Social Justice in the Wesleyan Tradition

By Rev. Lance Schmitz

Dr. Phineas F. Bresee (1838-1915) is considered by many to be the primary architect of the formation of the International Church of the Nazarene. For many years he served as a Methodist minister but, due to his public conviction about the importance of "holiness" and "entire sanctification" to doctrine, was eased out of denominational responsibility. Subsequently, he formed the First Church of the Nazarene in downtown Los Angeles, which became a primary expression of a growing movement of Wesleyan renewal that now encompasses over 12,000 congregations in almost 140 nations. Here are some quotes from Dr. Bresee about social justice.

The Poor. "The first miracle after the baptism of the Holy Ghost was wroughtly upon a beggar. It means that the first service of a Holy Ghost-baptized church is to the poor; that its ministry is to those who are lowest down; that its gifts are for those who need them the most. As the Spirit was upon Jesus to preach the gospel to the poor, so His Spirit is upon His servants for the same purpose."

"We can get along without rich people, but not without preaching the gospel to the poor." "We want pastors who will go out and find the poor that nobody else cares for." "His heart was to throb in deepest sympathy and love for the poor of the earth."

"The evidence of the presence of Jesus in our midst is that we bear the gospel, primarily, to the poor. This must be genuine; it is more than sentiment; it cannot be stimulated nor successfully imitated."

"We are poor - yes, and I trust the Lord will keep us poor. Anybody who can make money and get rich is not fit to be a Pentecostal Nazarene. If a man is worthy of the cause, he will pour his money out."

"In reference to the poor; the Lord has told us to do good unto all men as we have opportunity, especially to those of the household of faith."

"That a people are poor and weak and despised, is no shadow to dim their hope. If they have God's gift of the Holy Spirit, there is nothing to which He calls but that they may do."

Politics "I have said that there is a political side to the Christian life...Righteousness is as deep as hell and as high as heaven. A man's vote or a woman's political influence is for God or against Him, on the great questions which go to the bottom of things."

Christian Service. "Greatness in His kingdom is not according to worldly thought. That here, up is down, greatness is service, to be chief is to be slave. That a man cannot be great here until he ceases to have any desire to be great. Great here is a gewgaw, a throne, a bauble."

And a poem by John Wesley. . .

Do all the good you can, to all the people you can,

at all the times you can, in all the ways you can,

by all the means you can, as long as ever you can.

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