Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas!


May your Christmas Season be filled with the peace & joy of Jesus the Christ!
__________________________________
(I apologize for the lack of posts necessitated by some personal issues. I expect to be back after the New Year . . . if not sooner. Please, check back.)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Christ the King

Tomorrow, we will be celebrating Christ the King Sunday (or "The Reign of Christ the King")! - It is the last Sunday after Pentecost and the last Sunday of the Christian year. It is also the Sunday just prior to our entering into the holy season of Advent.

The observance of Christ the King Sunday is really a relatively new celebration. It was originally instituted by Pius XI, Bishop of Rome, for celebration on the last Sunday of October. However, after Vatican II, it was moved to its current location on the Christian calendar.

The lectionary readings for this Sunday during our current year (year A), are quite interesting. The Epistle lesson, Ephesians 1:15-23, presents an image that one might naturally think of for this celebration. There, Christ is seen as seated at the right hand of the Father "in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come . . ." (NRSV).

The Gospel lesson, too, gives us an image of Christ the King. In Matthew 25:31-46, we see Christ in His glory with all of the angels. He is seated on His throne judging between the sheep and the goats.

But the Old Testament lesson, Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24, gives us another image. Oh, there is still a reference to the Davidic throne, but the over-riding image is that of the Good Shepherd gathering, tending, caring for, and healing His sheep. - Here we see Christ as the Shepherd/King.

And so, when we read the Gospel in light of the Old Testament passage, we begin to discover that we sheep, are really called to be just like our Shepherd/King. We are called into a life wherein we are transformed by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit so that, like our King, we naturally reach out to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, take care of the sick, visit those in prison.

This Sunday (and everyday!) may we celebrate and worship Christ our King, not only with our lips but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to His service, and by walking before Him in holiness and righteousness all our days (cf., "A General Thanksgiving," BCP). - May all glory be to God the Father, Christ our King, and the Holy Spirit! Amen!

Faith & the Sacraments

The evangelical world is filled with those who have little regard for the sacraments. The attitude of many within my own denomination is often disheartening. Actually, it can become a bit strange.


There are many who look upon the Lord's Supper as a memorial, only. (Of course it is a memorial meal! But that is not all!). And yet, they are concerned to keep the "specialness" of this remembrance by means of infrequent celebrations. (And celebrations is the wrong word, here. It should simply be observance.)


Many of these same sisters and brothers in Christ, have an odd way of viewing the "power" of the sacrament/ordinance, as well. You see, many of them would deny it as a means of grace (except in the sense that one may experience the grace of God as one contemplates what Christ did for us on the cross). On the other hand, these same people who strongly emphasize that it may be a "means of curse." - That's right! They, of course, refer to St. Paul's admonition not to partake of the sacrament unworthily. So, while we cannot count on the Lord's Supper to be a means of grace, we must be careful that it not be for us a means of curse. - That we ought to take the holy apostle's admonition seriously is not in doubt, but it seems to me that my "non-sacramentalist" sisters and brothers make a strange argument, indeed.

Aside from the issues above, many wonder why the sacraments (or, simply ordinances, for them) are needed at all. Is not personal faith, enough? If I have a personal relationship with God through Christ by faith, why do I need dead, empty rituals?

Indeed, if we are talking about dead, empty rituals, we ought to be done with all of them! But . . . if we are talking about something that is life-giving and full of grace, by the power of God; if there the living Christ has promised to meet us, then why wouldn't we run to the Table as often as possible?

The Wesley's address the argument concerning faith without the sacraments in hymn #54 in The Eucharistic Hymns of John and Charles Wesley (J. Ernest Rattenbury. OSL. 1996.):

1. Why did my dying Lord ordain
This dear memorial of His love?
Might we not all by faith obtain,
By faith the mountain sin remove,
Enjoy the sense of sins forgiven,
And holiness, the taste of heaven?

2. It seem'd to my Redeemer good
That faith should here His coming wait
Should here receive immortal food,
Grow up in Him Divinely great,
And, fill'd with holy violence, seize
The glorious crown of righteousness.

3. Saviour, Thou didst the mystery give
That I Thy nature might partake
Thou bidd'st me outward signs receive,
One with Thyself my soul to make;
My body, soul, and spirit to join
Inseparably one with Thine.

4. The prayer, the fast, the word conveys,
When mix'd with faith, Thy life to me;
In all the channels of Thy grace
I still have fellowship with Thee:
But chiefly here my soul is fed
With fulness of immortal bread.

5. Communion closer far I feel
And deeper drink the' atoning blood;
The joy is more unspeakable,
And yields me larger draughts of God,
Till nature faints beneath the power,
And faith fill'd up can hold no more.

Thanks be to God!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Book Meme

Okay, I've been "tagged" with "book meme" by Fr. James Gibson at Sanctus. - According to what his blog says, this is the way the game works:

I am supposed to:
1.) Pick up the nearest book. - That happens to be The United Methodist Book of Worship
(Looking at the lectionary passages for Sunday.

2.) Turn to page 123

3.) Find the fifth sentence, and

4.) Post the three sentences afterward.

Well, that puts me in the midst of "Christian Marriage I," and it's a bit difficult to determine actual sentences, but I'll do my best. We pick-up in the middle of a Prayer of Thanksgiving for a service in which Holy Communion is not being celebrated:

Defend them from every enemy.
Lead them into all peace.
Let their love for each other
be a seal upon their hearts,
a mantle about their shoulders,
and a crown upon their heads.

Now, I'm supposed to "tag" five other people (and Fr. Gibson already tagged Peter Matthews in my blog links!). I'll tag Eric Frey, Kim Reisman, David Straw, Fr. Wes, and Kate McKinney.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Word from John & Charles for Those Who Stumble

It seems quite easy to counsel the Christian who finds his/herself seeking forgiveness for falling prey to temptation. As a pastor, I know how to point them to Scripture, to pray with them, to encourage them, and to offer them words of assurance about the forgiveness of their sins.


I find it rather difficult, however, to apply the same to myself. After all, I'm different. I've been a Christian all of my life. I'm a pastor. I should know better. Therefore, what I would say to others, somehow, doesn't seem to apply to me. At least those seem to be the feelings that I sometimes face.


It seems to me that all of us are much harder on ourselves than on others, when it comes to repentance and forgiveness. Perhaps this is why the historic Church includes the prayers of confession and the words (not granting, but) announcing pardon within its liturgy.


For those who, like myself, find it difficult to accept that God so readily forgives, not others, but ourselves, I offer (in addition to the Scriptures, of course!) this admonition from John Wesley:



If you have stumbled, O seeker of God, do not just lie there fretting and bemoaning your weakness! Patiently pray: "Lord, I acknowledge that every moment I would be stumbling if you were not uphoding me." And then get up! Leap! Walk! Go on your way! Run with resolution the race in which you are entered.


And having heard these words, I invite you to sing along with the Wesley brothers their hymn, Depth of Mercy!:


Depth of mercy! can there be
Mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God His wrath forbear -
Me, the chief of sinners, spare?


I have long withstood His grace,
Long provoked Him to His face,
Would not hearken to His calls,
Grieved Him by a thousand falls.


Now inlcine me to repent;
Let me now my sins lament;
Now my foul revolt deplore,
Weep, believe, and sin no more.


There for me the Saviour stands,
Holding forth His wounded hands;
God is love! I know, I feel,
Jesus weeps and loves me still.


And sing, also, the last verse of their hymn, Jesus, the Sinner's Friend:


What shall I say Thy grace to move?
Lord, I am sin, but Thou art love:
I give up every plea beside -
Lord, I am lost, but Thou hast died.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Wesley Hymn on the Eucharist as a Means of Grace

As regular readers of this blog know, I have been incorporating the singing of Wesley hymns during my praying of the Daily Office. Most recently, I have been singing The Eucharistic Hymns of John and Charles Wesley. This week, during Morning Prayer, I came to one of my very favorite Wesley hymns focusing on the sacrament of the Lord's Supper as a means of grace.

This hymn expresses how wonderful the gift of this sacrament is. Of course, we are reminded that the grace poured out is poured from God. That is, the sacrament is not the object of worship. It certainly is not magical. Rather, it is the "mysterious rite which dying mercy gave." It is the gift to the Church through which God has promised to pour out to us His abundant grace.

The hymn is listed as #42 in The Eucharistic Hymns of John and Charles Wesley, by J. Ernest Rattenbury. - This hymn is well worth having any and all Wesleyan/Methodist congregations learn, and it can be sung to the same tune as O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing. - May God grant that this song would be a blessing to all.

1. Glory to Him who freely spent

His blood, that we might live,
And through this choicest instrument
Doth all His blessings give.

2. Fasting He doth, and hearing bless,

And prayer can much avail,
Good vessels all to draw the grace
Out of salvation's well.

3. But none, like this mysterious rite

Which dying mercy gave,
Can draw forth all His promised might
And all His will to save.

4. This is the richest legacy

Thou hast on man bestow'd:
Here chiefly, Lord, we feed on Thee,
And drink Thy precious blood.

5. Here all Thy blessings we receive,

Here all Thy gifts are given,
To those that would in Thee believe,
Pardon, and grace, and heaven.

6. Thus may we still in Thee be blest,

Till all from earth remove,
And share with Thee the marriage feast,
And drink the wine above.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Star Wars Video

The following has nothing to do with Wesleyanism, Anglicanism, sacraments, liturgy, or theology. However, if you are a Star Wars fan, you have to see this video at YouTube.



If I knew how to embed this on my blog, I would, but I haven't figured that out, yet. So, you'll have to click on the link to see it. - Hope you enjoy it!



Thanks to my Order of St. Luke brother, Joseph Mathews, for sending this to the OSL Cyber-Chapter.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Feast of St. Luke

Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist. Luke, by the inspiration of God, is responsible for the writings of the Gospel According to St. Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. Luke was a Gentile Christian, a doctor (i.e., physician), and a companion of St. Paul's during his missionary journeys.

St. Luke is symbolized by the winged ox; one of the four living creatures described in the book of the Revelation. (The picture to the right is taken from the new Order of St. Luke t-shirts and is based on the rendering in the Book of Kells.)

Whether at our annual retreat, or in diaspora, as members of the Order of St. Luke, this is the day that we reaffirm our vows to:

Affirm the Apostolic Hope

Live for the Church of Jesus Christ

Magnify the Sacraments

Seek the Sacramental Life

Promote the Corporate Worship of the Church

Accept the call to Service as put forth by the discipline of the Church and the Practice of the Order

and

Abide by the Rules of the Order and Indicate that Commitment by Study, Service, Gifts and Practice.

The Order of St. Luke is an ecumenical religious order, based in the United Methodist Church, but interdenominational in membership. It is open to clergy and laity, men and women. It is dedicated to "Liturgical and Sacramental Scholarship, Education and Practice." For more information of the Order of St. Luke, I invite you to click on the link provided in the side bare under Religious Orders.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Celebrating Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1556



October 16 is the day we remember and celebrate Thomas Cranmer the Archbishop of Canterbury. One of my seminary professors once commented that, as we look back to John Wesley as our spiritual father, we ought to look to Thomas Cranmer as a spiritual grandfather.

Cranmer was appointed to the See of Canterbury by the Pope and consecrated as such on March 30, 1533. Nevertheless, he had studied the new (Lutheran) Reformation doctrines intensely while at Cambridge, and became responsible, to a great degree, for the Reformation within England. Of course, his involvement with the annulment of King Henry's marriage to Catherine of Aragon, and the King's subsequent marriage to Anne Boleyn did not play well in Rome. Additionally, Cranmer believed the King was supreme, not only in civil matters, but also in religious matters, and the Church of England soon broke from the Roman Church.

Under King Edward the Sixth, Cranmer was free to shape the worship, doctrines and practices of the Church of England. Most importantly, Thomas Cranmer was responsible for the very first Book of Common Prayer in 1549, as well as its revision in 1552. All subsequent Books of Common Prayer throughout the Anglican Communion, including John Wesley's The Sunday Service of the Methodists in North America, look back to Cranmer's Prayer Book, and all who use a version of the Book of Common Prayer or a liturgy that has been influence by one of the Prayer Books owe an immeasurable debt to Thomas Cranmer.

Even non-liturgical Nazarenes owe an immense debt to Cranmer. Our own ritual for the Lord's Supper in our Manual (Book of Discipline) was an abbreviated form of the Methodist Episcopal ritual, which came from Wesley's Sunday Service, which was a version of the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England. Closer to home, Wesley's understanding of holiness was, in many ways, shaped and supported by the liturgy of the Anglican Church, and the Collect of Purity at the beginning of the Communion service has been said to encapsulate our understanding of holiness.

Let us give thanks to God for "Grandpa" Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury! (For more information, see Lesser Feasts and Fasts - 1997.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

General Assembly Resolutions Update

This is an update concerning the General Assembly resolutions I posted back in August, all of which can be read by clicking on the month of August on my Blog Archive side bar.

Our district's General Assembly delegation met this past Saturday to go over all of the resolutions submitted to them. I have been informed that six of my nine resolutions were adopted! I was very happy, because, frankly, I did not expect that many to be passed.

The six that were adopted include: Baptism/Apostles' Creed; Lord's Supper Frequency; Merger Exploration; Baptism of Infants; Deacons/Elders; and Membership/Baptism. The three that were rejected include: General Assembly Theology Committee; Unfermented/De-alcoholized Wine; and General Superintendents (Bishops).

Hopefully, others out there have submitted these resolutions to their district's delegation, as well. The more districts that submit these resolutions to the General Assembly, the stronger their chances of passing. And, hopefully, those resolutions that were not accepted by our district's delegation will be adopted by other districts.

As I said, although I wanted all of the resolutions to be picked up, I was, nevertheless, very pleased with the results. I pretty well expected that our delegation would reject the one that included a footnote with the term "bishop" for general superintendent. - As much as I lean toward the episcopal side of our representative form of government, one of the members of our delegation is that far on the congregational side of our representative government, so there wasn't much of a chance that that particular resolution would be accepted. - Still, as I said, I'm pleased!

Again, if you are a Nazarene, and you have not yet gotten these resolutions to your district's delegation, please do so, soon! - Thanks!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Common Cause Plans for a New Anglican Province



Some of you, like me, have been following the events of the "orthodox" Anglican realignment in the U.S. and Canada. - New developments are taking place, even as I type. Anglican Mainstream is reporting that the leaders of The Common Cause Partnership are meeting this week to discuss plans for forming a new Anglican province in North America. - Of course, this is what many have been waiting for.

The post calls readers to pray for these leaders. I would encourage prayer for them, as well.

You can read the article here.

Faith & Works

As Protestant Christians, we Wesleyans have always held to the belief that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone. However, unlike some of our sisters and brothers in other traditions, we have been careful not to open ourselves up to the trap (and heresy) of antinomianism (i.e., lawlessness.) Instead, we have been careful to give "works" their proper place within the faith.

Charles Wesley poetically expresses the position in Part III of his four part hymn(s) on The Love-feast. It is listed as hymn #507 in The Works of John Wesley, Vol. 7. There he says:


v. 3 Plead we thus for faith alone,
Faith which by our works is shown;
God it is who justifies,
Only faith the grace applies,
Active faith that lives within,
Conquers earth, and hell, and sin,
Sanctifies, an makes us whole,
Forms the Saviour in the soul.

v. 4 Let us for this faith contend,
Sure salvation is its end;
Heaven already is begun,
Everlasting life is won.
Only let us persevere
Till we see Our Lord appear;
Never from the rock remove,
Saved by faith which works by love.

Key to Wesleyan theology is that "God it is who justifies." We do not bring about our own justification. Rather, it is God's work; God's grace. Further, we are saved by "faith alone," and "only faith the grace applies." That is to say, we are saved by God's grace alone through faith alone.

And yet, for the faith to be true Christian, biblical faith, it must be "faith which by our works is shown." It is "active faith that lives within." As Wesley says in the last line of the hymn, we are "saved by faith which works by love." Those words, of course, echo St. Paul in the sixth verse of the fifth chapter of his letter to the Galatians: ". . . the only thing that counts is faith working through love" (NRSV). This position also reflects St. James when he writes, "So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead" (2:17, NRSV).


It is not that we are saved by works. By no means! But rather, it is the case that true biblical faith cannot help but express itself through works. Faith working by love.

______________________________________


As a bit of a side note, it should be mentioned that The World Methodist Council (of which the Church of the Nazarene is a member denomination) is a co-signer, along with The Lutheran World Federation and The Roman Catholic Church, of the landmark, breakthrough document known as the "Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification." This document was developed by the Lutherans and the Roman Catholics, and the WMC became a third signer.


While the Church of the Nazarene, as an individual denomination, has not officially dealt with the document (despite my efforts!), it is a denominational member of the WMC, which endorsed it, and all of the Nazarene delegates to the WMC voted in favor of adopting the document.

Perhaps, at some point in the future(the distant future!), I will write a post covering more information on "The Joint Declaration."

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Head Religion & Heart Religion

As has been my practice for some time, now, I was including the singing of Wesley hymns during Morning and Evening Prayer, when I ran across one of my favorite lines. Charles Wesley penned (in hymn #461, For Children, in The Works of John Wesley, Vol. 7) these words:

Unite the pair so long disjoined,
Knowledge and vital piety:
Learning and holiness combined . . .

It is part of that Wesleyan balance that is so often missing, even in the Wesleyan/Methodist tradition. On the one hand are those who hold to an intellectual faith, but have no "warmed heart." On the other hand are those who focus solely on emotional experiences and want nothing to do with serious thought. The former often look down upon heart religion, as though it is, from their elitist perspective, naive; something below them. The latter return the favor with a strong suspicions and often a down right anti-intellectualism.

But God never intended such a separation. Rather, we are called to love God with our whole heart and our whole mind (cf., Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30; and Luke 10:27).


I like the way Asbury Seminary (where I did my doctoral work) puts it: "Where head and heart go hand in hand." - That is the call, not just for those of us who stand in the tradition of the Wesley's, but for all Christians. We are called to love God with all of our heart and with all of our head. To be sure, the latter does not require a "religious/academic degree." It just requires that we not shut off our brains; that we use our God given minds to glorify our God; that we never stop learning. It requires that we love God with everything. - After all, our God is worthy of nothing less!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Church of the Nazarene Celebrates Its Centennial

Today, Sunday, October 5, some 18,000 Nazarene churches in 151 world areas join to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Church of the Nazarene.

Preparations for the day began in 2004 with the writing and translation of materials sent to every Nazarene church across the globe. The plan is that all 1.7 million members of the church will hear the same sermon, celebrate with the same music, participate in the same readings, and gather around the Lord’s Table in 24 time zones on the same day.

The Church of the Nazarene has its roots in Methodism, drawn from the teachings of English evangelist and Anglican priest, John Wesley (1703-1791). A unique child of the Wesleyan-Holiness Movement, the Church of the Nazarene arose from a widespread yearning among a portion of the Holiness people who had become estranged from the Methodist Episcopal Churches and sought new connections and united action beyond their local ministries. The denomination was established in October 1908 in Pilot Point, Texas, the culmination of mergers of several like-minded groups. The mission of the Church of the Nazarene is to make Christlike disciples in the nations.

With a long history of mission work and 20th– and 21st-century advances in communication and transportation, the Church of the Nazarene has deliberately decided to steer an international course. “A century ago, the Nazarenes were an American family with relatives in other countries,” wrote Stan Ingersol, the denomination’s archivist, in a brief history of the group. “Today we are an international family of districts and congregations planted on each of Earth’s inhabited continents. No single language, race, or nationality claims a majority of our members.”

Attesting to the success of the denomination’s international initiative, the Church of the Nazarene now includes graduate theological seminaries in North America, Central America, and Asia-Pacific; liberal arts colleges in Africa, Canada, Korea, and the United States; nearly 40 theological schools worldwide; hospitals in Swaziland, India and Papua New Guinea; radio broadcasts in 30 languages; and printed materials in 103 languages. At the Church of the Nazarene’s quadrennial general assembly in 2001, 42 percent of delegates either spoke English as a second language or did not speak the language at all.

May God receive all the glory! - Praise the Lord!!!

_____________________________
The material above was taken and adapted from the "Centennial Celebration Leader's Guide."

For more information go to http://www.nazarene.org/

For an official statement of congratulations from the 11th General Conference of The Wesleyan Church, click here.

For a letter of congratulations from the Church of God (Anderson), click here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Nazarene Example of Wesley's Catholic Spirit

The term Catholic Spirit, of course, refers to John Wesley's sermon with the same name. In this instance it speaks of the catholic or "universal" spirit that reaches out in Christlike love to all who own the name of Christ. It seeks unity in essentials* but liberty when it comes to "opinions." Methodists are called "to think and let think." In his sermon Wesley asks, "Though we can't think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion?" Wesley was convinced that we may. He boldly declared, "'If thine heart is as my heart', if thou lovest God and all mankind, I ask no more: 'Give me thine hand.'"

It is sometimes pointed out that the Church of the Nazarene has been absent from much of the ecumenical dialogue that has abounded over the ages. This is something that I, personally, lament. - I am thankful that we are a denominational member of the National Association of Evangelicals, the Christian Holiness Partnership (which, at the moment, seems to have dissolved), and the World (and European) Methodist Council. (On a personal note, I'm thankful to have had the opportunity to represent the Church of the Nazarene as a denominational delegate to the Christian Holiness Partnership and the 2001 World Methodist Conference. Additionally, I am thankful for the role I was able to play that led to the Church of the Nazarene joining the WMC.) - Nevertheless, we have not been involved in the kind of dialogues carried out by the ecumenical movement.


I would suggest, however, that this fact is not an indication that we Nazarenes do not own Wesley's catholic spirit. I would suggest that, rather, it simply indicates that we have chosen (for good or bad) to express it differently.


We express such a spirit in the "Historical Statement" in our Manual (Book of Discipline), where we confess ourselves "to be a branch of the 'one, holy, universal, and apostolic' church . . ." There, we also state, "As its own people, [the Church of the Nazarene] embraces the people of God through the ages, those redeemed through Jesus Christ in whatever expression of the one church they may be found."


We express Wesley's catholic spirit in the "Preamble" to our "Church Constitution" in our Manual, as well. There we state that we set forth our constitution, etc. "In order that we may preserve our God-given heritage, the faith once delivered to the saints, especially the doctrine and experience of entire sanctification as a second work of grace, and also that we may cooperate effectually with other branches of the Church of Jesus Christ in advancing God's kingdom . . ." (italics mine). - This very thing, countless local congregations have faithfully done throughout our centennial.


This summer, during our district assembly, I witnessed another way in which we express this catholic spirit. It took place during the ordination service when the ordained elders were invited to the platform. As a church in the Methodist tradition, it has been our practice that our general superintendent (bishop) would lay hands on the ordinand and do the actual ordaining on behalf of the entire Church. However, as a part of that same tradition, those already ordained are invited to come and lay hands on the ordinand while the general superintendent is ordaining.


When it came time to invite all of the ordained ministers to come forward, our presiding general superintendent, the Rev'd. Dr. James Diehl, said (paraphrased), "All of the ordained ministers are invited to come, at this time . . ." There was a pause, and then he turned and said (again paraphrased), "And if you are a minister ordained in another denomination, and you would like, you are invited to come, as well. We do not believe we are the only ones!"


Oh, granted, some would be upset, because such an invitation precluded any formal theological/ecclesiological dialogue with whatever denominations may have been represented. Yet, while I would like to see us involved in those types of dialogues, I think Dr. Diehl expressed the heart of Wesley's catholic spirit. If you are a Christian (no litmus test given, here, but a broad evangelical understanding would have been assumed; i.e., the trusting in Christ as Lord and Savior), and you have been ordained (again, no checking into the rules of ordination or understanding of such ordination), you are invited to come and participate.


While such questions were not asked of those being invited to participate, Dr. Diehl's invitation does express something about our understanding of ordination. His statement expresses the fact that we Nazarenes (and all those in the Methodist tradition, I believe) are ordained as elders in Christ's Church, not simply our denomination. In fact, my ordination certificate declares that I am ". . . ordained an Elder in the Church of God according to the rules of the Church of the Nazarene."


Such an invitation to those of other denominations does not, however, suppose that our Board of Ministerial Credentials, would simply accept any and all ordination credentials from any and all denominations. That is another issue, but it does express an openness to and a willingness to join with our sisters and brothers in Christ as they stand in the integrity of their own particular tradition.


I have to confess, while I do lament our lack of official ecumenical involvement, I was proud that evening as our presiding general superintendent, the man who ordained me some twelve years prior, expressed Wesley's catholic spirit.


______________________________
*It would, however, behoove those who quote Wesley in this day and age to go back and look at what he presupposed those essentials to be. There are those who are fond of quoting Wesley on this subject, who may, in fact, reject what he considered to be essentials. Such a sentiment sometimes ends up assuming that it does not matter what one believes about anything so long as one "loves" (in a sort of sentimental way). That, Wesley would reject.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Charles Wesley's Secret Code Deciphored

Anglican Mainstream reported, yesterday, that the coded journal of Charles Wesley, for the first time in 250 years, had been deciphered. The decoding work was accomplished by the Rev'd. Prof. Kenneth Newport, pro vice-chancellor of Liverpool Hope University.

The journals reveal Charles' grave concern about a possible split between the Methodists and the Church of England. (Charles, of course, vowed to stay with the Church of England if such a split were to ever occur.) The journals also speak (disapprovingly) of his brother, John's, plans to marry. As well as Charles' concerns about the spread of Islam.

The conservative Anglican review, of course, draws some parallels between the Methodist/Church of England split and the current concerns about an Anglican split.

The original article published by Telegraph.co.uk can be viewed here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

General Assembly Resolution #9: Membership/Baptism

A REMINDER & PLEA TO NAZARENES: PLEASE, GET COPIES OF THESE NINE RESOLUTIONS TO YOUR DISTRICT'S GENERAL ASSEMBLY DELEGATION.

Note: Bracketed text [ ] are words to be deleted from the current Manual. Underlined text ___ are words to be added to the current Manual.



Article II. Local Churches


29. The membership of a local church shall consist of all who have been organized as a church by those authorized so to do and who have been publicly received by those having proper authority, after having experienced Christian baptism, and having declared their experience of salvation, their belief in our doctrines, and their willingness to submit to our government. (100-107)


B. Membership


107. Full Membership. All persons who have been organized into a local church by those authorized so to do, and all who have been publicly received by the pastor, the district superintendent, or the general superintendent, after having experienced Christian baptism, and having declared their experience of salvation, and their belief in the doctrines of the Church of the Nazarene, and their willingness to submit to its government, shall compose the full membership of the local church; however, only church members who have reached their 15th birthday shall be entitled to vote in annual or special church meetings. (29, 35.4, 111, 113.1, 413.3, 417, 427.9, 433.8-33.9)


801. THE RECEPTION OF CHURCH MEMBERS


The prospective members having come forward to stand before the altar of the church, the pastor shall address them as follows:


DEARLY BELOVED: The privileges and blessings that we have in association together in the Church of Jesus are very sacred and precious. . .


. . . Do you heartily believe these truths? If so, answer, "I do."


Having experience Christian baptism do [Do] you acknowledge Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, and do you realize that He saves you now? . . .


FOR THE FOLLOWING REASONS:


1. It is generally accepted that, as General Superintendent Emeritus, the Rev'd. Dr. William Greathouse, has said, "In the New Testament church there simply were no unbaptized Christians . . ." (Staples 11) Staples, Rob L. Outward Sign and Inward Grace: The Place of Sacraments in Wesleyan Spirituality. Kansas City: Beacon Hill P 1991.


2. The Church, generally, for over 2000 years has understood baptism as the sign of initiation into the new covenant.


3. Jesus and the apostles command baptism (e.g., Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:38; 10:48).


4. The Scriptures consistently declare the importance of baptism (e.g., Jesus declares that "no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit," John 3:5; We are "baptized into Christ Jesus," Rom. 6:3; ". . . we were all baptized into one body," the Church, 1 Cor. 12:13; and Peter even declares that "baptism . . . now saves you," 1 Pet. 3:21).


5. Article of Faith XII. Baptism, paragraph 16, states the following: ". . . Christian baptism, commanded by our Lord, is a sacrament signifying acceptance of the benefits of the atonement of Jesus Christ, to be administered to believers . . .," and "Baptism being a symbol of the new covenant . . ." (italics mine) Thus, those who refuse baptism are acting inconsistently with the membership requirements in paragraph 29, which states that they must declare ". . . their beliefs in our doctrines . . ."


6. The FIRST of our General Rules (par. 27) call us to do ". . . that which is enjoined in the Word of God, which is our rule of both faith and practice . . ."


7. Most denominations, including the two denominations most like the Church of the Nazarene (viz., The Wesleyan Church and the Free Methodist Church of North America) require baptism prior to membership. In fact, allowing members who are not baptized places us at odds with orthodox Christianity.


8. It is surely more important for people to be fully "Christian" than "Nazarenes."


9. Not only has it been the case that we have had church board members serving who have never been baptized, but it has even been the case that elders have been ordained in the Church of the Nazarene, having been charged to "administer the sacraments," who had not yet been baptized.


10. Our acceptance of any of the three modes of baptism as being valid should make baptism as readily available as membership, itself, even in areas where water is not abundant (i.e., one need only to sprinkle, in such cases).


11. The action of the 2005 General Assembly of the Church of the Nazarene placed our denomination outside of orthodox Christianity by officially voting to not require Christian baptism for membership, making the Church of the Nazarene, as a denomination, something less than a Christian church by orthodox Christian standards.


12. The action of the 2005 General Assembly (cf., 11, above) invalidated the "Historical Statement" on page 16 of the Manual that says, "While the Church of the Nazarene has responded to its special calling to proclaim the doctrine and experience of entire sanctification, it has taken care to retain and nurture identification with the historic church in its preaching of the Word, its administration of the sacraments, its concern to raise up and maintain a ministry that is truly apostolic in faith and practice, and its inculcating of disciplines for Christlike living and service to others" (italics mine).

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

More on the Wesley Movie


I did a little bit of surfing looking for more information on the upcoming Wesley movie. I found the website at www.founderypictures.com . There is even a short trailer available for viewing.

I suppose only time will tell how good the movie is, but here's hoping!

General Assembly Resolution: Deacons/Elders

Note: Bracketed text [ ] are words to be deleted from the current Manual. Underlined text ___ are words to be added to the current Manual.

428.1. [The deacon does not witness to a specific call to preach.] The church recognizes, on the basis of Scripture and experience, that God calls some individuals to a lifetime ministry [who do not witness to such a specific call] of Word and Service, and believes that individuals so called to [such ministries] the ministry of a deacon should be recognized and confirmed by the church and should meet requirements, and be granted responsibilities, established by the church. This is a permanent order of ministry.



428.2. The deacon must meet the requirements of the order for education, exhibit the appropriate gifts and graces, and be recognized and confirmed by the church. The deacon shall be vested with the authority to administer the sacrament[s] of baptism [and the Lord's Supper], to officiate at marriages where the laws of the state do not prohibit, to assist the elder in the distribution of the Lord's Supper, and [on occasion] to conduct worship and to preach. It is understood that the Lord and the church may use this person's gifts and graces in various associate ministries. As a symbol of the servant ministry of the Body of Christ, the deacon may also use his or her gifts in roles outside the institutional church. (34.5, 35.2)



428.4. If in the pursuance of his or her ministry, the ordained deacon feels called to the [preaching] ministry of elder, he or she may be ordained [elder] as such upon completion of the requirements for that credential and the return of the deacon credential.



429. An elder is a minister whose call of God to preach, gifts, and usefulness have been demonstrated and enhanced by proper training and experience, and who has been separated for the ministry of Word and Table and to the service of Christ through His church by the vote of a district assembly and by the solemn act of ordination, and thus has been fully invested to perform all functions of the Christian ministry.



429.1. [We recognize but one order of preaching ministry - that of elder.] The order of elder[this] is a permanent order in the church. The elder is to rule well in the church, to preach the Word, to administer the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper, and to solemnize matrimony, all in the name of, and in subjection to, Jesus Christ, the great Head of the Church. (34.5, 35.2, 413.11, 433.12)



FOR THE FOLLOWING REASONS:



1. Throughout the history of the Church, from ancient times up to and including our own lineage of John Wesley's Anglicanism and American Methodism, the distinction between the order of deacon and the order of elder has been: a.) the deacon is called to a ministry focused on service, and b.) the elder is vested with the authority to administer the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. This has been expressed as the ministry of "Word and Service," on the one hand, and the ministry of "Word and Table," on the other hand.

2. This is the distinction that is held nearly universally in the larger Wesleyan/Methodist tradition (cf. the Discipline of the African Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal Zion, Christian Methodist Episcopal, and United Methodist churches).

3. This is the main distinction that seems to be held ecumenically, and it is the main distinction that seems to be held in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions, as well.

4. Our current distinction between the two orders (viz., preaching), seems to have been assumed due to the statement in par. 429.1 that "We recognize but one order of preaching ministry - that of elder." - However, making preaching the distinction between the two orders when we developed the order of deacon was an erroneous assumption. The statement found in par. 429.1 was not intended to distinguish the order of elder from any other order. Rather, that statement was meant to reinforce that we had only ONE order; that of elder. We did not have TWO preaching orders (viz., elder and deacon), as did the Methodist Episcopal Church of the time. We only had ONE preaching order (viz., elder).

5. To identify the distinction between the elder and deacon as one of a call to preach, not only disregards the historic position of the larger Church, but is very difficult to maintain when the deacon, according to par. 428.2, may also preach, and when we are a part of a tradition that involves lay preachers (cf., par. 402.1).

6. The proposed changes will bring us much closer to alignment with the usage of the terms in Scripture, the distinctions throughout the history of the Christian Church, the ecumenical consensus, and our own Wesleyan heritage.

General Assembly Resolution: Baptism of Infants

Note: Bracketed text [ ] are words that are to be deleted from the current Manual. Underlined text are words that are to be added to the current Manual.

800.2. The Baptism of Infants or Young Children

When the sponsors shall have presented themselves with the child (or children) the minister shall say:

DEARLY BELOVED: [While we do not hold that baptism imparts the regenerating grace of God, we do believe that Christ gave this holy sacrament as a sign and seal of the new covenant. Christian baptism signifies for this young child God's gracious acceptance on the basis of His prevenient grace in Christ, and points forward to his (her) personal appropriation of the benefits of the Atonement when he (she) reaches the age of moral accountability and exercises conscious saving faith in Jesus Christ.]

The sacrament of baptism was given by Christ as a sign and seal of the new covenant of grace. Christian baptism signifies for this young child God's gracious acceptance, and points forward to his (her) personal confession of faith when he (she) reaches the age of moral accountability and exercises conscious saving faith in Jesus Christ.

In presenting this child for baptism . . .

FOR THE FOLLOWING REASONS:

1. The current Ritual for The Baptism of Infants or Young Children, paragraph 800.2 begins with a statement of what we do not believe, rather than a statement of what we do believe. The above resolution allows us to begin the ritual with a positive statement of our beliefs. Certainly, the baptism of infants and young children should be a positive, celebratory time, rather than presenting a sense of uncertainty or defensiveness, which the wording of the current ritual may produce.

2. The above resolution is more consistent with Wesleyan sacramental theology and the teachings of John Wesley.

3. The above resolution is more closely in line with Article of Faith XII. Baptism, paragraph 16, in that it neither reduces our beliefs, nor imposes doctrinal positions not stated within the Article of Faith. Thus, the above resolution provides a ritual that is readily usable for all who espouse belief in Article of Faith XII, whereas, the current ritual does not provide such an opportunity for all who wholeheartedly espouse belief in Article of Faith XII.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

General Assembly Resolution: Merger Exploration

NAZARENE/WESLEYAN (FREE METHODIST) MERGER EXPLORATION

WHEREAS:


1. The Church of the Nazarene and The Wesleyan Church (along with the Free Methodist Church) share common historical roots.


2. The Church of the Nazarene and The Wesleyan Church (along with the Free Methodist Church) share a common theological heritage.


3. The Church of the Nazarene and The Wesleyan Church (along with the Free Methodist Church) are firmly committed to the spread of the message of holiness as understood in the Wesleyan-holiness tradition.


4. The Church of the Nazarene and The Wesleyan Church (along with the Free Methodist Church) share similar governmental structures rooted in a common heritage.


5. The Church of the Nazarene and The Wesleyan Church (along with the Free Methodist Church) have a long history of partnering together in ministry.


6. Jesus Christ our Lord, Himself, prayed in John 17 for the unity of His Church.


7. There seem to be little justification in maintaining the separate organizational existence of such similar denominations when compared to the expressed will of our Lord found in John 17.


8. The message of holiness of heart and life is diminished by the smallness of size of our individual denominations.


9. The message of perfect love which our holiness churches proclaim is called into question when so many (relatively small) holiness denominations cannot find a way to unite as one.


10. The message of holiness would gain a greater voice within the larger Wesleyan/Methodist tradition by a united Wesleyan-holiness denomination.


11. The message of holiness would gain a greater voice in the larger Church by a united Wesleyan-holiness denomination.


THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED:


That the Board of General Superintendents be given authority and responsibility to commission a committee for the expressed purpose of approaching The Wesleyan Church in order to pursue closer relations between the two denominations with a goal of exploring the possibility of merger of the two denominations into one, united Wesleyan-holiness denomination.


BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED:


That upon the agreement of The Wesleyan Church, the Free Methodist Church should also be approached and invited to participate in such an exploration.


BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED:


That the committee presents the results of its exploration and its recommendations to the next meeting of the General Assembly.

General Assembly Resolution: General Superintendents

Note: Underlined text ___ are words that are to be added to the current Manual.

G. The General Superintendents

306. The general superintendents*, elected by the General Assembly, shall serve until 30 days following the final adjournment of the next General Assembly and until their successors are elected and qualified. (305.2)

*The term general superintendent is the Wesleyan synonym for bishop, and the term preferred by the Church of the Nazarene. However, when the former term may cause confusion (e.g., in ecumenical settings), the latter term may be used for clarity.

FOR THE FOLLOWING REASONS:

1. Much confusion has occurred, especially in relationship to other denominations and those new to the Church of the Nazarene, concerning the title general superintendent.

2. Within the Church of the Nazarene, the title has been misunderstood so as to have people incorrectly refer to our general superintendents as "generals," as though it were a military type of title instead of a term referring to their general oversight. General superintendents ought to no more be called "generals" than district superintendents ought to be called "districts."

3. The superintendency constitutes the "episcopal" side of our "representative" government which combines "episcopal" and "congregational" elements (cf., the "Forward" of the Manual, page 8). the traditional rendering throughout the Christian Church for the episcopal office (i.e., office of general oversight/superintendency) has been the term bishop.

4. Within the majority of the larger Wesleyan tradition, the function of general superintendency has been the role of the bishop, and the terms general superintendent and bishop have functioned synonymously within the larger Wesleyan tradition.

5. With such a footnote, the term general superintendent would REMAIN the primary term used by the Church of the Nazarene and would REMAIN the term used throughout the Manual.

6. The footnote only provides the opportunity for helpful clarity in settings where our usual terminology has proven and remains unclear.

7. Within the larger Wesleyan tradition, general superintendents/bishops have never been understood as a "third order." Universally, within the larger Wesleyan tradition general superintendents/bishops are understood to be "elders" (cf., the Manuals/Disciplines of The AME, AMEZ, CME, Free Methodist, United Methodist and The Wesleyan churches). Therefore, such a clarifying footnote in no way implies that our general superintendents would be ordained to a ministerial order superior to that of elder.

General Assembly Resolution: Lord's Supper Frequency

Note: Bracketed text [ ] are words that are to be deleted from the current Manual. Underlined text ___ are words that are to be added to the current Manual. - The paragraph below is included in the list of pastors' duties.

413.11. To administer the sacrament of the Lord's Supper at least once a quarter. Acknowledging John Wesley's advice that elders should "administer the Supper of the Lord on every Lord's day," and recognizing that a weekly celebration of the Lord's Supper was the New Testament and historic norm, we encourage pastors to see quarterly administration as a bare minimum. We further encourage them to move towards a more frequent celebration of this means of grace. A licensed minister who has not complied fully . . .


FOR THE FOLLOWING REASONS:
1. The quarterly system stems from the circuit rider days of frontier Methodism. It was an acquiescence to the fact that there were not enough ordained elders to serve each parish. Elders made a circuit, roughly on a quarterly basis. However, the whole reason for Wesley's ordination of elders for America was in order to have the sacraments.


2. John Wesley's strong advice was "Constant Communion," and his clear instruction was that elders were to administer the Lord's Supper each Lord's Day.


3. Wesley understood the Lord's Supper to be a vital foundation for the life of holiness and a vital means of maintaining such a life.


4. As liturgical scholars have noted, and as the Rev'd. Dr. William Greathouse, general superintendent emeritus has stated, ". . . every Lord's Day the early Christians celebrated Christ's atoning sacrifice by eating His Body and drinking His blood in the simple faith that He was present with them at the table." (In the Forward of Rob Staples, Outward Sign and Inward Grace.)


5. The pattern found in the New Testament is that of the celebration of the Eucharist each Lord's Day.


6. The current ecumenical consensus is that weekly celebration of the Lord's Supper should be seen as the Christian norm, even when the reality is that the sacrament is celebrated less frequently.


7. The proposed amendment would NOT require the observance of the Lord's Supper to take place more frequently than the current quarterly minimum. No further requirements would be imposed upon our clergy or congregations.


8. What the proposed amendment would do is make a statement consistent with our Wesleyan heritage, as well as the New Testament and historic Church.

Monday, August 18, 2008

General Assembly Resolution: Unfermented/De-alcoholized Wine

Note: Bracketed text [ ] are words that are to be deleted from the current Manual. Underlined text ___ are words that are to be added to the current Manual.

34.5. . . . (Only unfermented or de-alcoholized wine should be used in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper.) . . .


802. THE SACRAMENT OF THE LORD'S SUPPER

. . .NOTE: Only unfermented or de-alcoholized wine should be used in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper.

FOR THE FOLLOWING REASONS:

1. Jesus used wine, and the Bible instructs us to use wine.

2. There really is no such thing as "unfermented wine." No one (including manufacturers), except those within churches that only use grape juice for the Lord's Supper, speak of "unfermented wine." It is simply grace juice.

3. "De-alcoholiezed wine" was not available at the time that the Manual developed the language of "unfermented wine." However, one may now purchase "de-alcoholized wine." This is wine that has gone through the fermentation process, BUT it has also gone through a process of being de-alcoholized, leaving no more alcohol in it than what one might find in orange juice.

4. Therefore, de-alcoholized wine maintains the church's strong stance against the use of alcohol, but allows those who strongly believe we ought to follow our Lord's instructions more closely to do so. Thus, it resolves for them an issue of conscience.

5. While the use of de-alcoholized wine does maintain the church's strong stance against the use of alcohol, the current rendering of par. 34.5 and par. 802 does not make room for its use in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, because, technically, it is not unfermented wine. (It has fermented, but the alcohol has been removed.)

6. The proposed change retains the language of "unfermented wine and the use of grape juice by those who would prefer its use would not be threatened in any way.

7. The proposed change does not require anyone to make any changes in their current practice, but it does allow for an additional option in the administration of the Lord's Supper which is still consistent with our church's stance on alcohol and which some see as being more faithful to our Lord's instructions.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

General Assembly Resolution: Baptism/Apostles' Creed

Note: Bracketed text [ ] are words that are to be deleted from the current Manual. Underlined text ___ are words that are to be added to the current Manual.

800.1. The Baptism of Believers

. . .
The earliest and simplest statement of Christian belief, into which you now come to be baptized, is the Apostles' Creed, which reads as follows:
"I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth;
"And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
"I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic* Church [of Jesus Christ], the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting."
. . .
(In a footnote) *universal

FOR THE FOLLOWING REASONS:

1. One denomination ought not have the authority to change the wording of an ancient and ecumenical creed which belongs, not to any one denomination, but to the whole Church.

2. Christian baptism ought to be consistent with Ephesians 4:5-6 which describes "one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." Our current rendering of the creed confuses in the minds of our people the one faith into which all Christians are baptized.

3. Rather than lose the language of the Church, and thus reinforce ignorance along with a sense of division and prejudice within our own people against our Christian sisters and brothers in other branches of Christ's Church, we should teach our people the meaning of such important words. The footnote allows the perfect opportunity to do so.

4. Our people need to know that the opposite of catholic is not protestant, but rather heretic. Protestant Christians are not Roman Catholic Christians. However, protestant Christians must hold to the catholic (i.e., universal Christian) faith, else we will find ourselves to be heretics rather than Christians.

General Assembly Resolution: General Assembly Theology Committee

WHEREAS:
1. The General Assembly is often required to make decisions directly related to the change of our Articles of Faith, and . . .

2. The General Assembly has, at times, voted to refer such resolutions, rather than adopt or reject such resolutions, and . . .


3. Such referrals necessitate an entire quadrennium to transpire before any substantial decision is made, and . . .


4. It would seem helpful to have a panel of Nazarene theologians (broadly speaking; including theologians, church historians, Bible scholars, etc.) at the General Assembly, who could review such resolutions and give a recommendation to the General Assembly.


THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED:


The Board of General Superintendents be given authority and responsibility to impanel, at each General Assembly, a committee of Nazarene theologians (including theologians, church historians, Bible scholars, etc.) chosen by them from our Nazarene education institutions (or, if teaching at other Christian institutions, holding Nazarene church membership/orders), and that such a committee would be given the responsibility to review all General Assembly resolutions related to our Articles of Faith and to present their recommendations to the body of the General Assembly.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

New Wesley Movie!

Burgess Jenkins stars as John Wesley in "Wesley," a feature film on the spiritual journey of the founder of the Methodist movement.
UMNS photos courtesy of Foundery Pictures

The United Methodist News Service is reporting the development of a new movie about John Wesley. It was not clear to me whether the movie will be released in theaters or TV or dvd or what, but I'm hoping it will be at least comparable to the Luther movie that came out a while back.

For more information see the UMNS article here.

If anyone out there knows anything more about the movie, please report it in my comments section! If I find out anything more, I will be sure to post it.


Friday, August 15, 2008

General Assembly Resolutions


In June of 2009 the Church of the Nazarene will be meeting for their General Assembly. Last month, our district (Southwest Indiana) made preparations for the G.A. by electing our delegation. One of the things that our delegation will do is review proposed resolutions presented to them by those on our district. They will either approve them, alter them, or reject them. If they approve them, they will become recommended resolutions from our district and be sent on to be reviewed in committee at the G.A. Depending upon who those committees vote, the resolutions may then be brought to the floor of the G.A. to be voted on by that body.

Two quadrennial assemblies ago, I presented resolutions to our district committee, but none of them passed the G.A. - I learned that it is very helpful for those resolutions to come from more than one source. Therefore, in preparation for the 2005 G.A., I not only presented my resolutions to our district delegation, I also emailed them to as many Nazarenes I could think of across the country (I don't really have a close connection with those outside the U.S., or I would have sent the resolutions to them, as well!). - As a result, two of my resolutions were actually adopted by the G.A., and resulted in two changes to our Manual (Book of Discipline)!

One person can make a difference!

This year, I am presenting nine resolutions to our delegation. I will, once again, work on my email list, as well. In addition, I am going to post those nine resolutions on my blog in the upcoming days. My hope is that those Nazarenes who read my resolutions and agree with them would print them out and get them to their districts' delegation. - In fact, I'm pleading with all Nazarenes who read my blog to do so! (Shameless, I know!)

Some of my resolutions, you may not agree with. Some, you may think to be trivial. However, if you do agree with a resolution or two (or nine), please get them to your delegation . . . And if you really agree with them, please consider sending them to Nazarenes you know on other districts.

Thank you for your help, and I will begin posting the proposed resolutions shortly!

AME Zion Makes History


As pointed out in the comments on my previous post, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church did, indeed, make history by electing their first female bishop! The Rev'd. Mildred B. Hines was elected to the episcopacy during their recent General conference.

With the AME, the AMEZ, the Church of the Nazarene, the UMC, and The Wesleyan churches all having taken the step of electing women to the episcopal role, one wonders if the CME and the Free Methodists churches will do the same during their next General Conferences.

In addition to electing Rev'd. Hines as bishop, I am happy to report that one of the other two elected to the episcopacy was the Rev'd. Darryl Starnes. Bishop Starnes previously led the evangelism wing for his denomination. I know Bishop Starnes through the Order of the FLAME, World Methodist Evangelism/World Methodist Council, and I congratulate him on his election!

May God's grace, anointing and wisdom be upon all Methodist/Wesleyan Bishops/General Superintendents.

--------------------

For an interview with Bishop Hines click here.

For an interview with Bishop Starnes click here.

For a different perspective concerning women in holy orders, read the statement put out by the Anglican Province of America entitled, The Male Character of Holy Orders: Dogma Not Discipline, or see the blog article entitled, An Icon of Christ, written by Fr. David Straw who ministers in a United Episcopal Church located in Evansville, IN.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

More Church Meetings

Earlier I wrote concerning the general conference of the United Methodist Church and The Wesleyan Church, both of which are sister Wesleyan/Methodist denominations to the Church of the Nazarene (though the latter is, of course, much closer to us). In addition, the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) just concluded their general conference, last week, and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) Church began their general conference yesterday.


A.M.E.
There seems to be very little that took place at the AME general conference that would be of much interest to those outside of the AME Church. One exception is that they did discuss the institution of a permanent order of deacons. Such a move would bring them in line with the UMC, as well as the Church of the Nazarene. However, they declined to do so, retaining, instead, their transitional deacon orders.
One other note of interest in these political times is that Senator Barack Obama spoke at the general conference. It was reported that Senator John McCain received an invitation to speak, as well, be failed to accept it.


A.M.E.Z.
Upon the heals of The Wesleyan Church's election of their first female General Superintendent (though probably without reference or even any thought given to The Wesleyan Church's action), it has publicly been asked if the AMEZ Church is ready to elect their first female Bishop. - Time will tell.

One thing is certain, it would be good for all of us in the Wesleyan/Methodist tradition to hold up our sisters and brothers in the AMEZ as they meet in general conference. - May God grant them wisdom and direction in all their decisions, and may God grant to them renewal and revival by the Holy Spirit.

THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION
Across the pond, the Anglicans have begun their every ten year (or so) meeting of bishops at Lambeth. This meeting will take place with a quarter of the Anglican bishops declining to attend in protest of "liberal" actions of The Episcopal Church in America (especially regarding homosexuality) and those who share similar sentiments.

It is clear that the Anglican Communion is in very bad shape. Schism is not just knocking on their ecclesiastic door, but about to knock it down, and it appears that there is nothing that Archbishop of Canterbury can (or will) do about it.

Anglicanism has splintered in America, with the "orthodox" groups forming their "Common Cause Partnership." Many Anglo-catholics in England are on their way to Rome, after the Church of England voted to ordain women as bishops. - They certainly need the prayers of all faithful Christians.
SWID
Closer to home, and not nearly as significant globally or denominationally, my own Southwest Indiana District of the Church of the Nazarene prepares to meet at our annual district assembly, next week. - We, too, would appreciate any prayers prayed on our behalf.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Calling Dr. Berrian

I apologize to those who graciously view my blog from time to time for not keeping up with my blogging. It has been a very busy summer! - I will try to do better in the near future.

I also apologize for using a blog article in the way that I am now using it. However, it seems that Dr. Berrian made a comment on July 8 in reference to my April 25 post on "How a Wesleyan Goes to Scripture" (below), and I have just now discovered it. I posted a response, but since it is an older article, I'm not sure that Dr. Berrian will be checking it.

So, Dr. Berrian, if you are out there, I would appreciate your checking out my reply, and I would very much appreciate your help in understanding what you were trying to say in your post.

Thank you!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Some Reflections on The Wesleyan Church General Conference, Part 3

During the General Conference, The Wesleyan Church had the opportunity to make a number of statements on current social issues. One of those issues was immigration.

I congratulate The Wesleyan Church on their statement concerning this timely issue.

On the one hand, given the denominations similarities to the Church of the Nazarene, and their social and theological conservatism (at times leading them headlong into fundamentalism), it may be a bit surprising to some where they come out on this issue.

However, for those who know their historical origin in the war against slavery, it is good to see that they have retained a bit of historical consistency.

The statement, itself, is a bit lengthy, but for those interested in their take on this important subject, you can find it, in its entirety, by clicking here.

Some Reflections on The Wesleyan Church General Conference, Part 2

In my previous post, I reflected upon the retirement of Wesleyan General Superintendent, Dr. Earl Wilson. That event, of course, meant that The Wesleyan Church needed to elect at least one new G.S. (and, as it turns out, the other two incumbents were re-elected).

It is with great joy that I congratulate The Wesleyan Church on the election of the Rev'd. Dr. Jo Anne Lyons (seen below, on the left). While The Wesleyan Church, like the Church of the Nazarene, has, from its very beginning, ordained women*, Dr. Lyons is the very first woman to serve that denomination as a General Superintendent.

The Wesleyans made this move on the heals of the 2005 General Assembly of the Church of the Nazarene, when we elected the Rev'd. Dr. Nina Gunter (on the right side, in the picture) as the very first woman to serve our denomination as a General Superintendent.

Making this move a bit more exciting is the fact that Dr. Gunter was present, representing the Church of the Nazarene at The Wesleyan General Conference.

May God's grace, guidance and blessings be upon Dr. Lyons and the Board of General Superintendents of The Wesleyan Church.

For more information on this historic vote, click here




*The Wesleyan/holiness churches were ordaining women long before the "liberal" mainline denominations (e.g., it took the United Methodist Church a quarter of a century to catch up with the Church of the Nazarene on this point). However, it has taken the Nazarenes and the Wesleyans far too long to catch up with the UMC regarding women in the episcopal role.

Some Reflections on The Wesleyan Church General Conference

The Wesleyan Church is the closest "sister denomination" to my denomination, the Church of the Nazarene. In fact, I believe it is a shameful thing (and given Christ, our Lord's, prayer that we be one, perhaps even a sinful thing) that we have not affected a merger of our two denominations. - But that is another topic.

I, personally, have a number of connections with The Wesleyan Church, through family members and family history, as well as my own ministry opportunities throughout college and seminary.

Earlier this month, The Wesleyan Church held their quadrennial General Conference. During their conference, a few things took place that I would like to reflect (briefly) upon.

First was the retirement of Dr. Earl Wilson from his long-time position as General Superintendent (Picture [on the right] with his brother, Dr. Norman Wilson [on the left], who also retired as Director of Communications and the speaker of The Wesleyan Hour). Dr. Earl Wilson served in church leadership for the denomination longer than anyone else in their history.

I had the opportunity to personally encounter and talk with Dr. Wilson on a few occassions; once, while he preached at the Orleans (IN) Wesleyan Campground. I also have happy memories of his presiding during one of the sessions at the Millennium Event for the Methodists in North America held in Huston, TX.

During the Millennium Event, it was organized so that a Bishop from the various Methodist denominations would preside at each session. Dr. Wilson, as a Wesleyan General Superintendent, presided at one of those sessions. It was during that session that he said (this may not be a complete quote, but it's pretty close), "I wish our people had enough sense to call us bishops." He said that when he is asked what he does, and he responds he is a General Superintendent, people don't know if he works in a factory someplace, or if they should salute him. - I loved that comment (and heartily agree with him!).

I also had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Wilson on our trip to Brighton, England for the 2001 World Methodist Conference. During that trip, I had the idea that, since the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church were (then) moving toward merger, our two denominations (The Wesleyans & the Nazarenes) should seek to send observers to their discussions. - I figured something might come from those observations that might promote the merger of our two denominations.

I told Dr. Wilson about my idea, and told him that I would write our Board of General Superintendents about it. He immediately and enthusiastically expressed his support for such a proposal and indicated that they would certainly do so. - Unfortunately, talks between the AMEZ & the CME came to a standstill before The Wesleyans & Nazarenes had an opportunity to send observers.

In addition to the encounters above, Dr. Wilson graciously agreed to preach at one of our annual Aldersgate Services, while I served as pastor of the Greencastle (IN) Church of the Nazarene.

I was saddened to hear of Dr. Wilson's retirement. I know that he desired for a merger to take place between our two denominations, and he was a very active part of his denomination's involvement with the World Methodist Council. Further, he was quite open and willing to correspond with me about certain issues and opportunites.

My prayer is that God's blessings would be upon Dr. Wilson during his years of retirement.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Aldersgate Day


It's been a while since my last entry, and with the activities coming up this summer, it may be some time before my next entry. However, having missed discussing Pentecost and Trinity Sunday, I didn't want to miss Aldersgate Day, as well.


For those who don't know what Aldersgate refers to, let me explain briefly. Aldersgate is a street in London, and on that street, in 1738, there was a meeting of a certain society. It was a kind of Bible study or prayer meeting. It was at one of those meetings on May 24, 1738 that John Wesley had an experience that would forever impact the Methodist/Wesleyan movement.


After years of struggling to know his own sins forgiven, during that society meeting, while Martin Luther's Preface to Romans was being read, John Wesley experienced his heart "strangely warmed," and an assurance was given him that Christ had saved him from his sins. It is that doctrine of assurance that has become one of the distinct contributions of Methodism to the larger Church.


This past Sunday evening, we held our annual Aldersgate Service. This is a practice that I began while pastoring in Greencastle, IN. It was quite successful, there. However, it has been slow starting in Evansville. Nevertheless, I was thrilled to have the Rev'd. Charlie Cross and his wife, the Rev'd Karen Cross participate with us. Charlie is the senior pastor, and Karen the associate pastor at Alexander Chapel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Evansville.


We had a wonderful time celebrating our common heritage and worshipping the God who still strangely warms the hearts of those who place their trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.


I wish I had more time to focus on Aldersgate, but, at the least, I wanted to make a brief mention of that which has become a spiritual touchstone for the Wesleyan/Methodist tradition.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Jesus, the Sinner's Friend

In my April 25 post on "How a Wesleyan Goes to Scripture," I indicated my devotional practice of incorporating into my praying of the Daily Office the singing of hymns taken from The Works of John Wesley, vol. 7, "Collection of Hymns for the Use of The People Called Methodists" (Bicentennial Ed.). Yesterday, I sang a hymn, the last verse of which I have quoted from the pulpit a number of times. I first became familiar with it through a little booklet entitled, "Hymn Poems of Charles Wesley for Reading and Singing," issued by Tidings, Headquarters for Evangelistic Materials, Nashville.

I would like to share a few verses of the hymn with you this morning as a powerful reminder of the grace and love of God for sinners. (The wording is slightly different between the two sources, and the Wesley's Works edition, surprisingly, makes no notation of a discrepancy. The following comes from Wesley's Works (hymn #128, page 239):

1. Jesu[s], the sinner's friend, to thee,
Lost and undone for aid I flee,
Weary of earth, myself, and sin -
Open thine arms, and take me in.

2. Pity, and heal my sin-sick soul;
'Tis thou alone canst make me whole,
Fall'n, till in me thine image shine,
And cursed I am, till thou art mine.

5. At last I own it cannot be
That I should fit myself for thee;
Here then to thee I all resign -
Thine is the work, and only thine.

6. What shall I say thy grace to move?
Lord, I am sin - but thou art love.
I give up every plea beside,
'Lord, I am damned - but thou hast died.'

(The wording of the last line in "Hymn Poems" is "I give up every plea beside - Lord, I am lost, but Thou hast died." In either case, the expression is a powerful reminder of our utter dependence upon God and our Lord's abundant love and grace towards us.)

Friday, May 2, 2008

United Methodists Maintain Stance on Homosexuality

The General Conference of the United Methodist Church concludes, today. I had the opportunity to try to follow some of the events via their live stream. I confess that I was a bit envious of some of their worship practices. They certainly were not as "high church" as one might find in an Anglican meeting of this sort, but oh how I wish that I could see some of their liturgical content in a Nazarene General Assembly!

As for the business . . . there was a lot! Far too much for me to report on or even follow. However, as the title of this post indicates, the delegates of the United Methodist Church General Conferences retained their position on homosexuality. They continue to affirm homosexual people as being people "of sacred worth," and at the same time describe homosexual activity as being "incompatible with Christian teaching." Although the vote, as in years past, was fairly close, nevertheless it was a solid victory for those who seek biblical integrity.

Friday, April 25, 2008

How a Wesleyan Goes to the Scriptures

As a member of the Order of St. Luke, my devotional practice includes the praying of the Daily Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer. We are free in the Order to use whatever versions of the Daily Office we choose (the OSL, of course, provides their own resources). It has been my practice to use the version of the Book of Common Prayer given by John Wesley to the Methodists in America, viz., The Sunday Service of the Methodists in North America.

Fairly recently I began to incorporate in my prayers the singing of hymns taken from The Works of John Wesley, vol. 7, "Collection of Hymns for the Use of The People Called Methodists" (Bicentennial Ed. - Over this past week I sang a series of hymns in a section entitled "Before reading the Scriptures," and I want to share a few stanzas from three of those hymns (pages 186-85).

Notice how different the Wesleyan approach to Scripture is from fundamentalism, on the one hand, and ultra-liberalism, on the other. Notice the affirmation of the inspiration of the writings of Holy Scripture, but also the necessity for the Holy Spirit to inspire them afresh and anew to us. Notice also the goal of going to the Scriptures, viz., to know God.

85
1. Come, Holy Ghost, our hearts inspire,
Let us thine influence prove,
Source of the old prophetic fire,
Fountain of life and love.
2. Come, Holy Ghost (for moved by thee
The prophets wrote and spoke);
Unlock the truth, thyself the key,
Unseal the sacred book.
3. Expand thy wings, celestial dove,
Brood o'er our nature's night;
On our disordered spirits move,
And let there now be light.
4. God through himself we then shall know,
If thou within us shine;
And sound, with all thy saints below,
The depths of love divine.
AND
86
2. While in thy Word we search for thee
(We search with trembling awe!)
Open our eyes, and let us see
The wonders of thy law.
3. Now let our darkness comprehend
The light that shines so clear;
Now the revealing Spirit send,
And give us ears to hear.
AND AGAIN
87
1. Inspirer of the ancient seers,
Who wrote from thee the sacred page,
The same through all succeeding years;
To us in our degenerate age
The spirit of thy Word impart,
And breathe the life into our heart.
2. While now thine oracles we read
With earnest prayer and strong desire,
O let thy Spirit from thee proceed
Our souls to waken and inspire,
Our weakness help, our darkness chase,
And guide us by the light of grace.