A Little more about the FREES!
As you know the BOA has introduced a new “Page 1” to our Manual and to the “FMCiC Ministry Plan”. Page 2 and beyond continues to include our Core Values, Articles of Religion, and a more detailed account of Free Methodism. But Page 1 should be an inspiring, compelling response to the question we are all asked: “What’s a Free Methodist?”
Recently Dr. James Pedlar was in attendance at one of Regional Gatherings. I put him on the hot seat during the discussion time. Dr. Pedlar teaches theology at Tyndale Seminary, where he holds the Bastian Chair in Wesley Studies. He is also on the pastoral team at Wesley Chapel, where he serves with his wife, Samantha, and daughter, Moira. I asked him to say a little more about his thoughts with regards the FREES. Below is his response.
Dr. Pedlar, at Regional Gathering you were introduced to the proposed new guiding principles. What are your thoughts about these “Frees”?
I think it is a great idea to rearticulate the meaning of “Free” in Free Methodism today. The original “Frees” were highly contextual and arose out of the challenges and controversies of 19th century church and society. The story is compelling, but when someone asks you, “What is a Free Methodist,” you don’t always have time to explain all the historical nuances (and if you try to their eyes will glaze over). It is essential that we continue to find ways tell the story of our founding, but we also need to try to articulate the deeper principles that inspired early Free Methodists and continue to inspire us today.
Every movement needs to re-state is purpose in each generation as times change. The principles and convictions do not change because they are rooted in our understanding of the gospel, but the language we use and the way we apply those principles will change. As I read the six “Frees” I think they do a good job of capturing the spirit of our movement today, and they do so in a fresh, jargon-free way that anyone can understand.
I don’t see these guiding principles as an attempt to tell the whole story of who we are. I see them as a great starting point that we can all “own” and rally behind. Those of us who are fully engaged can grapple with the deeper roots of these principles, but I could also see them inspiring people who are new to the movement or to Christian faith.
One comment or question that we have received is that they are “generic evangelicalism” – how would you respond to this?
I understand the concern. We don’t want to just go along with the latest trends in contemporary evangelicalism. Perhaps the lack of traditional Wesleyan terminology makes people read these “frees” in a generic way. But I don’t read them that way. I think if you scratch beneath the surface you see that our distinctive perspective is there from beginning to end.
The first two (“Free to follow God” and “Free to hope”) reflect a Wesleyan view of salvation. I see the “optimism of grace” that is found in Wesley’s insistence that grace is “free for all” and “free in all.” Our Calvinist brothers and sisters could not sign off on these first two statements. The second “free” emphasizes that the transformative aspect of salvation is essential and is available for all.
I see the Wesleyan “catholic spirit” reflected in the third principle, “Free to collaborate.” Not all evangelicals embrace this principle the way we do. If you want evidence, look at the recent statement put out by the Gospel Coalition regarding Bruxy Cavey and the Meeting House. I’m not going after TGC (they are just being consistent with their own principles); I’m just pointing out that some evangelicals will only collaborate when there is a high level of doctrinal alignment. We would never compromise essential theological orthodoxy or the importance of living, vibrant faith in Christ, but Wesleyans have always been ready to work with people who disagree with us on secondary issues.
“Free to be courageous” reflects the missional and entrepreneurial spirit of Methodism. This “free” made me think of the following Wesley quote: “What is the end of all ecclesiastical order? Is it not to bring souls from the power of Satan to God; and to build them up in his fear and love? Order, then, is so far valuable, as it answers these ends; and if it answers them not, it is nothing worth.” (Letter to “John Smith,” June 25, 1746). Wesley wasn’t an innovator by nature, but he saw that the spread of the gospel was the most important thing and that it sometimes required experimentation. The early Methodists were innovative and adapted their methods to suit the needs of their time. I think that we still aspire to follow that principle today.
I see the social consciousness of Methodism and early Free Methodism reflected in “Free to pursue justice.” This is probably an aspect of our history and identity that could use more emphasis. I think we can still learn from the way our spiritual fore-parents wove together the quest for personal holiness and their social concerns. And, although many evangelicals would stand shoulder-to-should with us on this point, there are still some who are very nervous about a justice emphasis.
And the final principle on community reflects that classic Wesleyan emphasis on social Christianity. As Wesley said, there are no “holy solitaries.” How can you exercise the fruit of the Spirit without community? How can you learn to be patient and long suffering without the challenge of authentic relationships with others? That is what the Methodist small group structures of class and band were all about – pursuing holiness together. The forms may change but the principle of Christian formation through community remains essential.
As I said, these new “Frees” don’t tell the whole story, but I don’t think that is the intention. I think they could help us crystallize our common identity in a way that is fresh and yet consistent with our rich history.
Thank you James! This past weekend Karlene and I worshipped with our Assyrian congregation in their new building. We enjoyed warm fellowship, and a beautiful Assyrian feast!
Lastly, keep praying Haitian Church. I heard from Bishop Desvariste from Haiti and this is what he said “In many places our pastors can’t go to church and members can’t stay home. The country is under the fire and demonstrations. We are facing the bad situation. Please, pray for Mercy of God”.
Church Health Thursdays – We The Church: https://fmcic.ca/we-the-church/New
News & Stories Blog – Who’s Reading What in 2019 – Mary Lee DeWitt : https://fmcic.ca/whos-reading-what-in-2019-mary-lee-dewitt/New
the conneXion – a Free Methodist theology blog: 3 Minute Theology 2.5: Knowing the Bible Inside Out: https://fmcic.ca/3-minute-theology-2-5-knowing-the-bible-inside-out/
New Leaf Network: Learning Party stories – Andrew Benson: https://www.newleafnetwork.ca/podcast/ep-64-learning-party-stories-andrew-benson/
Faith and Finances Website: http://faithandfinances.ca
Ordination and Commissioning Services
Belinda Leibel – Commissioning Service at Northview Community Church, Regina, SK – September 22, 2019 at 5:00 pm
FOUNDATIONAL COURSES https://fmcic.ca/foundational-courses/
Register online through the link above
Lay Ministers tracking for credentialed ministry and those transferring ordination credentials into the FMCiC need to take the following two courses for full credit – and if possible, the Heart course first and then Wesleyan Theology.
Heart of Canadian Free Methodism:
November 1-3, 2019 – western Canada-location TBA*
Cours sur le Coeur du Méthodisme Libre Canadien
12 au 14 juillet 2019 à Montréal à l’Église Méthodiste Libre de St-Henri
October 25-27, 2019 – Holt Free Methodist Church, Mount Albert, Ontario
(also available online through FMC-USA: http://fmcusa.org/leadership/courses/)
Ministerial Candidates tracking for Commissioned or Ordained Minister are required to take the following two courses for full credit. Those who are already commissioned or ordained are required to either audit these two courses for 1 Continuing Education Unit (CEU) each or take the two courses and complete the assignments for 3 CEUs each.
Culture and the Missional Church:
Western Canada course starts October 7 (deadline to register – October 1)
Part One: Oct 7-31 – advance online engagement
Part Two: Nov 1-2 – two-day in-person class at Lakeview Free Methodist Church, Saskatoon, SK
Personal and Church Stewardship:
5-week online course (FRENCH) – start date – TBA
6-week online course (ENGLISH) – start date – TBA
(*locations are selected based on where the majority of the participants reside – so please register early!)
2019 SCHOLARSHIPS https://fmcic.ca/scholarships/
October 15 is the deadline to apply for the Leadership Scholarship Plan (LSP) for any courses taken during either the summer and/or the fall semesters of 2019. The 2019 application forms and instructions are now available to download from the link above.
October 15 is the deadline to apply for the annual Special Scholarships for courses taken during 2019 – apply online from the link above
CONTINUING EDUCATION UNITS (CEUs) https://fmcic.ca/introduction-to-continuing-education/
Ordained and Commissioned Ministers (except retirees) are to annually report Continuing Education Units (CEUs) acquired during each year. Check the link above for information on CEUs, the report form and a list of examples of many different types of life-long learning that can be applied as CEUs.
Note: For those who attended the fall Minister’s Conferences, add 6 hours of CEU credit when you send in your annual CEU report.
CHURCHES IN TRANSITION
Caistor Centre FMC, Caistor Centre, ON
Hampton FMC, Saskatoon, SK
Madoc Wesleyan/FMC, Madoc, ON
New Horizons Community Church – Sarnia, ON
Church Profiles available
Contact Susan DePlanché in the Leadership Development Office to request a church profile – [email protected] or 289-228-1225 (deadline to apply in brackets)
None at this time
(If you are interested in seeing the profile for any of these churches, please contact Susan in the Leadership Development Office [[email protected] or 289-228-1225] and the profile will be emailed to you as soon as it becomes available.)
Athens FMC, Athens, ON (Angel Valentin-Transition Pastor)
Crossroads FMC, Salmon Arm, BC (Vern Frudd – Interim Pastor)
Queensway FMC, Niagara Falls, ON
Richmond Hill Chinese & English FM Churches, Richmond Hill, ON (Abbs So and Shadow Lau-Interim Co-Pastors)
Smiths Falls FMC, Smiths Falls, ON (Vic Stonehouse)
Part-Time Office Administrator – Westdale Park FM Church
Summer Intern – Wawota FM Church
Children’s Ministry Director – Barrie FM Church
Intern Job Position – Maple Grove Christian Retreat Centre
Youth Pastor – Malvern Methodist