Our Providential Way - Methodism

The title, taken from a traditional hymn, introduces a book in the tradition of Sangster’s Methodism: Her Unfinished Task. Moore sets out in two parts the context of historic Methodism in his area. Part One narrates the evangelisation of Darlington by John Wesley and John Nelson including a narrative of the evangelical evolution at Darlington Bondgate Chapel, showing how Darlington Methodists today are still fulfilling their calling. Part Two develops the broader Methodist theological and evangelical context culminating in a call to examine the ‘Special Faith’, ‘Special Witness’ and ‘Special Mission’ of the early Darlington Methodists.

From my own early days in Darlington I can appreciate how Methodism there has had a variety of experiences. In the early 1960s I witnessed the Rev Kenneth Broadhurst's experiment in evangelistic outreach to ‘Teddy Boys’ with ‘Sunday Night At Eight’ at the local Majestic Ballroom adjacent to the Bondgate church. But this was criticised by some members who were of the opinion that the Teddy Boys should come to church first and by some evangelicals who thought the venture not sufficiently gospel-orientated!

In Part Two Moore calls on today’s Methodists to seek ‘Our Providential Way’. In Chapter 10, on Bible trustworthiness and forgiveness, he states ‘Wesley regarded himself as a Bible bigot and in all things great and small he preached old biblical Christianity’, reminding us that Wesley did not ignore biblical scholarship but regarded the Bible as the oracles of God. He asks ‘do you think Methodism has moved from its original stance? If so what can you do about it?’. Chapter 11 on assurance and evangelism suggests ‘you do not passionately proclaim that of which you are not quite certain’ and recalls that in 1938 Dr Henry Bett (The Spirit of Methodism) said ‘a present and personal certainty of religious experience’ was needed in Methodism, namely Christian assurance. The thesis is that only with an experience of assurance can we offer Christ to others.

Chapter 12, on holiness and citizenship, makes the point that the world wants evidence of changed lives and transformed communities, ‘In all, Jesus sees his mandate in broad terms as Pentecostal, Evangelistic, Social Action, Therapeutic and Prophetic’, reminding us of Wesley’s ‘no holiness but social holiness’. The final chapter is a simple guide on how to lead another to Christ.

Along with the Study Guide, in which Moore asks ‘How can we make today's church more bold in confessing and witnessing?’, the topics covered provide an excellent resource for evangelisation. I found reading Our Providential Way a challenge. Can the ‘providential way’ be retraced? The author believes it can and has offered a roadmap to help Methodism retrace its way. Some may feel that looking at the past profits nothing, but to do so is to declare that God cannot use the history of Methodism creatively to challenge and inspire the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, of which it is a part, to ‘serve the present age, its calling to fulfil’.


The Rev Philip A Clarke adds:L~

Harold Moore has written a compelling and detailed description of the growth of Methodism in Darlington. The book is not only a history but a useful guide to evangelism and the nature of evangelical belief. It is well illustrated and Harold’s passion for mission exudes through the whole text.

Whilst having particular interest to a locality, it does have a wider appeal and offers challenge and inspiration for the evangelistic task. It concludes with a helpful study guide.

Phil Clarke, formerly the Methodist Church’s Director of Evangelism at Cliff College, is Superintendent of the Darlington Circuit where Harold Moore lives.

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