More than 200 scholars and theologians gathered on Asbury Theological Seminary’s campus for the 52nd annual Wesleyan Theological Society (WTS) meeting, March 3-4. This year’s theme was “The Church, The People of God,” with keynote speakers, Dr. Sondra Wheeler (Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington D.C.) and Dr. Phil Meadows (Nazarene Theological College, Manchester, UK).

An awards banquet was held, Friday, March 3, with the presidential address delivered by Dr. Scott Kisker.

Dr. Timothy Tennent, President of Asbury Theological Seminary received the 2017 Pastor-Preacher-Scholar Award. This award is granted on a periodical basis to note outstanding leaders in the Wesleyan/Holiness tradition. Dr. Steve O’Malley, John T. Seamands Professor of Methodist Holiness History, received this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award to honor career achievement in Wesleyan/Holiness Scholarship and service to the society.

Conference attendees discussed a variety of topics, including systematic theology, biblical studies, philosophy, missions, historical studies, pastoral theology, and pop culture.

“Wesleyanism and Methodism is a theology for the masses,” Steve Hoskins, Promotional Secretary for WTS and Associate Professor of Religion at Trevecca Nazarene University, said. “It’s a whosoever will theology. We’re trying to reach as many churches and Christian works, teachers and students as possible. We usually have about 30 institutions represented in a meeting like this from all over the world.”

Priscilla Pope-Levison, First Vice President of WTS and Associate Dean for External Programs and Professor of Ministerial Studies at Perkins School of Theology, joined WTS five years ago because of its commitment to helping the church strengthen and further its mission.

“It’s Wesleyan in the fullest sense of the word,” she said.

Although her academic field is in evangelism and church history, she developed her love of Wesleyan theology while conducting research at Asbury Seminary on the history of American women evangelists, particularly Wesleyan/holiness evangelist, Iva Durham Vennard.

“My passion for the Wesleyan family came about through uncovering these incredible women, who generations before I came on the scene were breaking all sorts of barriers that no one really knows about,” Pope-Levison said.

Pope-Levison presented a paper entitled Pentecost in the Churches: Women in the Pentecostal League of Prayer. Other papers presented included The Rest of Mercy and the Common Reception of Sabbath; A Young and Aging Church: The Intertwining of Ecclesia and Pop Culture Methodists, Millennials, and the Means of Grace; Wherever Two or Three Are Gathered: A Theology of Space and Transformational Learning; and Appreciative Inquiry: A Wesleyan Model for the Church’s Response to Domestic Violence. For a complete program listing, visit the WTS website.

Although theological opinions, even within the Wesleyan movement may differ, the conference is committed to civil discourse. Conference leaders invite a variety of opinions, but presenters and responders must follow a set tone and format in the discussions.

“If sanctified people can do that, it’s a moral witness to the world,” Hoskins said.

Asbury Seminary is one of the major and founding members of WTS. Dr. J.C. McPheeters, President of Asbury Seminary from 1942 to 1962, indicated on the WTS website that the Winona Lake conference “was perhaps the most significant event in our generation for the spread of Scriptural holiness.” The Winona Lake conference set the stage for what formally became the WTS in 1965.

The WTS is an international fellowship of scholars, pastors, friends and students that comes together annually to discuss the work of John Wesley and related topics. WTS meets on a college, seminary or university campus in order to afford students the opportunity to engage with the Wesleyan movement. The Society also publishes a scholarly journal twice a year and seeks to encourage scholarship among younger theologians, pastors and laity. The WTS annual meeting has been held at Asbury Seminary in 2003, 1989 and 1981.