The Wesley Foundation Idea: a selective history
Fedje, Raymond Norman
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1. THE PROBLEM OF THE DISSERTATION The problem of this dissertation is to discover the origin of "The Wesley Foundation Idea," to trace its development, and to show how through "The Wesley Foundation Idea" The Methodist Church has expressed its concern for the students on the state university campus from the year 1886 to 1960. 2. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY The study shows how the early concept of religious student work by the Methodist Episcopal Church on three representative state campuses was the forerunner of the Wesley Foundation Movement in The Methodist Church today. The study points up those distinctive events within the organization of three early foundations, at the University of Michigan, the University of Illinois, and the University of Wisconsin, that had to do with the growth and the development of the foundation "Idea." It also provides the first reasonably comprehensive history of The Wesley Foundation Movement from its founding to 1960. 3. THE METHODOLOGY USED IN THIS STUDY The historical method of research is employed in this study. The primary, as well as the secondary, sources of historical information regarding the early beginnings of The Wesley Foundation Idea are used in writing the history. The procedure followed has been: a. Each of the three foundations that formed the basis for this study was visited. All available records, minutes of meetings, letters, local publications and historical records were critically examined. b. Interviews were held with some of the persons who are still living and who were on these campuses during the early years of the foundations. c. The Daily Christian Advocate, The Journal of the General Conference and The Doctrines and Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1900 - 1936 and The Doctrines and Discipline of The Methodist Church, 1940 - 1960 were examined, tracing legislation and subsequent action of the Church. The records of the General Board of Education on Wesley Foundations were also examined. 4. CONCLUSIONS First, "The Wesley Foundation Idea" started at the University of Michigan in 1886 under the name "The Wesleyan Guild." Second, the name "Wesley Foundation" was first officially used at the University of Illinois in 1913 under James c. Baker nearly thirteen years after student work was started at this campus. Third, The Methodist Church first recognized its responsibility to the students with the shift in attitude, (1916-1924) when it ceased to regard the state university as a "Godless institution." Fourth, lack of adequate financial support has plagued the Wesley Foundation since its inception in 1886. Not until 1956 did The Methodist Church undertake a major financial campaign supporting the Wesley Foundations. Fifth, the "campus minister" must be as thoroughly prepared in his own field as are his faculty and administrative counterparts. Sixth, the program emphasis has changed since the beginning of the "Idea" from one of providing a social center for the students to that of study and serious confrontation with the role of the Church and the Christians in the world today. Seventh, the students were frequently found to be ahead of the Church in such matters as social concern, social action, and ecumenical commitments. Eighth, the strength of "The Wesley Foundation Idea" has been in the linking of the resources of the larger church with the needs of the local campus. The Wesley Foundation Idea as originally conceived was too narrow. The shift from "following the students," to "being with the students," to the "total campus ministry" was a historical, philosophical and educational necessity. The ideal of the total campus ministry is as yet unfulfilled. However, "The Wesley Foundation Idea" is still emerging, involving continuing attention to the needs of the whole campus.
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RightsCopyright by RAYMOND NORMAN FEDJE 1964