Hobnobbing with some of my fellow Methodist colleagues for our community Good Friday service today, I could not help mourning what could have been had the early Methodists and Episcopalians united early on.  In the chaos after the American Revolution, John Wesley set apart Francis Asbury and Thomas Coke as “superintendents” to continue to spread the Gospel and set up Methodist Societies in America.  However, the American societies, already functionally operating as churches, conferred upon them the title of “bishop.”  Coke extended an initial olive branch to Bishops White and Seabury.  Seabury’s response is unknown if he had responded, yet Bishop White met with Coke on three other occasions.  The exact substance of their conversations is lost to history, aside from speculations by White that Asbury did not seem to care about being a bishop as such, and that Coke seemed more keen on having “official” episcopal authority for the sake of his Methodist flock.  All  we know is that nothing akin to merger ever happened.  Perhaps the same forces were at work that split Methodism from Anglicanism in the U.K. came to the fore earlier in America thanks to the Revolution.

Yet to think of the potential impact in terms of missions, evangelism, even ecumenical endeavors is an exercise worthy of consideration.  If we can picture what an alternative past would have looked like, it can help us conceive of a different future we would like to work toward.  Jesus was willing to die to bring us back into relationship with himself.   How much are we willing to give in striving for a kingdom-focused approach to ministry?

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