The Oxford Handbook of Methodist Studies

Article excerpt

The Oxford Handbook of Methodist Studies. Edited by William J. Abraham and James E. Kirby. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009, Pp. xvii, 761. $150.)

Antonio Romano discusses in his work The Charism of the Founders (1994), his view that new Christian movements offer gifts from the Spirit to the church as a whole. The Oxford Handbook of Methodist Stuthes discusses the editor's perceptions of some of Mediodism's unique gifts to the church and world. This handbook claims specifically "to provide a map of the field [Mediodist Stuthes], and to offer vistas for fresh work" (vii). The objectives of this work are twofold: first to "locate the center of Methodist gravity in John Wesley and the accomplishments of his movement in the history of the church" and second, "to develop an appropriate set of categories sufficient to permit a fruitful and coherent mapping of Methodist Stuthes as a whole in the present," specifically the past fifty years (viii) . The result is a significant volume that addresses many, but not all, of the recent trends in Methodist Stuthes that provides a useful overview of Meuiodism for both Methodists and tiiose of otiier Christian traditions, and for both scholars and laity alike. For Anglicans there are a number of selections that are specifically relevant to contemporary discussions on the union between the Church of England and the British Methodist Church.

The editors separate these forty-two chapters into six parts in an effort to cover the four primary trends in Mediodist Stuthes over the past fifty years. These four trends include the renewed emphasis on the life and work of John Wesley; the Wesleyan discussions around the nature of authority and specifically what has come to be known as the Wesleyan Quadrilateral; exploration of the relationship between Wesley and contemporary forms of liberation theology; and, finally, the various ecclesiological structures represented throughout Methodism. These four trends are discussed to varying degrees in each of the book's six parts.

On the whole this book is a helpful overview of the past fifty years of Methodist Stuthes, beneficial to both the casual reader and scholar as well. As with most overviews of this type, chapters tend to burrow down into singular aspects of recent Mediodist stuthes instead of being general overviews of a field. In some cases tins is quite helpful. For instance Stephen Long and Stanley Hauerwas provide a helpful linkage between ediics and theology through their analysis of John Wesley's understanding of the relationship between happiness and holiness. …