Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: Gospel Procession

Well, I think my last "Sanctuary Sights and Senses" post was back on January 28, 2011!  For those who do not recall, or those who were not reading this blog during 2010, "Sanctuary Sights and Senses" originated as a series of bulletin inserts for my local church.  I would write the inserts, and I would then post them on the blog.  And, after almost a year, I have a new insert; this one on the Gospel Procession.

I have to say I am excited about this, because this will be the first time we have actually processed the Scriptures for the Gospel reading, but, as you will see, what better time to begin this act of worship than on Christmas Day?!

The other exciting thing is that, after talking with colleagues (especially the Rev'd. Dr. Brook Thelander at Epworth Chapel on the Green ), I found out that one can purchase liturgical binders, in which one can place copies of each Sunday's lectionary readings, and which is designed for liturgical processions.  These binders are considerably less expensive than purchasing the entire Lectionary book for liturgical readings or the Gospel Books.  Then, while talking with my Administrative Assistant, she informed me that she and her husband could simply make an appropriate, decorative covering for one of my binders!  -  I'm quite excited!

Anyway, the actual "Sanctuary Sights and Senses" follows:


Gospel Procession  -  In many churches, when it is time to read the Gospel lesson, the Scriptures are processed out into the center of the congregation.  As this takes place, the congregation stands for the reading of the Gospel.

Often it is said, prior to the reading, “The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to [Scripture reference].”  And the congregation responds, “Glory to you, Lord Christ.” 

During this announcement, Christians may choose to make the sign of the cross on their foreheads, lips and over their hearts.  This signing symbolizes the prayer that the Word will be in our minds, upon our lips, and in our hearts.

Following the reading of the Gospel, the declaration is made, “The Gospel of the Lord,” to which the congregation responds, “Praise to you, Lord Christ!”

The Old Testament reading points us ahead to Christ.  The Epistle reading points us back to Christ.  But, in the Gospel reading, we hear the words of Christ, Himself.  (Though, in a very true sense, we hear the Word of the Lord in every part of Scripture.)

Because, we hear Christ’s words in the Gospel, the procession of the Gospel into the midst of the congregation symbolizes for us the Incarnation; the coming of God in Christ to us, in our very midst; the Word made flesh.  -  This symbolism is heightened for us during Christmas, of all times, when we especially celebrate the Incarnation of Christ our Lord!




Friday, December 16, 2011

CBN Reports on the Church Planting Efforts of the ACNA

CBN recently produced a video report on the new Anglican Church in North America.  Readers of this blog are likely to be at least somewhat familiar with the ACNA
The interest in the report, however, should go beyond those connected with the ACNA to most of the readers of this blog.  That is to say, most of the readers of this blog would likely be interested in liturgical and sacramental expressions of worship.  (Why else would you be reading a blog called Wesleyan/Anglican that often deals specifically with those topics?!)  -  In particular, this report highlights the church planting movement within the ACNA and how it is especially appealing to college students and Hispanic populations.  -  These are encouraging words for all of us Wesleyan/Anglican types!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Holiness Leaders Form New Global Wesleyan Alliance!

The Wesleyan Church has reported that on December 2-3, 2011, leaders of the Church of the Nazarene, The Wesleyan Church, Free Methodist Church USA, Church of God (Anderson), Churches of Christ in Christian Union, The Evangelical Church, Evangelical Methodist Church, Congregational Methodist Church, Church of Christ Holiness (USA), and the Pilgrim Holiness Church have met together to form a new partnership group called the Global Wesleyan Alliance (GWA).

The Alliance is supposed to be a means for providing greater cooperation without bringing about denominational mergers.  They list some of their initial objectives as including:
  • Creating greater community through intentional relationship building;
  • Collaborating to pool resources, share best practices and ministers, and generate new ideas and tools;
  • Convening events to promote the personal experience of holiness and collective ministries for discipleship, church health and multiplication, leadership development, prayer and networking;
  • Communicating with one another more intentionally and addressing contemporary issues and public concerns with a more united voice.
According to the report, the GWA’s first joint effort will be a call to prayer for spiritual awakening and revival. An exciting major effort is the establishment of procedures for the mutual recognition of minister’s credentials among the Alliance’s covenant partners.  The report indicates that an online, free library of classic holiness literature is already available at www.holinesslegacy.com.  The Alliance will also sponsor regional “Holiness Summits” (www.holiness-summit.org) in order to introduce others to the personal experience of entire sanctification.

Dr. Jerry Pence, General Superintendent in The Wesleyan Church, was elected as the GWA's first president.  He commented, “This alliance will enable holiness denominations to achieve a historic level of cooperation and unity for evangelism, discipleship, church multiplication, compassion and justice. Our passion is to pursue the Great Commission in the spirit of the Great Commandment—making Christ known through words and deeds and millions of lives filled with perfect love.”

Each of the denominations will, of course, have to officially approve GWA partnership.  According to the report, they are expecting several other denominations to participate in the GWA’s first official assembly when it is held in Circleville, Ohio, November 30-December 1, 2012.

This is exciting news!

Readers of this blog will recall that I, through my district committee, sent a resolution to the last Nazarene General Assembly that would have Nazarenes approach The Wesleyan Church and the Free Methodist Church to explore merger possibilities.  That resolution was amended to leave out merger, but seek greater cooperation.  -  Since that time, I have come to the conclusion that denominational merger likely is not the way to go.  I am very pleased with the news of this new Global Wesleyan Alliance!

Some question do remain.  Will this organization be the successor of the now dormant Christian Holiness Partnership?  It has been pointed out that the CHP was national in scope.  It is clear from the name of the new group that the intent is that it be global in scope.  Still, it should be noted that the denominations at this organizational meeting (even the global ones) are based in the U.S.  Even the Free Methodist Church is specified as the U.S.A. branch of the FMC.

Will Wesleyan-Holiness denominations based outside of the U.S.A. align with the GWA?  Will the GWA membership simply mirror the CHP membership?  Will the Alliance reach out to some of the more conservative World Methodist Council denominations?  Will this new Alliance have a negative affect on Nazarene, Wesleyan and Free Methodist membership in the World Methodist Council?  (I hope not!)  Will this "Wesleyan" Alliance be broadened so as to include Pentecostal holiness denominations, like the Wesleyan Holiness Consortium has done?  (Personally, I think that such a move may dilute the Wesleyan-holiness message.) 

For all of these answers, only time will tell.

For now, if anyone at the Nazarene Global Ministries Center happens to be reading this blog (yeah, right!), I would love to be a Nazarene representative to the GWA!  (In the past, I have been appointed by the General Secretary as a denominational delegate to the Christian Holiness Partnership and the World Methodist Conference.)

The full story about the GWA can be read on The Wesleyan Church's site, here.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Anglicans Have Set A Timeline For New Liturgies

I just receive in the mail a magazine type report from the Anglican Church in North America.  I'm not sure what to call it!  It seems to bear the title The Apostle, but it does seem to be a report, rather than a denominational magazine or newsletter.  Further, below the title and the name of the church comes what I suppose is a subtitle, "Ministry In Review."  So, it is, as I said, "a magazine type report" and a review of the ministry of the ACNA.

Within the report, one finds much interesting information, but this blog post is only going to mention two items.

First, as the title of this post indicates, the ACNA has set a timeline for their new liturgies.  -  Many of us have been waiting a long time for the development of their new Book of Common Prayer.  It looks like we will have to continue to wait for some time.  What we do know is that the Ordinal has been produced and is being used throughout the province.  -  I blogged about that back in August, though it was actually made public in June!  -  A copy of the Ordinal can be found, here.

The exciting news is that the task force is working hard on TWO forms of the Holy Eucharist liturgies, and they hope to present them to the College of Bishops at the June 2012 meeting.  Once the bishops approve the liturgies, they will be made available through the ACNA website.  -  So, Eucharistic liturgies may be available as soon as the end of June 2012.  Since this will constitute the primary worship service, this is the liturgy (or liturgies!) for which people are really waiting.

No indication was given as to why two Eucharistic liturgies are being developed, or what the differences may be.  Will it be a matter of contemporary versus Elizabethan English?  Or, will one see some influence of the '79 BCP in one of the liturgies?  -  To the latter suggestion, the report indicates that the "Theological Lens" of the task force has been concerned to root the liturgies of the church "in the tradition of our Anglican heritage while also being accessible to both long-time Anglicans and those new to the tradition."  The report goes on to say that the liturgies "will not be innovative but clearly founded in the historic Anglican Prayer Book tradition."  This last statement makes it sound like those who are used to the '79 BCP will have some adjustments to make.

However, the report also indicates that +Duncan hopes that the liturgies will "commend themselves.  In other words, there will be no coercion."  -  That seems to indicate that the province will not be saying, "This is the book we will be using."  Rather, it seems, that bishops will be allowed to continue approving whatever Prayer Book they choose (e.g., the '28, '79, or Reformed Episcopal version, etc.).  It would be a shame, though, if this new province, as it is trying to continue to coalesce, could not produce a Prayer Book that is seen as common for all ACNA parishes.

The report also indicates that they are working on the liturgy for Baptism and Confirmation, as well.

A second item from the magazine that caught my eye is the Ecumenical Relations report.  It seems that the ACNA, to one degree or another, has had some form of dialogue or conversation with (or are anticipating discussions with) the Eastern Orthodox (via the Orthodox Church in America), The Roman Catholic Church, the new North American Lutheran Church, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (the only non-Lutheran group with which the Missouri Synod folks have ever dialogued!), the Lausanne Conference on World Evangelism, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Messianic Jewish movement, the Assemblies of God, and the Presbyterian Church in America.

I think that it would be great if the Church of the Nazarene would enter into some kind of dialogue with the ACNA.  Nazarenes do not have a great history of these types of dialogue with those beyond our own tradition.  We talk with and partner with Wesleyan-Holiness churches quite a lot.  We are members of the National Association of Evangelicals, the Christian Holiness Partnership (which is now, really defunct, and, in some ways, superseded by the Wesleyan Holiness Consortium, of which we are a part), and the World Methodist Council.

Nevertheless, Nazarenes do have Anglican roots through John Wesley.  Our Articles of Faith have a clear line of decent from the Anglican Articles, as does our ritual for the Lord's Supper.  Further, the Anglicans could see in Nazarenes something of a connection regarding the way that they relate to The Episcopal Church, and the way that Nazarenes relate to The United Methodist Church.  That is to say, certain Anglican priests have been known to indicate that Nazarenes left the Methodists for becoming too liberal, just like they left TEC.  -  Now, I'm not arguing that such a statement is quite accurate, but I would say that there may be some parallels in that Nazarenes are the largest of the Wesleyan-Holiness denominations, and therefore present an alternative expression of Methodism when compared with the UMC.

Such a dialogue could help Nazarenes clarify their muddied understanding of deacons and elders orders, as well as help us begin to more clearly own a Wesleyan understanding of the sacraments and worship.  On the other hand, Anglicans could gain from us in the areas of evangelism and Wesley's understanding of Christian Perfection.  The latter could especially be pointed out in connection to the Collect of Purity.

The AMiA Says Goodbye to Rwanda

Virtueonline is reporting that the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA) has finally broken with the Anglican Province of Rwanda.  I say, "finally," because rumors have been circulating for a while, now.

It seems that Bishop Murphy and others in the AMiA were working toward changing their status so as to become a Missionary Society instead of a Personal Prelature, while still remaining connected to the Rwandan church.  As I understand it, they will continue this pursuit, just outside of the realm of Rwanda.

One, as an outsider, does have to observe that the AMiA first moved away from being a full partner within the Anglican Church in North America, and now has pulled out of their Rwandan oversight.  There have also been comments that their canons reflect more of a Roman Catholic view than an Anglican one.  That is not to say that they have any interest in the Roman Catholic call for Anglicans to "come back home to Rome," but it is to say that some seem to be questioning their identity as Anglicans.  -  Nevertheless, they still have the support of "their founding Archbishops Emmanuel Kolini, (Rwanda) Moses Tay (Singapore) and Yong Ping Chung (Singapore)" who have agreed "to provide oversight until they find their new provincial home and move forward with the process of developing a missionary society."

It will be interesting to see how the AMiA will continue to develop, especially in relationship to the Anglican Communion and the Anglican Church in North America.  It will also be interesting to see if there will be any exodus of clergy from the AMiA.

The full story from Virtueonline can be found, here.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Great Book!

I just finished reading a book that every pastor in the Wesleyan/Methodist tradition ought to read.  It is John Wigger's, American Saint: Francis Asbury & the Methodists.  It is (as the title implies!) a biography of Francis Asbury, the "Father of American Methodism."

I think it is fair to say that American Methodism (as seen in the United Methodist Church, specifically, but also in it's various other branches, from African-American expressions to Holiness expressions) would not be what it is today, if it were not for Bishop Asbury.  In fact, one could argue that Methodism would never have spread and grown to the size that it is, if it were not for Asbury.

The book provides, not only insight into Asbury's life, but also insight into the life of other early American Methodists, as well as the inner workings of Methodism, itself.

I really think that this book, in a number of ways, is foundational for understanding our Wesleyan/Methodist denominations, today.

Let me quickly mention a few areas of insight:

The relationships between Asbury and Coke (and Wesley), and between the two bishops and the presiding elders and other preachers was illuminated in this book.

As one might suspect from my blog, I found the information about Bishop Coke's attempt to bring together the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Episcopalians to be fascinating.

The nature of the Methodist superintendency/episcopacy was interesting.  -  In comparing Asbury's episcopacy to that found in the current United Methodist Church, The Wesleyan Church, and the Church of the Nazarene, I think that it can be argued that none of these denominations have maintained the kind of episcopacy that Asbury favored, though each have certain areas of connection.  For example, I think that both the Wesleyan and Nazarene general superintendents function much more like Asbury had in mind when it comes to itineracy (Nazarenes even more so than the Wesleyans, given the nature of their global structures).

United Methodists speak of an itinerant episcopacy, but the bishops really reside within their (usually) one conference for a term of multiple years.  On the other hand, the Nazarene general superintendents, while rotating between the six of them (!) their assignments, nevertheless do not reside, but rather travel the entire globe to cover all of their districts.

On the other hand, Nazarenes and Wesleyans break from Asbury by having the district superintendents (presiding elders) elected by each district/conference.  At this point, the United Methodist's maintain Asbury's vision by having pastors and district superintendents appointed by the bishop.

So, while Wesleyans and Nazarenes have democratized the Methodist polity (which Asbury opposed), United Methodists have made their bishops much more residential (which Asbury would have opposed).

Interestingly, during Asbury's time, a proposal for residential bishops did come up which would have made Asbury a kind of "Arch Superintendent," or "Arch Bishop" (his language).  This he opposed.  And yet, given the development of the district superintendency within the Nazarene and Wesleyan denominations, this really is the way that the boards of general superintendents function, with district superintendents being "residential" (i.e., district!) bishops.  -  This will be even more so for The Wesleyan Church, if the 2012 General Conference reduces their number of general superintendents to one (c.f., previous article).

There were a couple of things that I found disappointing in the book.  I would like to have had more information on the worship structure of the Sunday worship services.  There was no reference (as I recall) to Asbury ever using any part of Wesley's Sunday Service.  (I know that the Methodist Episcopal Church early abandoned the use of the Prayer Book, but Wigger doesn't give us much of anything along those lines.)  Likewise, I would like to have seen how the Lord's Supper was administered.

Also, I found Wigger to be a bit biased when it came to his discussion of Asbury's position concerning the doctrine of Christian Perfection and Entire Sanctification.  He left one with the impression that, while Asbury was keen on teaching and preaching on Christian Perfection, and even on pressing for others to experience it in this life, nevertheless (Wigger implied) Asbury really believed that we all should strive to "go on to perfection."  That is, consistent with much of United Methodism, Wigger pictured Asbury as not really believing that we can reach such perfection or really be entirely sanctified.

Nevertheless, the concern that Asbury did show, along with the reports from around the connection of those who were sanctified, work to point out Wigger's bias on this point.  (One also wonders if this isn't a part of what Wigger means when, in his notes, he refers to Darius Salter's biography of Asbury as assuming "a decidedly Wesleyan perspective.")

Still, with those two complaints aside (especially the last one, where the material counteract Wigger's bias), this was a truly fantastic read!

One final comment concerning Christian Perfection:  The reports given by Asbury, presiding elders and other preachers show that the "sloppy" use of the broad term sanctification when meaning entire sanctification was a part of American Methodism even before the advent of the "Holiness Movement," as such.  Thus, it is difficult to blame later holiness leaders for using the imprecise language that had been part of their heritage for years.

Wigger's book is a 2009 publication of Oxford University Press.  It is 543 pages long, inclusive of end notes and Index.  It is available as an e-book, but it is not much more expensive to have a hardback on your shelf!

Are the Wesleyans Moving to One General Superintendent?

The Wesleyan Church (the closest "sister denomination" to the Church of the Nazarene) may be changing their administrative structure come their 2012 General Conference.  At least, that is the proposal of their General Board.

The proposal would include reducing their number of General Superintendents from three to only one.

Such a change would raise some interesting and some practical questions.  For example, in their current structure (as I understand it), the General Superintendent is still the one who ordains their clergy.  (The fact that they have drifted far away from their Wesleyan/Methodist . . . and biblical? heritage by calling those so ordained, "ministers" rather than elders/presbyters is an issue for another time.)  -  My guess would be that such a change would place the authority to ordain back in the district/conference and in the hands of the District Superintendent.

From my perspective, that would be an interesting move, because, elsewhere, I have proposed that District Superintendents ought to be called upon to ordain in the Church of the Nazarene, when General Superintendents are unavailable.  (Currently, the presiding General Superintendent can delegate that responsibility in such rare cases, but to whom they are to delegate the act of ordaining is not specified.)

In some ways, this would demonstrate the correspondence of the District Superintendent to Bishop and General Superintendent to Archbishop, which really is the way that those positions seem to play out in at least The Wesleyan Church and the Church of the Nazarene.

Of course, one difference between the two denominations is that the Nazarene General Superintendents really are General Superintendents rather than simply "regional."  That is, due to the more "federated" structure of the worldwide Wesleyan Church, their General Superintendents are actually elected by regions, for regions.  On the other hand, the Church of the Nazarene is a global denomination wherein all of the General Superintendents are elected by the (global) General Assembly, and they all itinerate throughout the global denomination.  -  This move, should it happen, would make the United States much more like other world regions/nations within the worldwide Wesleyan Church.

One also wonders what impact this move would have on the regular joint meetings that take place between the Nazarene and Wesleyan Boards of General Superintendents.  I would assume that such meetings would continue, but without a Wesleyan Board of General Superintendents, would the meeting be expanded to include others from the denomination?

It will be interesting to see what the 2012 General Conference does.  It will also be interesting to see if this move will influence the Church of the Nazarene (or other Wesleyan-Holiness denominations.)  It has been noted that some within the Church of the Nazarene have favored reducing our number of General Superintendents.  (On the other hand, some have been in favor of expanding it; perhaps by doing away with our Regional Directors and replacing them with General Superintendents.)

Time will tell.  At this point, it is a proposal by the General Board.

The full story can be read, here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Women In Ministry: A Wesleyan & Pentecostal Perspective

It is true, I'm not Pentecostal.  I'm from that part of the Wesleyan tradition that has had a long history of . . . competitiveness with Pentecostals.  -  Oh, who am I kidding!  Anyone who knows the history of the Holiness Movement and the Pentecostal Movement knows that they did not get along, to say the least.  Nevertheless, the two traditions share many things in common, owing to their shared history.  And, after many years of . . . difficulties, the academic wings, at least, of the two traditions have shared a number of regular interactions.  This is most notably seen in the joint meetings of the Wesleyan Theological Society and the Society for Pentecostal Studies.
One issue about which the two groups seem to be on the same page is the issue of the place of women in ordained ministry.

I came across an article on this topic from a post on Facebook by theWesleyan Holiness Women Clergy.  (Their Facebook page can be found, here.)  The article entitled, "Was Paul For or Against Women in Ministry?" was posted in Enrichment Journal.  It was written by Craig S. Keener, a professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary.

Given the fact that Wesleyan Anglicanism (i.e., those Wesleyans who embrace Wesley's Anglican liturgical and sacramental side, along with those Anglicans who embrace Wesley's general theological leanings) often find connections with those in the midst of the transition of Anglicanism in America (viz., folks in the ACNA, as well as some of the other "continuing" Anglican groups), and, given the fact that the role of women in (ordained) ministry is a major issue for many within the ACNA, I thought I would post a link to this article.  It is also worth posting for those within the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition who, with their "conservative" evangelical emphasis, have sometimes been too influenced by "conservative" evangelicals from outside of our tradition.

Perhaps this article will be helpful to some who have, heretofore rejected women's orders.  On the other hand, perhaps it will prove to fail to address other issues of which Pentecostals and Wesleyans are, as yet, unaware.  In any case, I hope that the article is insightful.  Though I have only skimmed through the article, I am confident that it shows that, at least for the Wesleyan-Holiness & Pentecostal traditions, the commitment to women's orders took place long before the "liberal" women's rights movement, and Wesleyans and Pentecostals looked to (not away from) the Scripture in order to support women in the role of clergy.

The article can be found, here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pray For Peace On the First Sunday Of Advent

First Sunday In Advent
November 27, 2011
WORLD METHODIST EVANGELISM,
WORLD METHODIST COUNCIL
CALLS THE WORLD METHODIST MOVEMENT TO
PRAY FOR PEACE IN EVERY TONGUE
IN THE NAME OF THE PRINCE OF PEACE

Click here for FREE Pray for Peace Resources!

On the first Sunday in Advent, 27 November 2011 the World Methodist Family on every continent will observe a sacred time of fervent prayer for peace and for all humankind. From the dawn of this day in the Kingdom of Tonga til the end of the day as the sun sets in Samoa in the South Pacific, the Methodist/Wesleyan family around the world will be praying for peace in many languages. Click here for Pray for Peace Resource Booklet and many other Pray for Peace Resources to help you make your First Sunday in Advent celebration a Prayer for Peace!  (The above was taken from the WME website.)

In the United States, the World Methodist Council denominations are the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, the Church of the Nazarene, the Free Methodist Church, The United Methodist Church, and The Wesleyan Church.  -  I would encourage all pastors in these denominations to use the materials provided on the World Methodist Evangelism website.  This need not dominate the service of worship or otherwise be "an imposition."  But rather, simply including the bulletin insert and remembering to pray for peace during the prayers of the people (or pastoral prayer) can be an important act in union with our sisters and brothers in the larger Methodist family around the world.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Rejoice, the Lord Is King!

In honor of Christ the King Sunday, I thought I would print a copy of Charles Wesley's great hymn, Rejoice, the Lord Is King, which we will be singing as our opening, processional hymn.  -  The hymn will be printed as it appears in the Sing to the Lord (Nazarene) hymnal and most other hymnals.  While we (at Centenary UMC) will be singing it as it appears in The United Methodist Hymnal, it seems that they have made strange editorial changes in verses 1 and 4; changes that seem not to make sense.  The predecessor hymnal, The Methodist Hymnal, retains the hymn as appears elsewhere.

It is interesting (and puzzling) to note that this hymn does not seem to appear in volume 7 of The Works of John Wesley: A Collection of Hymns for the Use of The People Called Methodists.  If it had appeared in that volume, light may have been shed as to why the UMC hymnal changed the text.

Nevertheless, here is the hymn!

Rejoice, the Lord Is King

1. Rejoice, the Lord is King! Your Lord and King adore!
Rejoice, give thanks, and sing, And triumph evermore.
Lift up your heart;
Lift up your voice! Rejoice; again I say: rejoice!

2. Jesus, the Savior, reigns, The God of truth and love.
When he had purged our stains, He took His seat above.Lift up your heart;
Lift up your voice! Rejoice; again I say: rejoice!

3. His kingdom cannot fail; He rules o'er earth and heav'n.
The keys of death and hell Are to our Jesus giv'n.
Lift up your heart;
Lift up your voice! Rejoice; again I say: rejoice!

4. Rejoice in glorious hope! Our Lord, the Judge, shall come
And take His servants up To their eternal home.
Lift up your heart;
Lift up your voice! Rejoice; again I say: rejoice!

And so, I say to you, on this Christ the King Sunday, "Rejoice!" as, together with the people of God around the world, you worship Christ the King in the power of the Holy Spirit and to the glory of God the Father!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Christ the King Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 28, 2011

My Take on Halloween

The following is an article for our most recent church newsletter, but, given a recent video post I came across on facebook, I thought I would share it in this setting (with only a couple of slight modifications):

ALL HALLOW’S EVE


A few years ago, during a time of family devotions, we were talking about the “PACT” form of prayer: Praise, Ask, Confess, and Thank. In the devotion we were reading, we were also asked to read the Lord’s Prayer, and then the lesson asked which part of the Lord’s Prayer fit each letter of PACT.

The very first one, of course was Praise, and my wife asked what part of the Lord’s Prayer was praise. Well, I immediately raised my hand and said, “I know, I know.” And so, my wife called on me. Do you know which part of the Lord’s Prayer is considered praise? - “Our Father, who art in heaven; Hallowed be thy Name.” You see, in that prayer we are saying, “May your Name be hallowed.”

Now, when I said that, one of our kids immediately asked, “What does hallowed mean? Is it like Halloween?” - What do you think? When we pray, “Hallowed be thy Name,” is it like Halloween?

I think that question goes to the question that is often asked in Christian circles, “What do we do with Halloween?” - You know, when I was a kid, our church used to have Halloween parties every year. We used to hold it out in the woods at the Optimist Club building. It was a great time. I remember going, and our family arrived early one year. It was the year that I was dressed up like the Incredible Hulk. I had a rubber Hulk mask and inflatable muscles. Anyway, because we arrived early, we split up and hid. I think I hid behind a tree in the surrounding woods. Then we would each one “arrive” at different times, so as to help disguise who we really were. One year I was Scooby Doo. (That was before I could do the Scooby Doo voice.) We had a really great time.

However, as time went by, I encountered Christians at other churches (even within the same denomination) who would never do such a thing. From their perspective, Halloween was an evil, even Satanic celebration. It was to be avoided completely.

Some suggested Christian alternatives, sometimes called Hallelujah Parties, instead of Halloween Parties. These ranged from events where you could dress up, so long as there were no monsters, or evil costumes, to events where you could only dress as Bible characters, to no costumes allowed whatsoever. - And I learned never to assume anything about people’s position with regard to Halloween.

So it leaves us with the question, since there are a range of opinions, what ought we, as Christians, do about Halloween?

Well, when the question was asked, “What does hallowed mean? Is it like Halloween?” I said, “Actually, it is like Halloween.” - You see, to hallow is to make or to declare something or someone to be holy. We are saying to God, “Your name is holy.” - And Halloween is a form of All Hallow’s Evening, or All Hallow’s Eve; Hallowe-‘en. In other words it is the evening before All Hallow’s Day, or All Holy One’s Day, which we know as . . . All Saints’ Day. All Saints’ Day is celebrated on November 1st or the first Sunday, thereafter. Centenary will be observing All Saints’ Day this first Sunday of November (and Ann Thomas will be preaching! You won’t want to miss that service!) - All Saints, by the way, was one of John Wesley’s favorite days.

Now, since that is the case, it should at least make Christians stop and consider a bit before we simply declare Halloween to be evil and Satanic. - But, of course there is more to the story. - So, how did Halloween come about with all of our costumes and customs?

Well, in Ireland, the ancient Druids, prior to the arrival of Christianity, marked the coming of the new year on November 1st. Like so many groups, their calendars were governed by the seasons of the year, especially the times of harvest. Around November the season would changed from the time of harvest to winter; that is, to the time when things died.

October 31st was called Samhain (often pronounced SOW-in), the Celtic word for the end of Summer. In their Pagan superstitions they believed that on October 31st, the end of the year and the beginning of the time of death, the curtain between the living and the dead became blurred. On this night, it was believed that the ghosts of the dead would return to this world.

This was their reasoning: When the dead are buried, they are buried under the ground. During the Summer months, the grass is green and alive, the flowers bloom, the trees are full of life, and they are, therefore, able to keep the dead buried. But when the trees and flowers all die, and the grass turns brown, what is there to keep the dead buried? They are, therefore, able to escape . . . at least for that one night.

Well, in addition to damaging crops, it was believed that these spirits made it easier for the Druid priests to see into the future so that they could determine whether the crops would survive the winter, etc. Therefore, they would have a ritual of sorts involving a large bonfire, burning crops and animal sacrifices while wearing disguises (like animal costumes), which would confuse and ward off any evil spirits.

Now, by the ninth-Century, as the Church spread throughout the land, the Church did what the Church has always done. It sought to appropriate and redeem, or transform and sanctify the secular or the Pagan. It sought to “redeem the time” or the day, as St. Paul says, and claim it for Christ. And here is how the Church went about it:

Early on, it was the custom of the Church to remember the Martyrs. - As early as the 4th century the Church in the East held a feast to honor all of the martyred saints, together. On May 13, 610, relics of martyrs were moved from some catacombs to the Pantheon, and the bishop of Rome, Pope Boniface IV consecrated the building with the title of the feast of All Martyrs and All Saints and Our Lady.

Now, fast forward to the ninth-Century, again, when the Church had spread throughout the Celtic land. It was in 835 that the new bishop of Rome, Pope Gregory III, designated November 1st as All Saints Day, many believe in an attempt to Christianize the Celtic holiday. Thus, Samhain became All Hallow’s Eve, or Halloween. - By the way, we also know that by A.D. 1000, there were parades and bonfires and people dressed in costumes of saints and angels, etc. in order to honor and celebrate those saints who had died in the faith.

Now, in America, the Puritan settlers didn’t want anything to do with those Pagan, and more importantly foreign customs. But, when Irish immigrants came over, in such a new setting, their customs began to take on new forms. So, any remaining Pagan elements of their customs quickly vanished. Bonfires were often replaced with candles in pumpkins. (I’ll not take time to go into the history of the Jack-O-lantern.) Animal disguises to ward off evil spirits became children’s costumes. And an American holiday was born.

So, those customs that the Church failed to transform the good ole’ American marketplace succeeded in secularizing. - Unfortunately, it has also had great success in secularizing such holy days as Christmas and Easter, as well. So much so that many Christians fail to observe the important season of Advent in preparation for Christmas, and then once Christmas Day arrives, they are ready to pack everything away; thus, failing to celebrate the twelve days of the Christmas season. Oh, how we have allowed the secular marketplace to de-Christianize us! But that’s another story for another time!

So with all of this in mind, what ought we to do with Halloween? First, respect the convictions of those around us. But, having said that, my opinion is, let the kids (and adults) have fun. And as a Church, use the opportunity to teach our children (and adults) about those who have gone before us in the faith.

Now, in our post-modern, post-Christian age, with the resurgence of various spiritualities such as Wicca and Paganism, the Pagan versions of Samhain is experiencing a resurgence, at least in certain pockets of our population. But let we who are in Christ, join with St. Paul and the Church throughout the ages, and let us redeem the time for the glory of God!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Innerancy, Wesleyanism, and the Creedal Order

It seems like it has been forever since I last posted!  And it has been over a month.  It is a shame, too, because there are a couple of articles I really would like to get posted.  I suppose, though, I have been quite busy, but I will try to get back in gear!

I thought I would share a little about some of my recent reading.  Yesterday, I received the most recent volume of the Wesleyan Theological Journal (the scholarly journal published by the Wesleyan Theological Society ).  The Journal contained articles (based on the papers) read at the 2011 meeting of the Society.  As I looked through the listed articles, W. Stephen Gunter's article caught my eye.  Gunter teaches at Duke Divinity School, and his article is titled "Beyond the Bible Wars: Why Innerancy is Not the Issue for Evangelical Wesleyans."

As many may know, the issue of fundamentalism's relationship to conservative, evangelical Wesleyans is not a new issue.  Likewise, the basic idea in the article that Wesleyans approach Scripture differently than the way fundamentalists approach Scripture was not new, either.  Wesleyans look through soteriological eyes when going to Scripture, while fundamentalists, with their foundation in Reformed theology, begin by looking for propositional truths.  -  Quoting Wesley's famous "homo unius libri" paragraph*, Gunter says, "This soteriological use of the Bible as the source book for understanding the way to heaven and the life of holiness is different from the epistemological use of Scripture to verify factuality of rational propositions."

Well, as I said, the basic concept is not new, though much of the particular information was new to me.  However, the thing that really caught my eye had to do with how this understanding of faith and the Bible is demonstrated in the very ordering of Anglican and Methodist Articles of Religion/Faith when compared to the Reformed Confessions.  Gunter says:
   
     Unlike most other Protestant creeds (especially the Westminster Confession
     in the English context, which places Book One with its ten affirmations on
     the Bible first), the Anglican Articles affirm first the faith in the Trinity.  After
     this comes affirmation of the nature of Christ, the descent into Hell, Christ's
     resurrection, and the Holy Spirit, all prior to the first mention of the Bible. 
     And when we do get to the article on Scripture, it is not about rational
     authority per se, for it reads, "On the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for
     Salvation." . . . This is a different emphasis and nuance than can be found in
     nearly any confession or creed of early Protestantism, especially those of the
     Reformed tradition that are foundational for Fundamentalism, especially as
     they have been interpreted by many Neo-Reformed Evangelicals for the  last
     hundred years.  As Paul Bassett [yay, Dr. Bassett!] has rightly pointed out,
     "By contrast, in most of the continental confessions, especially those of the
     Reformed tradition, the article on Scripture stands first, or, even prior to that,
     a preamble asserts the priority of the authority of the Bible."  As we have
     seen, this is very much the case for many Calvinian evangelicals . . .

As this is true for the Anglican Articles, it is true also for the Methodist Articles, as well as those who, even though they have re-written their own Articles, have remained true to their Wesleyan/Methodist tradition.  For example, the Free Methodists, Wesleyans and Nazarenes have all re-written the original Methodist Articles, but all of them maintain the order of Trinity, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and then Scripture.  Further, even though The Wesleyan Church did fall into the fundamentalist position of confessing the Bible as "fully inerrant in their original manuscripts, the title of the Article does still speak of "sufficiency" and the Article, itself, does seem to still focus on essential doctrine and salvific concerns.

Interestingly, both the Free Methodists and Nazarenes avoid this fundamentalist position, while utilizing language that is familiar to fundamentalism.  The Free Methodists say (at least in their 1995 Discipline - I don't have a newer version!), "[The Bible] bears unerring witness to Jesus Christ, the living Word . . ." (emphasis mine).  Nazarenes say, "[The Holy Scriptures] . . . inerrantly revealing the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation . . ." (emphasis mine).   The language is familiar to fundamentalists, as I indicated, but the context is thoroughly Wesleyan.  The Bible bears unerring witness to Jesus Christ, and the Scriptures inerrantly reveal the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation.

Again, though, the thing that I found fascinating is that the soteriological emphasis is demonstrated for Anglicans and Wesleyans in the very ordering of our creedal statements, and that is seen clearly when compared to the ordering of the Reformed creedal statements.  As Gunter says, "For Anglicans and Wesleyans . . . the authority of Scripture has a soteric rather than rationalistically defined epistemic center.  On this point, Wesleyans are more Anglo-Catholic (and early church and Eastern and Orthodox) than Puritan-Reformed!"

By the way, Gunter does consistently link Anglo-Catholics and Wesleyans throughout his article. 

Another statement made by Gunter in this article that readers of this blog may find interesting is as follows:  "In recent years, many Methodists have become enamored with Mr. Wesley's Anglican roots, especially his high-church liturgical expression, and have wanted to return to the liturgy, unfortunately quite often without taking Wesley's soteriological appropriation of Anglican theological method along with them.  In so doing, we have often left Wesley and Wesleyan Methodism behind."

I wish that Gunter had fleshed that out a bit.  I am not sure what, exactly he is talking about in the latter part of the quote.  Perhaps, though, his quote is reflective of the my own observations concerning a number of my sisters and brothers in the Order of St. Luke.  In the Order, I have observed (and I think I have mentioned it on the Wesleyan/Anglican facebook page) that many who are conservative toward Wesleyan when it comes to liturgy are, on the other hand, not very concerned about Wesleyan theology (or soteriology).  Conversely, many who seem to be concerned to be conservative toward Wesley theologically (and soteriologically) seem to be completely uninterested in Wesley's liturgical commitments.  -  Perhaps Gunter is referring to those who are concerned about Wesley's liturgical commitments but who are less interested in his theology (and soteriology).

All in all, I really enjoyed Gunter's article, and I look forward to reading more of the articles in the WTJ.
___________________
*The full quote is: "God himself has condescended to teach the way [to heaven]: for this very end he came from heaven.  He hath written it down in a book.  O give me that book!  At any price give me the book of God!  I have it.  Here is knowledge enough for me.  Let me be homo unius libri [a man of one book]"

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Another Favorite Hymn

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend the Indiana Holiness Pastor's Day sponsored by the Wesleyan Holiness Consortium, and since this hymn was sung there, I thought it would be a good time to share a third favorite hymn.  In fact, I have said that I would likely like these three (viz., And Can It Be?; The Love of God; and the one, below) to be included in my funeral . . . sometime, way, way off in the future(!).

This hymn has been called the "unofficial anthem" of the Church of the Nazarene (and my guess is that it is so for a number of holiness groups).  It is sung at every Nazarene ordination service (to my knowledge, anyway).  -  In fact, I would kind of like to see the next general assembly make this the "official" anthem for the denomination.

It was written (words and music) by Lelia N. Morris in 1900.  Mrs. Morris was a Methodist who wrote more than 1,000 gospel songs.  She was a friend to the camp meeting, and she wrote a number of holiness hymns.  Among them was this one.

Holiness unto the Lord

1. "Called unto holiness," Church of our God,
Purchase of Jesus, redeemed by His blood;
Called from the world and its idols to flee,
Called from the bondage of sin to be free.

(Refrain) "Holiness unto the Lord" is our watch-word and song;
"Holiness unto the Lord" as we're marching along.
Sing it, shout it, loud and long:
"Holiness unto the Lord" now and forever.

2. "Called unto holiness," children of light,
Walking with Jesus in garments of white;
Raiment unsullied, nor tarnished with sin;
God's Holy Spirit abiding within.

3. "Called unto holiness," praise His dear name!
This blessed secret to faith now made plain:
Not our own righteousness, but Christ within,
Living and reigning, and saving from sin.

4. "Called unto holiness," bride of the Lamb,
Waiting the Bride-groom's returning again!
Lift up your heads, for the day draweth near
When in His beauty the King shall appear!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Busic New NTS President

Nazarene Communications Network has just announced that the Rev'd. Dr. David Busic has accepted the position of President of Nazarene Theological Seminary.  Some will recall that Dr. Busic recently declined this election, but, apparently, God had other plans!

The story of Dr. Busic's acceptance can be read, here.

If one wants to read "the whole story," you can do so by clicking on the following headlines:

NTS elects new president; board asks individual to delay response

Oklahoma pastor considering NTS president position

Busic declines NTS presidency

Dr. Busic graduated from NTS one year prior to my graduating, so I am excited to see someone that I went to school with in this position.

Congratulations on to David on his election, and may God's richest blessings and anointing be upon him in this new area of ministry!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

My Favorite Non-Wesley Hymn

It is true.  I do sing hymns (and other spiritual songs) not penned by Charles or John Wesley!  When I was to first arrive as pastor at Centenary UMC, last year, I was asked some of my favorite hymns.  Of course, the one in my previous post was at the top of the list, but I also included as my favorite non-Wesley hymn a hymn by Frederick M. Lehman, 1917 (actually, the third stanza comes from Meir Ben Isaac Nehorai, 1050).  - They title of the hymn: The Love of God.

Unfortunately, this hymn does not appear in The United Methodist Hymnal!  Yet, the good folks at Centenary got hold of a Nazarene hymnal, and the choir sang this hymn on my first Sunday!

May God bless you through the words to this hymn.

The Love of God

1. The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell.
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.

(Refrain) O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints' and angels' song!

2. When years of time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God's love so sure shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam's race
The saints' and angels' song.

3. Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were ev'ry stalk on earth a quill,
And ev'ry man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Tho' stretched from sky to sky.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Perhaps the Greatest Hymn Ever Penned

It is, at least, one of the greatest hymns ever penned, and it is my absolute favorite.  And, yes, it is a Wesley hymn:

And Can It Be?

And can it be, that I should gain
An interest in the Saviour's blood?
Died he for me, who caused his pain?
For me? Who him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
That thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

'Tis myst'ry all: th'Immortal dies!
Who can explore his strange design?
In vain the first-born seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
'Tis mercy all! Let earth adore!
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left his Father's throne above
(So free, so infinite his grace!),
Emptied himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam's helpless race.
'Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For, O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature's night.
Thine eye diffused a quick'ning ray;
I woke; the dungeon flamed with light.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.

No condemnation now I dread,
Jesus, and all in him, is mine.
Alive in him, my living head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th'eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
(Charles Wesley, 1738)

Comments listed in The Works of John Wesley, Vol. 7, A Collection of Hymns for the Use of The People Called Methodists, indicate that the hymn was originally entitled "Free Grace."  It is said that this hymn was written immediately following Charles' conversion on May 21, 1738.  They surmise that it is probable that this hymn was sung when John came late in the evening of the 24th to announce his own conversion (322).

Also in the notes, it is mentioned that Dr. Bett was of the opinion that John had authored this hymn, rather than Charles (though, it seems, that the vast majority of people have assumed Charles' authorship).  And, it is stated that the opening question is decisive for the whole of Wesley's theology (323).

What is your favorite hymn?

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Couple of Wesley Hymns

I thought I would share, as I occasionally do, a couple of the Wesley hymns that were a part of my Morning Prayer time, this morning.  These were taken from Hymn Poems of Charles Wesley for Reading and Singing, issued by Tidings, Nashville, TN. 

16. Depth of Mercy!
Seymour. 7.7.7.7.

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

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

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

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


17. Jesus, the Sinner's Friend
Federal Street. L.M.

Jesus the sinner's Friend, to Thee,
Lost and undone, for aid I flee,
Weary of earth, myself, and sin:
Open Thine arms, and take me in.

Pity and heal my sinsick soul;
'Tis Thou alone canst make me whole:
Dark, till in me Thine image shine,
And lost, I am, till Thou art mine.

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

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

Friday, August 12, 2011

Nazarene Superintendency/Episcopacy Reconsidered, Part II: My Objections Reconsidered

As stated in my previous post ("Part I"), I have consistently been outspoken when it comes to clearly identifying the Nazarene general superintendents as bishops.  I also indicated that there are others in our midsts who have given the title bishop to our district superintendents, and that I have opposed this view for three major reasons (as will be discussed, below).

In that first post, I set out to show the basis and foundation of the Nazarene superintendency/episcopacy.  There, I made clear that the superintendency within Wesleyan/Methodist denominations (including the Church of the Nazarene) constitutes the episcopal element of their government structures.  -  I will not rehearse that, here.  (That's what the first post was for!)

In this, second part, I will be turning my attention to the view that district superintendents ought to be identified as bishops, and the three major reasons that I have opposed this position, holding that the designation of bishop belongs to general superintendents.

The three major reasons for my opposition to identifying district superintendents as bishops are:

     1.) Wesley's Intent
     2.) Ecumenical/Fraternal Relations Within American Methodism, and The Consistent Structure of American Methodism
     3.) The Authority to Ordain

Wesley's Intent

As shown in the previous post, Wesley "ordained" Thomas Coke to oversee the Methodists in America, and instructed him to ordain Francis Asbury for the same oversight.  The oversight that the two were to share was understood to be the general oversight of the people called Methodists in America.  They were to be general superintendents, not simply district superintendents.  While it turns out that Asbury truly became the bishop of American Methodists, the intent was that the two men would share this role . . . with Wesley, himself, still clearly exercising . . . (at least) parental authority.  (cf. Wesley's letter, which accompanied The Sunday Service.  It clearly shows Wesley's continued authority.  He, after all, appointed Coke and Asbury and gave instructions concerning The Sunday Service, etc.)

The issue here is that Wesley intended Coke and Asbury to be general superintendents.  Unlike the ordinal of the Church of England, Wesley did not make provisions for different levels of superintendents (the CoE's ordinal speaks of bishops and archbishops).  -  Admittedly, I have not done sufficient research into the history of the development of presiding elders/district superintendents, or the expansion of the general superintendency during Wesley's life.  However, it seems clear enough that Wesley's intent was that the episcopal role would be expressed in the general superintendency.

With that in mind, I have consistently identified the general superintendency with the episcopacy, and I have rejected the idea that district superintendents should be identified as bishops.

But, is this valid?

Upon further reflection and "reconsideration," it can be said that Wesley, whatever his intent, did not ordain Coke or instruct that Coke ordain Asbury as general superintendents.  The ordinal clearly shows that they were ordained simply as superintendents.  There was no designation of general or district; just superintendent.

They were, of course, understood to be general superintendents, as the Book of Discipline clearly indicates to this day.  However, the point is, it was Wesley's intent that the episcopal role be expressed in the superintendency, itself; the superintendency is what expresses episcopal oversight.  He could not have foreseen the day when the United Methodist Church would have expanded the episcopacy so vastly with so many bishops.  Nor could he have foreseen the day when the church would develop such a vast district superintendency to assist the bishops.  Thus, Wesley simply spoke of the superintendency.

Therefore, it is not really fair to impose upon our current, developed situation the original intent of Wesley, who is not here to express what he would do in our situation.  It is sufficient to say that, for Wesley, the episcopacy rested in the superintendency, pure and simple.  Since the superintendency now consists of the general superintendency, as well as the district superintendency, it is legitimate to view the district superintendency as an expansion of the episcopacy.  (In fact, even the UMC Discipline states that the district superintendency is an extension of the episcopacy.)

So, in my "reconsideration," I have concluded that the first of my three reasons for opposing the identification of district superintendents as bishops is not really valid. 

But what about the other two reasons?

Ecumenical/Fraternal Relations Within American Methodism, and The Consistent Structure of American Methodism

Here, I have argued that American Methodism, across the board, has identified general superintendents, not district superintendents, as bishops, and it would confuse matters in relationship with our Wesleyan/Methodist sisters and brothers if we began to do something so inconsistent as speaking of district superintendents as bishops.  -  (I have consistently been an active supporter for better relations within the Wesleyan/Methodist family.  By God's grace, I have played a significant role in the Church of the Nazarene joining the World Methodist Council, and I have actively sought the exploration of merger with The Wesleyan and Free Methodist churches, including the writing of General Assembly resolutions to that affect.  Plus, I'm a Nazarene pastoring a United Methodist Church!)  So, there is the ecumenical/fraternal relationship issue.


Related to that is the idea that identifying district superintendents as bishops would simply be inconsistent with how American Methodism has developed.

Again, I have not done the research on all of this, but . . .  -  At some point, early on, American Methodism developed the presiding elder as one who assisted the bishop in limited geographical areas.  Obviously, as the name implies, this person was an elder who "presided" over what were eventually identified as districts.  (Confessing, again, I don't know the details of this development in history).

Phineas Bresee, the principle founder of the Church of the Nazarene, served as a Methodist Episcopal presiding elder in both Iowa and California.

To this day, the African (American) Methodist denominations use the term presiding elder.  The UMC, however, along with the Free Methodists, Wesleyans and Nazarenes, use the terminology of superintendent.  All of the latter denominations (with the exception of the Free Methodists, I believe) now refer to them as district superintendents.  (I believe the Free Methodists just use the term superintendent, which, itself, is interesting in light of Wesley's ordinal.)  -  What is clear is that, even the denominations that use the term, bishop, do not identify district superintendents/presiding elders as bishops.  -  Therefore, to identify Nazarene district superintendents as bishops would be inconsistent with the rest of American Methodism.

But, is this a valid reason for opposing the identification of district superintendents with bishops?

It would, I think complicate some aspects of relationships.  However, the truth is, as consistent as the government structure has been among American Methodist denominations, there is still quite a lot of inconsistencies.  Let me list a few:  The use of the term bishop, or general superintendent.  The use of the term district superintendent, or presiding elder.  In the case of The Wesleyan Church, the use of the term minster instead of elder.  Deacons: some have them, some don't; for some they are transitional, for others permanent.  The appointment or call system.  General, jurisdictional, conference, and district levels; some have all, some have combined levels, some have eliminated certain levels.  Terms for bishops: some are for life, some for 4-year terms.  For some, the g.s. is elected at the General level, for others, at a different level.  Some denominations operate as a global denomination, others operate more like a federation from different world areas.

All of that is to say, while there is a good bit of consistency within the American Methodist structure, there are already considerable differences in the development of each denomination.

Then, there is the consideration of global Methodism.  In the "mother church" of British Methodism, there is no episcopacy (at least not in terms of a superintendency).  They maintain a conference that elects a president.  If one were to look at the Methodist Church in Nigeria, however, one would see a very developed structure that would remind one of Anglicanism with its dioceses and synods, bishops, archbishops and prelate, etc.  Global Methodism has clearly developed its structures in various ways.  In fact, it has been truly stated that the episcopacy is not essential to Methodist structure, but rather, if there is an essential nature to a Methodist structure it would be some form of the connectional system (which, of course, underlies American Methodists, as well).

It should also be stated that the means of oversight for general superintendents and district superintendents differ among the respective denominations.  -  I will not go into this too much, but, for example, United Methodist bishops are residential within their conference, while Nazarene general superintendents, though presiding at district assemblies, are not residential, but rather cover many districts throughout various world regions.  Further, it can be argued that a Nazarene district superintendent, in many ways, not only fulfills the role of the UM d.s., but also many of the roles of the UM bishop.

So, I am forced to conclude that, while identifying Nazarene district superintendents as bishops would be unique in America, it cannot be said that such uniqueness, alone, provides a valid reason for not doing so.  This is especially the case when it has been clearly demonstrated, even in the UMC Book of Discipline, that the district superintendency is an extension of the episcopacy.  In fact, chapter three of the UMC BoD, which covers bishops and district superintendents, is titled, "The Superintendency."

Well, upon further consideration, I have had to conclude that two of my arguments are really not sufficient to continue to deny that district superintendents are bishops.  So now I turn to my last major reason for opposing the identification of district superintendents as bishops.

The Authority to Ordain

Let me state a couple of matters up front.  I have no desire to discuss, at this point, Wesley's authority to ordain.  For the sake of this article, it is my position that orders derived from him are valid, and that Nazarene orders are valid, as well.  Anglican readers of this blog will disagree.  Roman Catholic readers with disagree with the validity of both of our orders.  -  This article is not about that.

Second, it is clear, from Wesley, and within Methodism, that the right to ordain, in terms of transmission of orders, comes from the order of elder, itself.  None of the American Methodists understand the episcopacy/superintendency to be a separate order.  (Some may wish to argue that it should be, but that is beyond the scope of this article.)  -  Wesley, in his letter to the American Methodists, said, "Lord King's account of the primitive church convinced me many years ago, that Bishops and Presbyters (Elders/Priests) are the same order, and consequently have the same right to ordain . . ."

That does not mean that, within the structure of our respective denominations, any elder can ordain at his/her whim.  Rather, it seems to be consistent among those Methodists that have a superintendency/episcopacy that the right to ordain lies with the general superintendent.  That is, by virtue of his/her representative office, the g.s. has the authority to ordain.  -  Now, I believe it is the case in all of the American Methodist denominations (though I am not certain of this) that other elders are involved in the laying on of hands.  -  [As an aside, I had the privilege to attend ordination services this summer for United Methodists, Nazarenes and Wesleyans.  The UM had representative elders join the bishop.  The Wesleyans had their (ordained) ordination board join the g.s.  And all of the Nazarene elders (and deacons!) present participated in laying on hands, with the g.s.]  -  However, it is the g.s./bishop, alone, who actually ordains.

Within the Church of the Nazarene, if the g.s. is unable to be at an ordination service he/she may designate another elder to ordain on his/her behalf, under the authority of the g.s.

Now, here is the issue.  I understand the authority to ordain to rest in the episcopacy (again, as an office, not necessarily as a separate order; I'm not arguing that, here).  And, I have no problem with the presiding general superintendent (the "senior superintendent," or, dare I say, "archbishop") having the right and authority to do the ordaining in a denomination, when present and presiding.  However, on those occasions when the g.s. is unable to be at the service of ordination, if we are to consider the d.s. to be a bishop, it would seem to me that she/he ought to be the one to ordain (rather than, simply an elder designated by the g.s.).
  -  [I would love to hear from some Anglicans who have bishops, archbishops, etc. about how the authority to ordain works in that kind of "ranking" (for lack of a better word.]
I do not mind a "ranking" of authority (e.g., the g.s. "out-ranks" the d.s., and, thus, is the one who ordains), but if the d.s. is a bishop, she/he ought to specifically be identified in that "rank" with authority to ordain.  -  [As another aside, I do not yet know what I think about how the regional director fits into all of this.  Frankly, I need to brush-up on exactly what that role is all about.  Truth be told, I don't think we shoud have ever developed regional directors.  Instead, I think we should have continued our pattern of expanding the number of general superintendents, but we now have what we have.  I do know that regional directors are not identified as superintendents, nor are they elected by an assembly like the d.s. and g.s.  -  But I will leave aside the regional director, for now.]

Since the d.s. is not given explicit authority to ordain in the absence of a g.s., I have difficulty viewing them as bishops . . . at that point.


Nazarene . . . Archbishops?!

Nevertheless, apart from the function of ordaining, I no longer see any reason to not identify district superintendents as bishops.  It is clear that they are a part of the superintendency/episcopacy/oversight of the church.  However, just as other episcopal structures include rankings, or levels, of episcopacy (e.g., bishops and archbishops), this conclusion would imply that the district superintendent would corospond to bishop, and the general superintendent would corospond to archbishop.  -  Now, if Nazarenes aren't willing to us the term bishop, they certainly aren't going to us the term archbishop!

Perhaps, as we look forward (especially in terms of what kinds of resolutions might be written for 2013!), it might be best not to try to put forward anything that uses the term bishop (and certainly not archbishop!).  -  After all, the last time I tried that (in a footnote, even!), it didn't make it past our district committee!  -  I would, however, like to see a new sentence placed at the opening of our section on the district superintendent, as well as the section on the general superintendent, that simply states that the episcopal element of our representative government is expressed in terms of the superintency (or something like that).  Such a statement (in both locations) would clearly state what many of us have been arguing all along.  It has support in other parts of the Manual.  It avoids the term, bishop (and certainly archbishop!), while retaining the terms, district and general superintendent.  Yet, it would make clear that our superintendency is our expression of the episcopacy.  (Still, frankly, I think it will take a lot of work to get this through district committees, not to mention G.A.)

The other thing that I think needs to happen is the changing of the paragraph that says that the g.s. can designate another elder to ordain under the authority of the g.s.  I think, if we are going to identify the d.s. as bishop, we have to get the d.s. specifically in that paragraph.  (With a corosponding paragraph under the duties of the d.s. that talks about ordaining in the absence of the g.s.)

So, here we are.  Upon "reconsideration," it seems that I have changed my views.  -  Should I have changed them?  Do my reasons for doing so make sense?  Ought the rest of American Methodism change their terminology, as well?  -  What do you think?