Methodist Worship: Mediating the Wesleyan Liturgical Heritage, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Methodist Worship

Mediating the Wesleyan Liturgical Heritage, 1st Edition

By R. Matthew Sigler


238 pages

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pub: 2018-07-26
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What makes Methodist worship "Methodist" or "Wesleyan?" How do Methodists evaluate emerging forms of worship in light of their own liturgical heritage? This book considers these questions by bringing to light the work and significance of three Methodist liturgists who have until now received precious little scholarly focus: Thomas O. Summers (1812-1882), Nolan B. Harmon (1892-1993), and James F. White (1932-2004). Exploring each one’s contribution to the Methodist movement, it evaluates their continuing legacies as scholars and practitioners of Methodist worship.

Importantly, the work of all these men occurred during times of cultural change, which gave rise to new ways of worship within the landscape of American Methodism. Addressing them in chronological order, this study shows how each figure enacted liturgical reform and renewal by drawing from the liturgical textual tradition inherited directly from John Wesley’s Sunday Service of the Methodist in North America as well as the hymnody of Charles Wesley. It also demonstrates how they sought to inculturate the Wesleyan liturgical tradition in the midst of these significant changes.

Evaluating historic and emerging trends in Methodist liturgical praxis, this is a book that will be of great interest to scholars of Methodism, the History of Religion, Liturgical Studies and Theology.


"People are the primary liturgical document. So went the methodological argument of Methodist liturgical historian, James F. White. In this compelling work on Methodist worship, Matthew Sigler has proved the veracity of White’s claim by making White himself along with two other key shapers of Methodist worship, Thomas O. Summers and Bishop Nolan Harmon, the centerpiece for study. By looking at these three figures, Sigler has provided us with a defining work on the essence of Methodist worship."

- Lester Ruth, Duke Divinity School, USA

"The Methodist tradition is better known for its emphasis on personal piety and social action than for its corporate liturgy. Against this assumption Sigler convincingly argues for a sustained Methodist liturgical tradition, mediated in part by the three scholars on which his study is based. This book will remind Methodists and others of the need for a dynamic liturgical movement to underwrite the holiness which is at the heart of Wesleyan religion."

- Richard Clutterbuck, Wesley House, Cambridge, UK

"Overall, Methodist Worship is well written and accessible […] a welcome addition to this growing series from Routledge […] While liturgical scholars and church historians might be the primary readership for this book, there is much here that should stimulate pastors and others engaged in the leadership of worship within Methodism."

- Martin V. Clarke, Reading Religion

Table of Contents

Introduction: Form and Freedom; Distinction and Inculturation


Part I: Thomas Osmund Summers

1 The First American Methodist Liturgical Historian

2 Between the Extremes: Form and Freedom


Part II: Nolan Bailey Harmon

3 The Unlikely Liturgist

4 The Other Side of the Pendulum


Part III: James Floyd White

5 The Consummate Academic

6 Methodist Worship in a Pluralistic Age


Conclusion: Evaluating Emerging Forms

About the Author

Matthew Sigler is Assistant Professor of Wesleyan Studies and United Methodist Liaison at Seattle Pacific University, USA. He is particularly interested in how the faith practices of communities of the past can affect the church today and has published articles on these subjects in journals such as Worship and Liturgy.

About the Series

Routledge Methodist Studies Series

Editorial Board: Ted A. Campbell, David N. Hempton, Priscilla Pope-Levison, Martin Wellings and Karen B. Westerfield Tucker

Methodism remains one of the largest denominations in the USA and is growing in South America, Africa and Asia (especially in Korea and China). This series spans Methodist history and theology, exploring its success as a movement historically and in its global expansion. Books in the series will look particularly at features within Methodism which attract wide interest, including: the unique position of the Wesleys; the prominent role of women and minorities in Methodism; the interaction between Methodism and politics; the ‘Methodist conscience’ and its motivation for temperance and pacifist movements; the wide range of Pentecostal, holiness and evangelical movements; and the interaction of Methodism with different cultures.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Modern / 19th Century
HISTORY / Modern / 20th Century
HISTORY / Modern / 21st Century
RELIGION / General
RELIGION / History
RELIGION / Christianity / Methodist
RELIGION / Christian Rituals & Practice / Worship & Liturgy
RELIGION / Christian Theology / General
RELIGION / Theology
RELIGION / Christian Church / General
RELIGION / Christian Church / History
RELIGION / Christian Ministry / General