Two things happened last week that quickly became related in my mind.
First, I finished my course entitled “The World and Writings of John Wesley” by looking at what happened in subsequent generations after the death of John Wesley. The story has some highs – such as widespread nineteenth century revivals or the globalization of Methodism in the twentieth century. It also has some lows – such as the demise of Methodism in the West. And I used some commentary by David Hempton to provide some analysis, especially of the lows.
Second, I started reading about the 2021 Canadian census results that portrayed a continuation of the decline of Christianity in Canada. Brian Clarke and Stuart Macdonald have previously noted that decline, and the most recent census simply reinforces that narrative of downward trajectory.
What linked the two things in my mind was the reality of a downward spiral of a once vibrant faith. The post-Christendom reality of the Western world has been readily identified by a host of scholars and has been lamented by the faithful who sit in empty pews on Sunday.
So what went wrong?
[Editor’s note: The above is part of a post originally posted on gordonlheath.com. To view the post in its entirety, visit: The Decline of Methodism, the Rise of Christendom, and Agency]