Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Saturday, November 22, 2008
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!
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.):
Thursday, November 20, 2008
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:
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
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:
Thursday, November 13, 2008
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
2. Fasting He doth, and hearing bless,
3. But none, like this mysterious rite
4. This is the richest legacy
5. Here all Thy blessings we receive,
6. Thus may we still in Thee be blest,
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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. 4 Let us for this faith contend,
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).
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
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
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
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
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
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
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."
FOR THE FOLLOWING REASONS:
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
I suppose only time will tell how good the movie is, but here's hoping!
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.
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
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.
G. The General Superintendents
*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:
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.
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
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:
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
800.1. The Baptism of Believers
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.
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
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
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!
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
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.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
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.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
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.
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.
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.
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
Friday, May 9, 2008
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):
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
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
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.