On the Necessity of Potluck or Covered-Dish Suppers

28 Jun

This perhaps deserves publication on April 1, but for the same of general knowledge and preparation for the World Methodist Conference, here it goes on the feast of St Irenaeus of Lyons…

Sources: Scripture: Acts 2:42, 20:7, Jude 1:12. Wesleyan sources: John Wesley, “A Treatise upon the Godliness and Necessity of Potluck Suppers: Justified and Sanctified with Reference to Holy Scripture and Cullinary [sic] Experience” (1792; in Jackson, ed., Works, 15:393-405); Charles Wesley, Hymns of Pot Luck (1789). Doctrinal sources: Second Methodist Assembly of Reformed Transcendentalists (SMART), “Divinely Revealed Doctrine concerning Covered-Dish Suppers,” articles 325-654 (in particular). Ecumenical sources: World Council of Churches Faith and Order Commission, General Condemnation and Anathematization of Methodist Practices Involving Social Intercourse and Promiscuously Intermingled Entrées (Geneva: WCC, 1983). Secondary sources: Carlotta F. Pietister, The Meaning and Significance of the Pot-Luck or Covered-Dish Supper in Global Methodism: Compleat with Recipes (1978).

Although the quasi-sacramental celebration of potluck or “covered-dish” suppers has been roundly condemned by the ecumenical community (see the WCC statement referenced above, which followed immediately upon the publication of Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry), Wesleyan communities have doggedly persisted in the practice and in their historic insistence that salvation is not possible apart from active participation in such common meals. Even so, one must note that controversies have raged within the contexts of Wesleyan communities as to the precise requirements of the sacred meal. While it is generally agreed, for instance, that a covered-dish supper has no efficacy for salvation unless it includes a) some form of chicken, b) a three-bean marinated salad, and c) a potato salad, many interpreters have questioned, for example, whether the meal can have any salvific effect unless the potato salad is sprinkled with paprika. A further internal dispute has to do with the issue of whether a marinated salad with more or less than three types of beans constitutes trinitarian heresy.

Perhaps the most virulent of the on-going issues related to this practice has to do with British Methodists’ general reluctance to engage in the practice, wickedly disregarding the Wesleyan inheritance in this manner, placing the salvation of their own souls in peril, and effectively excommunicating themselves from the fellowship of other global Methodist communities. The World Methodist Council has established a Theological Study Commission to try to resolve the issue, but it is unlikely to come to any significant consensus apart from a general approbation of the practice and its associated theological and soteriological implications.

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Posted by on June 28, 2016 in Ted Campbell


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