Living in “the Beltway” is a fascinating thing. Politics is ever-present. This is, of course, our primary industry. It’s also part of everyday conversation in a way that it simply isn’t anywhere else in the US. I remember a dinner party that I attended just after I moved here in 2015. The presidential primaries were in full swing and dinner was running late, so our host asked everyone to go around the room and state our preferred candidate. I was shocked! I was raised to avoid certain topics in polite company, particularly politics at a dinner party. But here we were. Each person took their turn and announced their choice to the room. I knew that I was no longer in North Carolina. And to top it all off, I was the only member of my party at the dinner!
This sort of direct political conversation is avoidable. But what isn’t avoidable is the fact that the Gospel has social repercussions. In Wesleyanism we could say that the changed heart may begin with the individual and his or her cooperation with the grace of God, but that changed heart lives in community, and learns to love others with the holy love of God.
But how do we talk about this faithfully? How do we, as Wesleyans, approach the public square informed by the riches of our tradition? Given the state of current political discourse, both in Washington and around the country, how can we engage our communities with a vision steeped not in partisanship, tribalism, or superficial group-think, but steeped in the redeeming love of God found in Christ?
This was the question put before twelve scholars and thought-leaders from the broad Wesleyan tradition in the summer of 2022. The twelve met in Washington, DC over the course of three days under the auspices of the John Wesley Institute where I serve as director. They came from Global Methodism, United Methodism, the Church of the Nazarene, and the Church of God, Cleveland; a diverse group of men and women.
The John Wesley Institute is committed to gathering faithful Wesleyan scholars to produce accessible materials for the church. Over the past two years, the JWI has spearheaded efforts including The Next Methodism: Theological, Social, and Missional Foundations for Global Methodism and The Faith Once Delivered: A Wesleyan Witness, the work of nearly 60 Wesleyan scholars to describe the Christian faith in a way that is accessible to everyday people. But the task in the summer of 2022 was to craft a Wesleyan document on social witness.
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