John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was born on June 17, 1703, according to the Julian Calendar, and in the Gregorian Calendar adopted in England in 1752, the date is June 28, 1703. On this special occasion, many churches, institutions, organizations, and other entities across the world are celebrating the 320th anniversary of his birthday (1703-2023). On this occasion, they have also reaffirmed the Wesleyan legacy and his emphasis on the centrality of grace.
Wesley was an important figure in 18th century England, and his ideas are deeply intertwined with important historical events such as the role of European colonialism, the advent of the British empire, the emergence of several freedom and labor movements, the critique of slavery by the abolitionist movement, defense of animal rights, and concern with environmental problems. Despite his individual shortcomings and the fact that he was active three centuries ago, John Wesley had a great impact on society in the United Kingdom and other parts of the world – especially because the United Kingdom included colonies in the Americas, Africa, and Asia. His goal was to transform the world and his ideas are very influential today.
As the world celebrates John Wesley’s birthday, many Wesleyan scholars also recognize in hindsight that there is a need to adapt and implement his legacy to the new conditions of the 21st century. Reflecting on the challenges and opportunities presented to Methodism today, two general agencies of the United Methodist Church joined forces to celebrate this day. Their respective General Secretaries, Greg Bergquist (GBHEM) and Roland Fernandes (Global Ministries) vowed to collaborate and uphold the spirit of the movement created by Wesley.
The General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) and the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) issued a statement, A Season for Renewal and a Joint Commitment in which they commit themselves to engage more directly in the task of affirming the Wesley legacy, reinterpreting it, and implementing it more boldly in their theological, missional, and educational work. To read their statement and find more information on their work and projects, visit their websites: www.gbhem.org and www.umcmission.org.