Category Archives: University

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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Oord on Wesleyan Salvation

Thomas Jay Oord, Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Northwest Nazarene University, speaks on salvation from a Wesleyan perspective.



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First women Methodist bishops

The Claremont School of Theology offers two videos about the first Methodist women named bishops: Early Women Bishops of UMC and The Impact of Women Bishops on the Life of the Church.

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Candler’s Pitt Library offers exhibit on Asbury and Coke

Pitt Library at the Candler School of Theology has an exhibit on the first Methodist Bishops Francis Asbury and Thomas Coke. John Wesley sent Asbury to America in 1771 and Coke in 1784.The online exhibit includes a number of important documents including a copy of the John Wesley’s Declaration and establishment of the conference of the people called Methodists, the sermon where Asbury was first referred to as bishop and Asbury’s journal.


Candler professor offers Methodist pictures


Wesley Center Online at Northwest Nazarene University

Northwest Nazarene University in Idaho provides the Wesley Center Online web site, a collection of historical and scholarly resources about the Wesleyan Tradition, theology, Christianity, and the Nazarene church. The website provides Wesley biographies, his Christian Library, several of his journals and letters, 50 sermons and more. There are separate sections on Charles Wesley and the Arminian Magazine.

John Wesley at the Wesley Center Online

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Frank Baker: The Real John Wesley

The late Frank Baker, Duke Divinity School’s expert on John Wesley, wrote an article about Wesley entitled THE REAL JOHN WESLEY.

Over the years it is safe to say that I have come to know John Wesley better than I knew my own father. In all sincerity, and with all the weight I can muster, I claim that whatever his errors in memory, in judgment, in tact, throughout his long adult life until his death at the age of 87 in 1791, John Wesley consistently and courageously lived to the glory of God, never to the glory of John Wesley.

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Wesley and the People called Methodists

Richard Heitzenrater of Duke Divinity School is considered by many to be the foremost expert on eighteenth-century Methodism.

If you are United Methodist and have attended seminary since 1995, you have (or should have) read Wesley and the People Called Methodists. This book is the standard history of John Wesley and early Methodism and it is required reading in every Methodist History course for which I have seen a syllabus.- Kevin Watson

Amazon listing for book.

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Remembering Frank Baker

I talked with Karen Whitaker, pastor of Soapstone UMC, today about the video project. She told me about her childhood neighbor Frank Baker. When she was growing up in Durham, her family lived near the Duke Divinity School professor and Wesley expert. Baker died in 1999. His 30 books and more than 200 articles included John Wesley and the Church of England and an original collection of children’s stories. I recently bought a copy of Baker’s 1964 Charles Wesley’s Verse: An Introduction.

Baker served on the Duke faculty for 20 years, taking a lead in founding the Center for Studies in the Wesleyan Tradition. The Frank Baker Collection of Wesley and Methodist materials, in the special collections of the Perkins Library, is the heart of Duke University’s Wesleyan research collection. This collection contains the second largest number of Wesley publications in the world and has more than 50 titles representing the only known copies.

Here is the Duke News Service obituary for Baker from 1999:

Church Historian And Wesley Scholar Frank Baker Dies

From the Duke News Service

October 11, 1999

Rev. Frank BakerThe Rev. Frank Baker, an internationally renowned authority on Methodism founder John Wesley and a Duke University professor emeritus, died in his sleep Monday at the Durham Regent Retirement Home. He was 89.

Born in Kingston-upon-Hull, England, in 1910, Baker earned his bachelor of arts degree from the University of London in 1931 and his bachelor of divinity degree three years later from Manchester University. He continued his education at University of Nottingham, earning his Ph.D. in 1952.

Ordained as a Methodist minister in 1937, Baker served pastorates throughout central and northern England until 1959. He joined the Duke Divinity School faculty in 1960, also teaching in the department of religion, before retiring in 1980 as professor emeritus of English church history.

“Frank Baker was, without question, the leading authority on the history of the Wesleys and early Methodism,” Divinity School Dean L. Gregory Jones said. “His academic zeal, along with his gracious hospitality, made a profound impression on generations of Methodist ministers and Wesley scholars here at Duke and throughout the world. We will miss his presence among us and his friendship.”

Baker’s 30 books and more than 200 articles ranged from scholarly volumes, such as John Wesley and the Church of England and From Wesley to Asbury: Studies in Early American Methodism, to an original collection of children’s stories.

“It is right to identify Dr. Baker as the preeminent Wesley historian who took Wesley scholarship to a higher level,” said Richard Heitzenrater, William Kellon Quick professor of church history and Wesley studies at Duke. “But what is not as well known is that he was a gentleman. A warm and friendly person, he was willing to help anyone who needed assistance with scholarship, and that ranged from undergraduate basketball players to doctoral students in religion.”

During his career at Duke and after his retirement, Baker was closely associated with a project to publish the definitive edition of John Wesley’s writings. Baker served as editor for the 36-volume Bicentennial Edition of the Works of John Wesley, which is being published by Abingdon Press.

“He determined what John Wesley says today,” said Russell E. Richey, professor of church history at the divinity school. “That series is and will be a monument to Frank Baker, signaling a lasting contribution to scholarship. Through his teaching he inspired many to interest in Wesley and Methodist history and trained the leadership of the next generation of Methodist scholars.”

An avid collector of books and writings on Methodism, Baker began his collection in the mid-1930s after winning an essay prize on Wesley’s library. “I came to believe that it was important as far as possible to secure not simply the first, but every edition of the writings of the two brothers and the members of their immediate families,” Baker wrote in 1962.

His collection of Wesleyana and Methodistica grew in excess of 15,000 items and four tons before Baker started donating it, over a period of more than two decades, to the Perkins and Divinity School libraries at Duke. The collection contains the second largest number of Wesley publications in the world and has more than 50 titles representing the only known copies.

A recipient of the St. George’s Gold Medal for distinguished service to the United Methodist Church, Baker was presented in 1994 the distinguished service award by the General Commission on Archives and History of the United Methodist Church. In September 1999, the Baker Methodist Research Center was established at Duke Divinity School to serve as a focal point for future Wesley scholarship.

Baker is survived by his wife of 63 years, Nellie; his daughter, Margaret Whitehead, of Irving, Texas; his daughter, Enid Hickingbotham, of Stouchsburg, Pa.; his son, Peter Baker, of Tampa, Fla.; and six grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday in the Duke University Chapel. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Frank and Nellie Baker Methodist Research Center, c/o the Duke University Divinity School, P.O. Box 90968, Durham, N.C. 27708.

A Duke Divinity School news article highlighted the Baker collection in 2011.

The collection represented more than 20 years of Baker’s life as a fulltime British Methodist pastor in central and northern England, where he built his library of Charles and John Wesley works and established himself as the pre-eminent Wesley scholar of his generation.

Amazon listing of Frank Baker books.

June 19 Update: I received a message from Rev. Whitaker. She wrote: Frank and his family attended Lakewood UMC in Durham, a church my father pastored when I was in middle school.  It was during that time that I visited him in his home.  We didn’t actually live in the same neighborhood.  Frank was a wonderful man and superb scholar!

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John Wesley at Oxford

John Wesley attended Oxford, entering in 1720. He eventually began leading a group his brother Charles had organized. The small groups regular meetings earned them nicknames such as Bible Moths and Methodists.

Wesley was educated at Charterhouse School in London and was nominated by his schoolmaster for an exhibition to Christ Church, Oxford to which he was admitted as a commoner in 1720. He studied classics and logic and very much enjoyed ‘Oxford Life’ frequenting coffee houses, playing cards and making excursions up the river. It was at Oxford that he started to keep a diary, an old red note book in which he would sometimes write in code (only accurately and fully deciphered in 1972).

After completing his BA, Wesley followed the traditions of his family by taking Holy Orders and was made a deacon in Christ Church Cathedral in September 1725. Three years later he was ordained.

In 1726 a vacancy became available for a Fellowship at Lincoln College, which at that time was open only to those born in the diocese of Lincoln. Wesley’s father had connections with Dr Morley, Rector of Lincoln College, and after being examined in Homer and Horace he was duly elected to a fellowship on March 25th.—1791

Looking forward to visiting Oxford in July.

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