Beginnings of the Wesley Heritage Foundation
Beginning in June 1989, wide consultation was undertaken to address the urgent need for the Works of Wesley in the Spanish language. In August 1990 the Wesley Heritage Foundation, Inc. (WHF) was chartered in North Carolina as the legal and financial vehicle through which the urgent need could be met by translating, publishing and distributing a scholarly edition of the Work of Wesley in Spanish (Obras de Wesley). In this same year WHF received 501(c)(3) status as a non-profit.
L. Elbert and Lois Wethington
L. Elbert & Lois Wethington were primary founders of WHF, along with their son, Mark W. Wethington. Elbert and Lois devoted much of their retirement years to giving leadership to its ministry from 1990 – 2015, with Elbert serving as the first President of WHF. Elbert (Wake Forest University, BA; Duke University BD, Ph.D.) served with his wife, Lois Ruppenthal Wethington (Duke University BA), from 1954 – 1963 as Methodist missionaries in the Philippines under the Board of Missions of the Methodist Church. While in the Philippines, Dr. Wethington taught Theology at the Union Theological Seminary in Manila and assisted with the formation of a new congregation. During these years, Lois was active with the Methodist Women of the Philippines, with lay teaching, and with the raising of three children. Upon their return to the United States in 1963, Elbert taught in the Department of Religion at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pennsylvania, where he chaired the Department for twenty years, retiring in 1983. Soon after this first retirement, Elbert was encouraged by his family to guide the Wesley Heritage Project, the translation, publication and distribution of Obras de Wesley, which he did from his office in Durham, North Carolina, for twenty-five years. He retired as the first President of the Foundation in 2005. Sadly, Elbert died on March 3, 2019 after a few years of declining health due to Alzheimer’s. He was 96 years old and maintained a strong interest in and support of WHF even throughout his last year of life. His widow, and co-founder of WHF, Lois, continues to live in North Carolina and supports the ministry of WHF in various ways.
Dr. Mark W. Wethington,
President of Wesley Heritage Foundation Mark W. Wethington (American University BA; Duke University M.Div, Ph.D. with Ph.D. studies at Bonn University, Germany) served for twenty-eight years as a United Methodist local pastor in the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church. During part of this time he also served as adjunct faculty with the Duke Divinity School teaching in the area of Wesley studies and Biblical studies.
He has led seminars in Wesleyan theology among Methodists in Latin America, and was instrumental in establishing a covenant church relationship between the North Carolina Conference and the Iglesia Metodista del Peru.
With a lifetime of commitment to the Wesleyan tradition, during his pastoral ministry Dr. Wethington had a strong history in the establishing of community non-profits to serve the poor and underserved, including the establishing of an ecumenical program for homeless families and a free medical clinic.
Upon the retirement of his father as President of WHF in 2005, Mark became the second President of the Foundation.
Mark is married to Beth Biely Wethington who partners with her husband in this ministry. Beth has been instrumental as a member of the Board of Directors, serving as both Secretary and Treasurer. The Wethingtons live in North Carolina, although they are frequently in Latin America. They have 6 children and 4 grandchildren.
The Obras de Wesley
In its inception, in late 1990, WHF committed itself to the financing and administration of its first major project (Obras de Wesley) developed by an international design team of ecumenical church leaders and Latino/a and Anglo scholars rooted in the Wesleyan tradition. Obras de Wesley was a 10-year project consisting of 14 volumes, including John Wesley’s sermons, journals and letters, the Notes Upon the Old and New Testaments, hymns of Charles Wesley, and many of the major treatises. With Professor Justo Gonzalez, Ph.D., as the General Editor, seventeen Latino scholars participated in the translation of the Works of Wesley (using the Bicentennial Edition in English). Since the production of the 14-volume set was completed, Obras de Wesley has been widely distributed and subsidized by WHF, especially among the family of churches with roots in the Wesleyan tradition, throughout the Americas as well as in Spain. Many local churches in the United States, along with national church boards and agencies and individuals, have been sponsors of numerous sets that have found their way into the studies, homes, libraries, district offices and seminaries of Wesleyan people throughout the Americas. In June 2002 a study guide, Guia de Estudio, was published by WHF to assist persons in the use of Obras de Wesley.
Today, Obras de Wesley editions include CD-ROM, Kindle, free downloads (from this website and also from www.iew-la.org), and a new economical paperback edition of the Sermons entitled Sermones de Juan Wesley (Tomo I and II). In addition, WHF, along with its sister ministry, Instituto de Estudios Wesleyanos – Latinoamérica (IEW), is publishing two more volumes of sermons of John Wesley (Tomo III and IV), sermons which have never before been translated into Spanish (both volumes to be released in 2020).
WHF in Latin America & Beyond
In 2014, WHF developed a seminary program in Lima, Peru, called Comunidad Teologica del Peru (CTP). It was started as a residential program, however, as part of that program we also developed a global online program of theological education. The seminary achieved accreditation from the Peru Ministry of Education and was one of only a few fully accredited programs in Latin America, and the only one accredited by the standards of UNESCO. Because the maintaining of such programs required tremendous resources and human energy, in 2017 WHF sold CTP to the Church of God of Prophecy in Peru. The Board of Directors of WHF made the difficult decision of streamlining its ministry to the development/translation/publication of new resources of the Wesleyan tradition.
In 2015, WHF developed the Institute for Wesley Studies – Latin America, in Lima, Peru in order to have an active mission within Latin America itself. WHF, along with this sister ministry, the Instituto de Estudios Wesleyanos – Latinoamérica (www.iew-la.org) , have been engaged in the translation and publication of new resources in the Wesleyan tradition. Together we have translated and published the sermons of John Wesley in Quechua, a primary language of the Andean region of South America. We have also translated into Spanish and published other resources of the Wesleyan tradition which can be viewed by clicking on “Resources & Publications” in this website. These resources include El Yugo de la Obediencia (a volume by Dennis Campbell on ordination in the Methodist tradition), El Metodista Pregunta, El Metodista Responde (Questions and answers related to Methodism by Belton Joyner), Los Himnos de Carlos Wesley (the hymns of Charles Wesley translated into Spanish with commentary by ST Kimbrough), Wesley for Armchair Theologians (by William Abraham), and Wesley’s Treatise on Baptism with commentary.
In 2017, the office of IEW was moved to San José, Costa Rica. ‘LA’ was dropped off of the Institute’s name in order to be inclusive of all of the Americas as well as Spain. WHF and IEW have received increased interest and communication, as well as purchase of resources, from Spanish speakers in the United States and Spain. Since 2017 Will Faircloth, a missionary of the Evangelical Methodist Church of Costa Rica, has been serving as Executive Director of IEW.