Serving the Present Age: Revivalism, Progressivism, and the Methodist Tradition in Canada

by Phyllis D. Airhart

February 26, 1992 | Hardcover

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Essential to Methodist revivalism was the personal conversion experience, which constituted the basis of salvation and church membership. Revivalism, maintains Airhart, was a distinctive form of piety and socialization that was critical in helping Methodists define who they were, colouring their understanding of how religion was to be experienced, practised, articulated, and cultivated. This revivalist piety, even more than doctrine or policy, was the identifying mark of Methodism in the nineteenth century. But, during the late Victorian era, the Methodist presentation of the religious life underwent a transformation. By 1925, when the Methodist Church was incorporated into the United Church of Canada, its most prominent leaders were espousing an approach to piety that was essentially, and sometimes explicitly, non-revivalist. The Methodist approach to personal religion changed during this transition and, significantly, Methodists increasingly became identified with social Christianity -- although experience remained a key aspect of their theology. There was also a growing tendency to associate revivalism with fundamentalism, a new religious development that used the Methodist language of conversion but was unappealing to Canadian Methodists. Airhart portrays the tensions between tradition and innovation through stories of the men and women who struggled to revitalize religion in an age when conventional social assumptions and institutions were being challenged by the ideals of the progressive movement. Serving the Present Age is an account of Canadian Methodist participation in a realignment of North American Protestantism which supporters believed would better enable them, in the words of a well-known Wesley hymn, "to serve the present age."

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 232 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.98 in

Published: February 26, 1992

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0773508821

ISBN - 13: 9780773508828

Found in: History, Methodism

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Serving the Present Age: Revivalism, Progressivism, and the Methodist Tradition in Canada

by Phyllis D. Airhart

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 232 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.98 in

Published: February 26, 1992

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0773508821

ISBN - 13: 9780773508828

About the Book

During the nineteenth century, revivalism spurred the rapid growth of Methodism in Canada, helping to make it the largest Protestant denomination in the country at the time of Confederation. But, at the dawn of the new century, the revivalist and perfectionist ideals spawned by John Wesley came face to face with a changing world and the Methodist church underwent a pivotal transition. In her examination of this transition, Phyllis Airhart considers the key role Methodism played in the collapse of the nineteenth-century evangelical consensus and discusses the way in which the changes in Methodism decisively shaped twentieth-century mainstream Protestantism in Canada.

From the Publisher

Essential to Methodist revivalism was the personal conversion experience, which constituted the basis of salvation and church membership. Revivalism, maintains Airhart, was a distinctive form of piety and socialization that was critical in helping Methodists define who they were, colouring their understanding of how religion was to be experienced, practised, articulated, and cultivated. This revivalist piety, even more than doctrine or policy, was the identifying mark of Methodism in the nineteenth century. But, during the late Victorian era, the Methodist presentation of the religious life underwent a transformation. By 1925, when the Methodist Church was incorporated into the United Church of Canada, its most prominent leaders were espousing an approach to piety that was essentially, and sometimes explicitly, non-revivalist. The Methodist approach to personal religion changed during this transition and, significantly, Methodists increasingly became identified with social Christianity -- although experience remained a key aspect of their theology. There was also a growing tendency to associate revivalism with fundamentalism, a new religious development that used the Methodist language of conversion but was unappealing to Canadian Methodists. Airhart portrays the tensions between tradition and innovation through stories of the men and women who struggled to revitalize religion in an age when conventional social assumptions and institutions were being challenged by the ideals of the progressive movement. Serving the Present Age is an account of Canadian Methodist participation in a realignment of North American Protestantism which supporters believed would better enable them, in the words of a well-known Wesley hymn, "to serve the present age."

About the Author

Phyllis D. Airhart is an Associate Professor at Emmanuel College, University of Toronto."

Editorial Reviews

"This book will justifiably hold a seminal and pivotal position in the historiography of Canadian religious history. Tightly written, cogently and convincingly argued, this work develops its theme in a clear, logical exposition that is both enlightening and provocative." John S. Moir, Emeritus Professor of History, University of Toronto. "A beautifully written account of the first major transition in Canadian Methodist religious culture, Serving the Present Age merits close reading by every person interested in Canadian social and religious history ... apt and convincing." Timothy Smith, Department of History, Johns Hopkins University.
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