The Methodist story

In 1868 General U.S. Grant remarked that the United States possessed three great parties: “The Republican, the Democratic, and the Methodist Church.” More recently my colleague Stanley Hauerwas quipped that “long after Christianity is dead and gone, the United Methodist Church will still be flourishing.” When I share those wisecracks with my preponderantly Methodist seminary students, they invariably react with nervous laughter. There is just enough truth in them to make the comments worrisome as well as funny. David Hempton’s brilliantly provocative book tells us why.

The book holds two aims. The first is to look at Methodism as an international enterprise—a global empire of the spirit. The second is to penetrate beneath the surface of Methodist institutions to grasp the “heart of something both elusive and important.” Both aims assume that Methodism has been more than the sum of its parts.


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