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Latest Book Release from GBHEM Publishing Challenges Assumptions about Middle-Class Methodism’s Roots

Victoria Rebeck
November 15, 2018

Methodist leader Nathan Bangs worked to shape the church as missionally focused more than “respectable,” asserts Jared Maddox, Ph.D., in “Nathan Bangs and the Methodist Episcopal Church: The Spread of Scriptural Holiness in Nineteenth-Century America,” the latest release from the Publishing Office of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM), the leadership development agency of The United Methodist Church.

During the 19th century, the Methodist Episcopal Church transformed from an alternative society into a middle-class, mainstream denomination. While some scholars attribute Bangs with a desire for respectability, Maddox argues that respectability might have been the result of Bang’s mission to spread scriptural holiness, rather than the cause.

By documenting his life, ministry and ecclesial leadership, this book shows how Bangs made Methodism more effective and helped it live into its missionary ethos by introducing standards and standardization.

“While itinerating across Canada and New York State, Bangs and his family endured considerable hardship,” Maddox says. Bangs advocated for livable wages and education for preachers, “so that itinerants would no longer be forced to choose between their health, families and vocation. He never abandoned his commitment to the spread of scriptural holiness.”

Maddox earned his doctorate from Southern Methodist University. His area of expertise is American Methodism with a focus on 19th-century Methodist history and theology. He has taught courses on American religious history, Wesleyan theology and United Methodist history, doctrine and polity.

“Nathan Bangs and the Methodist Episcopal Church,” has received praise from United Methodist History scholars.  

“A crisp, engaging, thorough, readable revisiting of Bangs and of Bangs-led Methodism, this book revises our estimates of the man who played Wesley-like roles in refashioning post-Asbury American Methodism for the print age,” says Russell E. Richey, Dean Emeritus of Candler School of Theology and William R. Cannon Distinguished Professor of Church History Emeritus.

“While focusing on Nathan Bangs and his numerous leadership roles, this text also illumines layers of Methodist history and practice in the U.S., providing key insights to its identity and purpose during times of dramatic transition—not unlike the current context,” says Laceye C. Warner, Royce and Jane Reynolds Associate Professor of the Practice of Evangelism and Methodist Studies, Duke Divinity School.

“Jared Maddox brings Nathan Bangs out of the shadows of the frontier and into the spotlight,” says Robert F. Kohler of GBHEM’s Division of Ordained Ministry. “Motivated by his commitment to ‘spreading scriptural holiness,’ Bangs established a variety of institutions that characterize The United Methodist Church today, including a commitment to education, missions, publications, parsonages, churches and salary support of clergy.”

“Nathan Bangs and the Methodist Episcopal Church: The Spread of Scriptural Holiness in Nineteenth-Century America” is available at Cokesbury.com and Amazon.com. For more information about GBHEM’s Publishing Office, visit www.gbhem.org or follow @GBHEMPublishing on Facebook.

New Room Books is an imprint of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of The United Methodist Church and is a peer-reviewed academic monograph series.This imprint focuses on resources meant to deepen and broaden the scope of scholarship for its own sake, in its diversity and contextual complexity. New Room Books is named for the historic building in Bristol, England, which housed a Methodist meeting room and John Wesley’s study.

About GBHEM: As the leadership development agency of The United Methodist Church, the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s mission is to build capacity for United Methodist lay and clergy leaders to discover, claim and flourish in Christ’s calling in their lives, by creating connections and providing resources to aid in recruitment, education, professional development and spiritual formation. Every elder, deacon and licensed local pastor benefits from our training and candidacy programs. Many young adults find help in clarifying their vocation and God’s call in their lives through our leadership and discernment programs. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook: @GBHEM.