For the Bride: Infrastructure

Buildings stand because of their infrastructure, what Jesus called “the good foundation.”  As we conclude our brief look at the place of hermeneutics in the human sexuality debate, I will stay with Wesley’s sermon “The Catholic Spirit” one more time.

In one of his recent ‘Vital Piety’ blogs (11/13), Dr. Kevin Watson rightly noted that “The Catholic Spirit” sermon is only the beginning in coming to understand Wesleyan theology.  He correctly invites us to read Wesley’s  “The Catholic Spirit” sermon and his “The Scripture Way of Salvation” sermon together.

Incorporating his idea into what I have been saying about hermeneutics, I would say that “The Catholic Spirit” is one element in the Wesleyan hermeneutic (along with some others), and that “The Scripture Way of Salvation” is one part of Wesleyan theology that is constructed out of it.  That is, the sermon “The Catholic Spirit” is a more infrastructural and invisible dimension, and “The Scripture Way of Salvation” is a more specific and visible expression.

So, what does this mean for this “For the Bride” series?  It means that our building (position) must have an infrastructure, but also that the infrastructure must have a building constructed around it. 

Here then are some infrastructural/hermeneutical elements that enable us to be “one who interprets the message of truth correctly” (2Tim 2:15. CEB).

First, we affirm creedal faith.  In the most ecumenical sense, these are our doctrines.  We will then (as Christians before us have done) necessarily move to the making of Rules, Constitutions, Articles, Confessions, and Catechisms. In these we will see the marks of our respective traditions, while keeping in step with the faith delivered to us by the saints through the Creeds.

Second, we will (as our first American Methodists did in 1784, and as Wesley’s Methodists in Great Britain did), use a theology of love (grace) as the paradigm  (order of salvation) for our detailed declarations.

Third, we will carry the Wine of the Gospel in the wineskin of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), always assessing the substance and spirit of our beliefs in relation to these virtues –virtues that for United Methodists were set down by Wesley himself in “The Character of a Methodist” and in “The General Rules of the United Societies.”

Fourth, we will never accept an attitude or action toward another person or group that hits below the belt of imago dei.

Fifth, we will gather the faithful to tables where respect will entone our discussions and embrace our differences, putting our ultimate trust not in our faithfulness, but in the One Who is Faithful (Jer 32:27).

Taking everything we have said in this “For the Bride” series, we will head into a Christmas break.  When we resume, I will focus upon the three pillars (the way of love, the practice of non-judgment, and the process of holy conferencing) and my ongoing reflections upon each since I wrote the book.

(If you do not have my book ‘For the Sake of the Bride’ on which these weekly writings are based, here is the Amazon link for it:

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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