I had the privilege of being asked to speak at the Free Methodist Church of Canada’s ministers conferences (Eastern Canada, Sept 25, 2013, Western Canada, Oct 2, 2013). I consider it a privilege because I grew up in the FM Church, and still consider it my spiritual home, even though I have not been able to attend a FM church while completing my grad work.
I was given the task of casting a vision of holiness, in the context of the theology of John Wesley. This was very exciting to me to have this opportunity because that is the practical question that was behind the research I did for my thesis. The very question that got me digging into eighteenth century diaries and letters was how can the rich spiritual history of Methodism serve the church today? In particular regarding holiness, in light of the history of misunderstanding and excesses in regards to the doctrine of Christian Perfection. I was asking is there a way to reconnect with the original intention of John Wesley and the original benefit that the early Methodist people saw in describing their Christian faith using the language of holiness.
I receive lots of great feedback from the pastors who heard my presentation, including stories of their own longings for holiness and experiences of God. I was also challenged to face my own doubts and fears that keep me from fully seeking God and his holiness in my life. I am blessed to be able to call the FM community friends, and I am grateful for the time spent with them this fall.
One question from Pastor Jay Mowchenco from Weyburn, SK has been simmering in my mind since he asked it. I had challenged the pastors to consider how testimony about holiness can inspire more holiness, and Jay asked how that works. His experience was that when people talk about their own holiness, it is only a breading ground for pride and self-glorification, not to the glory of God. I hope I answered Jay well in the moment, but I can’t be certain. My answer now is that what I mean by "sharing testimony about holiness" is sharing how God is at work in the life of people. Particularly, sharing the stories of encountering Jesus in powerful ways that produce transformation in someone’s life. I think I need to make sure I explicitly articulate that distinction. My collection of testimonies from eighteenth century Methodists show that by example, the stories I found most intriguing were those that shared about an encounter with God, but the explicit naming of testimonies to holiness as stories of encountering God will definitely be part of any future presentations. Thanks Jay for asking that important question.
Audio of my presentation here: