Groaning Methodists

My cyber-friend John Meunier, a UM pastor serving in Indiana, offered these historical insights recently:


‘Worship him by grunts and groans’

Virginia deist John Symmes was typical of many of the leading men of the American founding. Author Adam Jortner in his excellent book The Gods of Prophetstown recounts a letter from Symmes to his daughter Anna that captures the deist mood.

‘There be many modes of worshipping the Supreme God,’ he wrote Anna. These included Methodists, who ‘worship him by grunts and groans,’ while ‘Newlights, worship Him by screaming, clapping hands, crying hell fire and damnation, as loud as they can yell … But the best religion after all is to fear God and to do good.’

It was this grunting and groaning and fainting away that earned Wesley so many skeptics, too.
We certainly have changed a lot since then. These days, most of us United Methodists would probably side with the deist Symmes in casting aspersions on the worship of the grunting and groaning Methodists.

I suspect that Meunier is correct — the majority of Methodists today would view any worship that involved “groaning” as primitive at best; delusional at worst.

Which is why I appreciate those Methodists who view such phenomenon through the lens of Romans 8:26-27:

 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

Holy Spirit manifestation or Deist skepticism?

I know which one I’m choosing.