New Book from GBHEM Publishing Offers a History of Sacramental Authority to Further Understanding of United Methodist Ministerial Orders

Published On: April 12, 2018

The Publishing Office of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM), the leadership development agency of The United Methodist Church, announced the release of a new book by Rex D. Matthews, “Ministerial Orders and Sacramental Authority in The United Methodist Church and Its Antecedents, 1784—2016.” The book provides a historical look at sacramental authority as a key to understanding United Methodist ministerial orders. 

While sacramental authority is and has been misunderstood and misused, it remains interwoven into United Methodism and is a significant element of the history of Christian ecumenical conversations about ministry. This book traces the changing provisions relating to ministerial orders and sacramental authority in American Methodism, from the formation of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1784 to the current position of The United Methodist Church. It will enable readers to have a richer appreciation and deeper understanding of the context of contemporary discussions about these issues. 

Matthews is the professor in the Practice of Historical Theology and Wesleyan Studies at Candler School of Theology, Emory University, in Atlanta, Georgia. 

The book has received praise from scholars and leaders across the Connection. “Rex Matthews maps a wide and varied historical landscape to unpack the complexities of Methodism’s understanding and practices of ordination and sacramental authority. His carefully researched contribution is a helpful resource to inform current dynamics and debates related to this important topic,” said Laceye C. Warner, associate professor of the Practice of Evangelism and Methodist Studies at Duke Divinity School. 

“Characteristic Matthews scholarship—careful, exacting, penetrating research on sacraments and ministry; tracking the evolution of significant Methodist policy and practice; providing a readable overview of denominational history; moving readers to fresh understanding of critical ongoing and current theological and ecclesial issues; and probing such with hard-hitting concluding questions,” added Russell E. Richey, William R. Cannon Distinguished Professor of Church History Emeritus and Dean Emeritus of Candler School of Theology.  

“One of the most transformative experiences in my life was as Rex Matthews’ student and teaching assistant at Candler School of Theology,” said Greg Bergquist, associate general secretary, Division of Ordained Ministry, GBHEM. “His disciplined, insightful, and creative scholarship paired with his deep love for the Christian faith, Wesleyan tradition, and our denomination contributed greatly to my formation as a pastor and a scholar. His contribution to the history of sacramental authority within our denomination is the most recent example of this creative scholarship and offers a useful resource for our continuing conversation regarding an articulation of a theology of ordained ministry for The United Methodist Church.”

“Ministerial Orders and Sacramental Authority in The United Methodist Church and Its Antecedents, 1784—2016” is available at and later at For more information about GBHEM’s Publishing Office, visit Publications or follow @GBHEMPublishing on Facebook.  

Wesley’s Foundery Books is an imprint of GBHEM. Foundery books are clearly and accessibly written by Methodist/Wesleyan experts, with an emphasis on church life and ministry. Representing the rich diversity of the church, Wesley’s Foundery Books offer a disciplined and balanced approach.

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.

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