Sunday, December 28, 2008

Wesleys used bar tunes?

A music adviser for the United Methodist Church has set out to puncture the "myth" that John and Charles Wesley, the brothers regarded as the fathers of Methodism, based several of the most beloved hymns of Christendom on 18th-century tavern songs.

"There is a widespread misconception, and I heard it at conferences everywhere this summer, that the Wesleys used drinking songs," says Dean McIntyre, a music officer with the denomination's Board of Discipleship. "That is a myth. It just is not true." John and Charles Wesley, Anglican vicars whose preaching led to the founding of the Methodist Church in the late 1700s in England, wrote some of the most enduring hymns of the church, sung in churches of all Christian denominations. McIntyre, in a telephone interview from Nashville, says many Methodists today, inspired by the Wesleys' evangelism aimed at the common man, want to believe they sanctified boisterous and drunken tavern songs with new lyrics to save souls.

"Many have cherished the idea that the Wesleys were so evangelistic that they engaged in this practice," he says. He first wrote on the topic last year and sent out another memo to church music experts this month as the myth persisted.

"This idea is that tavern songs can be used to justify using popular music today as a way to reach people, which I have no problem with," McIntyre says. "But the tavern argument is a myth."

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