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Researching political writings in Manchester

Researching John Wesley's Political Writings in Manchester


Associate Professor Glen O’Brien, Head of Theology at Booth College spent six weeks in the UK in 2015  as a Visiting Research Fellow at Nazarene Theological College, Manchester. During this time he had access to the world class collection of Methodist materials at the John Rylands Library within the University of Manchester. The focus of his research was John Wesley’s political writings including the completion of a book proposal and four draft chapters for consideration by Oxford University Press. Dr. O’Brien is an Honorary Fellow of the Manchester Wesley Research Centre (MWRC) and Booth College has a partnership with the MWRC through its membership in the Australasian Centre for Wesleyan Research. During his visit he presented a paper during the Annual NTC Research Seminar on ‘John Wesley’s Political Writings: A Global History Approach’

Wesley’s defence of the poor, his love of liberty, his admiration for the common sense of the ordinary person, and his stress on religious societies dedicated to self-improvement might suggest progressive politics. He was in fact a staunch political conservative with a passionate commitment to the principles of submission to the divinely instituted authority of the crown. Wesley lived at the very beginning of the age of revolutions during which movements for representative democracy would begin to radically reshape the world. In many ways his political views were backward looking. Submission to divinely-appointed systems of authority was expected and there was little encouragement to move upward through the ‘ranks’ of society. Everyone was expected to know their place. The new world that would open up in the nineteenth century, on the other hand, would be one of representative democracy – ‘people power’ – and we live today on the other side of those revolutionary impulses. We can admire Wesley’s compassionate response to slavery, his genuine concern and advocacy for the poor and his conviction that the nation that honoured God would be blessed. At the same time his perhaps naïve confidence in rulers and his opposition to any resistance to governments were features of his thought that many Methodists would leave behind in the more politically radical world of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Studying Wesley’s deeply Christian response to the challenges of his time can help us as we face the complex circumstances of our own.   

A highlight of the trip was spending each Monday night with former Booth College staff members Steve and Heidi Wright and their children. Steve is now Lecturer in Theology, and Heidi Registrar at NTC Manchester. Consultation with Wesley scholars such as Howard Snyder, Geordan Hammond, and Gareth Lloyd, as well as visiting researchers from around the globe, was a highly valued opportunity. Such research trips strengthen and develop our faculty and the quality of their publication output and place Booth College into valuable global networks of teaching and learning.  

To know more about Assoc Prof Glen O'Brien click HERE.