Asbury Hosts Wesleyan Heritage Conference
WILMORE, Ky. — In the mid-18th century, a pair of brothers named John and Charles Wesley founded a society of like-minded students at Oxford University. They committed to lead holy lives, take Communion once a week, pray daily and visit prisons regularly. This method, they felt, would facilitate the spiritual life they desired.
Today, the movement sparked by these “Methodists” spans the globe and includes millions of Wesleyan Christians. And, as Asbury students and faculty discovered anew this week, the initial founders’ concern for the well-being of the defenseless is alive and active.
This week marked the biennial observance of Asbury’s Wesleyan Heritage Conference, a three-day emphasis on the doctrinal roots of the Wesleyan-Holiness movement from which the school was founded. Titled, “’The World is My Parish’: Wesleyan Concern for the World’s Most Vulnerable,” the conference featured speakers with both practical and theological experience.
Dr. Paul Rader '56, former president of Asbury University and General of The Salvation Army, encouraged students in Chapel Monday morning to follow the Wesleyan imperative from “belief to behavior” and to engage the world with the love of God. In a talk-back session over lunch with students and faculty, he framed the value of a liberal arts education in the context of Wesleyan interaction with the world.
“Liberal arts education gives us a more complete understanding of what it means to be human and honor God with our minds and bodies,” Rader said. “One of my fears is the pressure to gear education toward lucrative employment to the neglect of the liberal arts courses that form your perception of yourselves and the world. I’m certainly not unaware of the challenges and need to make a living, but every area of life provides a field for ministry and service.”
On Tuesday, Dr. Gregg Okesson, spoke on “Wesley’s Theology of Cosmic Salvation: Public Theology for Global Development” at a faculty development luncheon. Okesson is associate professor of leadership and development at Asbury Theological Seminary. Also on Tuesday was a showing of the film “Amazing Grace,” which chronicles William Wilberforce’s campaign against the British slave trade, and a guided discussion of the issues surrounding human trafficking.
On Wednesday, Rev. Linda Adams recounted her journey from pastoring a church in New York to advocating for children worldwide as director of International Child Care Ministries. After a series of events that included befriending African families who moved into her area and a vivid, compelling dream, she took up the challenge of connecting Christians with vulnerable children through sponsorship. A talk-back session with students and faculty over lunch and a presentation to faculty that evening on child sponsorship provided further opportunities to discuss the Wesleyan perspective on living out the love of God.
The Wesleyan Heritage Conference began in 2001 and has addressed topics ranging from “Women in the Wesleyan Tradition” to “Law and Grace in the Wesleyan Tradition.” Speaker bios and podcast recordings of the 2008, 2010 and 2012 Chapel services are available here.