I've heard Methodists describe themselves as the "People of the Extreme Center". It gets used to mean that Methodists take the center road on a lot of issues. But I would like to know where the expression started and what it meant originally.
The Methodist Bishop Scott Jones borrowed the term to describe John Wesley's teachings. He continues to use the phrase in sermons and interviews when describing Methodist beliefs.
Jones read a magazine in which someone described himself as being in the "extreme center" in politics. The term "extreme center" is set in opposition to the "dead center" - rather than leaning too far right or too far left, the dead center does nothing. In contrast, the extreme center is living, holding both the left and right in tension, without compromising either.
It goes back to a deep conviction I have about the Wesleyan form of Christianity. Back when I was trying to Wesley's theology to students and lay audiences, I began to talk about the ways in which Wesley combines things that, well, too often Christians see as opposites and not possible to hold together, like... justification and sanctification, evangelism and social justice. For all of these polarities, really it's about holding them together, in tension, as it were, yet each one informing the other."
From a presentation Scott Jones gave in 2007 on "The United Methodist Way":
United Methodists are people of the extreme center. United Methodist conservatives are compassionate. United Methodist liberals are responsible...
Taken as a whole, this way of salvation exhibits the paradox of the gospel, and we Wesleyans have it right. It is the extreme center that includes both justification and sanctification, both grace and good works, both individual salvation and the transformation of the world. It is all about God’s grace saving us and not our works. However, we are saved for the purpose of doing good works, of transforming the world.