Advice from retiring leader of UM Archives and History

The Rev. Robert Williams is retiring after nine years as the top executive of the United Methodist Commission on Archives and History at Drew University in Madison, N.J. Williams observations on UM history:

Don’t reduce the teachings of John Wesley to misused and misattributed quotations that begin with “Do all the good you can.” More important, he points out, are Wesley’s words on salvation, holy living and caring about the least.

Don’t forget about Philip Otterbein and Jacob Albright, founders of what became the Evangelical United Brethren Church, which merged with Methodists to form the United Methodist Church in 1968. “I know those of the EUB heritage think we’re always talking too much about Wesley,” he says.

Keep the memory of African-American Methodism alive. A concern about losing that part of history led to the establishment of the African-American Methodist Heritage Center. Williams also believes, for historical reasons, that the U.S. church’s jurisdictional system should be eliminated. “It was created so the African-American conferences would be segregated into a separate structure,” he says.

Remember the various ways that culture and Christianity have interfaced in the past. In the early 19th century, for example, the U.S. church “didn’t buy into the cultural standards of its day,” Williams noted. By the end of that century, however, American Methodism was taking on trappings “of being the most American church,” as Methodist Bishop Matthew Simpson’s influential friendship with President Abraham Lincoln demonstrated.

History is connecting factor for Bob Williams – UM News Service

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