Amazon Description: Deepen your faith and enrich your life through this study of core Methodist beliefs. Written by popular seminary teachers, this book will connect you to the life and ministry of John Wesley, demonstrating relevance for the lives of Christians today as it offers an introductory examination of each.
Published in March 2013 with Abingdon Press
DAYTON, OH — In Spring 2013, Academic Dean Dr. David Watson and Dr. William Abraham published a tool for teaching what it means to be a Wesleyan Christian.
The idea behind Key United Methodist Beliefs (Abingdon 2013) started quite a few years ago, when Dr. Abraham, who currently is the Albert Cook Outler Professor of Wesley Studies at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX, was Dr. Watson’s teacher when he was in seminary at Perkins.
“I was 23 years old sitting in his evangelism class, and he kept talking about the need for catechesis within United Methodism because United Methodists don’t really have a good and standardized mechanism for teaching the basic elements of what it means to be a Wesleyan Christian,” Dr. Watson said.
The two remained friends and had multiple conversations about writing what became Key United Methodist Beliefs, but it never happened until they ran into each other at a conference and Dr. Watson suggested writing the catechism. Dr. Abraham agreed.
“So what we ended up writing was a 10-chapter account of what it means to be a Christian in the Wesleyan tradition,” Dr. Watson said. “Each chapter at the end has study questions and then what is properly called a catechism, which is a question-and-answer format for learning the Christian faith.”
To do their research, the two read many catechisms out of a variety of traditions — Calvanist, Catholic, Orthodox, Wesleyan — in the process
“Most of the catechism is taken out of The Book of Common Prayer, which is an episcopal and Anglican resource,” Dr. Watson said. “Wesley himself was deeply formed by The Book of Common Prayer, so we felt that that would be appropriate. We tried to bring together the connection between believing and living. Christians make these basic claims about God, such as God is the holy trinity or Jesus is the incarnate, the second person of the trinity. But what we wanted to get to was the ‘so what?’ for everyday life, how does believing change the way we live and help us to become a holier people?”
Once the two actually sat down to get into the heavy writing part of Key United Methodist Beliefs, it took Drs. Watson and Abraham six months. During the process, they talked on the phone and shared documents electronically. Dr. Watson said he could see the book being used in local churches.
“It could be used in a classroom, but its primary function is for the local church,” Dr. Watson said. “It’s for people who may be in interested in being a part of a faith community but don’t really know the basic beliefs of United Methodist Christianity. So they don’t know the jargon, they don’t know the lingo. And that’s more and more people these days.”
He noted the book is a way of teaching basic Christian faith through the lens of the Wesleyan tradition, a way to help with the re-teaching of the basic ideas.
“Part of the renewal of the church will involve a re-teaching of the people of the church the basic ideas of Christian faith, what’s most important for us to believe as Christians, but also how that makes a difference for the way in which we live,” Dr. Watson said. “That’s very important within the Wesleyan tradition, that our relationship with God and our beliefs about God changed the way we live as people. And these can’t be separated from one another.”
This was the first time Drs. Watson and Abraham wrote a book together, but they have previously written essays for each other’s books.
“I wrote in an essay in a book he helped edit, Canonical Theism, which Jason Vickers also helped edit,” Dr. Watson said. “And he wrote an essay in a book that I co-edited with Joel Green, Wesley, Wesleyans and Reading Bible as Scripture. The first essay I ever published, actually, was in that volume that Billy, Jason and Natalie Van Kirk edited, Canonical Theism. I wrote that when I was a graduate student.”
Dr. Watson complimented Dr. Abraham’s work and said he enjoyed writing the book with him.
“Billy Abraham is one of the best known theologians within the United Methodist Church,” Dr. Watson said. “He’s really very, very highly respected and widely regarded. He travels all over the world speaking engagements and evangelistic opportunities. So this was a great opportunity to work with someone that I have been close to for a long time and admire and who has taught me a lot.”
Key United Methodist Beliefs is available from Abingdon Press and at Cokesbury, as well as any Internet book retailer.