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Education and United Methodism

Featured Education and United Methodism

Education has been part of the United Methodist concern since its earliest days.  Wesley wanted a religiously educated and well-informed community.  This did not necessarily mean that he was looking to establish schools and programs, but he did expect his followers to be well-read and reflective.  This is seen in his creation of the Christian Library which contained his edited  reprints of late medieval religious literature to contemporary religious literature.  Wesley was looking for a laity that would be able to assist and help manage the growth of his movement.  The classes and bands required, at their best, an educated set of leadership.  This concern would eventually lead to the establishment of schools.  In Wesley’s time it would be the Kingswood School.  In the United States it started and mis-fired with Cokesbury College, but it would not be long before a variety of church-related schools developed across the country.

There are a variety of collections which focus on education within the archives.   The most obvious being the Records of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. This agency focuses on the relationship between the denomination and its various educational institutions.   There are topics on the Wesley Foundation, Methodist Student Movement, and other types of campus ministry.  The Board was responsible for the development of Africa University and manages several educational grants and fellowships, including the Ministerial Education Fund.  

The Board also works with the United Methodist seminaries to establish best-practices and standards for ministerial education.  It manages the quadrennial publication of the United Methodist Studies: Basic Bibliography which presents a ground floor of important literature on United Methodism for our seminarians and graduate students.

The Board also works with our denomination’s historically black universities and colleges.  Many of the schools developed out of the work of the Freedmans’ Aid Society established by the church after the Civil War. 

 Another important resource is the Mission Photograph Albums.  The albums were created in the 1930s from images taken in the late 1910s through the 1920s.  There are eight large albums focusing the African American Methodist experience; called the Negro Albums. The albums show images of various schools and colleges started by the Society.  There are images of classroom, dorm life, plays, and sports - all the usual aspects of college life.
The Mission Albums also include images of schools, colleges, universities and seminaries in the U. S.; and around the world.  There are four specialized albums on Education which deal with church-related schools around the country and also with the Wesley Foundation institutions at non-church-related schools.   In addition there are two albums with Religious Education for the theme.  These two albums show images from local church life and the different types of religious education offered by the local church.

And of course we have a long history of educational endeavors around the world as well. All of the photo albums have images of church life, which include worshiping congregations, schools for children as well as colleges, but also hospitals and clinics and settlement houses where faithful individuals are learning and practicing their ministry of caring.

There are also records about schools and education in the Records of United Methodist Communication and in the Records of Mission Education

We have the papers of a number of educators as well.

Douglas Dutro Woodard Westfield College Collection:  The Douglas Dutro Woodard Westfield College Collection contains information on Westfield College, a school started by the Methodist Episcopal Church, and those who lived near or were associated with the institution

Mellony Turner Collection : Mellony Turner was a Methodist Church missionary to Bulgaria. This collection is made up of material relating to her work in Bulgaria and her family.

Papers of Edwin Lewis  : Edwin Lewis, American theologian, lecturer, author, and professor at Drew Theological Seminary from 1916 until his retirement in 1951. Lewis authored a number of books, including Jesus Christ and the Human Quest (1924), A Christian Manifesto ( 1934), the Creator and the Adversary (1948) and was senior editor of the popular Abingdon Bible Commentary (1930). he collection includes: book and article manuscripts, class lecture material, sermons, public lecture materials, correspondence, and biographical information. They primarily represent his work at Drew Theological Seminary.
Education has been a central part of our United Methodist heritage.    It is one of the ways that the church carries out its mission; a way to make leaders while nurturing the mind.

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Images in this article:  Drawing of Cokesbury Collge; Library at Cliflin University, Union Theological Serminary, now United; Wesley Foundation, Hays, Kansas.