The Best Wesleyan/Methodist Catechism (And Why You Should Care Even If You Are Neither Wesleyan Nor Methodist)

WLO_Blog_WheelPost by Pastor Foley. I’m so excited as I write this post because–oh wait. Let me do this in correct catechetical format:

Q1. Why are you so excited as you write this post?

A1. I’m so excited as I write this post because after six months of searching along with Pastor Tim we have discovered one of the few extant Wesleyan/Methodist catechisms. And it’s really well done.

Q2. What is it called, and where can it be found?

A2. It’s called The catechism of the Methodist Episcopal church. Numbers 1, 2, and 3, in one volume, designed for consecutive study in Sunday schools and families. Published in 1855, it’s in the public domain and thus available for free or for a few bucks in print form from amazon.com.

Q3. If I am Wesleyan/Methodist, why should I care?

A3. Teddy Ray explains why in his excellent post, Why United Methodists Should Have a Catechism, and his reasoning is equally applicable to all branches of the John Wesley family tree. Ray adds a fascinating note:

John Wesley regarded all members as probationers and called them “catechumens.”According to Frederick Norwood, “He considered that he was following apostolic precedent in separating from the body of ‘hearers’ those who were convinced, and organizing them into a society of ‘catechumens.’”

Q4. Why should I care even if I am neither Wesleyan or Methodist?

A4. Check out the excellent introduction to the New City Catechism, as well as Clinton Arnold’s article on the relevance of early church catechesis to Christians today and Parrett and Packer’s incomparable Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way. From that volume I quote:

Superficial smatterings of truth, blurry notions about God and godliness, and thoughtlessness about the issues of living—career-wise, community-wise, family-wise, and church-wise—are all too often the marks of evangelical congregations today…

Q5. Can we just drop the bold text Q/A format and write like normal bloggers now?

A5. Really? No good? Well, if you insist. 

Chuck Huckaby at Soul Friend had it exactly right (except for his spelling of “excerpts”) when he wrote on Facebook the other day:

I just learned that those preparing for baptism in Augustine’s congregation were likely required to study if not master (memorize) 800 excerptps [sic] of scripture totaling 60,000 words, some as long as Matthew 5-7. They were arranged as they appeared in Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. If quoted start to finish, it would take approximately six hours of consecutive quotation.

Cyprian’s students only had to master 33,000 words arranged topically! They could be quoted in three and one half hour.

A missionary I know who teaches “Bible Storytelling” has his students memorize verbatim @108 narratives each with a symbol unique to it to aid memorization.

My point is that we have come to accept our inability to memorize scripture – thanks to the convenience of digital and printed texts – as “normal” when, compared to ordinary catechumens preparing for baptism, even most “pastors” and “Bible Students” are woefully ignorant!

And the woe extends beyond memorizing scripture into the whole realm of failing to take the work and dedication of the Christian life seriously. We don’t earn our salvation by memorizing scripture or completing a catechesis, but we sure will understand our salvation better. Why would something like learning every nook and cranny of our salvation and the Christian life be of less interest and time involvement on our part than, say, catching up on back episodes of Glee?

I don’t earn my my wife’s love by the works I do for her, but I sure need to invest a lot of time in our marriage in order for it to achieve its sanctifying purpose in my life. The Christian life is no different. As this month of Preparation unfolds in the .W calendar, consider–seriously–becoming a catechumen all over again, or perhaps for the first time.

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is also the International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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10 Responses to The Best Wesleyan/Methodist Catechism (And Why You Should Care Even If You Are Neither Wesleyan Nor Methodist)

  1. Reblogged this on Curated Links For Soulfriend.org and commented:
    I was hoping he’d actually UPDATE this one!

  2. Jacquelynne Titus says:

    When I 1st became a Christian there was this song that went, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path…” (Psalm 119:105)
    My nephew (who was in Kindergarten at the time) and I used to “Elmosize” together (Sesame Street). There is a tv reporter (they’re all muppets) and one of the characters tries to talk this reporter into exercising and he says, “No, no, no -I don’t exercise, I TALK about exercise!” And the muppet says, “You could talk about it better if you do it.”
    Next scene is a lady in a wheelchair singing, “work-out in a chair, work-out in a chair -you can do it anywhere, a work out in a chair
    flap your arms like a bird with wings, just let your body swing…” Pray for you and Mrs. F every day-thanks for praying for our presentation, He did abundantly more than I could have thought! -Keep praying on the other, I’m unsure what to think right now. XOXOXO

  3. Pingback: The Lost Art of Christian Memorization and Why it’s Important | Do the Word

  4. ccifenn says:

    Reblogged this on Thoughts from Canaan… and commented:
    Fascinating thoughts on the use of catechisms in Wesleyan churches.

    • EFoley says:

      Good to hear from you Casey–thanks for your thoughts from Canaan!

      • ccifenn says:

        So many of the Wesleyan churches that I’m familiar with haven’t given the teaching of doctrine its proper place in the religious life. There’s such a need for this! Most of the other blogs/articles that I’ve found concerning catechesis come from a Catholic or Reformed perspective. Your writing was so refreshing. I especially thank you for the link to the Methodist catechism. Keep up the good work, brother.

      • EFoley says:

        Thanks, Casey–let’s stay in touch. We catechetical Wesleyan types have to stick together! 🙂

  5. You are right on target. Doctrinal teaching of Methodist teaching is lacking in our churches. It is lacking even more in all of our approaches to developing healthy churches as if theology and the Bible have nothing to contribute.

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