Featured December Newsletter
A Sixth Sola
It's now wintertime so perhaps it's time to put away the "Reformation 500" t-shirts I bought.
Two I found on-line were irresistible. The first depicts a headshot of a rather pugnacious-looking Martin Luther boasting, "I came to drink beer and reform the Church. And I'm out of beer!" The other t-shirt depicts a large hammer and nail and says "No, the door was fine. I'm just fixing your theology."
A little Reformation humor, yes?
However, there were more deeply soul-stirring messages to ponder during this Reformation milestone, too.
One came in a Crowdcast with GCAH friend and associate, Dr. Justo Gonzalez. Gonzalez led an online discussion, "500 years later: What is the importance of the Reformation today?"
Here is a quick refresher: Church historians summarize the Reformation in "five solas." These phrases represent the core principles of the Reformers, standing in contrast to the teaching and experience of the Church in their time. "Sola" is a Latin word meaning "alone" or "only." The corresponding big-five phrases are: sola scriptura (scripture alone), sola fide (faith alone), sola gratia (grace alone), sola Christus (Christ alone), and sola Deo Gloria (the glory of God alone).
Professor Gonzalez suggested a sixth-sola caritas. Only love.
This sixth sola not only rounds out the first five, it adds a distinctively Methodist streak to an era of history more associated with Lutherans and Presbyterians. A few hundred years after Hus, Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli, John and Charles Wesley along with their friends stirred a new generation of reformation. They kicked the salvation by grace through faith idea up a notch with a fresh understanding and enthusiastic witness that once God's amazing grace is experienced, a person can't help but be transformed. They believed that experiencing divine love changes people and by the resultant action of the Holy Spirit causes a chain reaction. People change other people and then those people change things---the beloved become lovers, the healed become healers and the redeemed in turn become redeemers. This is what the Wesley brothers and company experienced and passed on in a reformation of the Reformation of sorts.
Experiencing God's love in Jesus Christ---this is the idea behind the sixth sola. Sola caritas. Love alone.
The basic Methodist theological tome, its hymnbook, has sung this sixth sola since the beginning:
'Tis Love! 'tis Love! Thou didst for me!
I hear Thy whisper in my heart;
The morning breaks, the shadows flee,
Pure, universal love Thou art;
To me, to all Thy mercies move;
Thy nature and Thy name is Love.
Lame as I am, I take the prey,
Hell, earth, and sin, with ease o'ercome;
I leap for joy, pursue my way,
And as a bounding hart fly home,
Thro' all eternity to prove
Thy nature and Thy name is Love.
(Come Thou Traveler Unknown, vs. 9, 14. Charles Wesley 1762, United Methodist Hymnal, No. 387. Originally John and Charles Wesley's Hymns and Sacred Poems,1742).
Lest I wax too doctrinally here, this sixth sola-like United Methodist DNA-harmonizes dogma with the experiential. It is something "proved" by living a holy life---not a "holier than thou" life, mind you---but a life made worthwhile as it engages and is enthused by its vital contact and relationship with "Love Divine All Loves Excelling."
My reformation 2.0 time with Professor Gonzalez reconnects me with the deep denominational roots that being IN Christ IS faith working in and through love. I scribbled something that Professor Gonzalez said that continues to resonate: "What brings God's people together is not an agreement on doctrine but recovering and responding to Jesus at the center of the table, Jesus inviting us all, calling us to be a community of love."
But what does this love look like, you ask? Galatians, chapter 5, and its recitation of the "fruits of the Spirit" is a good place to start:
". . . affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely" (Galatians 5:22-24, The Message).
To the Church whose history is a continuous state of reformation, with "Under Construction" signs hung around every corner and along a way forward where the Holy Spirit is still working, hold onto the sixth sola---sola caritas.
How's your Latin?Ube caritas et amor. Ubi caritas Deus ibi est. Where charity and love are, God is there(words of an ancient Christian hymn associated with the liturgy of foot washing, popularized at Taize, France).
Come to think of it, winter or not, I'm gonna pull that first t-shirt from the drawer. I mean the one with Martin Luther saying he'd come to drink beer and reform the Church AND THAT HE WAS OUT OF BEER. Whether you imbibe in suds or not, you have to love its no holds barred passion and intensity to reform the Church.
"If we will open ourselves to the renewal power of the Holy Spirit," said Bishop Rosemarie Wenner to an ecumenical Reformation 500 event in Wittenberg, Germany, "reformation will happen again and again."
I'm praying that the United Methodist contribution to the history of repeated reformation will be sola caritas.
In the meantime, I'm thinking of a Methodist reformation t-shirt of our own. Cokesbury, are you listening? It pictures Charles Wesley and a G clef standing for the faith we sing and words we know by heart:
Lost in wonder, LOVE and praise.
(Love Divine All Loves Excelling, v.4. Charles Wesley (1747), The United Methodist Hymnal, No. 384).
Rev. Fred Day, General Secretary
General Commission on Archives and History (GCAH)
By understanding the past, GCAH helps envision the future!
Ms. Gertrude Feely, Missionary
By Dale Patterson, Archivist-Records Administrator
Over the past few years we've looked at key themes in our denomination's history and discovered how those themes are reflected across our collections held here at the Center. This year we are going to take a look at a variety of our smaller collections.
Missionaries play a complex role in the Church. They are tasked with crossing cultural boundaries to share the Gospel but also provide practical assistance in schools, hospitals and other communities. They become cultural observers; not quite sociologists or anthropologists, but at times nearly so. They experience history from a different perspective, an outsider living through events of historical importance in a foreign land. As such their accounts of events can be insightful. This is particularly the case in this month's focus on Ms. Gertrude Feely.
Gertrude M. Feely was a Methodist Episcopal Church, South, missionary in Japan. She served under the guidance of the Women's Division of the MECS and after 1940 of the Methodist Church. Feely received her B.S. from the University of Missouri in 1927. She earned an M.A. from Scarritt College in Tennessee in 1930 and a Ph. D. in education from Columbia University in 1950.
Feely was a missionary for more than forty years, and worked in several Japanese cities. From 1931 to 1933, she taught English and language study at the Kure Naval Station and at Kobe. While in Oita from 1933 to 1941, Feely was involved with youth work and taught English.
In 1941, she went to the Philippines and during the Second World War was interned by the Japanese. She spent time in the Santo Tomas and Los Banos Camps and stayed with a group of Methodist missionariesat Harris Memorial Training School for some time before she was finally interned in Los Banos. She served as an interpreter for two and a half years of the war.
Upon her liberation on February 23, 1945, Feely was furloughed to the United States, where she remained until 1949. Feely returned to Japan later in 1949 and became the director of the Kobe Christian Youth Center, which opened in 1953. She continued to teach, working at the Night School, at the Palmore Institute and at Seiwa Junior College, where she was an instructor in the Old Testament. In 1954, Feely was ordained by the Church of Japan.
The collection has a variety of information about her experience as a missionary and as a person during the Second World War. There is a touching meditation that she wrote on her 36th ( 1939) birthday describing the challenges, both personal and emotional, involved in becoming a missionary. There are also camp newsletters produced by the internees. The last newsletter leads off with the following: "After 37 long months we celebrate our first day of freedom to-day with the final departure of the Japanese from the City of Manila, and await with bounding hearts our own, our friends, our allies." Feely also kept a diary during her internment. The diary was in the form of letters to a friend in Manila. She also kept a notebook which tracked conditions in the camp.
In these documents we see the humanity of the individual. She returned to Japan after the war and helped the people there rebuild their lives and their church. She retired in 1972.
Follow the link to see a description and listing of the materials available for research on Rev. Feely: Gertrude Feely Papers
An Eye on History--and an incredible partnership
Ever see a video on social media that you meant to share, but got side-tracked? And then get frustrated when you go back and cannot FIND that video? Yeah....us, too.
You now have a one-stop page to resource your church, Sunday School class, friends, neighbors...and even Aunt Gertrude (who forced you to watch the slideshow from her recent vacation!) on important historical figures and events that make United Methodists who WE are!
GCAH has been blessed with wonderful colleagues at United Methodist Communications. Thanks to their significant support, work and efforts, a repository of videos is available all in one place:
Thank you to UMCOM for this incredible work in preserving and promoting the history of the denomination.
Call for Applications for 2018 MWRC Visiting Research Fellowships
The Manchester Wesley Research Centre is currently accepting applications for 3 fellowships:
1) The MWRC Sabbatical Fellowship. This new Sabbatical Fellowship is for pastors, laypeople, and missionaries based in the UK or abroad. The aim of the fellowship is to provide time and space for research and theological reflection on the Methodist, Wesleyan, and Evangelical traditions. The fellowship recipient will be provided with accommodation for 2 to 3 weeks at Nazarene Theological College. Applications are being accepted until January 31, 2018. Full details can be found at: http://www.mwrc.ac.uk/sabbatical-fellows/
2) John Rylands Research Institute-MWRC Joint Visiting Research Fellowship. This six week fellowship is available to a visiting academic who wishes to undertake research based on the internationally renowned Methodist Archives held at the John Rylands Library, the MWRC, and the Nazarene Theological College library. Fellows will receive accommodation at Nazarene Theological College, a stipend of £80 per week, a dedicated workspace at the John Rylands Library, and access to expert curatorial and grant-writing support. Applications are being accepted until January 15, 2018. Full details can be found at: http://www.mwrc.ac.uk/visiting-fellows/
3) The MWRC Visiting Research Fellowship. The aim of this six week fellowship is to promote research in the Methodist and Wesleyan traditions by facilitating access to the internationally renowned Methodist Archives and Research Centre at the John Rylands Library in Manchester, the University of Manchester Library, and the Manchester Wesley Research Centre library and Nazarene Theological College library and archives. The fellowship comes with free accommodation at Nazarene Theological College and a £55 per week stipend. Applications are being accepted until January 31, 2018. Full details can be found at: http://www.mwrc.ac.uk/visiting-fellows/
Straight to the Point
It's the time of year when GCAH writes to ask for your generous support.
This year foregoes the usual inspirational illustration and gets straight to the point: WE NEED YOUR HELP.
The general church meetings I attend strongly suggest that our Church's boards and agencies should expect a decrease in apportionment income for the remainder of this quadrennium and deeper cuts in the next. This assessment is not a disaffirmation of the work that boards and agencies do as much as it is a sign of the uncertain times experienced at every level of denominational life.
As the Council of Bishops considers the work of their Commission on A Way Forward inviting us to imagine a new church that moves beyond a near half-century impasse, GCAH's work has never been more important. Not for the sake of clinging to the past but for having what the Church will need to keep its bearings and hold steady while fearlessly and confidently living into the reforming, reshaping work of the Holy Spirit that throughout history finds the Church continually under construction.
This is GCAH's stock-in-trade, providing a perspective from the past in order to both engage the present and envision the future, grounded in the stuff that makes us United Methodist in the first place.
Will you help us resource the work we do and stave off the budget cuts that severely affect our work?
No gift is too large or small. Every gift matters---gifts given now in response to this donation request---or the kind of gifts that don't fully germinate until the future because you intend to arrange a legacy gift to GCAH in your will and estate planning.
Please consider a gift to GCAH's annual fund this year.
Contribute by check, credit card, or money order through the mail, over the phone (973-408-3189) or by clicking the DONATE NOW button on the website at http://www.gcah.org . Of course, all gifts are tax deductible.
News from around the Globe
GCAH wants to help keep you connected with news from around the world. Please check out this newsletter from World Methodist Historical Society: http://archives.gcah.org/handle/10516/9982