Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Wesleyan-Anglican Society Congratulates New ACNA Archbishop

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According to a June 21 news release from the Anglican Church in North America, the College of Bishops of the church has elected Dr. Foley Beach, Bishop of the Diocese of the South to succeed the Most Rev'd. Robert Duncan as their new archbishop.  


“The election occurred Sunday afternoon at the conclusion of the College of Bishops three-day conclave where they met in the crypt of the basilica at Saint Vincent Archabbey,” said the Rev'd. Andrew Gross, Communications Director for the Anglican Church in North America.  The new archbishop will serve a five-year term and is eligible for re-election.


“I am delighted by this election and how the College of Bishops, after much deliberation and prayer, came to a unanimous decision,” said Archbishop Robert Duncan.  “This is a happy day for the Anglican Church in North America, a happy day for the Anglican Communion, and a happy day for the Christian Church.”


According to the news release, the newly elected archbishop served as the Rector and Pastor of Holy Cross Anglican Church in Loganville, GA, from its founding in February 2004, until December, 2013. On October 9, 2010, he was consecrated in Atlanta, Georgia as the first Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of the South in the Anglican Church in North America.


Dr. Beach is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, the School of Theology at the University of the South, and Georgia State University. He has served in ministry with Young Life, the Episcopal Church, and the Anglican Church.


The new archbishop will have a formal investiture to follow in the coming months.


It was my pleasure to worship with the new archbishop at Holy Cross Anglican Church in Loganville during the recent Anglican 1000 conference.

Upon hearing of Dr. Beach's election, the Wesleyan-Anglican Society sent a letter of congratulation to His Grace congratulating him on his "election to serve the Servants of God as Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America!"

It is my hope that
 the Society might serve the new archbishop as a point of connection between the ACNA and the various Wesleyan/Methodist denominations and that we might find ways to work closely with the ACNA.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Trinity Sunday


This coming Sunday, June 15, the Church celebrates Trinity Sunday. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is one of the mysteries of faith, but the Church, from ancient times, has confessed its faith in the Triune God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The denomination in which I am currently serving (the United Methodist Church) is no exception to the orthodox Christian faith.   Neither is my own denomination (the Church of the Nazarene).  Our very first Article of Faith confesses our belief in the Triune God. Additionally, in our Manual's "Historical Statement," we state that the Church of the Nazarene ". . . receives the ecumenical creeds of the first five Christian centuries as expressions of its own faith." Along side the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed (which, in my local setting, we have made it a practice of confessing alternatingly each Sunday), we find that creed which John Wesley identifies as the best explication of the Trinity he ever saw (cf., his sermon "On the Trinity"), that is the so called Athanasian Creed (or Quicunque Vult) written, most likely within the fifth-century.

The words at the beginning and conclusion of the creed tying the necessity of assent to this faith with salvation have caused much difficulty for many. However, according to Ray Dunning, "Edmund J. Fortman says that it is not suggesting that the 'Catholic faith' is merely an intellectual assent but rather that it involves the 'worship of one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity'" (Grace, Faith and Holiness, 226). Wesley, himself, said, "I am far from saying, he who does not assent to this 'shall without doubt perish everlastingly.' For the sake of that and another clause, I, for some time, scrupled subscribing to that creed; till I considered,(1.) That these sentences only relate to wilful, not involuntary, unbelievers; to those who, having all the means of knowing the truth, nevertheless obstinately reject it: (2.) That they relate only to the substance of the doctrine there delivered; not the philosophical illustrations of it" ("On the Trinity"). - Whether one still has trouble with those lines, even after Fortman's and Wesley's explanation, the Athanasius Creed is still a wonderfully thorough confession of Trinitarian faith.

Although, it has been said that it is far too long for liturgical use, it is used on Trinity Sunday in Anglican and Lutheran churches that I am aware of, and probably others.  (I've not been brave enough to spring it on the congregations where I serve!)

I strongly encourage those who are unfamiliar with the creed to read it by clicking, here.

Please join me in this prayer from the Book of Common Prayer:

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, on God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Pentecost


 

Yesterday (Sunday, 8 June 2014) the Church around the world celebrated the culmination of the Great Fifty Days, the conclusion of the Easter season, the outpouring of the promise of the Father, the baptism with the Holy Spirit, and the birth of the Church. - John the Baptizer had declared concerning Jesus, "I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire" (Luke 3:16, NRSV).  Jesus assured the disciples that it would be to their advantage that He would ascend to the Father, because, in doing so, He would send the Holy Spirit (the Advocate/Comforter/Counselor/Helper - parakletos ) to them (John 16:7). The Holy Spirit would teach them everything and remind them of all that Jesus had said to them (14:26), and the Holy Spirit would "prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgement (16:8).
 
Further, Jesus told the apostles, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8, NRSV).
 
On the Day of Pentecost, the disciples saw the fulfillment of the promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit as told by John the Baptizer and the Lord Jesus, as well as the prophet Joel.  It is that same outpouring of the Holy Spirit that we enter into by faith and through our baptism, for St. Paul declares, "For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body . . ." (1 Cor. 12:13, NRSV).*  -  And so, for our family, we often take time on Pentecost to watch the videos of when our children were baptized on Pentecost Sunday: my daughter, Sarah, was baptized on Pentecost 19 years ago, and my son, Matthew, was baptized on Pentecost 15 years ago.  Our district superintendent, the Rev'd. Dr. M. V. Scutt, came to our church in Greencastle (IN) on both occasions to baptize our newborn children.
 
Pentecost is one of the major feast days of the Church, and it should be a great day of celebration for those of us in the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition. - I recall a conversation several years ago with a pastor from a Presbyterian (USA) congregation. He confessed, he really didn't know what to do with Pentecost. Now, I do not mean to imply that such is the case for all, or even a majority of Presbyterians. I don't know. However, whatever the case for my Presbyterian brother, Nazarenes, whether espousing a 19th century or a classical Wesleyan view (cf. footnote, below) ought to know how to celebrate Pentecost Sunday.
 
You see, one of the main benefits of Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is the possibility of having our hearts cleansed of sin. - As the prophet Ezekiel foretold, there was coming a day when God would ". . . sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statures and be careful to observe my ordinances" (Ezek. 36:25-27, NRSV). And St. Peter, referring to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the gentiles, argued, "And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us" (Acts 15:8-9).
 
It is this heart cleansing that has been at the heart (no pun intended!) of the Wesleyan & Methodist movement, and especially so for the Holiness branches of Methodism. It has been referred to by Wesley in connection with the Biblical doctrines of Entire Sanctification and Christian Perfection. In fact, the spread of scriptural holiness throughout the land was the stated purpose of Methodism, first by John Wesley in London in 1733, and then in America, at the famous Christmas Conference in Baltimore in 1784 at the founding of the Methodist Episcopal Church. It was the commitment to this purpose that gave rise to the 19th century Holiness Movement within Methodism. And Phineas Bresee said of the Church of the Nazarene, that it is ". . . a part of that body of believers raised up to spread sanctified holiness over these lands, and thus that we are a part of that company who are the real successors of John Wesley and the early Methodists" (Nazarene Messenger, July 15, 1909).
And so, we Wesleyan Christians, including those at Centenary & Main Street United Methodist Churches (where I currently serve), enthusiastically join our sisters and brothers in Christ from around the world to rejoice and give thanks to God on Pentecost Sunday for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as we seek to worship God in Spirit and in Truth.
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*At this point, those within the Holiness movement will recognize that I take my stand with John Wesley, the Church of history, and those in the classical Wesleyan theological tradition, rather than those who are more consistent with 19th century interpretations. Those debates within the Holiness Movement can be seen in The Wesleyan Theological Journal between 1973 and 1982. Mark Quanstrom discusses it in A Century of Holiness Theology: The Doctrine of Entire Sanctification in the Church of the Nazarene, 1905-2004 (though his bias toward the 19th century view is apparent in his, not always completely accurate portrayal of members of "The Trevecca Connection").

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Celebrating Twenty Years of Ministry

Today I am celebrating 20 years of full-time, post-seminary, pastoral ministry! 

Upon graduation from Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO, at 25 years of age, my wife (Bobbie) and I arrived at Greencastle Church of the Nazarene in Greencastle, IN.  -  We stayed there in ministry for 12 1/2 years.  (Those poor people!)

It was while in Greencastle that our two children were born.  Sarah, our first born, is now 19 and has just finished her freshman year at our Alma mater, Trevecca Nazarene University.  Our son, Matthew, just finished his freshman year at my high school, Floyd Central.

It was also while serving at Greencastle that I entered into Holy Orders, being ordained an elder (presbyter/priest) at the hands of the Rev'd. Dr. James Diehl, surrounded by the elders of the Southwest Indiana District on July 17, 1996. 

Of course, I was involved in ministry prior to that 20 year mark.  I preached my first sermon at the age of 15 or 16 (I'll have to double check, but I do have a cassette tape of it!).  On October 19, 1986, I received my first Local Minister's License.  I was 17 and a Senior in high school.  The license was issued to me by the Church Board of the Georgetown (IN) Church of  the Nazarene under the pastorate of the Rev'd. Russell Parker.  (A Local Minister's License is the very first step toward ordination, and the holder of such a license is not consider to be clergy.)

My Local Minister's License was renewed the next two years through the New Albany Eastside (now Christ's Community) Church of the Nazarene, under the pastorate of the Rev'd. Dr. Garry D. Pate (who now serves as my district superintendent).  And in 1989, under the district superintendency of the Rev'd. Dr. B.G. Wiggs and the general superintendency of The Rev'd. Dr. Jerald Johnson, I was issued my first District Minister's License by the Southwest Indiana District, Church of the Nazarene.  At that point, though the license must be renewed each year, a person so licensed is consider to be clergy.  And so, I held a district license until I was ordained in 1996.

During college and seminary, I held various ministry positions.  I did pulpit supply in Nazarene and Wesleyan churches.  I directed a Summer Day Camp for the Salvation Army one year.  I worked as a youth pastor at the New Albany Eastside (now Christ's Community) Church for two summers.  I was a volunteer Music Minister at Foster Avenue Wesleyan Church in Nashville, TN.  And I served as the pastor of Gunn City (MO) Christian Church for a year and a half while in seminary.  But my first, real, full-time, post-seminary pastoral position began 20 years ago at the Greencastle Church of the Nazarene.

In 2006, we moved from Greencastle to Grace Church of the Nazarene in Evansville, IN  It was while at Grace that I completed my doctoral work at Asbury Theological Seminary.  We continued in ministry in Evansville for almost four years.

Finally, in 2006, we moved to Greenville, IN.  I took an assignment as the pastor of Centenary United Methodist Church in nearby New Albany.  My Nazarene designation is Special Service / Inter-denominational.  In the United Methodist Church I am designated "Other Methodist" (as opposed to other Christian denomination).

Two years into our ministry at Centenary, that church entered into a two-point charge relationship with Main Street United Methodist, and I became the pastor of two United Methodist Churches.

At this point, my two churches, along with three other United Methodist churches in New Albany, are in the midst of "Vital Merger" talks.  If the vital merger is voted for by the congregations, that means that I will no longer be the pastor in my present setting.  -  What will we do?  Where will we be?  We trust that God knows the answer, and that the One who has been faithful these 20 years (well, really, all our lives!)  will continue to be faithful to guide and direct our paths and supply our needs. 

God has, indeed, been faithful and gracious toward us these 20 years.  And we are so thankful for the good, godly people who have become a part of our family in the churches we have been blessed to serve.

After 20 years, my desire is that the next 20 years will prove to be more effective than the first 20 in Christlike ministry for the glory of God.  -  Thanks and praise be to God!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Baptism, ORDINARILY Necessary for Salvation

"Ordinary" is a term that Wesley utilized at times.  He would use it when talking about "the rule" or "the norm" in a given situation.  This "rule" or "norm" would sometimes have exceptions.  Nevertheless, those exceptions were just that; exceptions to the rule.  Nor did those exceptions invalidate the norm or the rule.

One of those rules had to do with the relationship between Holy Baptism and salvation.  Wesley would agree that baptism was the ordinary means of receiving salvation.  -  In the words of the Nazarene Article of Faith, "Christian baptism [is] commanded by our Lord."  It is, therefore, hard to imagine that one who refuses baptism could possibly claim biblical faith in Jesus as Lord.  After all, how can one own Jesus as Lord and yet willingly refuse to obey His command?  Such willful disobedience demonstrates that it is not Jesus who is Lord, but that person is usurping lordship in their own life.  Thus there is a lack of biblical faith.  As Rob Staples has said, "Faith is not faith, however, apart from obedience.  Baptism is commanded, therefore required as our faith response, unless it is an impossibility due to circumstances beyond human control."

As the late Rev'd. Dr. William Greathouse, general superintendent (bishop) emeritus has stated, "In the New Testament church, there simply were no unbaptized Christians."

Nevertheless, while baptism is the ordinary means, Wesley refused to claim that baptism was absolutely necessary for salvation.  -  He said, "Indeed, where it cannot be had, the case is different, but extraordinary cases do not make void a standing rule."

An example where it could be said that baptism was not absolutely necessary for salvation can be seen in the case of the appointed executioner of St. Alban.

I recently read the Venerable Bede's account of this executioner in his History of the English Church and People.  (The book was a Christmas gift from a couple in one of my churches.)  -  According to Bede, having seen the miracle that accompanied St. Alban's journey to his own martyrdom, the appointed executioner "was so moved in spirit that he hurried to meet Alban at the place of execution, and throwing down his drawn sword, fell at his feet, begging that he might be thought worthy to die with the martyr if he could not die in his place."

Bede goes on to say that this soldier "was beheaded at the same time as Alban.  And although he had not received the purification of baptism, there was no doubt that he was cleansed by the shedding of his own blood, and rendered fit to enter the kingdom of heaven."

This is a great example of an "exception" to the norm of the Holy Sacrament being ordinarily necessary for salvation.  As one can see, it is a far cry from the "take it, or leave it" mindset that has unfortunately crept into some parts of the Church in more recent decades.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Praying for Seattle Pacific University

Prayer Requested After SPU Shooting

Seattle Pacific University President Dan Martin speaks to the media after a shooting on the SPU campus. [Seattle Pacific University photo]

Seattle Pacific University President Dan Martin speaking to the media after a shooting on the SPU campus. [Seattle Pacific University photo]
 
Free Methodist Bishop Matthew Thomas is requesting prayer after four people were shot Thursday, June 5, at Seattle Pacific University. Seattle police reported that one victim, a 20-year-old man, has died as the result of his injuries.

“We are asking all members of the body of Christ to pray for the safety and healing of the entire Seattle Pacific University family. Pray for the victims and their families,” Bishop Thomas said. “Please pray that God’s presence becomes palpable on campus and that SPU becomes a safe place in the future and known as a place of peace in the world. Pray for President Dan Martin and his administration, that their next steps reflect justice, truth and grace. And pray that this kind of violence that plagues our nation ceases.”
 
The SPU website stated Thursday afternoon that the campus was “in lockdown due to a shooting in Otto Miller Hall.” The university’s Twitter account later reported that the lockdown had ended.
According to a Seattle Police Department statement, “One person was killed and three others injured Thursday afternoon after a lone gunman opened fire with a shotgun at Seattle Pacific University. Police have one suspect in custody, an adult male who was subdued after being pepper-sprayed by a student security guard. No one else is being sought in connection with the shooting. All of the victims were taken to Harborview Medical Center. One 20-year-old male victim died at the hospital. Another male victim was reported in stable condition. In addition, one woman had life threatening injuries and another woman was reported in stable condition. More information will be provided as it becomes available.”

Seattle police stated on the department’s Twitter account that SPU students can gather at Gwinn Commons with grief counselors available for students and staff.

Seattle Pacific University is a member of the Association of Free Methodist Educational Institutions
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The above was copied from the Free Methodist site here.

The Free Methodist Church and The Wesleyan Church are the closest denominations to my own denomination, the Church of the Nazarene.  They both share membership with the Church of the Nazarene in the National Association of Evangelicals, the Christian Holiness Partnership, the Global Wesleyan Alliance, and the World Methodist Council. 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Inflame the Fire

John Michael Talbot has been one of my favorite musicians for quite some time, now.  His Simple Heart CD has been a great conduit of God's peace during times when I have experienced stress since back in 2000.  Brother to Brother, recorded by JMT and Michael Card has been one of my very favorite CDs of all time.

Today, as I traveled to and from the ordination service at the Indiana Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (more about that at a later time), I was listening to John Michael's Cave of the Heart CD. 
 

Cave Of The Heart

Cave of the Heart "sounds different" than many (or most) of John Michael's CDs.  Theologically, the theme of the CD harkens back to St. Paul's message to the Athenians in Acts, when he used the "altar to an unknown god" as his point of connection from which he said, "What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you" (which was my sermon text last Sunday, the Sixth Sunday of Easter).  -  In other words, from a good Methodist perspective, much of what John Michael does in this CD is consistent with a Wesleyan understanding of Prevenient Grace.

The song, in particular, that caught my attention was "Inflame the Fire."  (Since this is the second to the last song on the CD, John Michael has, by this time, moved from the prevenient aspects of grace that are found in earlier songs.)  -  This song captured my attention today, I think, for a couple of reasons.  First, there is the sacramental focus found in the song.  That of course would catch the attention of one who is committed to recapture the Wesleyan commitment to Eucharistic worship.

A second reason is the fact that certain of the lyrics of this song made a real connection with recent lectionary texts, including this Sunday's text, which has focused on what, again, is very consistent with a Wesleyan understanding of Scripture: the fact that it is the Holy Spirit who enlivens the Word to us as we faithfully go to Scripture seeking the face of God.  The Scriptures are intended to reveal Christ to us and to shape our very lives by the power of the Holy Spirit.

A third reason that this song captured my attention is what might be called a general sacramental understanding of life.  Another way of trying to get at that is that the song focuses on a very real, living God who is truly at work in "the ordinary ups and downs of life" (as JMT says of the song).

I hope that you will find the words of this song meaningful, as well.

 
Inflame the Fire
 
Spreading the fire of the gospel of God
Spreading the fire of the Spirit
Spreading the fire of His call on our life
To follow the gospel of Jesus
 
Look beyond the mere bread and the wine
To see the real presence of God
Look beyond the externals of life
To His presence within our hearts
 
Beyond the words on the page of a book
To the mystical Incarnate Word
Written deep in the spirit and soul
In the pages of life to be learned
 
Inflame the fire
Inflame the fire
Inflame the fire
Inflame the fire
 
Inflame the fire
Inflame the fire
 
The truth of law gives direction to life
To know the right from the wrong
But by itself it is never enough
To bring us to divine love
 
We need the [S]pirit of God in our life
To write the truth in our hearts
A truth beyond ideas and words
To a mystical truth of the heart
 
Inflame the fire
Inflame the fire
Inflame the fire
Inflame the fire
Inflame the fire

You can hear a bit of the song (and purchase songs from the recording), here.

John Michael's website can be found, here, and the website for The Brothers and Sisters of Charity at Little Portion Hermitage (founded by JMT) can be found, here.