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John Wesley and Death Anxiety

Updated: May 19, 2022

Why the Doctrine of Assurance Matters for the Church

What resources are available to help pastors shepherd the Church when it comes to the problem of anxiety toward death? That's the question that drives my new essay in the most recent volume of The Bulletin of Ecclesial Theology. In this essay, I look at John Wesley's own experience of anxiety over the prospect of death alongside recent research in positive psychology on divine forgiveness, death anxiety, and well-being. I conclude that Wesley can help us as we seek to pastor those subject to these these complex psychological and spiritual dynamics.

"Matt O’Reilly offers a vision of forgiveness rooted in John Wesley’s life and ministry. Directing our attention to the relation between the fear of death, anxiety, and forgiveness, O’Reilly calls pastors to proclaim the Gospel of assurance—the Gospel that proclaims we are forgiven, that death is defeated, and that we as individuals and congregations can live in forgiving relationships with one another, and so be transformed by the Spirit of Christ." - Joel Lawrence

If you don't know about The Bulletin of Ecclesial Theology, it's a journal published twice a year by the Center for Pastor Theologians. The essays are written by pastor theologians to equip the church for ministry in today's complex world.

Dr. Matt O’Reilly is Lead Pastor of Hope Hull United Methodist Church near Montgomery, Alabama, Director of Research at Wesley Biblical Seminary, and a fellow of the Center for Pastor Theologians. He is the author of Paul and the Resurrected Body: Social Identity and Ethical Practice, The Letters to the Thessalonians, and Bless the Nations: A Devotional for Short-Term Missions. Connect at

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