Pastor Gerald powerfully and passionately presented the story of Fredericksburg Wesleyan Church. It is abundantly apparent that our history is HIS STORY!
The FredWes story is certainly one that needs to be shared and celebrated but so is the bigger story of our Wesleyan Movement! During my posts this week I will be telling this inspiring story (drawing heavily from the work of Church Historians Bob Black and Wayne Caldwell).
Wesleyan Methodists, those given to the leadership and teachings of John Wesley, have always taken a staunch stance against slavery. John Wesley himself had been one of the first in England to oppose the slave trade. His book, Thoughts on Slavery (1774), had been an early call for the Church and society to rid itself of this great evil, and the last letter he ever wrote was to William Wilberforce, a member of the Parliament and an evangelical Christian, encouraging him to use his legislative efforts to prohibit the slave trade and outlaw slavery in the British Empire.
So Methodism, the church John Wesleyan founded without an explicit plan to do so, had an anti-slavery legacy. Their opposition to slavery would have been a given. It was not. Methodism had become America's largest denomination and didn't want to "rock the boat" on an issue as divisive as slavery. In fact. one Methodist bishop himself owned slaves. Ironically, the church which saluted John Wesley as its Founder had turned its back on his principles.
One Methodist who had not abandoned Wesley's principles was a young minister is New England, named Orange Scott. He rallied fellow ministers and concerned laity in an abolitionist But he found many Methodist leaders opposing him. At the Methodist General Conference of 1836, one speaker said on the conference floor that he wished Orange Scott were in heaven - a liturgical way of saying, "Drop dead" In the annual conferences that followed in successive years Methodist bishops would refuse to give abolitionists, like Scott, the right to speak. In the words of one Methodist historian, the bishops were "soft on slavery but hard on abolitionists."
Orange Scott is a name to remember,honor and respect for 21st Century Wesleyans. I will have more to share about this faith hero in the next few posts.
We need some Orange Scott-types in 2015 America! Will you be one?