We've recently added a 'testimonial' to the MWRC website from MWRC Junior Fellow graduate, Dr Christine Johnson (currently Registrar at Asbury Theological Seminary):
"The Manchester Wesley Research Centre houses a collection of material that encompasses rare works and the latest research in the field of Wesley and Methodist studies. The extensive selection of doctoral theses were especially valuable to my research. The MWRC staff were also very knowledgeable and helpful in identifying material that was specific to my area of study, and the Centre’s partnership with the John Rylands Library provided invaluable opportunities for further scholarly investigation and dialogue. I highly recommend the MWRC for anyone who would like to delve deeper into the Wesleyan–Methodist tradition."
Other student testimonials can be found here.
The MWRC would like to congratulate Junior Fellows who completed their doctorates at The University of Manchester/Nazarene Theological College during the 2015-16 academic year; in Wesley Studies: Klaus Arnold, Jim Coleman, Steve Johnson, and Mark Olson; and in Biblical Studies: James Romano and Linda Stargel. Click here for details about their work.
It was a privilege to spend six weeks at the Manchester Wesley Research Centre as a Visiting Research Fellow for the summer of 2016. My work focused on early Primitive Methodism. I am interested in the development of Wesleyan ecclesiology, especially as related to issues of renewal, unity, and division. The Primitive Methodists are of interest as the first major revivalistic breakaway from Wesleyan Methodism. I focused my time primarily on the unpublished and published writings of Hugh Bourne, co-founder of the Primitive Methodist Connexion.
Bourne and the other Primitive Methodists were very keen to clear themselves of the charge of schism. In doing this they stressed both their continuity with early Methodism and the novelty of their movement as a body of newly-evangelized people. I am looking at the arguments Bourne used to defend against the charge of schism and the theology of the church that underlies those arguments. I am also considering the interesting mix of influences that can be seen in Bourne’s theology. As was the case with many later nineteenth-century Wesleyan revivalists, Bourne was strongly influenced by John Fletcher. But he was also shaped by his contacts with the Quaker Methodists of Warrington, the “Magic Methodists” of Delamere Forest and other Independent Methodists and revivalists. His spirituality had a strong pneumatocentric focus, leading to a very participatory and egalitarian view of church and ministry. Bourne is a fascinating and complicated person, who certainly had his faults. Yet he was also ahead of his time on questions of lay representation and women in ministry.
Some of Hugh Bourne’s writings are only available at the John Rylands Library, and those that are available elsewhere are still quite rare and difficult to find. I was very grateful for the opportunity to spend several weeks at the Rylands through the MWRC Visiting Fellow programme, as it gave me access to numerous sources that I would not have been able to find at home in Toronto. I also appreciated the many connections I was able to make with other scholars from the UK. At the MWRC and Nazarene Theological College I found a welcoming community and ideal base for doing research on the Wesleyan tradition.
Dr James Pedlar is Assistant Professor of Wesley Studies and Theology, Tyndale Seminary (Toronto).
‘Archives are Underrated’: Priscilla Pope-Levison Reflects on Her Research as an MWRC Visiting Fellow
Archives are underrated by the general public. When I utter the word, archives, in polite conversation, there’s often an eye roll or an eyebrow-crinkling quizzical look. Archives, really? What’s an archive? Isn’t that a dark, dank, uninviting place? And for a vacation—really?!? Why not the beach or the mountains, or even a big city with lots to do and see? That’s the response I heard so often when I told people that for my summer vacation I was heading to the Manchester Wesley Research Centre (MWRC) at the Nazarene Theological College in Manchester, England, as a Visiting Fellow. And I’ve had a blast!
For archival enthusiasts like me—and you know who you are—the MWRC is a Methodist, archival treasure. In one room, you can find entire collections of Wesley works, the major journals in Methodism, like Wesleyan Theological Journal, Wesley and Methodist Studies, and Proceedings of the Wesley Historical Society, significant secondary source works on the history of leading Methodist figures, and a rich collection representing the Wesleyan/Holiness movement in Britain and the USA. All of these books, journals, and pamphlets are within arm’s reach of each other, so the researcher can simply look over the titles, borrow them off the shelf, and read them in one of several adjoining study rooms.
There’s also the one-of-a-kind journal collection, carefully tended by the archivist, of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century organizations that comprised the British holiness movement, like the Pentecostal League of Prayer, the International Holiness Mission, and the Pentecostal Church of Scotland. These organizations focused on the Baptism of the Holy Ghost as a definite blessing received after conversion. I had never heard of any of these organizations before coming to the MWRC, but I ended up spending most of my time at the MWRC immersed in two decades of the Pentecostal League of Prayer’s journal, Tongues of Fire. Reader Harris (1847–1909) founded the League in 1891 in order “to spread Scriptural Holiness by unsectarian methods broadcast through this and other lands.” The grassroots emphasis of the League galvanized around forming prayer unions, or Centers, in which twelve or more people met weekly to pray for revitalization along holiness lines of individuals and churches.
What I found in terms of women’s involvement in the League astounded me. The League provided unparalleled opportunities for women in public ministry in late-nineteenth-century Britain. At every major conference and annual convention, at missions in churches, at holiness meetings, in short, at any public gathering sponsored by the League, women—and many of them—spoke to mixed audiences of men and women. In addition, more than a hundred women over the two decades served as Secretary of a League Centre, which required a quasi-pastoral role of spiritual oversight. Even more remarkable, because clergy and laity met together in the Centers, it would have been the case that female League Secretaries led Holiness and Prayer meetings where clergymen participated.
I’ve learned so much during these weeks of “vacation.” Archives are underrated!
Dr Priscilla-Pope Levison is Associate Dean for External Programs at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas.