Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Theotokos; Mary, Mother of God?

Perhaps it is the fact that I recently heard a discussion (really an argument) on Catholic Radio between a Roman Catholic and a (fundamentalist sounding) Protestant. Maybe, it is due to the recent Lectionary passages focusing on Mary. I don't know, but the place of the Blessed Virgin Mary has been on my mind a bit lately.

It is unfortunate that so many Protestant Christians seem to be quite fearful of Mary (if not of her, at least of spending much time talking about her). As I have recently said in a sermon, Mary is a fantastic example for us of holiness of heart and life. She certainly is (or ought to be) a role model for Christians.

Nevertheless, it is undoubtedly the Protestant prejudice over against our Roman Catholic sisters and brothers (yes, our sisters and brothers in Christ), along with their seemingly inordinate attention to Mary, not to mention the popular notions of Mary-worship, that has left many protestants reluctant to spend much time talking about the mother of our Lord.

There are, of course, some real doctrinal issues concerning Mary, on which Protestant and Roman Catholic Christians do, indeed, differ significantly. Those issues only add to the Protestant "fear" of Mary.

However, it would likely come as a real shock to most contemporary Wesleyans to discover that the perpetual virginity of Mary was NOT one of those doctrinal differences for our spiritual forefather. The fact is John Wesley affirmed the perpetual virginity of Mary. (Check out his Letter to a Roman Catholic.) Still, that issue is not the particular focus of this article.

Rather, the focus of this article is the use of the term Theotokos. Ought Mary be referred to as the "Mother of God?" - Admittedly, I've not done much research, and in many ways, most of this is off the top of my head, but here it goes . . .

Rome and Constantinople, of course, affirm this terminology for Mary. Protestantism, almost universally, denies it. The question is, why? You see, the doctrines surrounding the natures and divinity of Christ as expressed in the Chalcedonian statement are accepted as orthodox among Protestants, as well as Roman Catholics and Orthodoxy. Nevertheless, Protestants have uniformly rejected the use of the term as being objectionable an misleading (cf. Christian Theology, Vol. II, p. 167. Wiley, H. Orton. Beacon Hill. 1952).

Of course, at least one of the objections has to do with the implications that Mary is somehow the mother of God in eternity. God, of course, has always been. God is not created. Mary has not always been. Mary was created. Thus, Mary ought not be call "Mother of God."

Another objection is that "Mother of God" talk could easily lead to Mary-worship, as, indeed, it has done among many Roman Catholics. (The question of whether such is truly the teachings of Rome is moot, in this regard. The reality of popular practice cannot be denied.)

A further objection is that such a title has brought about the lifting of Mary to doctrinal heights which are not found in Scripture.

Again, since I have not spent much time in any real research, I could be missing the truly significant objections. I would be happy for others to fill in the blanks!

Protestants have affirmed that Mary is the Mother of our Lord, but have objected to calling her Mother of God. However, when one looks at the term, itself, not the abuses nor the unnecessary, objectionable implications, I find little reason to object to the term, itself.

First, the title is not a new invention. It was widespread in the ancient Church, long before the Protestant Reformation. Second, even Rome defines the term in such a way as to fit the Chalcedonian statement. They make clear that the intent of the term is to affirm the full divinity of Jesus. The rest of the objectionable implications of the term, itself, they deny.

Third, the concept, though not the term, is found, even in popular Protestantism. An example of this is the popular Christmas song, Mary, Did You Know?. In that song, the question is asked, "Mary, did you know . . . when you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God?" - Any Roman Catholic or Orthodox Christian who understands the concept would quickly declare that the song is expressing exactly what is affirmed by the title, "Mother of God."

Finally, we Wesleyan Christians are happy to affirm the same concept in our own hymnody. After all, don't we (thanks to Charles Wesley!) enthusiastically sing, "Amazing love! how can it be That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?" That "God" who died for us (viz., Jesus the Christ), we also confess to be "born of the Virgin Mary."

So, what is the point of all of this? Do I intend to start using the title, or am I advocating the use of it by others? - Not really. There are still far too many confusions and possible, unintended implications.

However, I think the point is, this is not really something Protestants ought to get worked up about. This ought not be something that divides Protestant Christians from their Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox sisters and brothers. We ought to allow them the liberty to use the terminology when we, while refraining from the terminology, nevertheless affirm its intended meaning through our own doctrine, as well as hymnody and popular expressions.

. . . Of course, as I have said, if I'm missing something, feel free to jump in with your comments!

New Sacramental Life

I'm pleased to announce that the newest edition of Sacramental Life is now available.

According to the journal, the purpose of Sacramental Life is "to provide help for persons who have responsibility for the worship and sacramental life in the local church." The journal provides articles "that are practical as well as being historically and theologically sound." It is published four times a year by the Order of Saint Luke.

The most recent issue is Volume XXI, Number 3, Summer 2009. (Yes, Summer 2009! There was a change in the office of editor, and, consequently, the production took a little extra time.) - The cost of the journal for none OSL members is $5.00 an issue. (OSL members receive this, as well as the more academic Doxology as a part of their membership.)

The reason for my excitement about this particular issue is that it includes one of my articles. The title of the article is, "An OSL Nazarene Reports on the Twenty-Seventh General Assembly of the Church of the Nazarene." The article does not report on all of the happenings of the General Assembly. Rather, it focuses on the significant business undertaken by the Assembly which would be of specific interest to members of the OSL. In other words, it focuses, primarily, on sacramental issues, as well as the Assembly's actions concerning holy orders. (I do, also, mention the historical elections of the Rev'd. Jennifer Brown as Global President of Nazarene Missions International and The Rev'd. Dr. Eugenio Duarte to the episcopal office of General Superintendent.)

This is the third article I have had published in this journal. My first article, "One in Christ: Around the Table, In Prayer, and Confessing Our Faith," was published in Volume XV, Number2, Spring 2003. My second article, "Wesleyan-Holiness Prayers with Beads," appeared in Volume XIX, Number 3, Summer 2007. Additionally, I have recently been honored by being named one of the editorial consultants (in the area of Wesley Studies) for the journal.

The Order of Saint Luke is "A Religious Order in the United Methodist Church, Dedicated to Liturgical and Sacramental Scholarship, Education, and Practice." It is ". . . a dispersed community of women and men, lay and clergy, from many different denominations . . . The Order is Wesleyan and Lukan in its spirituality, Methodist in its origin, sacramental in its practice, and ecumenical in its outlook." - I encourage all readers of this blog to check out the Order via the links in this article, or the one listed on the sidebar.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Worship Video at Epworth Chapel-on-the-Green

The Rev'd. Dr. Brook Thelander and the good people at Epworth Chapel-on-the-Green have posted on their website a new video introduction to their services of worship.

Epworth is a "Wesleyan-Anglican" church locate in Boise, Idaho. While it is an independent church, it has a Nazarene background (originally envisioned as a Nazarene church plant), and Dr. Thelander is a Nazarene elder.

At one time, Epworth had acquired duel "spiritual oversight" by representatives of the Anglican (The Most Rev'd. Dr. Larry Shaver, Bishop in the Anglican Province of America) and Wesleyan (The Rev'd. Dr. William Greathouse, General Superintendent Emeritus in the Church of the Nazarene) traditions. - I do not know if they have maintained such relationships, at least on the Anglican side. Dr. Greathouse retired from this position, but the local Nazarene District Superintendent has, I believe, a strong relationship with Epworth.

While, personally, I would be more open to including a blend in terms of musical style, as well as a sense of openness to Spirit led spontaneity, nevertheless, I have been quite happy with all that Epworth has accomplished and closely regard them as "kindred spirits" committed to the Wesleyan-Anglican theological and liturgical tradition. Thus, I enthusiastically point the readers of this blog to their website to view their new video. - A link to their church is located on the sidebar, or you can simply click here.

(If I figure out how, and gain permission, I will post the video on this site.)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Archbishop Thomas Cranmer

Today we celebrate Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury (1556).

Cranmer was the major force in the English Reformation, and the person to whom thanks is due (in Christ!) for the Book of Common Prayer (in its variety of forms). Cranmer was primarily responsible for the very first Book of Common Prayer in 1549 and its first revision in 1552. In his development of the BCP, Cranmer followed closely the medieval forms of worship, especially the Old Sarum rites.

The 1662 BCP, which is still in use in the Church of England, as well as other Anglican churches, and which is considered the standard by which all other Prayer Books are gaged, was a revision of Cranmer's previous work.

In the preface to his own edition of the 1662 BCP (viz., The Sunday Service of the Methodists in North America), John Wesley says, "I believe there is no liturgy in the world, either in ancient or modern language, which breathes more of a solid, scriptural, rational piety, than the Common Prayer of the Church of England. And though the main of it was compiled considerably more than two hundred years ago, yet is the language of it, not only pure, but strong and elegant in the highest degree."

Thomas Cranmer was born in Aslockton, Nottinghamshire on July 2, 1489. He earned his B.A., M.A. & a Fellowship from Jesus College, Cambridge, and became a Doctor of Divinity, a lecturer in the same school. Cranmer was highly influenced by the Lutheran reformers. King Henry the Eighth, with confirmation from the Pope, appointed Cranmer to the See of Canterbury, and he was consecrated Archbishop on March 30, 1533.

When Queen Mary the First took the throne, as a staunch Roman Catholic, she had Cranmer arrested. On March 21, 1556, Thomas Cranmer, along with other church leaders, was burned at the stake.

Today, in honor of Thomas Cranmer, I varied my normal practice (i.e., the use of Wesley's Sunday Service), and prayed Matins ( i.e., Morning Prayer) and the Litany using Arthur James' 1999 printing of The First English Prayer Book.

Thomas Cranmer has and continues to influence countless Christians in their spiritual formation and lives through the Book of Common Prayer.

For more information on Thomas Cranmer, I commend to you the Episcopal Church's Lesser Feasts and Fasts - 1997 and the "Introduction" to James' printing of The First English Prayer Book. You can also read the article I posted on this blog, last year by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"O God, What Offering Shall I Give?"

This hymn, by Joachim Lange, translated by John Wesley, was part of my Morning Prayer time, today. Verse five says:

Lord, arm me with They Spirit's might,
Since I am called by Thy great name.
In Thee let all my thoughts unite;
Of all my works be Thou the aim.
Thy love attend me all my days,
And my sole business be Thy praise.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

God's Sure Guidance

During this morning's Morning Prayer, I sang Captain of Israel's Host, and Guide. The second verse (of two!) reminded me much of God's call to Abram to head out to a land that God "will show you."

I found it both ironic and timely when placed next to the line in this morning's Psalm that prayed, "May [the LORD] grant you your heart's desire, and fulfill all your plans" (Ps. 20:4).

My prayer is that, if anyone reading this blog is facing a future which is uncertain, or if you are confused about your situation, or if your direction is unclear, that these words from Charles Wesley might be, for you, the voice of the Lord:

By Thy unerring Spirit led.
We shall not in the desert stray;
We shall not full direction need,
Nor miss our providential way;
As far from danger as from fear
While love, almighty love, is near.
(Italics mine.)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Boundless Love of Jesus

A part of my praying Morning Prayer today included this absolutely wonderful hymn by Paul Gerhardt, translated by John Wesley, and included in Wesley Hymns (compiled by Ken Bible, Lillenas P.):

Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me

1. Jesus, Thy boundless love to me
No tho't can reach, no tongue declare;
O knit my thankful heart to Thee
And reign without a rival there.
Thine wholly, Thine alone, I am;
Be Thou alone my constant flame.

2. O grant that nothing in my soul
May dwell, but Thy pure love alone;
O may Thy love possess me whole,
My joy, my treasure, and my crown.
Strange flames far from my heart remove;
My ev'ry act, word, thought, be love.

3. O Love, how cheering is Thy ray!
All pain before Thy presence flies;
Care, anguish, sorrow melt away
Where'er Thy healing beams arise.
O Jesus, nothing may I see,
Nothing desire or seek but Thee!

4. In suff'ring be Thy love my peace;
In weakness be Thy love my pow'r;
And when the storms of life shall cease,
Jesus, in that important hour,
In death as life be Thou my guide,
And save me, who for me hast died!

Methodists, Lutherans & Catholics Celebrate Justification

According to an article by the United Methodist News Service (here), Methodists, Lutherans and Catholics are gathering today in Chicago to celebrate the landmark signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification by the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation on Oct. 1, 1999.

This historic agreement was immediately hailed by the World Methodist Council. A statement declaring fundamental agreement between Methodists and the Lutheran-Catholic statement was drafted by the Rev'd. Dr. Geoffrey Wainwright, British Methodist and Professor of Christian Theology at Duke, and United Methodist Bishop Walter Klaiber and circulated twice to all WMC denominations. After a unanimous vote by the World Methodist Council, including delegates from all seven denominational members in the U.S. (viz., AME, AMEZ, CME, Church of the Nazarene, Free Methodist, UMC & The Wesleyan Church), the statement was signed by representatives of the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran World Federation and the World Methodist Council at a meeting of the WMC in Seoul on July 23, 2006.

I attempted to put together a joint service with local Roman Catholics & Lutherans last year, during the Week of Christian Unity. We were looking forward to a time of representatives speaking of the Joint Declaration from each of the three perspectives, followed by a joint service of prayer. - Unfortunately, some internal issues caused us to back off of the plans at that time. Now, with the issues surrounding this years Churchwide Assembly of the ELCA, plans to put together such a service locally are, once again, in question.

Concerning the Chicago meeting, it seems that the United Methodist Church has taken upon themselves the sole mantel of Methodism. Perhaps it is simply a matter of denominational reporting. - I hope. - Or, perhaps it is simply an outflow of the new full communion agreement between the UMC & the ELCA. Whatever the case, it would be truly unfortunate if the other six U.S. denominational members of the World Methodist Council were not included in the celebration. After all, the agreement, while likely officially endorsed by the UMC, nevertheless, was an agreement between the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran World Federation, and the World Methodist Council.

This gathering, and the historic agreement, is worth celebrating by all who are apart of the RCC or any member of the LWF or WMC denominations.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Jon Lovitz: Judaism vs. Scientology

I caught this on The Tonight Show last night as I was flipping through the channels. I thought it was hilarious, and yet truly lays bare the absurdities of Scientology and other religions like it.

Since I don't have a clue as to how to get the video to show up on my blog (!), here is a link to The Tonight Show site where you can view Lovitz. While this should not be seen as an endorsement of Conan O'Brien, or The Tonight Show, or any of the rest of Lovitz's appearance in the video, I really do think Lovitz's talk about Scientology is hilarious.

Full Communion Does Not Open the Door for Gay Clergy in the UMC

In a recent article about the Full Communion agreement between the United Methodist Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, I raised the question of what the ELCA's new position on gay clergy would mean for the UMC. It seems that both denominations have been quick to clarify that the new ELCA position does not in any way compromise the position of the United Methodist Church.

The United Methodist Church has, for decades, in continuity with Scripture and the historic Church, maintained the position that homosexual practice is "incompatible with Christian teaching," and that "self-avoid practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers or appointed to serve in the United Methodist Church." That position will continue to be upheld by the United Methodists and will be respected by the Lutherans.

For more information, click here.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

An Example of the Episcopal Teaching/Preaching Role in the Church of the Nazarene

One of the most important functions of those holding the episcopal office is that of preaching and teaching; the proclamation of and the guarding of the faith. That is why I am so thankful for the new book, Blameless At His Coming, a number of "holiness" sermons by the Nazarene Board of General Superintendents. (General Superintendent is the Wesleyan term for Bishop.)

Oh, it is not that I necessarily like the way that each G.S. went about talking about entire sanctification in each sermon. (I prefer a more classically Wesleyan approach over the "Baptism with the Holy Spirit" language of the 19th-Century holiness movement, which does make an appearance in the book.) Nevertheless, I appreciate the work of the General Superintendents proclaiming the "distinctive doctrine" of the Church of the Nazarene and the Wesleyan-holiness tradition. I am especially thankful for their conscious effort to make clear the relationship between the crisis experience of entire sanctification and the larger process of sanctification, as a whole; the growth in grace that takes place before and after the experience of entire sanctification. I believe, as is demonstrated in the revision of the Article of Faith, they were able to demonstrate the balance between the two aspects of sanctification without losing the importance of either.

I had the opportunity, recently, to tell James Diehl, my district's presiding General Superintendent at our July District Assembly (his last Assembly before he retired) that I greatly appreciated the book and his message during the ordination service that briefly touched on our Articles of Faith. I told him that the preaching & teaching that the G.S.s do is every bit as important to their episcopal role as the administrative duties they perform.

It should be noted, concerning the book, though the book is new, three of the General Superintendents whose sermons are featured have now retired and have been replaced by the three newly elected G.S.s at this summer's General Assembly.

I would suggest for those who pray the Daily Office that you consider including one sermon during Morning and/or Evening Prayer following the last Scripture reading. - I picked up that practice during my recent prayer retreat, and, although it does require more time, I found it very beneficial.

The book can be purchased at this link.

The UMC & the ELCA in Full Communion

This week the largest Lutheran denomination in America met in their Churchwide Assembly. Among the various resolutions voted upon, the ELCA voted to enter into full communion with the the United Methodist Church, the largest Methodist denomination in America.

The delegates of the 4.7 million member denomination voted to enter into full communion on August 20 by a margin of 958 to 51. They reportedly celebrated the historic occasion by singing Charles Wesley's O for a Thousand Tongues. After the vote was announced, Lutheran Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson hugged the president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, Bishop Gregory Palmer.

Last year, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church voted overwhelmingly to approve full communion by a margin of 864 to 19.

United Methodists, like all in the Wesleyan/Methodist tradition, have always practiced open communion. Additionally, they have "acted as though" they have been in full communion with not only the Pan-Methodist denominations (viz., the AME, AMEZ, and CME churches), but also the denominations of the World Methodist Council. That is to say, they have had joint Eucharistic services wherein UM & other Wesleyan/Methodists have been involved and presided (e.g., at the World Methodist Conferences and other WMC related events).

Nevertheless, this is the very first "official" full communion agreement for the UMC. (It does make one wonder if they ought not to have declared themselves in full communion with the WMC denominations, first. Such a declaration would have simply stated what their practice has already indicated, though, of course, such a declaration would still fall short of the kind of mutual, written agreement now entered into between the UMC & the ELCA. - And, of course, such discussion is really moot!)

What this new agreement means is that each denomination now officially recognizes the other as a partner in the Christian faith, recognizes the authenticity of each others baptism and Eucharist, recognizes the validity of each others orders of ministry (e.g., deacons & elders), and commits each to working together toward greater unity. (The UMNS article can be viewed here.)

Such an agreement would, indeed, be worth celebrating. - However, actions taken by the ELCA in their Churchwide Assembly may raise some issues concerning the agreement.

It seems that the ELCA delegation also voted to not only allow the blessing of same-sex unions, but also to open holy orders to partnered gay and lesbian Lutherans. Prior to this Assembly, the Lutheran policy concerning the ordination of those who identified as gay or lesbian was to only ordain them if they remained celebrate. That has now changed. (See ELCA News article, here.)

The question that this raises is how will the UMC deal with Lutheran ministers who are in partnered same-sex relationships. On the one hand, full communion indicates the recognition of the validity of ELCA orders. On the other hand, despite all of the attempts to change the UMC position, the United Methodists continue to maintain that the "practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching," and therefore, "self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church" (Discipline, 2004, par. 304.3). - Will there be a backlash at the next General Conference? Will there be a backlash prior to the next G.C.? Or, will this situation provide momentum for those in the UMC who want to see their own policy change?

For many, the further actions of the Churchwide Assembly of the ELCA have put a large damper on what would otherwise be a glorious celebration.

Beyond the question of UMC/ELCA relations is the question of what will become of the many, many ELCA Lutherans who mourn the decision of their Churchwide Council? Will they remain and work for renewal within their beloved denomination?

All of the readers of this blog are asked to pray for all of our Christian sisters and brothers within the UMC and the ELCA who have been or will be affected by the momentous decisions of this week's Assembly.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

1st Friday Letter

The first Friday of each month (or there abouts) the Rev'd. Dr. George Freeman, General Secretary of the World Methodist Council, sends out a letter to the World Methodist Council Executive Committee. This month Dr. Eugenio Duarte, newly elected General Superintendent of the Church of the Nazarene, made Dr. Freeman's letter.

The letter can be viewed on the WMC website, under News and Events, then under 1st Friday Letter, by clicking on July-August 2009 1st Friday Letter, or simply by clicking here and then clicking on the July-August 2009 link.

Also in that letter, one will find an advertisement for a theology conference sponsored by the Wesleyan Methodist Church of New Zealand (the New Zealand branch of The Wesleyan Church in the U.S.), in cooperation with the Church of the Nazarene. The conference features speakers including Dr. Tom Noble of Nazarene Theological College in England.

It should be noted that, although Dr. Freeman gives me credit for the article on Dr. Duarte, I simply mentioned the subject to him and pointed him to the link for the story. I had nothing to do with the actual writing of the actual article. Still, I'm always happy to see the Church of the Nazarene make World Methodist news.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Servants of the Master

Servants, as they must do their Master's work, so they must be for any work their Master has them to do: they must not pick and choose, this I will do, and that I will not do; they must not say this is too hard, or this is too mean, or this may be well enough let alone; good servants, when they have chosen their Master, will let their Master choose their work, and will not dispute His will.

(From John Wesley's Covenant Service)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Resting in God's Care

To the Hills I Lift My Eyes

(v.2) . . . Lean on thy Redeemer's breast;
He thy quiet spirit keeps;
Rest in Him, securely rest;
Thy watchman never sleeps.
(Charles Wesley. #63, Wesley Hymns. Lillenas. 1982)

Through the storms of life, it is good to know that we can securely rest in the God who keeps us, and that this same God can quiet our spirits as we do so rest.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Other Interesting General Assembly Action

There were a couple of other resolutions that passed that were quite interesting.

The General Assembly (amended and) passed a resolution from the Reference Committee, Kansas City District, Washington Pacific District and Wisconsin District Resolutions Committees on "Gender Inclusive Language." - It reads as follows:

". . . The Church of the Nazarene affirms and encourages the use of gender inclusive language in reference to persons. Publications, including the Manual and public language should reflect this commitment to gender equality as expressed in paragraph . . ." (The amendment made it clear that changes in the Manual would not include changes in Scripture quotations or in reference to God.

A second, and more lengthy resolution from the Reference Committee, East Ohio District General Assembly Delegation, Eurasia Regional Advisory Council and USA/Canada Mission/Evangelism Department (which I will not reproduce, here) focused on Christian Compassion and its connection with the holy life. - It was adopted by the Assembly, as well.

One to watch for, tomorrow, comes from the USA/Canada Mission/Evangelism Department and focuses on "Working with Immigrants." It supports ministering to and assisting immigrant regardless of their legal status, etc.

Merger Resolution: Amended & Adopted!

Readers of this blog will recall my nine resolutions to the General Assembly, six of which were adopted by my district's delegation and sent on to the General Assembly. Among those six was one that called for the General Superintendents to put together a committee that would seek to explore the possibility of merger with The Wesleyan Church, as well as the Free Methodist Church. - That resolution can be read, here.

While I do not have the exact wording of the amendment (they took it off of the screen to quickly!), the amendment basically took out specific reference to The Wesleyan & Free Methodist churches and replaced it with something like "other likeminded Wesleyan-holiness denominations." While retaining "merger" language, it ended with something like "or increased collaboration," or something like that.

There are a number of good points in this action to be thankful for: First, the committee, and then the Assembly, responded overwhelmingly positively to the resolution (as amended). Second, it positions the Church of the Nazarene as a leader in trying to bring together the Wesleyan-holiness denominations into one Wesleyan-holiness church. Third, it looks beyond just the two denominations that I named. - This could make a real, significant difference for the Church of the Nazarene and the Wesleyan-holiness movement.

There are a couple of possible concerns, as well: One, that without specific denominations named, the committee could become much more general in the way that they approach other "likeminded" denominations. Second, the committee could lean more towards the collaboration than the merger concept. Additionally, there are some Wesleyan-holiness denominations that we have less in common with (i.e., those that do not share our specifically Methodist heritage), like the Church of God (Anderson), that could lead us further away from our heritage, rather than solidifying it.

However, even with those "possible concerns," with the amendment, I am quite pleased that the Assembly overwhelmingly adopted the resolution, and I am thankful for the opportunity to influence our denomination in this way.

May God receive the glory!

He Says "Yes" This Time

Four years ago, the Rev'd. Dr. John Bowling, President of Olivet Nazarene University, was elected to the episcopal office of General Superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene. - He responded by asking for some time to pray for discernment. - When he returned, he declined the position.
This year, Dr. Bowling was, once again, elected to the position of General Superintendent, and, once again, he asked to have the afternoon break to pray before giving an answer. - However, when during the evening session, Dr. Bowling accepted the office, sensing God nudging him in a new direction. Thus, John Bowling has become our denominations 39th General Superintendent. - May God's blessings be upon him!
One more to go!


History has been made in the Church of the Nazarene! The General Assembly has elected our first General Superintendent born outside of the United States! (Well, actually, such is what was being reported at the G.A., but there were two prior; one from Canada & one from Scotland? - cf., comments & thanks for the correction!).
The Rev'd. Dr. Eugenio Duarte was born in the Cape Verde Islands, and comes to the episcopal office of General Superintendent from the position of Regional Director of the Africa Region!
More information about our newest General Superintendent can be found here and here.
More news to come! - For now . . . Praise be to God!!!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

General Assembly Bound

Just a quick note to say that we are heading to General Assembly tomorrow; bright and early!

I have recently found out that I should have Internet access while there (I previously did not think that I would). Hopefully, that will mean that I will have some blogging to do next week! - While I will not get to stay for the entire Assembly, I hope to be there to find out what happens with a number of resolutions that readers of this blog may be interested in.

However, keep in mind, this is my first attempt at blogging while on a trip like this. So, if you don't hear from me next week, you can assume that I was wrong about my Internet access!

Please keep the Assembly in your prayers. There are many important decisions to take place next week.

May God bless the Church of the Nazarene and our General Assembly!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Friday, June 19, 2009

Following the Nazarene General Assembly

The Nazarene Communications Network is reporting the following concerning how one can keep up with what is going on at General Assembly:
"Articles, updates, and photos will be available at www.ncnnews.com throughout the event. You can follow our news and updates at Twitter.com/ncnnews and discuss your General Assembly experience with hundred of other NCN News readers on our Facebook page."
In addition, as I have mentioned before, there will be at least a few items that I will blog about. However, due to the circumstances of travel, my comments may not be up-to-the-minute (i.e., they may be a bit late!).
The 27th General Assembly and Conventions will take place June 24 - July 2 in Orlando, FL.

New Websites for the ACNA

From June 22 - 25, those representing the Common Cause Partners will gather and a new ecclesial entity will be born: The Anglican Church in North America. This new province will seek to represent authentic, orthodox, Anglican Christianity in North America.

With the gathering, the ACNA will be launching new and updated websites; one, the purpose of which will be to cover the Inaugural Assembly ( www.acnaassembly.org ), the other will be the new province's new website (replacing the Common Cause website). - You can read about the new websites, here.

While I would like to cover the Assembly, I do not know how much opportunity I will have. My own denomination's General Assembly will be taking me out of town, next week. If I am able to gain access to my blog (and if I have time!), I will want to cover the business of our Assembly: the election of three new General Superintendents (i.e., bishops), and several resolutions, including the six of mine that have made it to the G.A.

But not to fear! Those who want to follow the ACNA Inaugural Assembly can do so at www.acnaassembly.org !

I would encourage the readers of Wesleyan/Anglican to be in prayer for the newly forming ACNA. North American surely needs a better representation of "Wesley's Church" than has been provided in recent years by The Episcopal Church. - May God grant that the new ACNA will prove to be a much better representation, for the glory of God.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Birthday Celebration!

Just a quick note to say, "Happy 306th Birthday" to John Wesley! - Wesley was born on June 17, 1703 to the Rev'd. Samuel & Susanna Wesley. He was either the 13th or 14th of their children; no one is quite sure. In any case, he was only the seventh to survive the first year of life. Oddly, he was the third Wesley child to be named "John" (the previous two had died). (cf. The Elusive Mr. Wesley, Vol. 1, Heitzenrater).

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


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

My own denomination is no exception to the orthodox Christian faith. Our very first Article of Faith confesses our belief in the Triune God. Additionally, in our Manual's "Historical Statement," we state that the Church of the Nazarene ". . . receives the ecumenical creeds of the first five Christian centuries as expressions of its own faith." Along side the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed, we find that creed which John Wesley identifies as the best explication of the Trinity he ever saw (cf., his sermon "On the Trinity"), that is the so called Athanasian Creed (or Quicunque Vult) written, most likely within the fifth-century.

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

Although, it has been said that it is far too long for liturgical use, I do know at least one Lutheran pastor whose congregation uses it every Trinity Sunday (and I'm sure they are not alone).

I strongly encourage those who are unfamiliar with the creed to read it by clicking, here. (Sorry, it's a bit too long for me to reproduce on my blog.)

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

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

Bishop Ole E. Borgen's Homegoing

Though the news is late, I just learned of the death of Bishop Ole E. Borgen on March 24, 2009. It was reported in this month's "First Friday Letter" of the General Secretary of the World Methodist Council. (You read the entire letter at by clicking here.)

Bishop Borgen was born in Norway, educated in the United States, and returned to become the Bishop's assistant in Sweden, later becoming the Geneva Secretary for the World Methodist Council. In 1970 he was elected Bishop of the Northern Europe Central Conference of the United Methodist Church, a position he held for 19 years before retiring in 1979. While an active Bishop, he was elected the first non-American President of the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church. A collector of Wesley literature, his private collections are now accessible in Tallinn, Estonia and Oslo, Norway. His life and ministry helped to shape the direction of the Church and of the World Methodist Council.

Of great significance to the readers of this blog, and the reason that the Bishop's death caught my eye, is the fact that he is the author of John Wesley on the Sacraments: A Definitive Study of John Wesley's Theology of Worship. - This book has been a huge gift to those of us who claim the Wesleyan sacramental tradition. The Bishop's book was recommended to me by my seminary professor of theology, the Rev'd. Dr. Rob L. Staples, whose own book, Outward Sign and Inward Grace: The Place of Sacraments in Wesleyan Spirituality is one of my absolute favorite books and an absolute must read for Nazarene clergy and other clergy in the larger Wesleyan tradition. (Staple's book is the only theology of the sacraments written from within the Wesleyan-holiness wing of the larger Methodist tradition.)

We have been enriched by Bishop Borgen, and for that we give thanks to God!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Pentecost Sunday

This past Sunday the Church celebrated the culmination of the great fifty days, the conclusion of the Easter season, the outpouring of the promise of the Father, the baptism with the Holy Spirit, and the birth of the Church. - John the Baptizer had declared concerning Jesus, "I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire" (Luke 3:16, NRSV).

Jesus assured the disciples that it would be to their advantage that He would ascend to the Father, because, in doing so, He would send the Holy Spirit (the Advocate/Comforter/Counselor/Helper - parakletos ) to them (John 16:7). The Holy Spirit would teach them everything and remind them of all that Jesus had said to them (14:26), and the Holy Spirit would "prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgement (16:8).

Further, Jesus told the apostles, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8, NRSV).

On the Day of Pentecost, the disciples saw the fulfillment of the promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit as told by John the Baptizer and the Lord Jesus, as well as the prophet Joel.

It is that same outpouring of the Holy Spirit that we enter into by faith and through our baptism, for St. Paul declares, "For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body . . ." (1 Cor. 12:13, NRSV).*

Pentecost is one of the major feast days of the Church, and it should be a great day of celebration for those of us in the Wesleyan/Holiness tradition. - I recall a conversation a number of years back with a Presbyterian (USA) pastor. He confessed, he really didn't know what to do with Pentecost. Now, I do not mean to imply that such is the case for all, or even a majority of Presbyterians. I don't know. However, Nazarenes, whether espousing a 19th century or a classical Wesleyan view (cf. footnote, below) ought to have no problem knowing how to celebrate Pentecost Sunday.

You see, one of the main benefits of Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is the possibility of having our hearts cleansed of sin. - As the prophet Ezekiel foretold, there was coming a day when God would ". . . sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statures and be careful to observe my ordinances" (Ezek. 36:25-27, NRSV). And St. Peter, referring to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the gentiles, argued, "And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us" (Acts 15:8-9).

It is this heart cleansing that has been at the heart (no pun intended!) of the Wesleyan & Methodist movement, and especially so for the Holiness branches of Methodism. It has been referred to by Wesley in connection with the Biblical doctrines of Entire Sanctification and Christian Perfection. In fact, the spread of scriptural holiness throughout the land was the stated purpose of Methodism, first by John Wesley in London in 1733, and then in America, at the famous Christmas Conference in Baltimore in 1784 at the founding of the Methodist Episcopal Church. It was the commitment to this purpose that gave rise to the 19th century Holiness Movement within Methodism. And Phineas Bresee said of the Church of the Nazarene, that it is ". . . a part of that body of believers raised up to spread sanctified holiness over these lands, and thus that we are a part of that company who are the real successors of John Wesley and the early Methodists" (Nazarene Messenger, July 15, 1909).

And so, we Wesleyan Christians have special reasons for joining with our sisters and brother in Christ around the world to rejoice and give thanks to God on Pentecost Sunday for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as we seek to worship God in Spirit and in Truth.

*At this point, those within the Holiness movement will recognize that I take my stand with John Wesley, the Church of history, and those in the classical Wesleyan theological tradition, rather than those who are more consistent with 19th century interpretations. Those debates within the Holiness Movement can be seen in The Wesleyan Theological Journal between 1973 and 1982. Mark Quanstrom discusses it in A Century of Holiness Theology: The Doctrine of Entire Sanctification in the Church of the Nazarene, 1905-2004, though his bias toward the 19th century view is apparent in his, not always completely accurate portrayal of members of "The Trevecca Connection."

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Aldersgate Day

My apologies for my lack of posts! I have been quite busy as of late. I even missed Ascension Day. However, tomorrow, May 24, is a special day that I just could not miss. In addition to the fact that it is my daughter's birthday (Happy Birthday, Sarah!), it is also Aldersgate Day. (This is my beautiful daughter, to the right.)

What is Aldersgate Day? Well, any good Wesleyan/Methodist knows the answer to that question. It is the anniversary of John Wesley's "Evangelical Conversion." As the UMBW puts it, "On Wednesday, May 24, 1738, John Wesley experienced his 'heart strangely warmed.' This Aldersgate experience was crucial for his own life and became a touchstone for the Wesleyan movement."

The name, Aldersgate, of course, refers to Aldersgate Street, the location of the Society meeting where Wesley experienced his strangely warmed heart. (The picture below shows the Aldersgate memorial located in London.)

Prior to this Aldersgate experience, Wesley had sought assurance of his sins forgiven, but he was unable to obtain it through his many pious works.

During his trip to Georgia, where he would serve as a missionary, the ship on which he was sailing encountered a terrible storm . . . right in the middle of their time of worship. But the thing that caught Wesley’s attention was that, while the English on board were screaming for fear of their lives, the Germans simply continued singing.

Wesley asked one of them, “Weren’t you afraid? Weren’t your women and children afraid?” The man simply said, “Thank the Lord, we were not afraid; we are not afraid to die.”

Later, Wesley met with one of the German pastors for advice. The pastor asked him, “Do you have the witness within? Does the Spirit of God bear witness with your spirit that you are a child of God?” Wesley was caught off guard (not something that happened very often). And so the pastor asked, “Do you know Jesus Christ?” Wesley said, “I know he is the Savior of the world.” The pastor replied, “That’s true, but do you know he has save you?” Wesley said, “I hope he has died to save me.” “But do you know?” And then comes those powerful lines from John Wesley, “I said, ‘I do.’ But I fear they were vain words.”

However, what was to happen to Wesley on May 24, 1738 would forever change his answer, and forever change the world. (The image to the right marks the probable location of Wesley's Aldersgate experience.)

John Wesley, himself, describes what took place that evening in his journal as follows: "In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther's Preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death."

(Below and to the right is another marker in memorial of John & Charles' "Evangelical Conversions.)

Wesleyan/Methodists remember and observe Aldersgate Day, because it not only shaped the life and ministry of John Wesley, but also the entire Methodist movement from that time until today. It not only marks the spiritual experience of Mr. Wesley, but it calls us to worship the God who still "strangely warms the hearts" of all who place their trust in Christ alone as Lord and Savior. This experience illustrates so well the Biblical doctrine of Assurance. - We can, by grace through faith, know our sins forgiven. We can, by grace through faith, have an assurance that Christ has "taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death."

Let us pray: Almighty God, in a time of great need you raised up your servants John and Charles Wesley, and by your spirit inspired them to kindle a flame of sacred love which leaped and ran, an inextinguishable blaze. Grant that all those whose hearts have been warmed at these altar fires, being continually refreshed by your grace, may be so devoted to the increase of scriptural holiness throughout the land that in this our time of great need, your will may fully and effectively be done on earth as it is in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
(Prayer by Fred D. Gealy, as printed in the UMBW.)

(To the right is a picture of me standing next to the Aldersgate memorial during my trip to the World Methodist Conference held in England in 2001.)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Wesleyan/Anglican on Facebook

Just to let everyone know, Wesleyan/Anglican now has a group on Facebook! There are 46 members, according to my last count.

So far, there has not been much conversation!! However, that could change at any minute! - In addition, the Facebook group could be a means of networking with others of similar interests and convictions.

If you are on Facebook, and you have not yet found the group, it is located at http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/group.php?gid=67135661780&ref=mf

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

An Evening with Marva Dawn, Robert Webber & Dan Kimball: Explanation & Comments

(See the previous two posts prior to reading.)

You will notice that we did not spend much time talking about worship. However, for those who are familiar with Robert Webber, you will have noticed that the evening followed his often used analogy of the ancient four-fold pattern of worship. There were rituals of gathering, rituals of communication (service of the Word), rituals of relationship (service of the Table), and rituals of departure.

Bob and Marva were both committed to this pattern. Marva’s commitment went beyond the pattern to the “proper” and “traditional” ways of accomplishing the pattern (e.g., “The Lord be with you,” her insistence that Dan quit playing in his food, and her preference for filet mignon.) Dan was obviously not committed to this pattern, though he was committed to the content of the evening.

You will also notice that Dan showed up early, in that he and the emerging worship movement are “out front, on the cutting edge.” Bob was chasing behind, because he is, self-consciously, trying to help shape some of the emerging worship movement. At the same time, Bob was trying to pull Marva along. I see Robert Webber as trying to be the mediator. Marva Dawn was determined not to be early or late, but right on time. That is also reflected at the conclusion of the evening.

One of the reasons that Dan wasn’t content to be in the living room, though he did still carry on some conversation, was simply to reflect his insistence to be “hands on.” The cross in the mashed potatoes was another attempt to express emerging practices in worship.

One thing that they all had in common was the critique that much of the contemporary “seeker movement,” along with much of the rest of the Church, had lost much of the “meat and potatoes” of the gospel (i.e., the content of worship).

Perhaps obviously, I am in much more agreement with Robert Webber. I want to be open to “new (postmodern?) expressions” of worship, as reflected in the emerging church. However, I am committed to the ancient four-fold pattern. The freedom of expression needs the historic patterns of worship to help guard it from becoming something less than Christian. Unlike Marva Dawn, however, I am much more interested in blending elements and styles within the pattern. I agree with all of them that the true content of worship must be restored.

An Evening with Marva Dawn, Robert Webber & Dan Kimball: The Visit

(See the previous post before reading.)

It was about ten minutes before they were to arrive when the doorbell rang. As I opened the door, I saw Dan Kimball. As I invited him in, I heard someone hollering, “Wait up.” As I looked down the sidewalk, there was Bob Webber running to catch up with Dan, while, at the same time, holding Marva Dawn’s hand, pulling her along.

I said “Hi” and “Welcome” to each one of them, as they arrived, inviting them to come in. Dan immediately headed to the kitchen. Bob, responded to my greeting, and Marva said, “The Lord be with you.” Bob and I said, “And also with you.”

As I invited them into the living room for a moment, I heard Dan holler from the kitchen, “Thanks for inviting us over.” - Bob and Marva sat down with me in the living room. We had a drink and talked a bit about their trip to Greencastle. I could tell that Bob was a bit distracted. He eventually stood up and walked a little closer to the kitchen in order to ask Dan about his trip. As he did so, Marva said, “I just don’t understand why Dan can’t come in here and talk with us.” Bob said, “I have tried to talk with him about that. You know he has a very ‘artsy’ personality and is a bit of a ‘free spirit,’ but I have tried to explain to him that he can still be ‘artsy,’ and that the traditional form can actual help to aid his ‘free spirit.’ Marva responded, “Well, I don’t know about all of that ‘free spirit’ stuff, but he should be in here with the rest of us.”

After some time of small talk, we entered into the dinning room. Dan met us there, bringing some of the dishes with him. (It was obvious that he had already been snacking on some of the dessert.)

During dinner we discussed some of what has happened in the “seeker movement” of the ‘80’s and 90’s. All agreed that much of the content of the gospel had been diminished. Marva was convinced that it was by design, but Bob was not so sure that it was purposeful. Dan didn’t really comment, but we noticed that he was drawing a cross in his mashed potatoes with his fork. Bob said, “That’s a cool cross.” Marva said, “Oh, Dan, quite playing in your food and grow up. - And please use your napkin rather than your sleeve!” - After dinner, all expressed their appreciation for some real meat and potatoes, but Marva did express that she would have preferred fillet mignon, but the roast was still pretty good; certainly a lot better than the hamburgers that so many serve when she comes to dinner.

After what seemed like a short time, Bob looked at his watch and said, “Oh, it’s getting late, and we had better go.” Marva looked at her watch and said, “I told you that we should have left fifteen minutes ago. We got up and headed to the door, but Dan stayed behind for one more helping. Marva was ready to go, but Bob insisted that they wait for Dan. I thanked all of them for coming and expressed that I would love to have them back again. They all expressed appreciation for my invitation, and then headed out the door.

An Evening with Marva Dawn, Robert Webber & Dan Kimball: A Prologue

Recently, I have observed some discussion on and connected to Face Book concerning the "emergent movement," and "Emergent Nazarenes." The "emergents" were identified by "Concerned Nazarenes" as being less than Christian and more than dangerous. Additionally, a very large brush was being used to paint a wide variety of people as being emergent.

The late Robert Webber was included as a part of the (dangerous) emergent movement. First, I considered the labels to be far too general and too broad. Second, I took some issue with what was stated about Webber's role in the emergent movement. I should explain at this point, I have been greatly influenced by Bob Webber and his work, and I do not consider myself to be "emergent."

In the following two posts, I will be presenting a copy of my online response to a question given to one of my D.Min. classes a number of years ago. We were supposed to have imagined having coffee with Dan Kimball, Robert Webber, & Marva Dawn, and describe the conversation that would have taken place concerning worship. My response was nothing profound, but I had a lot of fun and others in the class seemed to enjoy it. - I hope that you do, as well. (I did take some liberties with the question.)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Charles Wesley on the Free Grace of God for All

I just finished reading the first two essays in a little book I picked up during the meeting of the Wesleyan Theological Society titled "Prints" and Practices of Love Divine, edited by Maxine E. Walker, Point Loma Press, 2007. The first essay, which I mentioned on Facebook, is called Wesleyan Hymns as Icons of the Wesleyan Tradition. It was written by S. T. Kimbrough, Jr, and was, as I said on FB, wonderful and fascinating! I highly recommend it, and it is worthy of much comment here, on my blog.

However, in light of this Sunday's Gospel Lesson (viz., John 3:16), I thought I would, at this time, make mention of the second essay and post one of Charles Wesley's hymns quoted therein. The essay is titled Father of Everlasting Love" and the Struggle Against Calvinism (my Reformed friends are going to love this!), and it was written by the Rev'd. Dr. Leslie Griffiths (Lord Griffiths of Burry Port). Dr. Griffiths is the Superintendent Minister at Wesley's Chapel, City Road, London England.

(As an aside; I had the opportunity to visit Wesley's Chapel in 2001. I also had the opportunity to hear Dr. Griffiths preach on the Sunday of the World Methodist Conference in Brighton, England that year. - Anyway . . .)

Dr. Griffith points out that the hymn is a fiery and unrelenting attack on the Calvinist understanding of Predestination. However, he also notes that, while the hymn was published with a small collection of other hymns, it was not included in the great 1780 hymnbook.

Although the hymn is a polemic against Calvinism, as a Wesleyan-Arminian Christian, I view it as simply expressing the amazing and abundant love and grace of our God poured out to all through Christ Jesus. It is in that same spirit that I post it, here.

Father, whose everlasting love
Thy only Son for sinners gave,
Whose grace to all did freely move,
And sent him down the world to save:

Help us thy mercy to extol,
Immense, unfathomed, unconfined;
To praise the Lamb who died for all,
The general Saviour of mankind.

Thy undistinguishing regard
Was cast on Adam's fallen race;
For all thou hast in Christ prepared
Sufficient, sovereign, saving grace.

The world he suffered to redeem;
For all he has the atonement made;
For those that will not come to him
The ransom of his live was paid.

Arise, O God, maintain thy cause!
The fullness of the nations call;
Lift up the standard of thy cross,
And all shall own thou diedst for all.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Saint Patrick

March 17 is the Feast of St. Patrick. Most people know it as a day when we celebrate all things Irish and when everyone gets to wear green, my favorite color. (In fact, I would join the petition to make green an alternate liturgical color, instead of Lent's purple, just for St. Patrick's Day!) - Yet there is much more significance to the day.

The real reason we celebrate is because of the amazing missionary work of Patrick during the 5th century. - As a boy, Patrick was kidnapped and enslaved as a shepherd in Ireland. After his escape several years later, he entered Holy Orders in Britain. He was ordained a Presbyter (i.e., Elder or Priest) and consecrated a Bishop. God called Patrick back to Ireland, where, by the grace of God, Patrick brought about, in large part, the conversion of Ireland. In the process, he Christianized Pagan sacred places and objects (a good lesson for current evangelicals).

Additionally, Patrick provided a great means of speaking of the Holy Trinity by use of the three-leafed clover.

One of the most powerful prayers attributed to Patrick is The Lorica, or St. Patrick's Breastplate. While there is some doubt that it was actually written by the good bishop, it certainly expresses his faith.

While an abbreviated form of the Breastplate is found in Sing to the Lord, the Nazarene hymnal, the more complete version, as follows, was found on my friend, James Gibson's blog, Sanctus. - May God make this a reality for us all.

I bind unto myself today
the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One, and One in Three.

I bind this day to me forever,
by power of faith, Christ’s Incarnation;
his baptism in the Jordan river;
his death on cross for my salvation;
his bursting from the spiced tomb;
his riding up he heavenly way;
his coming at the day of doom:
I bind unto myself today.
I bind unto myself the power
of the great love of cherubim;
the sweet “Well done” in judgement hour;
the service of the seraphim;
confessors’ faith, apostles’ word,
the patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls;
all good deeds done unto the Lord,and purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
the virtues of the starlit heaven,
the glorious sun’s life-giving ray,
the whiteness of the moon at even,
the flashing of the lightning free,
the whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
the stable earth, the deep salt sea,
around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
the power of God to hold and lead,
his eye to watch, his might to stay,
his ear to hearken to my need;
the wisdom of my God to teach,
his hand to guide, his shield to ward;
the word of God to give me speech,
his heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
the vice that gives temptation force,
the natural lusts that war within,
the hostile men that mar my course;
of few or many, far or nigh,
in every place, and in all hours
against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
against false words of heresy,
against the knowledge that defiles
against the heart’s idolatry,
against the wizard’s evil craft,
against the death-wound and the burning
the choking wave and poisoned shaft,
protect me, Christ, till thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One, and One in Three.
Of whom all nature hath creation,
eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
praise to the Lord of my salvation,
salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness

3. Lord, I believe They precious blood,
Which, at the mercy seat of God,
Forever doth for sinners plead,
For me, for my own soul, was shed.

4. Lord, I believe, were sinners more
Than sands upon the ocean shore,
Thou hast for all a ransom paid,
For all a full atonement made.

Praise be to God for the mercy poured out to us through the atonement of Christ our Lord!

(Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness. Nicholaus L. Zinzendorf. Translated by John Wesley. Hymn #23 in Wesley Hymns. Compiled by Ken Bible. Lillenas Publishing Co. Kansas City, MO.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday, the Beginning of Lent

For Christians, today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the forty day (not counting Sundays) season of Lent. Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lencten, which means “spring.” The season is a preparation for celebrating the resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday. Historically, Lent began as a period of fasting and preparation for baptism by converts and then became a time for penance by all Christians.

Most churches that observe the season of lent will mark their worship space with somber colors such as purple or ash gray and rough-textured cloth as most appropriate symbols.

Ash Wednesday provides us with the opportunity to confront our own mortality and to confess our sin before God within the community of faith. The form and content of the Ash Wednesday Service focuses on the themes of sin and death, but it does so within the context of God’s redeeming love in Jesus Christ.

The use of ashes as a sign of mortality and repentance has a long history in Jewish and Christian worship, and the Imposition of Ashes can be a powerful and tangible way of participating in the call to repentance and reconciliation.

May we all be drawn closer to God and made more like Christ by God's grace during this Lenten journey to the cross and resurrection.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

To Such as These Belong the Kingdom of God

This morning, during Morning Prayer, I read the Gospel passage from Mark (in my new Wesley Study Bible!) that included this story:

People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, "Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it." And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.
(Mark 10:13-16, NRSV)

I have not yet had the opportunity to post about an incident that took place on the first Sunday of February, but this passage a Scripture gives me a great opportunity to do so, now.

The local Church where I serve has the practice of celebrating the Holy Eucharist on the first Sunday of each month. During the February celebration, when I came to serve the Bread to one family, the mother indicated that her (not quite 18-month old, I think) daughter, Alice, would not be receiving that morning. (I'm not sure why that was the case on that particular morning. I baptized her shortly after she was born, and I have served her at the Lord's Table before. Nevertheless, instead of serving her the Sacrament . . .) I laid my hand on her head and invoked the Lord's blessing upon her and went on.

Well, as it turns out, the little girl's grandmother was in charge of taking care of the remaining Eucharist elements (in the case of the wine, my local Parish uses grape-juice, as do most present-day Wesleyan denominations). Alice came to where here grandmother was taking care of the juice, following worship. Her grandmother thought that she simply wanted a drink of juice, so she gave Alice some juice (apparently in one of the individual Communion cups).

To here surprise, Alice took the cup of juice just outside the room to the altar-rail of the church. Placed it on the altar-rail, and after a moment of (prayer?!), partook of the Blood of Christ our Lord. - And that is, indeed, what I believe to have happened! - Oh, some people may think that such action was simply "cute," but I completely disagree. This was not simply cute; this was Christ taking little Alice in His arms, just as He did the little children in Mark 10.

Oh, such is not to discount the importance of the Words of Institution, the larger Great Thanksgiving prayers, or the priestly role of the celebrant. In fact, I believe, though I'm not sure, that the "juice" was a part of that which was sacramentally consecrated, earlier. (I'll not go into that, at this point.) But whether it was or not, God's grace is in no way limited by even the normal pattern passed on to us by our Lord. God is free to act however God chooses, and it seems to me that this instance with little Alice fits very nicely with Jesus' recorded actions in Mark 10.

To such as these belong the Kingdom of God, and so too, the Kingdom Feast! - Praise be to God!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Papers for the Wesleyan Theological Society

By way of an update of my WTS post, below: My paper, as well as a number of other papers to be presented at the upcoming meeting of the Wesleyan Theological Society can be found at the WTS website by clicking here.

Friday, February 6, 2009

A Sad Loss for the Church of the Nazarene

Nazarene Communications Network is reporting that on the evening of Sunday, February 1, 2009 General Superintendent Emeritus, the Rev'd. Dr. John A. Knight died in his sleep.

Dr. Knight served the Church of the Nazarene as a General Superintendent for 16 years, and up until his retirement in 2001, he had served in ministry for 50 years. In addition to having served the denomination in the episcopal role, Dr. Knight ministered as a pastor, a member of the teaching faculty of a number of our schools, president of two of our colleges, editor of the Herald of Holiness (now Holiness Today), and authored eight books.

Dr. Knight earned his undergraduate degree at Bethany-Peniel College (now Southern Nazarene University), his M.A. in Philosophy from the University of Oklahoma, his Bachelor of Divinity from Vanderbilt Divinity School, and his Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University.

The death of John Knight is a great loss for the Church of the Nazarene. Nevertheless, we are confident of his triumphant in Christ!

May God's grace & strength be with the Knight family.


The NCN article can be read, here.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Methodists & Anglicans

Among all of the news in the Anglican world (and there is a lot: from the AMiA Winter Conference; the TAC/RC developments; the meeting of the Anglican Primates in Alexandria, etc.), there comes some news that is a little closer to home for those of us who are a part of World Methodist Council denominations (including us Nazarenes! ).

The United Methodist News Service is reporting on the meeting of the new Anglican-Methodist International Commission on for Unity in Mission. - According to the Rev'd. W. Douglas Mills, an executive with the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, the new group “will look for ways to cooperate in mission, in evangelism, in service.” But, it should be clear, although the United Methodist Church is heavily involved in these discussions, this is not merely a UMC-Anglican discussion. This is a WMC-Anglican discussion and deals with Methodism and Anglicanism internationally.

That very fact speaks to one of the complications between Methodists and Anglicans, internationally. Unlike the Anglican communion, the structure of Methodist denominations can vary from country to country. The Rev'd. George Freeman, General Secretary of the World Methodist Council, explains, “Within the Methodist-Wesleyan family, we have a variety of expressions of how we do church. We’re not uniform in our governance.” Nevertheless, the hope is that the commission can identify geographic areas “where there are regional understandings and covenants” between Methodists and Anglicans, and it can study those documents to see how they might be applied elsewhere.

The next meeting is scheduled for February 2010 in the United Kingdom, and the Right Rev'd. C. Franklin Brookhart, Episcopal bishop of Montana, expressed hope that the commission’s work “will result in at least a much closer sharing of mission around the world. Ideally, I would look for full communion between the two bodies” (almost certainly speaking more specifically about TEC & the UMC, which have been working toward full communion).
The pictures & primary content of this post was taken from the above mentioned article by the United Methodist News Service. The article can be read in its entirety, here.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The New Wesley Study Bible

Bishop Will Willimon has a very nice post on his blog, A Peculiar Prophet, introducing the new Wesley Study Bible.

I have to admit, I am quite excited about this new study Bible. In fact, I pre-ordered one for my wife and for myself, shortly after I heard about it, and just received them, today!

One of the things that excites me is the scope of contributors. They are representative of the whole scope of the Wesleyan/Methodist tradition in the United States; from United Methodism, to the three historically African-American Methodist denominations, to several Wesleyan-Holiness denominations. - In other words, this is not a study Bible produced only by those denominations that make up the Christian Holiness Partnership (as was the case with two previous study Bibles*), nor is it produced exclusively by denominational members of the World Methodist Council. Rather, there are those who are members of both groups and those who are exclusively members of one or the other.

Further, this study Bible includes scholarly notes, as well as practical, pastoral notes.

The Bible is available from Cokesbury this month, and can be ordered by clicking here.


* The two study Bibles referred to are:

The Wesley Bible, NKJV, 1990 &

The Reflecting God Study Bible, NIV, 2000.

The new study Bible will be in the NRSV.