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ElShaddai Edwards

Beautiful, John. We are preparing to bury my wife's sister-in-law on Thursday. I wrote elsewhere that "there is little that one can write in the face of grief that will make much difference in how we experience today - one only hopes that the words and stories and memories we share might be revisited and retold, that they would be seeds of hope and redemption that are planted and grown for tomorrow’s memories and generations." Your tribute is a worthy seed that I pray will bear much fruit for those who hear it.



My prayers are with you and your family.

The best part of the service here, I think, was watching 200 twenty year olds thinking through a bunch of stuff they, like everyone else, often forget. So many tear-streaked cheeks. The number of teachers and adults whom Lisa touched was also amazing.

No one will ever be able to convince me that 1 Cor 13 isn't absolute truth if there is such a thing.

Peter Kirk

Surely when John Wesley said "The world is my parish" he didn't mean that his duty was to the worldly as well as the spiritual people of his parish, but that his parish was not restricted by geographical borders. So it is when you are blogging for a worldwide audience, not when you are serving a local community so movingly, that you are being true to Wesley's intention with these words. But then each minister of the gospel has his or her own calling, and yours, to being primarily a local pastor, is different from Wesley's.



Judging by your comment (which I think in this case is a poor index of your true thought), you misunderstand both Wesley, and by implication, Jesus.

Both tussled with peers who thought their primary or only obligation was to people who walked through the doors of a synagogue/church. For Wesley, the worldly were precisely part of his parish. He was a follower of the one who came to save sinners, not the righteous.

As far as I'm concerned, the Holy Spirit blows wherever believers leave their place of worship and go out in the streets and byways and invite in that context. It seems to me that your church, the Church of England, has pretty much given up on this.

Insofar as it has, it is not only sub-evangelical. It is sub-Christian.

Peter Kirk

John, as usual you totally misunderstand me, first by accusing me of being a socialist because I dared to question the weakest to the wall philosophy of many US Republicans, and now for being sub-Christian because I dare to correct your reading of Wesley.

If you had actually read my comment you would have realised that I was totally supportive of your ministry to the unchurched people of your parish or community. I admire the way you responded to this particular situation.

My only complaint here is that I think you are misusing the famous words of Wesley. You need to read them in context, as given here (

"In a letter written on May 28, 1739, [Wesley] said, ‘I look upon all the world as my parish; thus far I mean, that in whatever part of it I am, I judge it meet, right and my bounden duty to declare unto all that are willing to hear the glad tidings of salvation.' It is not certain to whom this letter, defending his itinerant ministry, was sent but there is good reason to believe it was a former member of the Oxford ‘Holy Club,' the Rev. John Clayton."

In other words, his point seems to have been that in his itinerant ministry he was not restricted by parish boundaries in preaching the gospel. He wrote this to justify breaking the rules which required and still require Church of England ministers to get permission before working in any parish other than their own.



I think you often leave yourself open to misunderstanding. Part of it is because you have a habit of being uncharitable toward those with whom you do not see to eye. For my part, I apologize if I over-react to this at times.

I think you continue to give Wesley's words less scope than the letter you quote allows. I imagine you are right that the specific reason Wesley said what he did in context is as you state. But his words are a legitimate description of the broader Wesleyan emphasis on "declar[ing] unto all that are willing to hear the glad tidings of salvation."

For this reason, Wesleyans have used and continue to use the phrase "The world is my parish" as short-hand for an invitational stance toward those in need wherever they are found, next door, or half way around the world.

Peter Kirk

Thanks, John. I understand that the exegesis of "The world is my parish" is not simple! I thought I had tried very hard to be charitable in my first comment, for example by adding an explicit sentence affirming your local pastoral ministry.

Doug Chaplin

John, I caught up with this belatedly. What a wonderful address. I almost felt I not only knew her, but was bereaved by her passing.


Many thanks for sharing your moving words.

FWIW the claim that all the residents of a parish fall within the pastoral care of the minister was (and is) a commonplace within the Church of England. Indeed it is essentially tied to the established nature of the Church of England. (You might imagine how such a theological claim could be used critically of an itinerant non-parochial ministry).

Wesley's statement, in context, is ISTM a defense of a non parochial ministry.

That isn't to say that it can be put to other profitable uses.

Peter Kirk

No. 5, that is just what I was trying to say.


The Methodist movement represented a far deeper break with the mores and rigidities of the C of E than No.5's comments let on.

One might guess from No. 5's comments that it was commonplace for all C of E ministers to preach in the open air, as did the Methodists, to carry on ministry in prisons and bedlams, build up small groups that included people who might attend worship in any number of denominations, and otherwise be present in the life of "all residents of the parish."

Such was not the case then, and is not the case now.

The words of John Wesley are now quoted and honored around the world. They are interpreted in the light of the entire witness and inner dynamic of the movement that began with him, not the specific and more restricted sense the words had in the original context.

We interpret the words of Bible, the Constitution, great speeches like the Gettysburg Address, not only and not merely in terms of the historical sense they would have had under the specific circumstances in which they were first uttered, but in terms of the entire tradition of life and thought they helped put in motion. That's what we do with words we live by, and rightly so.

"The world is my parish" understood as a motto for the Methodist movement's inner dynamic reads like a terrible judgment over, not only the C of E and its lack of faithfulness to Matthew 22:1-14, but over the Methodist churches themselves, insofar as they have abandoned the impulse the motto has come to stand for.

Peter Kirk

Indeed there is more to the Methodist revolution than a refusal to be bound by parish boundaries. But Methodists started preaching in the open air only because they were denied use of the pulpits in Anglican churches. Whether in those days Anglicans preached in any particular prison etc depended entirely on the preference of the incumbent of the parish it was situated in, who admittedly didn't usually bother but there were some outstanding exceptions.

As for whether Anglican ministers today are neglecting the kinds of ministries you list, do you have any data to show that they are worse than any other ministers, or are you assuming things in order to promote your own denomination?



Necessity is the mother of invention. It is often said based on the book of Acts that the first Christians would have stayed close to home rather than make disciples of all nations if persecution had not intervened.

It's quite possible, for all I know, that in England, the Methodist Church has abandoned Wesleyan distinctives to such an extent that they are now just as un-Wesleyan as is the C of E.

If so, that says more about the degree to which British Methodism has departed from its own heritage than it does about the degree to which the C of E is Wesleyan in spirit and in practice. But I would love to know about counter-examples to what I think everyone recognizes to be the general trend.

The C of E's sister church here in the US does have a reputation for being less faithful to Wesleyan distinctives than the Methodist churches proper (UMC, AME, AME-Zion, Wesleyan, etc.). Except for evangelicals among Episcopalians, there is almost zero interest in Wesleyan distinctives among Anglicans this side of the pond.

The churches nowadays whose ministers actually read Wesley and seek to put Wesleyan distinctives into practice are more likely to be Pentecostal, Nazarene, and free Wesleyan than they are to be ministers in old-line denominations.

Peter Kirk

Thank you, John. The Church of England is very different from the US Episcopal Church or at least the majority of it, as has become painfully clear over recent months. I would think that a good proportion of C of E ministers in practice embrace many Wesleyan distinctives without explicitly recognising them as such. They remain bound by the parish system but often only reluctantly so, and as I reported at even the church authorities are beginning to sound its death-knell. There is not much else to separate British Anglicans and Methodists (except for bishops, but then you US Methodists have them!), and that is not only because Methodists have been abandoning Wesleyan principles but just as much because Anglicans have been moving in a Wesleyan direction.

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