Getting Ready to Plant an American Church

Count Nicolas Ludwig von Zinzendorf
Count Nicolas Ludwig von Zinzendork

We had a great pre-trip lecture #2 last Sunday. We had 34 of our 38 pilgrims in attendance to hear Al Hoppe give an excellent presentation on “European Pietism.” (If you missed the lecture, you can access Al’s handouts – caution, it is literally a book! – under the PRE-TRIP LECTURES tab above.) We learned about what distinguished Pietism from the Lutheranism in which it first emerged some 100 years after the Reformation began. We learned of some of the most influential thinkers in early Pietism, including Count Nicolas Ludwig von Zinzendorf, August Spangenberg, and Peter Bohler, who all had an enormous impact on John Wesley and early Methodism.

Meno Simons
Meno Simons

And, Al introduced us to a related movement that resulted from the followers of Meno Simons — the Mennonites — and their offshoot, the Amish. We will, of course, be visiting Pennsylvania Dutch Country on our trip, including a visit to the Mennonite Museum, and we’ll have our own step-on guide to take us through Amish country. In our next lecture on August 23rd at 12:30 pm in LC 214, as we explore the history of early American Methodism, we will meet several folks with Pietist roots and one Amish believer, all of whom were influential on early American Methodism. So Al, GREAT JOB!! You set us up well for our next lecture.

Thanks for sticking with me past yesterday’s little diversion on why Methodists don’t say “He descended to the dead” in the Traditional version of the Apostle’s Creed. Little detours like that fascinate me. Yup. I’m a Methodist history nerd.

Today, we pause a little further to catch our breath as we get ready to return next time to our story about the founding of the Methodist Episcopal Church. As I write this, the City of Baltimore is in the news due to race riots in that city. This is the same city where the Methodist Episcopal Church began at the Christmas Conference in December of 1784 at Lovely Lane Chapel.

Sunday Service of the Methodists in North America
Sunday Service of the Methodists in North America

The design for the new church that Thomas Coke brought from John Wesley proved indispensable. Remember that Coke brought over Wesley’s edit of the Anglican Articles of Religion, the Sunday Service for Methodists in North America, which included a Psalter, and the Large Minutes of the English Methodist conferences, which served as a sort of early book of Discipline. He also brought Wesley’s Standard Sermons, which functioned much like the Anglican Homilies.

As helpful as these were, however, the foundations had already been well laid by Francis Asbury and the colonists. What those colonial Pietist foundations undergirded would stand. After these first encounters of Coke and Asbury, the latter – ironically, not yet a co-Superintendent — had the winning hand. Coke might have the blueprints, but Asbury had the foremen and workers. The church they made would be his.

Next time, on to Baltimore and the Christmas Conference. Hopefully, modern Baltimore will be at peace by then.

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