On Dec. 8th-10th the John Wesley Fellows celebrated 40 years of scholarship, fellowship, and frankly blessings for the United Methodist Church, for its colleges, seminaries, episcopal office, local churches, the Upper Room, overseas missions, for Abingdon Press, for its annual conferences, general conferences, for Africa University, and frankly so much more. There are at present over 160 John Wesley Fellows, who have received scholarships from AFTE (A Foundation for Theological Education), and I was blessed to be in the first class of these Fellows, chosen in 1977 as I headed to England to do my doctoral work in Durham. The impact of this program can hardly be measured even now, and we owe Ed Robb (both father and son) and Albert Outler a lot for setting this program in motion and then to the Robbs for keeping this program funded over 4 decades. The goal of this fellowship was not just to fund budding Methodist scholars but to work for the renewal of our church. Along the way we realized that we had something special—- a multi-generation fellowship of scholars and pastors who love our church, and wanted to work for it to be all the Lord intended it to be.
Our latest meeting was held where it all began— at Shakertown in Kentucky. It was wonderful that many of the older fellows were able to attend including several from the class of 1977. Like those first conferences, it was cold and icy, and yet the friendships that were built, and the plans that were made, have in turn made each of us in various ways. Above you will see the picture of those who attended our meeting, which also included various Denman fellows, a fellowship which was merged with the Wesley Fellows a while back. Yes, that’s me with the white hair grinning on the bottom row. One thing I know— were John Wesley around, I think overwhelmingly he would be proud of this group of devout Methodists who believe that head and heart go hand and hand, that faith is not at odds with good critical careful scholarship, and that God wants the renewal of our church.