Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holiness Denominational Leaders Meet to Strengthen Ties

The article, below, comes from the Nazarene Communications Network website, which apparently picked it up from The Wesleyan Church:

Holiness denomination leaders meet to strengthen ties

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lenexa, Kansas

Superintendents, presidents, and bishops of 10 denominations and holiness bodies met for a two-day summit in Lenexa, Kansas, to discover ways to spread scriptural holiness and remain committed to the message in the Wesleyan-holiness tradition.

The Church of the Nazarene's Board of General Superintendents hosted the annual meeting of the Wesleyan Leaders Summit, December 3-4 at the Global Ministry Center.

Several task forces were appointed by this year's summit members to do follow-up work on topics of mutual concern, including development of an online, digital holiness classics library; procedures to allow for easier transfer of ministerial personnel and credentials for ministers in good standing between member bodies; statements for possible joint releases that address pressing social and moral issues; and cooperative scheduling of Holiness Summits (grassroots-led, regional events to encourage holiness evangelism and revival).

A subcommittee also was appointed to develop proposals for a voluntary global Wesleyan alliance that could foster greater cooperation and synergy among like-minded church bodies worldwide.

Wesleyan Leaders Summit representatives gather annually for professional enrichment, fellowship, sharing best practices, discussion of cultural trends and current issues impacting their ministries, and informal networking to encourage greater interdenominational cooperation.

Executives at this year's summit included representatives of the Church of the Nazarene, the Free Methodist Church, The Salvation Army, Church of God Ministries, Inc., The Missionary Church, the Churches of Christ in Christian Union, the Church of Christ Holiness (USA), the Congregational Methodist Church, the Methodist Protestant Church, and The Wesleyan Church.

Additional leaders from the Evangelical Church, the Evangelical Methodist Church, and the International Fellowship of Bible Churches anticipated attending, but were unable to do so at the last minute. The next Wesleyan Leaders Summit is scheduled for December 2-3, 2011, in Circleville, Ohio.
 --Board of General Superintendents, The Wesleyan Church Communications


In reading the article, above, I would note that all but (possibly) three of the denominations listed were members of the Christian Holiness Partnership, which seems to no longer be a functioning organization. The denominations that were not CHP members include the Church of Christ, Holiness (USA), which seems to primarily be an African-American denomination; the Methodist Protestant Church (those who did not join in the 1968 union that formed the United Methodist Church); and the Church of God Ministries, Inc. I'm not sure who this latter denomination is (thus the "possibly," above). If it is the Church of God (Anderson), it is unusual that it was not listed as "Anderson." On the other hand, if it is not the CoGA, then it is unusual that they were not at the meeting.

I find several items in this article to be interesting, and I look forward to hearing about future developments. 

Among the things that I find greatly interest is the exploration of a "global Wesleyan alliance." This, I'm guessing would take the place of the national Christian Holiness Partnership. However, it will be important to pay attention to whatever terminology any future organization would use. These are obviously not the only "Wesleyan" denominations. Also considered Wesleyan denominations are such groups as the United Methodist Church, the AME, AMEZ & CME, none of which were involved in this meeting. For that matter, one can look at the World Methodist Council, itself, noting that three of the denominations in this meeting are members of the WMC. If one is simply looking for a global Wesleyan alliance, there it is! 

However, what we have here are "Wesleyan-Holiness" denominations, and that is the alliance we are looking at.  That is important, because some of these groups would not identify, at all, with a group like the World Methodist Council.  In fact, the "Wesleyan" identity of some of the Wesleyan-holiness denominations seems to be focused only on the doctrine of Entire Sanctification.  Therefore, the term "Wesleyan-Holiness" would be much more fitting for such an alliance.
In general, I wish that there were talks of merger more than "alliances" (which will come as no surprise to those who have read my blog). However, I admit, when it comes to mergers, I would be in favor of merging with those who share and strengthen the Church of the Nazarene's Methodist identity, and I would be less excited about merger with those who would dilute that identity. - Still such a "global alliance" would be an exciting development, and any attempt at strengthening cooperation is always a good thing.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Greetings from the Board of General Superintendents of The Wesleyan Church

The following Christmas Greeting from the Board of General Superintendents of The Wesleyan Church was found on their denominational website, here:

BGS Christmas Greeting

Dec. 17, 2010

The Board of General Superintendents extends its prayerful best wishes to you at this joyful season of the year. As you take time to enjoy the special relationships you have with family and friends, remember the very essence of the Christmas story is a Heavenly Father reaching out to us through His Son so that we could have a personal relationship with Him. What an awesome gift and privilege! As you celebrate the Savior’s birth may you experience anew the transforming power of His hope and holiness. You will be in our thoughts and prayers during this season and throughout the New Year.

Board of General Superintendents    

Thomas E. Armiger

Jerry G. Pence

Jo Anne Lyon

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: Cassock, Surplice and Preaching Bands

The following is from the fifteenth installment of my bulletin insert series:

Cassock, Surplice, and Preaching Bands - These vestments are more closely related to the type of vestments that John Wesley wore during worship.

The cassock is a black neck-to-ankle attire that, at one time, were the ordinary street clothes for clergy. It may be worn (without the clerical collar) by lay persons taking part in worship.

As “street clothes,” the cassock is covered by the surplice (SUR.plis). The white surplice is a medieval version of the alb. (You will recall that the alb was the subject of the first in this series.) The white surplice/alb recalls the practice of Christians in the first century, when they clothed those emerging from the waters of baptism with a white tunic or alb. Therefore, the surplice/alb is a reminder of our baptism, a symbol of purity and a symbol of the resurrection. Again, just as with the regular alb, the cassock and surplice may be worn by clergy and (without the clerical collar or stoles) by lay persons leading worship.

Preaching Bands or tabs are white starched neckwear in the shape of an inverted V worn with a cassock by preachers. Eventually, the two bands were said, by some, to represent the law and the gospel, or the Old and New Testaments. (All of John Wesley’s portraits depict him wearing the clerical collar and preaching bands).

The cassock, surplice, stoles and preaching bands are traditional Anglican vestments (though those in other traditions wear them as well). As a priest in the Church of England, this would have been John Wesley’s attire during worship, thus, it is also appropriate attire for Methodists.

Information gathered from the following resources:

Wall, John N. A Dictionary for Episcopalians. Cambridge/Boston, MA. Cowley Publications. 2000.

Advent Greetings from the Nazarene Board of General Superintendents

The following "Advent Greetings" from the Board of General Superintendents (i.e., Bishops) of the Church of the Nazarene was found on the Nazarene denominational website, here:

The gift of the Son of God wrapped in flesh confounds our minds with the inexplicable mystery of Immanuel: God with us. The Christ who came to walk our sod, experience our humanity, offer himself for our sins, and grant us eternal life calls us to share the hope of Advent. Throughout this season of celebration, we declare with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest.” In eager anticipation of His Second Advent, we embody this hope that compels us to dedicate ourselves anew to the mission of making Christlike disciples in the nations. Your generous giving to support this mission in 156 world areas honors Immanuel. Thank you for joining in proclaiming to the world the Christ child who brings salvation.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light…
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9: 2, 6).

The Board of General Superintendents

Eugénio R. Duarte             Jerry D. Porter

David W. Graves             Stan A. Toler
Jesse C. Middendorf         J . K. Warrick

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Nazarenes Pass the Two Million Mark

According to the recent report of statistics for 2010 by General Secretary, the Rev'd. Dr. David P. Wilson, the Church of the Nazarene has now passed the 2 million mark for total members!

The article can be read, here.

The report did not indicate the exact number of full members.  Nor did the report indicate the growth of Nazarene membership in the U.S.A.

However, passing the 2 million mark for total members and the fact that the denomination continues to grow are reasons to give thanks to the Lord!

The Problem of Perfectionism?

Earlier this month, I read an article on Anglican Mainstream entitled The Problem of Perfectionism.  It was written by Michael Jensen and originally appeared at Sydney Anglicans.  -  I regularly read Anglican Mainstream and, as one ordained in the Church of the Nazarene (a Wesleyan-holiness expression of Methodism), this article caught my attention.

However, as I read the article, and then especially as I read the comments on the Sydney site, I must say that I was quite disappointed.  Both, the article, itself, and the comments demonstrated only a cursory (mis)understanding of Wesley's teachings.

(I should say, before I go any further, this post is not a defence of the group at Sydney University.  If the understanding of the group put forth in the article is correct [and there is a question, here, because it is clear that Wesley is misunderstood], then they, too, strayed from Wesley's teaching of Scripture.  -  And now, to continue . . .)

It was even more amazing how Jensen identified, "among the descendants of perfectionist teaching," only two, viz., the Keswick Movement and Pentecostalism.  Neither of these two movements, as movements, have followed Wesley's teachings (though there are certain of the Pentecostal-Holiness denominations that have, indeed, sought to stay true to Wesley on perfectionist issues.).  It is quite reasonable to include in such an article various expressions of perfectionist groups, but if one wishes to invoke John Wesley's teachings, one would expect some mention of the Wesleyan-Holiness Movement within the larger Methodist tradition.

Beyond the absence of Wesley's descendants in the article are the misunderstandings found in the article, as well as (and especially) in the comments.  Many of these comments are the very kind of things that Wesley spent much of his life correcting.

For example, Wesley never argued for a "sinless" perfection.  Also, though Wesley did talk of a willful transgression of a known law of God being the definition of sin "properly so called," he also taught that those "sins improperly so called," nevertheless still remained in need of the atoning work of the blood of Christ.  He retained in the liturgies sent to the Methodists in North America the corporate confessions of sins, as well as the Lord's Prayer with it's petition for forgiveness.  Still, he felt that there is Scriptural warrant for talking about a difference between such  "involuntary transgressions" or "sins of ignorance" and those that are willful transgressions of a known law of God.

What, I suppose, was most disappointing was the implication of the posting of this article on Anglican Mainstream.  That implication is that the Conservative/Orthodox Anglican movement (as represented by Anglican Mainstream) has rejected Wesleyanism as a viable expression of Conservative/Orthodox Anglicanism.

Let me simply express that what Wesley talked about as Christian Perfection is nothing other than the "perfection" to which we are called in Matthew 5:48.  Read in its context, it becomes clear that it is a call to love our neighbors, even those who are enemies, even as God loves.  In other words, the perfectionism that Wesley spoke of was a fulfilment of the Great Commandment; to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind; and to love your neighbor as yourself.   It is the "perfect love that drives out fear," which St. John talks about in 1 John 4:18. 

It is not the absolute or angelic perfection that St. Paul denies having attained in Philippians 3:12, but it is the "perfection" or "maturity" (same Greek root word in verse 12 & 15) that St. Paul does claim in verse 15. 

Let me be clear.  It is NOT a love or "maturity" or "perfection" which we can attain on our own, but it only comes to us as a gift of the grace of God. 

It is, as St. Paul prays in 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13, "And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints."  And, again, in his benediction, "May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The one who calls you is faithful, and HE will do this" (1 Thessalonians 5:23-4, NRSV, emphasis mine).

It is nothing more than the love of God so filling us.

And, if my reading of the implications of this post appearing on Anglican Mainstream is correct, it is especially disappointing, because the essence of Wesley's teaching on Christian Perfection is the very thing found in prayer prayed by every faithful Anglican as they gather each Lord's Day:

"Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord.  Amen."

I believe it was Phineas Bresee, primary founder of the Church of the Nazarene, who asked the Episcopalians why it should seem strange that the Nazarenes claimed that God answers the very prayer that they pray each week.

It seems to me that, contrary to the implications found on Anglican Mainstream, Wesley was quite true to his Anglicanism in his teaching about the Scriptural doctrine of Christian Perfection.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: The Sign of the Cross

The following is from the fourteenth installment of my bulletin insert series:

Sign of the Cross - this topic was brought up in our worship class, and I thought I might cover it in this series.

Often times, the use of the sign of the cross is thought (by those who are not used to using it) to be . . . Roman Catholic. Roman Catholics do, of course, use the sign of the cross, but so do others (e.g., Lutherans, Anglicans/Episcopalians, Orthodox, etc.). In fact, you may occasionally even see United Methodists using the sign of the cross!

The sign of the cross is done in a few different ways. There is the signing of one’s self (forehead, breast, left shoulder, then right shoulder). This is simply a devotional expression of faith in Christ and our redemption through the cross of Christ. It is often done when the Holy Trinity is invoked, or when one is receiving the Holy Sacrament of Communion.

The pastor may make the sign of the cross over the Holy Sacraments during consecration and over the people of God during the Trinitarian benediction or blessing.

Ashes are used to “sign” our foreheads on Ash Wednesday. When anointing with oil, the sign of the cross is used. John Wesley instructed that infants be “signed” with the cross on their foreheads during baptism. This use of the sign of the cross, at least, is quite “Methodist.”

Finally, people in liturgical churches make the sign of the cross on their forehead, mouth and heart when the gospel is announced. By this, they are saying, “May the gospel be in my mind, upon my lips, and in my heart.”

The sign of the cross really is not just a Roman Catholic thing. It is a devotional act that many Christians in many denominations (even some Methodists!) may find to be a meaningful, devotional expression of faith.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: X-mas

The following is from the thirteenth installment of my bulletin insert series:

Today’s insert is going to stray a bit from the others in this series. The others have focused on sights or experiences within the sanctuary or the worship service (thus the title). This edition will start with a symbol that was talked about on last week’s insert about the Chrismons, and then focus on a related topic of the season.

The Chi-Rho - The Χ with the Ρ in the center forms a symbol of Christ using two Greek letters. The X is the Greek letter, Chi, and the P is the Greek letter, Rho. They are the first two letters of the Greek word Χρίστου, or in English, Christ. - Sometimes you will see the letter Ι (iota) with the Χ which are the first letters of the Greek spelling of Jesus and Christ.

Knowing about these symbols helps us to understand why sometimes people refer to Christmas using the “shorthand” form of X-mas. It really is not an attempt to “x-out” Christ from Christmas. Rather, it is an abbreviation for Christmas using a chrismon, if you will; the symbol for Christ.

I am in full favor of the idea of making sure we keep Christ in Christmas, but I am not all that concerned about whether people use the Greek initial when writing the word.
Instead, I would suggest two ways for us to “keep Christ in Christmas.” First, let us observe the holy season of Advent as a time to prepare ourselves spiritually for celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior.

Second, keep the “mas(s)” in Christmas(s). Mass is not a term that we Protestants typically use. However, it is a word that basically refers to the worship service of Holy Communion. If you want to keep Christ in Christmas, be sure to faithfully gather with the Church around the Table of the Lord on Christmas (or, in our case, Christmas Eve).

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: Advent & Advent Wreath

The following is from the twelfth installment of my bulletin insert series:

Advent - Advent marks the beginning of the Christian year. The season of Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. It continues until the beginning of the Christmas season, at sundown on Christmas Eve.

Advent means coming. The season proclaims the comings of the Christ - whose birth we prepare to celebrate, who comes continually in Word and Spirit, and whose return we anticipate. Each year Advent calls the community of faith to prepare for these comings.

The Advent Wreath is a wonderful part of the sanctuary during the Advent season, as well as a wonderful part of family worship throughout the weeks leading up to Christmas.

The Advent wreath originated during the Renaissance. The circle of evergreen branches is a symbol of everlasting life for two reasons. First, the use of evergreens symbolize everlasting life. Second, the circle, which has no end, symbolizes eternity.

Four candles (one for each Sunday before Christmas) encircle the Christ candle. Purple is most often used for three of the four candles (the first, second and fourth candles). Purple is a color of both penitence and royalty. Pink or rose is often used on the third Sunday to represent joy. On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day the Christ candle is lit. It remains lit throughout the Christmas season, which begins on Christmas (or Christmas Eve) and lasts for twelve days, until Epiphany on January 6. White, a joyous and festive color, represents the purity of the Christ Child.