Rule of Life

October 4th is the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, a Christian man of distinguished personal holiness who founded a spiritual movement (the Franciscan Order) of individuals radically committed to pursuing holiness together through simplicity of life. Anyone interested in the re-emergence of monasticism and the classic religious orders within the Reformational Churches will want to check out The Society of St Francis, which is basically the Franciscan Order within the Anglican Communion.

Check out the "Rule of Life" of the Society of St. Francis, available HERE.

Upon reading through their Rule of Life the Wesleyan Christian may be struck by its similarity at some points to The General Rules of the early Methodist societies. And why not? After all, John Wesley was also a Christian man of distinguished personal holiness who founded a spiritual movement (Methodism) of individuals radically committed to pursuing holiness together. Perhaps one day when all the Churches get back together in One, what were once separate churches will come to be "religious orders" or "spiritual traditions" within the one catholic Church. Along side Franciscans and Dominicans will be Methodists and Lutherans - but Christian disciples all.

The similarity of the early Methodist revival to a "catholic religious order" within Anglicanism has also been noted by some Anglican commentators. Check out this fascinating post on the Wesleyan General Rules and their similar function within the Church of England to the Rules of St. Francis and St. Benedict within the broader catholic Church.

While reflecting upon the Society of St. Francis' Rule of Life and its similarity to the Wesleyan General Rules, I typed up an update of the General Rules to serve as a Wesleyan Rule of Life for the contemporary Christian. I am a member of The Order of St. Luke myself and this update of the General Rules is my attempt to make specific what living by the Rule of Life of The Order of St. Luke looks like for me since the Order's rule is a bit vague in my opinion. This Wesleyan Rule of Life could (like the original General Rules) be used for covenant/accountability small groups or even neo-monastic communities:

A General Rule of Life in the Wesleyan Tradition

As Christians seeking to flee from sin, to work out our own salvation, and to carry our cross and follow our Lord Jesus in a life of holiness and love, we commit to:

-Doing no harm of any kind to ourselves, our neighbors, or any part of God's creation; avoiding all those evils that God's moral commandments prohibit

-Serving and doing good to others, as often and as far as we may

-Participating in weekly public worship, and upholding the classic and established liturgy of the church

-Studying the Scriptures, and regularly listening to sermons and reading spiritual books that illuminate the meaning of the Holy Scriptures

-Frequently receiving the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper; ideally the sacrament will be received at least weekly

-Continuing in daily prayer: making use of the Daily Office [from Wesley's Sunday Service Book, or The Book of Common Prayer, or The United Methodist Book of Worship, or a similar guide], also turning to God in private prayer throughout the day and praying with family

-Reading from the Holy Bible prayerfully for devotion and spiritual growth each day

-Observing regular periods of fasting or abstinence from food or other things (preferably one day a week, such as Friday)

-Engaging regularly in Sabbath rest and in Quiet Stillness, at least weekly (abstinence from busy-ness)

-Making a spiritual retreat or pilgrimage at least once per year (abstinence from our usual activities)

--Based upon the Methodist “General Rules”

Notes (based upon the specific examples given with Wesley's "General Rules," these are some contemporary suggestions of how we might "flesh out" Doing No Harm, and Doing Good):

Specifically, Doing no harm would include avoiding these practices and others like them:
-dishonoring the name of God or the Church of God
-becoming entangled in unsustainable or unfair financial practices
-sexual immorality of any kind (adultery, fornication, pornography, etc)
-buying products made by slave labor or in sweatshops
-uncharitable or unprofitable conversation; speaking evil of others, including government or church leaders
-doing to others what we would not have them do to us
-ostentatious and materialistic clothing, lifestyle, etc.
-entertainments, books, movies, music, that are not compatible with growth in the love of God
-needless self-indulgence
-laying up treasure on earth

Doing good would include taking on these practices among others:
-to their bodies: feeding the hungry; clothing the naked; visiting or helping the sick or imprisoned
-to their minds and spirits: instructing and exhorting others in truth and goodness, sharing beauty
-doing good to other Christian believers, helping them to get along in the world
-living in simplicity as a witness to Christ's Kingdom

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post.

6:21 PM, October 10, 2010  

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