The Publishing Office of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) announced the release of a new book, “Encoding Methodism: Telling and Re-Telling Narratives of Wesleyan Origins.” In this work, Ted A. Campbell offers a comprehensive and critically documented account of the founding of Methodism and the distinctive identity of the religious community.
Campbell makes a pointed effort to highlight the development of the narratives of Wesleyan origins and the ways in which they attempted to describe or encode the identity of Wesleyan/Methodist communities. The book is not a cynical account of how interpreters have simply written their own agenda into the narrative, which has happened; rather it shows how, in many cases, the unique position and contexts of narrators have a better grasp of what really happened.
Professor of Church History at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, Campbell’s previous works include “Wesleyan Beliefs: Formal and Popular Expressions of Core Teachings of Wesleyan Communities,” “The Gospel in Christian Traditions” and “Methodist Doctrine: The Essentials.”
“A central task of each generation is to assess the adequacy and fruitfulness of the dominant narrative passed down to them, often reshaping that narrative in the process,” said Randy L. Maddox, William Kellon Quick Professor of Wesleyan and Methodist Studies at Duke Divinity School. He went on to say that “Ted Campbell sheds helpful light on this process in general and on the broad trajectory in which the process played out in North American Methodism. Highly recommended.”
“Ted Campbell’s broad overview of continuity and change in the main historical narratives about Methodism both enlightens and provokes reflection. He demonstrates how these narratives range widely from triumphalism, on one end of the spectrum, to quests for objectivity and critical reflection, on the other. As someone with a profound grasp of these publications, Campbell helps the reader to track and compare perspectives shaped by the contexts of the scholars. He provides a portrait of Methodist character in doing so, reflecting, pooling, generalizing, structuring, and organizing. So, he enables readers to reflect on their own identity as Methodists,” said Ulrike Schuler, professor of Church History, Methodism, and Ecumenism at the Reutlingen School of Theology in Germany.
“Sired by John Wesley and following his tracks, Methodists have introduced ourselves, disclosed our divinely mandated purposes, set forth our missional vision, and outlined our agenda and programs historically,” Russell E. Richey, William R. Cannon Distinguished Professor of Church History Emeritus at Emory University, commented. “Beginning with Wesley’s own narratives, Ted Campbell invites the reader into the successive retellings of the Methodist story, identifies recurrent narrative purposive themes, or ‘modules’ as he terms them, and so makes historical accounts into a fresh and highly readable study of Methodism’s evolution.”
“Ted Campbell’s ’Encoding Methodism’ is a brilliantly imaginative way of examining Methodist identity from the Wesleys to the present. It is consistently readable, interesting, and thought-provoking, and will be essential reading for those interested in Methodism in the U.S. and Britain,” remarked William Gibson, director of the Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History, Oxford Brookes University in the United Kingdom.
“Asking the question, ‘Who owns John Wesley?’ Ted Campbell uses the metaphor of re-usable computer code to show the ways in which people have construed the narrative of Methodist origins,” said Scott J. Jones, bishop of the Texas Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. “There are a number of themes that have been developed, used, and reused in Methodist histories. He thereby shows how a variety of perspectives about Aldersgate, Methodist ordinations, Wesleyan doctrine and Methodist organization have been developed over time. Campbell puts into perspective many of the key authors whose ideas have shaped Methodist self-understanding since 1739. This is a very helpful narrative of Methodism in its own right.”
Published by New Room Books, an imprint of GBHEM, “Encoding Methodism: Telling and Re-Telling Narratives of Wesleyan Origins,” is available on Cokesbury.com and Amazon.com. For more information on GBHEM’s Publishing Office, visit www.gbhem.org.
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.