John Wesley vs. Edith Cavell

In the last battle of a full week, John Wesley takes on Edith Cavell. Will the Methodists among us rally the troops for the de facto founder of their denomination? Or will the compelling story of an English martyr carry the day?

In Thursday's action, upstart Maria Skobtsova soundly defeated Thomas à Kempis 74% to 26% to advance to the Saintly Sixteen where she'll face Quiteria. Thursday was also a big day for Lent Madness fans in Hannibal, Missouri, as an article titled Churchgoers Participate in Lent Madness Activity made the front page of the local paper, the Herald-Whig. Kudos to all the Lent Madness fans at Trinity Episcopal Church in Hannibal!

As we prepare to take a deep weekend breath, please do try to survive without voting on Saturday and Sunday. Symptoms of Lent Madness Withdrawal (LMW) are real and we encourage you to reach out to Lent Madness-playing friends and family to see you through this two-day wilderness. LMW support groups are forming in church basements everywhere. And fear not! We'll return bright and early Monday morning as Esther takes on Lazarus. Now go read and vote!

John Wesley

John WesleyThe impact on the religious landscape made by John Wesley is undeniable and far-reaching. John was an Anglican priest and theologian and the founder of the Methodist movement.

Born in 1703 in England, John was the son of a clergyman and the youngest of fifteen children, including his brother Charles, a well-known hymn writer and Anglican priest. At five years old, John survived near-death in a rectory fire—he was saved thanks to parishioners who formed a human ladder to rescue him. This event marked him for life.

He was highly educated and a graduate of Christ College, Oxford. At school, he prayed and studied scripture with his brother, Charles; their friend, George Whitefield, also a priest; and others in a group deemed “Methodists” because of their method of spiritual disciplines.

Ordained in 1728, he and Charles were sent in 1735 to Savannah, in what was then the British colony of Georgia. John did not fare well—there were personal issues and ineffective ministry. After two years, he returned to England in defeat. While onboard, through stormy waters, he befriended Moravians and took to their ways, which he found calming and Spirit-filled. John underwent a religious experience in 1738, in which he said his “heart strangely warmed.” He believed that God charged him with initiating a revival in the church. He parted ways with the Moravians and embarked on his own ministry. Along with Charles and George, John traveled the country, forming Christian groups and worshiping communities. The Methodist movement flourished.

He became a prolific preacher and writer, delivering an estimated 40,000 sermons in his life. John wrote or edited more than 400 publications on issues such as theology, music, prison reform, marriage, medicine, slavery, and politics. Some of his more famous works include Forty-Four Sermons, Notes on the New Testament, Thoughts Upon Slavery, and Collection of Psalms and Hymns, the first Anglican hymnal published in America.

Wesley died on March 2, 1791, at the age of eighty-seven. In 2002, John Wesley ranked number 50 in the BBC’s poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.

Collect for John Wesley
I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you, exalted for you, or brought low for you; let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing: I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal. And now, glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you are mine and I am yours. So be it. And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

-Neva Rae Fox

Edith Cavell

Edith CavellWhen Edith was a young girl in the late 1800s, she informed the bishop that her father’s church in Swardeston, near Norfolk, England, needed a room for the growing Sunday School. The bishop offered help—so long as Edith raised money as well. Edith and her sister began painting cards and raised some 300 pounds (about $30,000 in today’s funds), and she contacted the bishop. St. Mary’s, Swardeston, built the addition, and Sunday School classes thrived.

As an adult, Edith continued her life of service. Her early work as a governess in Belgium was interrupted when she returned home to Swardeston to nurse her father back to health. This experience led Edith to explore nursing, and she was eventually placed in charge of L’Ecole Belge d’Infirmieres Diplomees, a nursing school for women in Brussels.

World War I began, and Brussels was invaded. Edith was visiting family in England, but she immediately returned to Brussels. Realizing the danger for citizens and soldiers alike, Edith helped provide an underground escape route for those fleeing to the Netherlands. More than 200 soldiers escaped to safety. German military authorities discovered her acts. Edith confessed—which likely saved the lives of others who assisted her—and was sentenced to death.

As she awaited execution, the Germans allowed an Anglican priest to visit her. He recalls that in their final meeting, Edith received communion and prayed, expressing forgiveness toward her executioners. She said, “I thank God for this ten weeks’ quiet before the end. Life has always been hurried and full of difficulty. This time of rest has been a great mercy. But this I would say, standing as I do in view of God and eternity, I realize that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness toward anyone.”

Edith’s execution on October 12, 1915, horrified the world. Her grace stunned even her captors. After the war ended, Edith’s remains were exhumed, and she was reburied with great ceremony in a cemetery near her childhood home in Swardeston.

Edith believed that patriotism must be examined through love for our fellow humans and through the commandment of Christ to love and forgive without regard to nationality, ethnicity, or our own bitterness.

Collect for Edith Cavell
Holy God, in grace and mercy your Son asks us to love our enemies and forgive those who persecute us: Grant us the desire to follow the example of your servant Edith Cavell who, in your name, healed the wounded, guided those in danger to safety, and forgave those who persecuted her as she was sustained by your word and sacrament; through the name of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

-Laurie Brock

John Wesley vs. Edith Cavell

  • Edith Cavell (68%, 5,468 Votes)
  • John Wesley (32%, 2,533 Votes)

Total Voters: 8,001

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John Wesley: William Hamilton [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Edith Cavell: By Bain (Library of Congress) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


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251 comments on “John Wesley vs. Edith Cavell”

  1. Although inclined to vote for Edith Cavell, I must go with John Wesley. Not only for his overall massive impact on the faith, but especially for his staunch opposition to Calvinism/predestination. He refused to support the then-popular notion that some people are born to do well in life, and others are not; rather, he believed that every person was equally loved by God and free to make of life what they could. While far from a perfect example -- his trip to the American colonies was initially intended as an effort to convert Native Americans -- he became a fierce abolitionist. He was also a mystic who urged people toward inner spirituality. For these reasons, he has my vote.

    1. Yes! So often people remember only his organizational skills, forgetting that he worked tirelessley for the poor, the sick, and the uneducated. Of course, he was also #15 of 19 children, not the youngest of 15, brother Charles being #18. Maybe Susanna Wesley needs to be in the bracket next year.

  2. I knew of Edith Cavell from a biography I read as a child. As saintly as she was, I had to go for John Wesley who "lived and died a member of the Church of England," and tried to bring the church back to ministering to the marginalized.

  3. Edith. I now live just a short distance from her shrine at Norwich Cathedral! She was such a powerful witness to the faith. Wish I could show you the pic I have of her memorial statue outside the cathedral. There’s even a small bistro/bar named after her here.

    1. Oh. And one of the primary schools I shall be visiting regularly is also named after her. It is in my patch just a five minutes walk from me.

  4. I was on the fence until I read the last paragraph, "Edith believed that patriotism must be examined through love for our fellow humans and through the commandment of Christ to love and forgive without regard to nationality, ethnicity, or our own bitterness." We need alot more of this in our world today.

    1. Wow! What a powerful statement. Edith got my vote. Though as a former resident of Delaware, I would often drive past Barratt's Chapel (on Rte. 13 South of Dover, DE) dubbed by someone as the cradle of Methodism in the US.

  5. While I was captivated by Edith’s bravery and compassion, I voted for John because his impact on Anglicanism and Methodism is immense. It is easy to get swept away by the talents of our celebrity bloggers, and you have to remember that ALL the saints are seated around that enormous banquet table in heaven!

  6. This was a difficult decision for me as I am a graduate of Candler School of Theology at Emory University and have worked with children in both Methodist and Episcopal churches for the past 25 years. I have taught about John Wesley often and his life, his folly, his faith, his persistence has often inspired me. But in this time, when our country is so fractured, the model and mentor that Edith Cavell was, in service, sacrifice and tolerance got my vote.

    1. Why do I not know you, Ellen? I graduated from Candler in the 80s and have been doing Christian ed in Methodist and Episcopal churches in Atlanta all these years as well! Small world!

  7. Dear God do we need Edith Cavells right now! However, the Wesley collect is incredibly wonderful. Thanks to both the candidates and the two bio writers. Very well done.

  8. I thought I knew going in whom I would vote for, and learn about a new saintly figure in the process. Nope. This Methodist voted for Edith Cavell. We need her example right now.

  9. The last sentence in her bio did it for me: “patriotism must be examined through love for our fellow humans...” Couldn’t be more timely.

  10. Edith is a solid emotional example of commitment. On the other hand John spent his life, and gave his life unreservedly, to growing the Christian faith... helping others (perhaps an Edith?) into the new life. How would Edith have known that to forgive and to sacrifice were the ways forward, if not for those like John... who told them of Jesus?

  11. This one was the easiest for me. Edith wins. Our nation could benefit from her attitude towards others right now.

  12. I know of Edith Cavell because of a mountain named for her in the Canadian Rockies. A source of spiritual inspiration

  13. John Wesley gave us wisdom we can use in our time: "There is no personal holiness without social holiness."

  14. Learning about Edith and her capacity for forgiveness, even for her persecutors, is something we all need to hear and be reminded: to forgive all, regardless.

  15. Edith believed that patriotism must be examined through love for our fellow humans and through the commandment of Christ to love and forgive without regard to nationality, ethnicity, or our own bitterness.
    A message I need at this time!

  16. For as much as John Wesley did to spread the word, I felt Edith's actions said more and resonated more with me. I also had a difficult time believing that he gave more than 40,000 sermons in his life. He would have needed to give 2 sermons a day, every day from the time he was ordained until the day he died.

    1. But J. W. was a very busy person. If you count the sermons he gave to those who persecuted and threatened him, it's easy for me to believe that number!

  17. Edith - who gave up her life, so that others, including her co-conspirators could go free - gets my vote.

  18. Getting to learn about people like Edith Cavell is one of the great joys of Lent Madness.

    Thank you for highlighting her.

  19. A difficult one, but I must vote for Edith. She answered her calling to be a nurse. For nursing is a gift and a calling. She was a heroine and her ministry addresses the same issues we face in the USA Today.

  20. "Edith believed that patriotism must be examined through love for our fellow humans and through the commandment of Christ to love and forgive without regard to nationality, ethnicity, or our own bitterness." That did it for Edith for me. We need more Ediths in the world today.

  21. All honor to Edith for her grace and courage, but my vote today goes to one of my favorite Anglican theologians, John Wesley. I especially like his two sermons, "On a Catholic Spirit" and "The Nature of Enthusiasm."

  22. John Wesley's faith, and his training of lay preachers profoundly influenced the spread, and support of Christian communities in the developing years of the Canadian west. The Moravian encounter aboard ship gave him a maxim, from the Moravian leader "Throw your heart over the wall and the rest of you will follow" Wesley took this to mean that heart could persuade reason in matters of faith.

  23. Tough call. This was a close toss up for me, seeing as how both were very kind, religious people. If I could, I would go back and put in a vote for the person I didn't vote for.

  24. Edith Cavell was an ordinary woman who worked in God’s name and did what needed to be done in every circumstance. That is the true definition of sainthood. GO EDITH!!

  25. Shame on me... My thoughts went immediately to MYF vs EYC. Kissimmee, FL, in 1960s. MYF won hands down - more girls. Then my wife reminded me again to grow up.

    Edith, because of her direct impact to my parents generation and her example for me today.

  26. Does anyone else feel the shift? Celebration of those that simply trudge with grace, love and bravery with other human beings. Edith

    1. Agree! At this time and at all times, we do need to celebrate God's mercy and the love and bravery of our brothers and sisters in the Faith. The sacrifices made and remembered for our fellow humans ... what is a better purpose?

    2. Mary Jane,
      Indeed, my faith is strong, and I need no burning bushes to see God. I need to see that others can endure with faith and perseverance and do God's work. " I sing a song of the Saints of God, and I mean to be one , too"

  27. The collect for John Wesley had my finger poised on his “Vote” button, but, along with many others today, I realized that I need to have Edith Cavell as and example in this time and in this place.