Thursday, March 31, 2011

+William Greathouse, True Churchman, True Bishop, Called Home to Glory

Today, in about 45 minutes from the time I am typing this, at Nashville First Church of the Nazarene in Nashville, TN, the funeral service will begin for the (Rt.) Rev'd. Dr. William M. Greathouse, General Superintendent Emeritus.  -  It would be difficult to express what I owe Dr. Greathouse.  Though I did not have him for any class (my wife was blessed to have been in one of his classes at Trevecca), it may not be inaccurate to say that no other Nazarene has influenced me more than he.

I will not go into the details of his service to the Church of the Nazarene and the Wesleyan tradition beyond saying that he served as Pastor, Professor at Trevecca Nazarene College (now University), President of Trevecca, Professor at Nazarene Theological Seminary, President of NTS, Author, and General Superintendent of the Church of the Nazarene.

More of the details of his service can be found in the news release of his death, here.

What I will say is that Dr. Greathouse was the one who brought together that group of theologians who became known as the "Trevecca Connection," who purposefully worked to bring the Church of the Nazarene and the Holiness movement back to Wesley.  Our Watchword & Song names H. Ray Dunning, John A. Knight, Mildred Bangs Wynkoop, and +Greathouse, himself, as the "Trevecca Connection."  Rob L. Staples once (when introducing Ray Dunning during chapel at Nazarene Theological Seminary) identified himself as "a card carrying member of the 'Trevecca Connection,'" being also connected to +Greathouse and Trevecca.  I don't know if he self-identifies this way, but I like to include Paul M. Bassett in that cast, as well, in that he also taught (a year) at Trevecca under +Greathouse's presidency and followed him to NTS.  (And William Kostlevy's, Historical Dictionary of the Holiness Movement makes the same connection.)

Of this group, I have been highly influenced by Dunning (my college prof. of Theology), Staples (my seminary prof. of Theology), and Bassett (my seminary prof. of Historical Theology).  In addition, I have in my library books by all of those in this "Connection."

This is my theological heritage.  I have been trained under classical Wesleyan thought.  It has shaped my life in profound ways.  I am a product of the "Trevecca Connection" and like to think of myself as a part of the continuation of that Connection.  I was introduced to classical Wesleyan theology at Trevecca, and that was only expanded at NTS, where I learned of Wesley's liturgical/sacramental/Anglican commitments, as well as those foundations in the Church Fathers.  -  Thus, Dr. Greathouse's influence and vision has shaped me.

Beyond that, during a time when I was seriously, prayerfully discerning God's direction in my life, I discussed a bit of my situation with Rob Staples, via email.  Dr. Staples, asked if it was okay if he talked to Dr. Greathouse about it.  Shortly thereafter, I received a phone call from +William Greathouse!

I keep framed in my study a quote from Dr. Greathouse.  I have for years, now.  I have used it often as a part of my "signature" on my emails.  (In fact, Dr. Greathouse, seeing it when I posted on the Wesleyan Theological Discussion list, once asked me to remind him where his quote came from!)  It comes from the preface to Rob Staples, Outward Sign and Inward Grace: The Place of Sacraments in Wesleyan Spirituality.  There Dr. Greathouse says:

It is time the Church of Jesus Christ overcame the disjunctions created by the 16th-century Reformation.  What is called for is the "evangelical catholicism" of John Wesley's "middle way" in which the two historic Christian traditions were synthesized.  In this synthesis the English Reformer not only recovered for the Church a viable doctrine of holiness but also pointed the way to a scriptural view and practice of the sacraments that is both apostolic and catholic.

Dr. Greathouse was a churchman, a pastor, an educator, a theologian, and a true bishop of the Church catholic.  -  One of my former college professors, upon news of Dr. Greathouse's death, said something like, "I wish Bill Greathouse could have been our Pope.  Perhaps he was."  -  I think, perhaps, I feel what many in the Roman Catholic Church felt at the death of Pope John Paul when they began referring to him as John Paul the Great, and they called for immediate "sainthood."  -  Of course, in our case, we don't have to add the title Great to +William Greathouse!  Still, if Nazarenes canonized saints as our RC sisters and brothers do, perhaps there would be cries of "Santo Subito!"(Saint Immediately) from the lips of Nazarenes (in English, of course!).  Perhaps I would be one of those voices.

What I can say, by all accounts, +William Greathouse lived what he preached and taught.  And he preached and taught holiness of heart and life.  We Protestant types, of course, understand that the New Testament identifies all Christians as "saints."  In Dr. Greathouse, however, it was easy to see.

The Church of the Nazarene and the Wesleyan world (indeed, the Church) has lost a great leader.  We will miss him.  May his influence continue on for the glory of God in Christ Jesus!

I think I will end this post using the post of another member of the Wesleyan Theological Discussion group:

O God, by your Holy Spirit you gave to some the word of wisdom, to others the word of knowledge, and to others the word of faith: We praise your Name for the gifts of grace manifested in your servant +William Greathouse, and we pray that your church may never be destitute of such gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.  (BCP 1979, 248-9)

In addition to the Nazarene News link, mentioned above:

A Facebook page of memories has been set up, here

The Rev'd. Dr. Dan Boone, President of Trevecca, has written of Dr. Greathouse on his blog.

"For the Mahometans" - A Wesley Hymn

Since 9-11, we, in America, have become much more aware of our fellow Americans of Islamic faith, as well as those of Islamic faith in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Today, during Morning Prayer, I continued my custom of singing through the Wesley hymns as found in Vol. 7 of The Works of John Wesley.  I recently made my way to Section X: For Believers Interceding for the World.  Today, it fell upon me to sing hymn 431, which is titled, For the Mahometans.  -  Perhaps you may find it interesting.  The words to the hymn are as follows:

1. Sun of unclouded righteousness,
With healing in thy wings arise
A sad, benighted world to bless,
Which now in sin and error lies,
Wrapped in Egyptian night profound,
With chains of hellish darkness bound.

2. The smoke of the infernal cave,
Which half the Christian world o'erspread,
Disperse, thou heavenly Light, and save
The souls by that impostor led,
That Arab-thief, as Satan bold,
Who quite destroyed thy Asian fold.

3. O might the blood of sprinkling cry
For those who spurn the sprinkled blood!
Assert thy glorious Deity,
Stretch out thy arm, thou triune God,
the Unitarian fiend expel,
And chase his doctrine back to hell!

4. Come, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
Thou Three in One, and One in Three,
Resume thy own for ages lost,
Finish the dire apostasy;
Thine universal claim maintain,
And Lord of the creation reign!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Presiding Bishop Ivan Abrahams Nominated to Lead the WMC

It is being reported that Ivan M. Abrahams, Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, has been nominated to the position of General Secretary of the World Methodist Council.  His election will take place during the World Methodist Council meeting at the World Methodist Conference in August.

Presiding Bishop
Ivan M. Abrahams
For the complete story, click here.

Wesleyans and the Sufficiency of Scripture

It seems, if the rumors I have heard are true, that there have been some discussions of late about the Nazarene Article of Faith on "The Holy Scriptures."  It seems that some are of the opinion that, perhaps, it is time to reword the Article.

In my opinion, a rewording of the Article would likely be unfortunate.  First, I do not think that we will be able to get away from "inerrancy" language.  That is, I think that there is a strong contingency that will insist on that language.  Of that group, there are some very vocal folks who would like to not only utilize that language, but do so in such a way that would move us firmly into the Fundamentalist camp.  (A place where we, as a Wesleyan denomination, do not belong.)  -  From my perspective, H. Orton Wiley (who is popularly credited with the wording of the article) did a fantastic job of utilizing the language of the day in a way that clearly maintained our Wesleyan understanding of Scripture.

For those unfamiliar with the wording of the Nazarene article, I will reproduce it toward the end of this post.  Before I do that, I would like to reproduce one of the "Wesleyan Core Terms" as found in The Wesley Study Bible.  I think that this particular "Core Term" should serve as a as a reminder to Wesleyans in general, and to Nazarenes in particular, of how Wesleyan Christians really approach and view the Scriptures.

Sufficiency of Scripture

As Methodism in the United States was becoming a formal church, John Wesley sent his adaption of the Articles of Religion to serve as doctrinal standards.  Article 6 related to the sufficiency of Scripture, and made clear that Scripture contains all that one needs to know for salvation.  Scripture is sufficient because it does not need to be supplemented with any other revelation.  This affirmation is rooted in the Protestant tradition that precedes Methodism, and it counters the idea that we have to depend on any other source or authority for salvation.  Holding this view does not mean that Scripture is our only source of knowledge for everything.  We can still learn new things about the world and about the historical situation in which the Bible was written, and this knowledge helps us interpret Scripture.  But we can trust that the Bible does not lack anything that we need in order to know and love God.

When talking about Scripture, the Wesleyan focus is salvation.  That does not mean that the Bible does not speak about anything else, but it does mean that we understand that salvation (faith issues; relationship with God and others) is the "point," the purpose of Scripture.  - "I want to know one thing, the way to heaven - how to land safe on that happy shore.  God himself has condescended to teach the way: 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!" (John Wesley, Preface to Sermons on Several Occasions.)  -  "All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NRSV).

What a refreshing focus when compared to the typical focus of our sisters and brother in the "Fundamentalist camp."  To borrow from Rob Staples essay on "Inerrancy" in his book, Words of Faith, for the Fundamentalist, the basic theological question is What is the source of knowledge (or truth)?.  They hold to an "epistemological inerrancy," seeking to establish the truth and reliability of the Bible before they can move on to talk about matters such as salvation.  Thus, it must be shown that the Bible is inerrant in the original autographs, that Genesis 1-3 are scientifically literal, that archeology confirms biblical accounts, etc.  Only then (that is, once it is established that the Bible is true), can we trust the Bible for salvation, etc.

Wesleyans approach the Scriptures differently, says Staples.  The basic theological question for the Wesleyan Christian is What must I do to be saved?  Wesleyans hold to a "soteriological inerrancy," because in Wesleyan theology, salvation is truth.  The Bible cannot fail to lead us to God and to heaven if we obey its precepts; that is what it means to say it is inerrant.

While our Fundamentalist brothers and sisters in Christ must first prove the truthfulness of Scripture before they can trust its path to salvation, Wesleyan Christians say, "I trusted Christ for salvation, just as the Scriptures say, and God has proven Himself true to His Word.  Therefore, I can trust Scripture; I know the Bible is true."

We have sisters and brothers in Christ in the Church of the Nazarene (and other Wesleyan denominations) that urgently want to move us to the Fundamentalist camp and shift our focus.  However, Wesleyan Christians are more interested in getting on with the business to which Scripture calls us, viz., pointing people to God through Christ.

The United Methodist Church, in its Articles of Religion, has maintained this emphasis by retaining the Article bequeathed to it from Anglicanism by John Wesley alongside the Article from the former Evangelical United Brethren Church, which, too, focused on the primary issue of salvation.

True to the Wesleyan heritage, the Article of Faith for the Church of the Nazarene, also retains this emphasis.  It does so, as I mentioned above, while using "inerrancy" language in a very Wesleyan way.  The Article is as follows:

IV. The Holy Scriptures

We believe in the plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, by which we understand the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, given by divine inspiration, inerrantly revealing the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation, so that whatever is not contained therein is not to be enjoined as an article of faith.

None of this, by the way, negates our Wesleyan understanding of what has popularly been called the Wesleyan Quadrilateral.  We do, indeed, look to reason, tradition and experience, along with Scripture, when expression our doctrines.  Those other three are vitally important to us as we faithfully seek to interpret Scripture.  But, as for the Bible, itself, we believe in the Sufficiency of Scripture.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sharing From Today's Morning Prayer

I thought that I would share, today, a hymn that spoke to me during my time of Morning Prayer, as well as one of the "Wesleyan Core Terms" from the notes below the section of Scripture I was reading, today.

First the hymn:

1. O, God, to whom in flesh revealed
The helpless all for succour came;
The sick to be relieved and healed,
And found salvation in thy name:

2. With publicans and harlots I,
In these thy Spirit's gospel-days,
To thee the sinner's friend draw nigh,
And humbly sue for saving grace.

3. Thou seest me helpless and distressed,
Feeble, and faint, and blind, and poor:
Weary, I come to thee for rest,
And sick of sin, implore a cure.

4. My sin's incurable disease,
Thou, Jesus, thou alone canst heal:
Inspire me with thy power and peace,
And pardon on my conscience seal.

5. A touch, a word, a look from thee,
Can turn my heart, and make it clean;
Purge the foul inbred leprosy,
And save me from my bosom sin.

6. Lord, if thou wilt, I do believe,
Thou canst the saving grace impart;
Thou canst this instant now forgive,
And stamp thine image on my heart.

7. My heart, which now to thee I raise,
I know thou canst this moment cleanse;
The deepest stains of sin efface,
And drive the evil spirit hence.

8. Be it according to thy word!
Accomplish now thy work in me;
And let my soul, to health restored,
Devote its little all to thee!

(Hymn #383. The Works of John Wesley. Vol. 7. "A Collection of Hymns for the Use of The People Called Methodist.")

And now, the "Wesleyan Core Term:  Misunderstandings of Perfection:"

The terminology Christian perfection, or entire sanctification, is easily misunderstood in the following ways.  First, purity of heart does not entail perfection in knowledge.  Even the entirely sanctified must continue to study and prosper.  Second, Christian perfection does not issue in freedom from infirmities, that is, from slowness of understanding, confusion in thought, or mistakes in judgment.  Third, Christian perfection should not be described as "sinless perfection," lest the pure in heart conclude that they can be free from any violation of the perfect law of God, voluntary or not.  Fourth, perfect love does not eliminate temptation.  Fifth, there is no state of grace so lofty that one cannot fall from it; that is heart purity can be lost.  And finally, Wesley rejected the idea of static perfection that did not increase in love and grace; he cautioned that a pure heart increasingly grows in the love of God.

(The Wesley Study Bible. Abingdon P.)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

British Methodist & Anglican Leaders Meet

According to the blog of the President and Vice President of the (British) Methodist Conference, leaders of the Methodist Church (of Great Britain) and leaders of the Church of England, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, met together, as they do annually.

Their blog contains the highlights of the meeting.

I found two things to be of particular interest on the blog.  The first is that they reported hearing updates in the Anglican Communion and the World Methodist Council. 

As many of you know, I have been actively involved in as many World Methodist Council events as possible.  I approached the Board of General Superintendents of the Church of the Nazarene and petitioned for the Church of the Nazarene to seek membership in the WMC, which it did.  I am currently serving with Nazarene orders in the United Methodist Church, a sister WMC denomination.  (Though "sister" is probably not the right word for the UMC, since it is the "mother church" for American Wesleyans/Methodists.)

I only wish that the blog actually reported some of those updates!

The second thing, however, that I found interesting may be of interest to readers of this blog who are concerned about Methodist/Anglican relations.  The British Methodist Church and the Church of England, as many of you know, have a covenant relationship with each other.  The blog details the Anglican-Methodist Covenant with a listing of their Affirmations and their Commitments.

If you are unfamiliar with their covenant, you may want to take a look at their blog, or you can find the Anglican-Methodist Covenant information, here.

Monday, March 7, 2011

One Prayer Short

As most pastors who follow the lectionary know, this year Lent, and thus, Easter, is as late as it gets.  That means that, for some, over the last couple of weeks prior to Transfiguration Sunday, they have preached from lectionary passages that they have never preached from before.

Though I tend to be a lectionary preacher, I have also preached for Sunday night as well as Sunday morning services for the majority of my 17 years in full time pastoral ministry (as well as having taught/gave devotions on Wednesday evenings, during most of that time).  So, that was not really an issue for me.

However, as I was praying Morning Prayer last week, I did discover something, which, while not profoundly important, nevertheless was somewhat interesting.  Last week, I began to wonder if we were going to "run out of" prayers before Lent.  For those who are used to the Book of Common Prayer, you know that there is a Collect (or short prayer) for each of the Sundays in the year.  In John Wesley's version of the Book of Common Prayer, which he titled, The Sunday Service of the Methodists in North America, he numbers them according to the Sundays "after Christmas," until you get to "The Sunday Next Before Easter."

Anyway, the wondering got the best of me, so I counted them out.  Sure enough, Wesley is one prayer short this year.  I would guess that, perhaps the 1662 BCP, which Wesley would have used (if not some other versions of the BCP), may be short, as well.  (As I write this, I'm not in my study, so I do not have access to my other Prayer Books to check.)

Not only, so, but it became apparent that this past Sunday (viz. Transfiguration, or the Sunday leading up to Transfiguration) is where we are missing the prayer.  That is to say, the collect for "The Eleventh Sunday after Christmas" should obviously be prayed on the First Sunday in Lent.

That, of course, means that those using Wesley's The Sunday Service will need to pray the collect for "The Tenth Sunday after Christmas" for two weeks this year, rather than just one.  Or, if you already moved ahead, this past Sunday, you should pray that prayer (which speaks of the Lord fasting for forty days and forty nights) for next Sunday, the First Sunday in Lent, as well. 

It also means that those who use The Sunday Service should be aware that whenever Lent begins in other years, they ought to skip ahead to "The Eleventh Sunday after Christmas" for the First Sunday in Lent, and continue on from there until Easter.

As I said, it's nothing profoundly important, but I did find it interesting.  So, I thought I would share!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Good News for Sacramental Renewal within the Church of the Nazarene

I recently had the opportunity to attend the M-11 Conference for the U.S./Canada Region of the Church of the Nazarene.  (Thankfully, it was held right across the river from my present location!)  The conference featured a number of worship services, along with numerous workshops each day.

The one work shop that I most looked forward to attending was called, "Worship and the Sacraments: The Power and Imagination for Evangelism."  It was lead by the Rev'd. Dr. Bent Peterson, Associate Professor of Theology at Northwest Nazarene University.  (Yes, a Nazarene University has someone with a Ph.D. in Liturgy on staff! -  Just wish it was Trevecca.)

I had been looking forward to meeting Dr. Peterson, in person.  We had talked via the internet on a few occasions.  And I was very much looking forward to his workshop.

How exciting it was to see standing room only for this workshop on Worship & the Sacraments at this Nazarene gathering!  It really was a fantastic workshop!  -  Later, that evening, a good number of us gathered to engage in further discussion.

My friend, Brannon Hancock, at Sanctifying Worship, videoed much of the workshop.  He also organized the discussion time.  (Thanks Brannon!)

I have copied the videos, below, from Brannon's site.  Again, Brannon deserves all of the credit for the videos, and, of course, a HUGE THANKS goes out to Brent Peterson for leading the workshop!

As Brannon indicates on his site, the first video picks up about half way through the formal part of Brent's presentation.  (Brannon was about 20 min. late to the session.)  -  What Brannon doesn't point out, but I will shamelessly mention, is that Brent asked me to be the pray-er of the Great Thanksgiving during the workshop.

This workshop, the attendance of the workshop, and those who gathered for the post-workshop discussion have given me great encouragement about the sacramental/liturgical future within the Church of the Nazarene!  Another sign of encouragement (before launching into the videos) is the new Nazarene Liturgy Project, which can be found, here.

Also, as found on the Nazarene Liturgy Project, site, Brent Peterson has graciously provided a full recording of his workshop on MP3. I would include it, here, as well. However, it seems that I can't quite figure out how to do that! (I'm thankful I still remember how to put the videos on here!)

Nevertheless, I hope that you find these videos, exciting, as well. (For my Anglican friends, and even UM friends, who do not see too much out of the ordinary, here, please keep in mind that the Church of the Nazarene has tended to not embrace Wesley's sacramental/liturgical passion throughout its history. We were born in the Camp Meeting, and took that form as our primary form of corporate worship. Our practice of the sacraments have followed the Methodist frontier model of quarterly celebration. That, more recently, seems to have increased in many regions to a monthly celebration. For my part, I love the Camp Meeting, but long to see a wider embrace of Wesley's liturgical/sacramental passion when it comes to corporate worship.)

Lenten Prayer & Fasting and Faith-Sharing

The season of Lent is almost here, and with it many Christians engage in specific efforts at prayer and fasting and various forms of abstinence.  Sometimes these special efforts are viewed as a kind of legalism imposed by certain denominations.  (Some Roman Catholics view it this way, though that is not the intent of the Roman Catholic Church.)  Others see this as a way of simply "proving they can do it."  And there are those who see Lent as a time to jump-start their diets.  (Though the loss of weight may be a favorable side effect, that is not the purpose of fasting!)

There are others, however, who recognize that fasting and the various forms of abstinence are truly spiritual disciplines with the intent of opening us up to God's presence and grace in preparation for the great celebration of Easter. 

Coming from a branch of Methodism that has thoroughly embraced the Camp Meeting and Revivalism, I have always told our people that Lent is revival preparation!  -  When we would schedule a revival with an evangelist, we would do more than schedule the revival.  We would set aside specific times for prayer and fasting, seeking God's face for the revival services, the evangelist, the lost in our community, the Church, and ourselves.  "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.  See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139:23-24)  -  That, very much, is what happens during Lent.

Additionally, in the congregations where I have served, I have made it a practice of distributing to everyone a "World Methodist Call to Prayer and Fasting and to Faith-Sharing" bookmark on the Sunday prior to Ash Wednesday.  This book mark, produced by World Methodist Evangelism, calls our people to participate in the "Wesley fast."

The WME website says this about the bookmarks:

The 2001 World Methodist Conference in England called upon Methodists around the world to "follow the Wesleyan Pattern of Prayer and Fasting, focusing on spreading the gospel of Christ Jesus through word, deed and sign" by participating in the same weekly fast which John Wesley observed most of his life. Because of this commitment, Methodists in 130 countries go without solid food after their evening meal each Thursday until mid-afternoon each Friday.

This time of fasting is focused in prayer for the vision of World Evangelism -- to see the Methodist movement alive, vibrant, growing and yearning to spread the good news of Christ Jesus in a world that so desperately needs healing, hope and salvation. Methodist churches and groups are encouraged to participate in the Wesleyan Pattern of Prayer and Fasting during Lent and/or during the period between Easter and Pentecost.

These ENGLISH PRAYER AND FASTING CARDS are available free of charge, in reasonable quantities, for congregations or groups wishing to participate in this worldwide commitment. The 2 3/4 x 8 1/2 inch laminated cards contain an explanation of the Prayer and Fasting Commitment plus special prayers for Thursday Evening, Friday Morning, Friday Noon, and Friday at the time of breaking the fast.

I would encourage all pastors in denominations that are members of the World Methodist Council to order these free bookmarks by going to the WME website, here.  Further, anyone who may pastor in a Wesleyan/Methodist denomination that is not a member of the WMC is still encouraged to join in this fast, during the season of Lent (and beyond!).

In the United States, the denominations that hold membership in the World Methodist Council are:

African Methodist Episcopal Church

African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

Christian Methodist Episcopal Church

Church of the Nazarene

Free Methodist Church

The United Methodist Church


The Wesleyan Church

Indeed, may we "see the Methodist movement alive, vibrant, growing and yearning to spread the good news of Christ Jesus in a world that so desperately needs healing, hope and salvation."  And may we see lives marvelously transformed by the great grace of God!  In the name of and for the glory of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.