I‘m a Wesleyan by choice, though I have a great legacy of Christian experience from other traditions. My grandfather, Lewis Dunnam, was a Freewill Baptist preacher – the closest to a “circuit rider” we have in our family. He “walked” his circuit in rural Mississippi. I grew up in Southern and Missionary Baptist churches, but experienced throughout my childhood and early adolescence the brush arbor revivals of independent evangelists and the itinerant preachers who more often than not preached on the front porches of homes as folks stood around in the yards.
I was converted through the powerful preaching of a fifth grade-educated preacher, Brother Wiley Grissom. My father made a profession of his faith during the same period and he and I were baptized together by immersion in a rather cold creek in early September.
I became a Methodist by choice about three years after my conversion. Doctrine had a lot to do with it – style also. But I wouldn’t diminish the influence of a Methodist preacher, David McKeithen, an intelligent, warm, loving human being who cared deeply for people, took time with a teenage boy, and preached the gospel thoughtfully and with deep conviction. I began to feel the call to preach, and I felt that should I ever answer that call, I ought to be in the “right” church for me. I began to read and talk to people, and eventually I made the choice, surprising David and his congregation, when I walked down the aisle on a Sunday morning to offer myself as a member. Then a year later, I offered myself to that same congregation as a candidate for ministry.
So, I‘m a Wesleyan by choice.
I like to think of it as proclaiming the Gospel with a Wesleyan accent. We Wesleyans are united in belief with the great orthodox stream of Christian faith, in commitment to and guided by the historic creeds of the Church. Yet I believe we have a unique perspective (I call it an accent) that has integrity and wholeness. When we proclaim that perspective with passion and conviction, it is winsome and transforming.
I write with the hope that my part of the Wesleyan family – The United Methodist Church – will become a movement again. Movements begin at grass root levels. Thus the local congregation is where the movemental dynamic must begin.
Theology and doctrine matter. They provide our spiritual foundation. I believe, then, that we must focus on revitalizing doctrine, clarifying and enhancing the Methodist/Wesleyan accent for the strengthening of the local church.
We are launching this website with a commitment to clearly articulate the Christian faith with a Wesleyan accent. We will feature writers from across the Wesleyan world – pastors, leaders, scholars, laity. Our mission is to strengthen the discipleship of Christ followers, empower mission and evangelism, cultivate young leaders, and nurture the vocational lives of young pastors and scholars.
It is my prayer that this effort will make a contribution to revival in the Wesleyan community as we discover or rediscover the unique place we have in God’s family. We need to recover that uniqueness, not to set us apart from others, but to help us be the people God wants us to be. I believe God would be pleased if we would take up again the mission that was declared when the Wesleyan movement first put down its roots in North America: “to reform a continent, particularly the church, and spread scriptural holiness across the land.”