Event Date/Time: Mar 01, 2007 End Date/Time: Mar 03, 2007
Early Registration Date: Feb 01, 2007
Abstract Submission Date: Sep 01, 2006
Paper Submission Date: Feb 20, 2006
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Description

John Wesley’s perspectives on any particular subject are certainly a resource, perhaps even a normative guide to most topics of interest to this Society. We call ourselves Wesleyans for a reason, after all. And yet, some acknowledgment must be made of the fact that when it came to his explication of the concept of suffering, Wesley himself was lacking. It is one area where he was a much better practitioner than theologian. We can find in Wesley, particularly in his letters to women, a keen and insightful ability to offer wisdom and compassion in the midst of various forms of suffering. He was able to call for social reform to ease personal suffering in various forms. But his theology of suffering is less than ideal. For example, he stumbles through an explanation of natural disasters, he bizarrely overwrites the meaning of the simple words, “Jesus wept,” and he so downplays the suffering humanity of Christ that some have called him a practical monophysitist! The reality and nature of suffering is a place in Wesley where we would do well to continue the conversation and perhaps Wesleyanize him. Wesleyan perspectives on suffering certainly have much to offer other Christian traditions as well as “the world.”

Application to the scholarly disciplines represented here will hopefully find great opportunity for research, reflection, and creativity. There is much need for exegesis and interpretation of what the Bible expresses about suffering. A historical review of the nature of suffering in Christian thought seems more than appropriate, particularly when contrasted to the easy, painless Christianity often preached today. Theological ruminations could elicit papers going in many different directions, from the nature of God to sin; from ecclesiology to eschatology; from human free-will to the concept of providence, and others. Philosophical reflection has much to offer in terms wrestling with, for example, the problem of evil. And perhaps most pressing for this very existential theme are effective approaches as to how to address issues as wide reaching as hurricanes, world hunger, chronic pain, terminal illness, mental and physical disabilities, and various forms of neglect and abuse. How do we approach suffering pastorally and practically—globally and in our communities—as Wesleyans? Does our general acknowledgment that the problem of evil has no answer mean we have nothing to say or do?

The intent of this call for papers wishes to take the question in one other direction. It is hoped that while papers are being written with “random” suffering in mind, there will be some musing into the nature of voluntary suffering as well—papers that seriously examine the exhortation to associate with the sufferings of Christ, and that exhortation’s relationship to the call to holiness. What is the relationship between the “way of suffering” and the “way of holiness”? Do we even grasp the nature of Jesus Christ’s suffering with which we are associating ourselves? Has the consumer culture that often drives our churches consumed the relevance of the cost of discipleship? What is the place of the spiritual disciplines, works of piety, and works of mercy in a holistic understanding of the sanctified life? In what sense is denial of self and carrying our crosses a means of sanctifying grace? Do what are traditionally known as “ascetic” practices have a place in 21st century Christianity? Hopefully papers will emerge that address these questions and more.

We invite proposals for the 2007 WTS meeting of 250 words. That and brief biographical information will be due no later than September 1, 2006. See http://wesley.nnu.edu/wts for further details.

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We invite proposals for the 2007 WTS meeting of 250 words. That and brief biographical information will be due no later than September 1, 2006. See http://wesley.nnu.edu/wts for further details.