Across Thirty Years:
a Short History of the Fundamental Wesleyan Society
Dr. Vic Reasoner
THE ARMINIAN MAGAZINE. Issue 1. Spring 2013. Volume 31.
Date Posted July 4, 2013
In 1979 the Fundamental Wesleyan Convention was organized in Christiansburg, Virginia under the name "Wesleyan Ministers Association." Robert Brush was the evangelist at a camp meeting there hosted by Homer Sawyer. Elmer Long acted as chairman and Homer Sawyer was the secretary. This resolution and statement of faith was adopted and signed by Elmer Long, Vinton H. Quesenberry, James M. Shope, Joseph W. Stewart, Arnold A. Van Horn, E. Norman Brush, Donald P. Winter, Robert L. Brush, J. D. McDonald, L. W. Ruth, Kendle A. Price, D. G. Jackson, Eugene Winter, Homer D. Sawyer, Roger D. Pack, and Lloyd Terpenning.
WHEREAS there has been among second-blessing holiness churches a serious deviation from the scriptural teaching developed by John Wesley and early Methodist writers, and
WHEREAS this has led to a shallow preaching of the new birth and consequently, a confusion has developed concerning Christian experience that is quite distressing, and
WHEREAS this unscriptural teaching has led many to profess salvation without victory over the power of sin nor a direct witness of the Holy Spirit; and others to profess entire sanctification without being made perfect in love, and
WHEREAS we, a group of concerned Christian ministers, seeing a need for a fellowship that will teach and promote scriptural holiness as taught by John Wesley and the early Methodists, do hereby pledge our prayers and help to each other, and adopt the following Statement of Faith.
WE BELIEVE there is but one living and true God, everlasting, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness. And in unity of this Godhead there are three persons of one substance, power, and eternity - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; the Holy Ghost being one, is the same as the Spirit of God or Spirit of Christ, these being simply different expressions for the Holy Ghost (Ephesians 3:4-6; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; 12:14).
WE BELIEVE in the plenary, verbal inspiration of the Scriptures; that the Scriptures are inerrant, infallible, and correct even when they speak on points of history, science and philosophy; that they are the sole and final authority in faith and practice.
WE BELIEVE that all men are born totally depraved; that they are unable to do anything acceptable to God without the help of the Holy Spirit; that all men need to be born again and that this is the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart. The entrance into this experience is initiated by the baptism of the Holy Ghost, whereby the believer is delivered from the guilt and power of sin (1 Corinthians 12:13; Romans 5:5; Titus, 3:5-7; Acts 2:38).
WE BELIEVE that there is yet in the believer the "remains of sin" even after he has been born of the Spirit; and that he may be cleansed from this by the work of the Spirit in his heart as a second work of grace, whereby the believer is perfected in love (1 Thessalonians 5:23; Ephesians 3:19; Hebrews 6:1; 2 Corinthians 13:9; Matthew 4:48; 1 John 4:18; Romans 6:6.
WE BELIEVE justification and entire sanctification are works of the Holy Spirit wrought in the heart by grace through faith.
WE BELIEVE further that this faith is a gift of God given to all who truly repent and hunger and thirst after righteousness (2 Peter 1:3; Colossians 2:12; Galatians 2:16, 20; Ephesians 2:8; Hebrews 11:1), and that this saving faith is always accompanied by the witness of the Spirit (1 John 5:10; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Romans 8:15-16; Hebrews 10:22.
WE BELIEVE that all of life is a state of probation and that there is no state of grace from which we may not fall.
WE BELIEVE in the second coming of Christ, the resurrection of the dead and the judgment of all mankind at the last day; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life; they that done evil unto the resurrection of damnation (John 5:29).
WE BELIEVE that the Church is the sole institution that God has left upon the earth to preach and teach salvation by grace through faith to a lost world, and that we are to labor with the hope that God will answer the prayer that he taught us to pray (Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven) by the preaching of the gospel; and that the only hope of redemption of a lost world is the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Elmer Long had been discipled by A. J. Smith. I tell Dr. Smith's story in Holy Living, 2:623-626. Smith wrote that he had seen four powerful revivals, but in each case the Spirit was grieved away and never returned because those who grieved the Spirit did not repent.
While Smith did not have access to all the primary Methodist writings, he did read enough and pray enough to realize the status quo holiness movement was in error. In 1947 Elmer Long stood trial for teaching that all believers had the Holy Spirit. In 1948 Smith and Long published a tract, "The Holy Spirit and the Born-Again Man." The tract was simply a compilation of what early Methodist authorities taught about the Holy Spirit in the lives of those who were regenerated.
The tract generated a backlash from those who taught that one did not receive the Holy Spirit until they received the "second blessing." Dr. Smith was forced to retract his position in 1951. However, he continued his research and in 1953 published his final work Bible Holiness, which we reprinted in 1997. Dr. Smith died in 1960.
However, in 1958 Zondervan reprinted the Works of John Wesley. Men like Norman and Robert Brush in Florida had experienced a genuine new birth. They also started reading Wesley and saw that the holiness movement had departed from Wesley's teachings. They began to preach that the new birth was accomplished through the baptism with the Holy Spirit, that it produced victory over sin, and that it was confirmed by the direct witness of the Holy Spirit.
And so in 1979 they attempted to form a platform that would at least give them a hearing, if not equal time. There was a backlash from the Inter-Church Holiness Convention. We lost our first chairman when he was offered a position at Hobe Sound Bible Church if he would resign.
The next year there was a convention in Crab Orchard, West Virginia, hosted by Pastor Robert Brush. I attended that second convention and was stirred by what I heard. When I was approached by the new organization about becoming the editor of their magazine, the Home Missions Board of my denomination advised me not to accept the position in December 1981.
I was aware that the Fundamental Wesleyan position was misunderstood and attempted to defend it in a master's thesis I wrote. I was aware that in the early 1970s there was an academic debate over some of the same issues within the Wesleyan Theological Society. While one of these scholars described the whole debate as "merely academic, of small profit, and rather boring," our men felt they had discovered what was lacking in evangelical Christianity.
I was transparent about my convictions when I was examined prior to ordination in June 1981. I was told that nothing I held would prevent me from ordination. However, when I returned to my alma mater in 1988 they would not hire me to teach because of my views. We published my thesis under the title The Hole in the Holiness Movement in 1991. It was attacked in the Jan/Feb 1993 issue of The Convention Herald, published by the Inter-Church Holiness Convention.
Marion Brown was the treasurer of another conservative holiness denomination. But he went to Alabama to hold a revival for Robert Brush and together they read Wesley's sermons. By the end of the meeting Rev. Brown had a paradigm shift theologically and was born again. He invited Rev. Brush to come to Indiana to hold a revival at his church. On some nights Brush simply took the old Methodist standards into the pulpit and read them to the congregation. The opposition was so hot that a trial was set for Brown. Rather than endure any more controversy, Brown resigned. He started a congregation in his garage and began to fill the pulpit for a Free Methodist congregation in Eldorado, Illinois. A certain holiness denomination was in severe need of pastors and a friend suggested to their DS that he ought to contact Brown. The reply of the DS was, "He'll never pastor on my district."
The founders of the Fundamental Wesleyan Convention believed that if the conservative holiness movement was shown the truth they would embrace it. They believed if they preached Methodist doctrine they could see a Methodist revival. Instead they were all ostracized.
(to be continued)