John Wesley's Liturgical Theology: His Sources, Unique Contributions and Synthetic Practices

  • Steve Johnson

Student thesis: Phd


John Wesley's Liturgical Theology: His Sources, Unique Contributions and Synthetic PracticesSubmitted to the University of Manchester for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy2016Steve JohnsonAbstractJohn Wesley was an eighteenth century priest in the Church of England who was best known for his leadership of the Methodist movement. His ministry was filled with tension, as he sought to maintain his affinity for the worship of the Church of England while introducing liturgical innovations such as the watchnight, lovefeast, covenant renewal and preaching services. A question emerges: How did he hold these very diverse patterns of worship together? Why was it so important to him? What was it about his liturgical theology that encouraged and enabled him to lead the Methodists in both traditional and innovative liturgical patterns? Wesley refused to be confined to either his inherited liturgical practices or his innovative liturgies. This thesis seeks to offer a solution as to why. This thesis will assess Wesley's liturgical texts in their historical and pastoral context in light of Wesley's commitment to a 'religion of the heart.' Chapter one will seek to establish 'heart religion' and the restoration of the image of God as foundational for Wesley, and establish that this foundation was worked out through his liturgical theology and practice. With 'heart religion' or Wesley's 'affectional' theology as a hermeneutical lens, this thesis will evaluate the sources, texts and contributions of each part of Wesley's worship corpus, making specific reference to the way each aspect of Methodist worship contributed to the restoration of the Image of God in humanity. Wesley's incorporation of the traditional liturgical resources of the Church of England, specifically the Book of Common Prayer, and his own adaptation of the BCP, the Sunday Service, will be examined in chapters two and three. Chapter four will explore Wesley's own unique form of catechism, Instructions for Children, and its use in character formation. Largely unexplored, Wesley's Instructions emerges as an integral piece of his liturgical theology. Chapter five will consider the watchnight, lovefeast, covenant and preaching services, specifically addressing how each service was developed and how it contributed to the formation and manifestation of Christian affections among the Methodists. Wesley's ultimate goal in worship was the honouring of God and the edification of the Church. He believed that God was honoured when the Church was edified, and the church was best edified when God's people began to manifest Christian affections such as love, joy, humility and gratefulness. When these affections were practiced consistently, they were habituated into holy tempers. This development of holy tempers was the objective of the Christian life for Wesley. This was the goal and purpose of John Wesley's liturgical theology.
Date of Award1 Aug 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester

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