Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Albert C. Outler: The Gifted Dilettante

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Albert C. Outler: The Gifted Dilettante

Article excerpt

BOB W. PARROTT. Albert C. Outler: The Gifted Dilettante. Andersen, Indiana: Bristol House, 1999. Pp 504, bibliographical data, index. $29.99.

Albert Cook Outler (1908-1989) was one of the most prominent figures in the (United) Methodist Church during a long stretch in the middle of the twentieth century and was perhaps its most significant representative on the ecumenical scene between the 1950s and the 1970s. The son of a Georgia minister and himself ordained, he spent his career as a church historian at Duke, Yale, and Southern Methodist universities (actively teaching for some thirty years at SMU). His contributions to academic and ecclesiastical life resided chiefly in four areas. First, he championed the strictly theological importance of John Wesley (especially as a "folk theologian"), demonstrating his case in the 1964 volume of the Oxford University Press Library of Protestant Thought and in the four volumes of Wesley's Sermons that he prepared for the new scholarly edition of the Works. Second, Outler played a formative part in the high-powered commission of WCC Faith and Order that produced the subsequently influential Montreal text of 1963 on "Scripture, Tradition, and Traditions." Third, Outler was a delegated observer on behalf of the World Methodist Council (WMC) at all four sessions of Vatican II, helping to feed Protestant insights into the Roman deliberations and then to interpret the council to many audiences in North America; thereafter he served for the first three rounds of the bilateral dialogue between the WMC and the Roman Catholic Church. Fourth, Outler discerned and popularized a "Wesleyan quadrilateral" of scripture, tradition, reason and experience that came to dominate discussions of doctrine and theology in the first generation following the merger of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren in 1968.

The biography under review is the work of a devoted pupil, who merits gratitude for having already seen to the publication of several volumes of his master's literary remains. …

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