Hope Born Out of History: Law and Grace
Robert Strawbridge was a man who practiced the power of the Spirit in action. Bishop Francis Asbury was a person who gave all for his faith. Their conflict over the rules of the Book of Discipline and how we live out our doctrine define us still. What do our denomination’s historic conflicts over law and grace have to teach us today?
Article: “Francis Asbury and Robert Strawbridge Reexamining their influence on, and relationship to, one another,” Rev. Dr. Emora Brannan explores the complex relationship between this “ impetuous, free-wheeling Irishman,” and the “staid, rule-abiding Englishman.”
Scripture: Galatians 2:6-10
Small Group Session Agenda
Hope of the World and Divine Creator: we gather in Your Name.
Thank You for all that You are and all that You’ve called us to be.
In our hearts, we answer Your call to be... [moment of silence].
Regardless of all that unites and/or divides us, You’ve called us together for such a time as this.
Heal us. Unite us. Speak to us. Guide us as we endeavor to be more like You.
Root us in Your power and let Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
In the Name of Jesus, we ask it all. Amen.
In the gift of this moment, we affirm that we are divinely loved and lovable.
We are the children of God.
Together, we will learn from the actions and words of one another.
Christ’s lessons on love are centered in how we treat others and in how we treat ourselves.
We will exercise courage in this study as we share stories of struggle and strength.
We will stay at the table and receive those stories with grace.
We will not be afraid to launch into the deep.
We will commit to the vulnerability necessary to allow God to break us open.
We will set and respect boundaries and honor confidentiality together.
When uncertainty arises, we will remember the Spirit of “peace that passes our own understanding” and can intercede for us.
We will remember that even when we don’t feel “United,”
The uniting love of Christ can reveal a pathway to greater
wisdom and mutual respect.
No matter what, there is a place for each one of us in this study together.
Let us hold each other up in prayer, hold each other accountable in love, and
trust that our God is making all things new.
Thank you for the gift of being present to one another in this holy time.
Video with John Strawbridge
John Strawbridge, a direct descendant of Robert Strawbridge, is a member of Lovely Lane UMC in Baltimore, and chair of the Conference Board of Trustees.
Head & Heart Discussion
- John Strawbridge said, “We need to leave our comfort and go where the conflict is. We need to show a divided world that we are not as different as we fear, because we all have the same spark of the Holy Breath in ” Share with us a time when your congregation modeled this idea.
- What can our denomination’s historic conflicts over law and grace teach us today?
- We tend to romanticize the past, and yet, as we are being reminded, our past has not always been perfect. How does our image of a “perfect church” prevent us from doing what is necessary today? As we think of the “perfect church,” perfect for whom?
BEYOND THIS SESSION
Prayer and Pathway to Journaling
Often, when we become reflexively resistant to what we’ve experienced through study, it is pointing towards an area worthy of more reflection and prayer. In this part of study, we invite you to examine your areas of resistance or struggle. Allow God to reveal how transformation can occur in those areas.
Use these open-ended questions to facilitate your journey from head to heart:
- What surprised you or caught your attention?
- How does the discussion we had apply to your life, your church, our denomination?
- Where is the Spirit revealing to you areas for growth and transformation?
- How does what we talked about transform your relationship with God and others?
- Write a prayer to ask for God’s support and enlightenment, which applies what you learned, and then go forth and live it.
- Timeline: “Robert Strawbridge and Francis Asbury,” explores some of the ministry highlights of these two Methodist icons.
- Book: The Strawbridge Shrine: Its Role in Methodist History and a Tour of the Site by M. Elizabeth Sansbury, a guidebook to the ministry and legacy of Robert Strawbridge.
- Interactive Experiences:
- Visit the Strawbridge Shrine. The Strawbridge Shrine is located at 2650 Strawbridge Lane in New Windsor, Maryland, 21776. To arrange a tour, call ahead to 410-635-2600, or email
- “The Faith Journey of Robert & Elizabeth Strawbridge: A Study Guide,” a discussion resource for small groups.
- “Reclaiming Evangelism,” Six webinars, each exploring a different facet of evangelism from Discipleship Ministries.
Law and Grace Family album