Last week I introduced the Wesley Study Bible, a new Bible with commentary edited by Joel B. Green and myself. The Wesley Study Bible represents not only an historic event in United Methodist publishing – utilizing writers from over a dozen different churches in the Wesleyan tradition – but also a wonderful resource for our church.
Every United Methodist Pastor and every member of our congregations are sure to find the Wesley Study Bible to be a great resource for study of the scriptures. Your congregation could have an entire course in Wesleyan Theology just by reading through the Wesleyan Core Terms sidebars. I’ve noted that our liveliest growing congregations have classes for new and prospective members. New Member Classes could be assigned a list of Wesleyan Core Terms to study over a period of weeks to give them a great introduction to United Methodist believing. The Wesley Study Bible , with its constant emphasis on Christianity put into practice, is the perfect companion for Disciple Bible Studies. Adult Sunday School classes could work through the entire Bible in the course of a year, reading selected Wesleyan Core Terms and Life Applications found within the text of each biblical book. Pastors could devise a sermon series that each Sunday takes a different Wesleyan Core Term and explicates it, pairing the term with nearby Life Application Topics – doctrine related to life. High School students who were introduced to this Bible said that they found that the introductory comments to each biblical book give just enough background in order to understand the biblical book. As one of the students put it, “I liked the way that this Bible is not just theoretical but also practical. It’s great to see that scripture isn’t just ancient stuff to be understood in chur ch but also truth to be practiced in my high school.” I see Father John smile.
I have written a free Downloadable Discussion Guide that takes the Four Emphases from the last General Conference and utilizes the Wesley Study Bible for study by an individual or group. Teachers of youth and children could adapt this study guide for use in leading even very young Christians.
This Bible is a perfect resource for your Confirmation Class. Give the Wesley Study Bible to each confirmand at the beginning of the Confirmation period and then conduct the class as a guided study through the Bible, utilizing the Core Terms in conversation with the Life Applications. The sidebars, particularly the Life Applications, are easily read by children from older elementary age up.
Just last week I was asked to lead a Bible study among a group of homeless persons in one of our urban congregations. Most of the participants are HIV positive. They wanted a Bible study that would be relevant to their illness. Wondering what to teach, I turned to the Wesley Study Bible. I immediately saw a trajectory emerging from the sidebars: Wesleyan Core Terms – Healing, Visiting the Sick, Health, Social Holiness, Physician of the Soul lined up nicely with Life Application Topics -- Acts of Kindness, Comfort for Illness, Mercy, Prayer in the Face of Trouble, and Suffering. I was on my way to a Bible study that traced these themes throughout scripture.
You probably know that Methodists were among the originating leaders of the Sunday School Movement in Nineteenth Century America. That movement was, in great part, a creative attempt to get the Bible into the hands of everyone, particularly those who had been excluded from the educational systems of the day. The Wesley Study Bible continues that grand tradition of scriptural accessibility. I know a woman who leads her congregation’s prison ministry, going into prisons and conducting Bible studies among the inmates and worshipping with them. I look forward to offering her the Wesley Study Bible as a resource for Bible study related to life in the Wesleyan tradition.
In the usage of the Wesley Study Bible a new generation of Wesleyan Christians is putting scripture into practice. Scripture is not only God’s word; it is God’s word for everyone and everyone is meant to put God’s word into practice. Through the Wesley Study Bible, John Wesley continues to correct, prod, and discipline the People Called Methodists through the study of scripture.
William H. Willimon
"Reading the Bible Like Wesleyans"
This will be a discussion, led by Bishop Willimon, on the unique Methodist way with scripture. How does United Methodist "practical Christianity" inform our reading of scripture? Bishop Willimon will discuss the particular Wesleyan contribution to the study, interpretation, and embodiment of Holy Scripture.
This event is open to all interested pastors and laypersons. The same workshop will be repeated in two different locations on March 7, at Canterbury UMC in Birmingham, and March 14, at Trinity UMC in Huntsville, 9:30 - Noon. The Wesley Study Bible can be purchased through Cokesbury, Birmingham.
This event coincides with the publication of the Wesley Study Bible by Abingdon Press. The Wesley Study Bible is a unique study Bible that is edited by Bishop Willimon and Dr. Joel B. Green, formerly of Asbury Seminary. The Bible will be available from Cokesbury in February.