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Spiritual Literacy in John Wesley's Methodism
Reading, Writing, and Speaking to Believe

By Vicki Tolar Burton

Spiritual Literacy in John Wesley's Methodism
Hardback, 408 pages $49.95
Published: 14th July 2008
ISBN: 9781602580237
Format: 9in x 6in

Subjects: All Religious Studies, All Theology, Historical Theology

Vicki Tolar Burton argues that John Wesley wanted to make ordinary Methodist men and women readers, writers, and public speakers because he understood the powerful role of language for spiritual formation. His understanding came from his own family and education, from his personal spiritual practices and experiences, and from the evidence he saw in the lives of his followers. By examining the intersections of literacy, rhetoric, and spirituality as they occurred in early British Methodism-and by exploring the meaning of these practices for class and gender-the author provides a new understanding of the method of Methodism.





1. Introduction: John Wesley and the Rhetorical and Literacy Practices of Early Methodism

2. John Wesley’s Literacy Genealogy: Parental Patterns and Practices

3. Writing to Believe: Diaries and Journals as Spiritual Literacy

4. Speaking to Believe: Literacy and Rhetorical Practices of Traveling Preachers

5. Walking in Light, Walking in Darkness: Methodist Women’s Changing Rhetorical Space

6. The Mystic and the Methodists: Account of the Experience of Hester Ann Rogers

7. Reading to Believe: John Wesley’s Book Inventory (1791)

8. Climbing Boys and Spinning Girls: School on Sunday for Laboring Children

Conclusion: The Witness of Their Own Spirits


Appendix A: Samuel Bradburn’s Rules for Preaching                                              

Appendix B: John Wesley’s Book Inventory                                                            

Compiled at the Time of His Death (1791)




Through close examination of primary sources, Tolar Burton offers a rich account of leading Methodist women such as Sarah Crosby, Mary Fletcher and Hester Ann Rogers.... Historians of early Methodism should regard her study as essential reading.

—Barry W. Hamilton, Northeastern Seminary

Here is the counter history to the elitist rhetoric of Hugh Blair and George Campbell. Vicki Tolar Burton’s close reading of the actual day-to-day texts of early Methodism’s founder and followers expands our knowledge of how a democratizing rhetoric gave cultural voice to women and to working class men in early Methodism.

—Robert Stephen Reid, Communication Department Chair, University of Dubuque

Spiritual Literacy illumines an underappreciated aspect of the Methodist movement—John Wesley’s concern for the literary abilities of ordinary citizens.

—Randy L. Maddox, Professor of Theology and Wesleyan Studies, Duke University Divinity School

Vicki Tolar Burton (Ph.D. Auburn University) is Associate Professor of English and Director, Writing Intensive Curriculum, Oregon State University.

Publication Details:

 Hardback , 408 pages
 9in x 6in

  HIS037050, LAN015000, REL044000
 Baylor University Press

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