? The biggest Anglican church in Canada in the diocese of New Westminster (the Canadian Anglican church is not far behind the Episcopal church), has just voted to leave the Anglican church of Canada and come under the Episcopal oversight of the diocese of the Southern Cone.

Not all orthodox agree that this was necessarily the right move.

So, my question is: what would Wesley do? In the aforementioned article Wesley cites 12 reasons for not leaving the Anglican church.

Some of these ought to be considered before a conservative parish rashly decides to leave the Anglican Church of Canada.

4. BECAUSE it would hinder Multitudes of those who neither love nor fear GOD, from hearing us at all.

8. BECAUSE to form the Plan of a New Church would require infinite Time and Care, (which might be far more profitably bestowed) with much more Wisdom and greater Depth and Extensiveness of Thought, than any of us are Masters of

10. BECAUSE the Experiment has been so frequently tried already, and the success has never answer’d the Expectation. GOD has since the Reformation raised up from Time to Time many Witnesses of pure Religion. If these lived and died (like John Arndt, Robert Bolton, and many others) in the Churches to which they belonged, notwithstanding the Wickedness which overlowed both the Teachers and People therein; they spread the Leaven of true Religion far and wide, and were more and more useful, ’till they went to Paradise. But if upon any Provocation or Consideration whatever, they separated, and founded distinct Parties, their Influence was more and more confined; they grew less and less useful to others, and generally lost the Spirit of Religion themselves in the Spirit of Controversy

11. BECAUSE we have melancholy Instances of this, even now before our Eyes. Many have in our Memory left the Church, and formed themselves into distinct Bodies. And certainly some of them, from a real Persuasion, that they should do GOD more Service. But have any separated themselves and prospered? Have they been either more holy, or more useful than they were before?

12. BECAUSE by such a Separation we should not only throw away the peculiar Glorying which GOD has given us, That we do and will suffer all Things for our Brethren’s Sake, tho’ the more we love them, the less we be loved: But should act in direct Contradiction to that very End, for which we believe GOD hath raised us up. The chief Design of his Providence in sending us out, is undoubtedly, To quicken our Brethren. And the first Message of all our Preachers is, to the lost Sheep of the Church of England. Now would it not be a flat Contradiction to this Design, To Separate from the Church? [5/6] These Things being considered, we cannot apprehend, whether it be lawful in itself or no, that it is lawful for us: were it only on this Ground, That it is by no means expedient.

WE look upon England as that Part of the World, and the Church as that Part of England, to which all we who are born and have been brought up therein, owe our first and chief Regard. We feel in ourselves a strong Storgh, a Kind of Natural Affection for our Country, which we apprehend Christianity was never designed either to root out or to impair. We have a more peculiar Concern for our Brethren, for that Part of our Coutrymen, to whom we have been joined from our Youth up, by Ties of a Religious as well as a Civil Nature. True it is, that they are in general, without GOD in the World. So much the more do our Bowels yearn over them. They do lie in Darkness and the Shadow of Death. The more tender is our Compassion for them. And when we have the fullest Conviction of that complicated Wickedness which covers them as a Flood, then do we feel the most (and we desire to feel yet more) of that inexpressible Emotion, with which our blessed LORD beheld Jerusalem, and wept and lamented over it. Then are [7/8] we the most willing to spend and to be spent for them, yea, to lay down our Lives for our Brethren.