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Discovering the Roots and Future of Methodism: Insights from Dr. Laceye Warner

Welcome to "New People, New Ways," a podcast dedicated to exploring innovative approaches to being church. We're excited to share fresh insights and inspiring stories that help us reimagine how we engage with faith and community. Enjoy this written summary of today's conversation, and for the complete experience, don't miss the full episode available via the video or podcast links within this blog post.

Thank you for tuning in to New People // New Ways!

Today, we had the honor of speaking with the Reverend Dr. Laceye Warner, an esteemed scholar and leader in the United Methodist Church. Dr. Warner currently serves as the Executive Vice Dean and Associate Professor of the Practice of Evangelism and Methodist Studies at Duke University Divinity School.

Who is Dr. Laceye Warner?

Dr. Warner is a dynamic leader, educator, and author deeply embedded in the Methodist tradition. She describes herself as a child of God, a teacher, a preacher, a parent, and a spouse. She lives on a flower farm surrounded by a variety of animals, creating a rich and nurturing environment for her family and work. Dr. Warner’s dedication to her faith and her community is evident in her numerous roles and contributions to theological education.

The Inclusive Nature of Early Methodism

In her new book, "Knowing Who We Are," Dr. Warner delves into the inclusive nature of early Methodism. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, emphasized that Methodists are "friends to all." This principle was deeply rooted in Wesley's belief in God's grace and the acceptance of all people as beloved children of God. Dr. Warner highlights that this inclusive approach was a consistent theme throughout Wesley's ministry and writings.

However, she acknowledges that Methodism, like any movement, has not always perfectly lived up to these ideals. The beauty of Christianity and the Wesleyan movement, according to Dr. Warner, lies in the ability to always return to these core values of grace and acceptance, despite the imperfections and failures along the way.

Fresh Expressions and the Wesleyan Tradition

Dr. Warner draws parallels between the early Methodist movement and the contemporary Fresh Expressions initiative. Both emphasize going out into the world, creating church in new spaces, and building communities where people feel accepted and loved. Fresh Expressions encourages a missional approach, meeting people where they are and embodying God's grace in diverse and innovative ways.

One compelling story Dr. Warner shared involved a Bible study she led in a bar in rural Texas. This unconventional setting became a space for profound spiritual growth and healing, demonstrating the power of meeting people in their everyday environments and addressing their real-life struggles with grace and compassion.

Holy Tenacity: Embracing Risk and Innovation

A key concept in Dr. Warner's work is "holy tenacity," which she describes as a relentless pursuit of God's mission, even when it involves breaking with tradition and taking risks. This tenacity is exemplified in Wesley's own ministry, where he preached to coal miners outside traditional church settings, driven by a deep commitment to reaching those in need of the gospel.

Dr. Warner encourages modern Methodists to embrace this holy tenacity, to be willing to step out of their comfort zones, and to experiment with new ways of being church. This involves a shift from institutional constraints towards a more fluid, responsive approach to ministry that prioritizes relationships and real-world impact.

Signs of Hope for the Church and Theological Education

Despite the challenges facing the church today, Dr. Warner remains hopeful. She sees signs of renewal and vitality in the willingness of people to let go of old structures and embrace new ways of being faithful. She believes that the future of the church lies in its ability to be agile, inclusive, and deeply rooted in the core principles of God's love and grace.

In theological education, Dr. Warner envisions a more interdisciplinary and practice-oriented approach. This involves integrating theological learning with other fields and focusing on the practical application of faith in everyday life. By doing so, theological education can better prepare future leaders to navigate the complexities of modern ministry and embody the inclusive, missional spirit of Methodism.


Dr. Laceye Warner's insights offer a compelling vision for the future of the church and theological education. By embracing the inclusive, missional heritage of early Methodism and cultivating holy tenacity, we can navigate the challenges of our time with grace and courage. Fresh Expressions, with its innovative approach to being church, embodies this spirit and offers a path forward for those seeking to live out their faith in new and meaningful ways.

To stay connected with Dr. Warner and her work, you can explore the latest developments at Duke University Divinity School and look out for her publications through Abingdon Press. For more on Fresh Expressions, visit Fresh Expressions Florida and follow us on social media.

Thank you for joining us on this episode of "New People, New Ways." If you enjoyed our conversation with Dr. Laceye Warner, please share it with a friend and continue exploring new ways of being church in your own community.

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