‘Hymns and Spiritual Songs: ecumenical in practice?’

Wycliffe Hall’s Inkling Scholar for Literature and Theology, Andrew J. Newell, has just had an article published in the eighty-second edition of Publishing History. The bi-annual journal is devoted to bibliographic studies – research into the socio-economic and material history of book, newspaper, and periodical publishing. Andrew gives a rundown of the substance of his article here:

When John Wesley published his second major hymn book in 1753, he gave it the title, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, Intended for the Use of Real Christians of all Denominations. In the introduction, Wesley explains his hope that this new hymnbook will cross lines of theological conflict and prove useful and useable to protestants of ‘all denominations’. This is a laudable aim; I wondered whether it was achieved. There are at least two ways to look at it: first, textual study, which will determine whether the textual content of the hymnbook is ecumenical; and, secondly, bibliographic study, which will determine whether the process by which the hymnbook was collated, printed, bound, and distributed impacted these ecumenical aims. In writing the article I chose to use the latter, and the short answer is that the distribution of the hymnbook did impact its ecumenical aims, so much so that Hymns and Spiritual Songs fell short of Wesley’s intentions. Not only that, but I argue that it actually served to strengthen the Methodist identity and separate Methodists from other Anglicans, and that this hymnbook ironically ended up indirectly contributing to their later split from the Church of England.

Andrew’s article, which is titled, ‘Hymns and Spiritual Songs: ecumenical in practice?’, can be found in the latest edition of Publishing History.