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


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

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.