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!

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?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Nazarene Superintendency/Episcopacy Reconsidered, Part I: Setting the Stage

Nazarene General Superintendents
For those who have followed this blog over time, it will come as no surprise that I have consistently been outspoken when it comes to clearly identifying the Nazarene general superintendents as bishops.  -  I will discuss the basis for that in the midst of this first of two posts.

However, there are others in our midsts who have given the title bishop to our district superintendents.  -  I have opposed this view for three major reasons:

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

I will develop and address those three reasons in part two of my "reconsideration."

First, then:  Laying the basis and foundation of the Nazarene superintendency/episcopacy.

Most who read this blog will understand that the Church of the Nazarene is a Wesleyan-Holiness expression of Methodism.  It was born out of the 19th Century Holiness Movement.  Behind each of the major parent denominations that merged together in 1907 and 1908 to form the current denomination, there lay a number of schisms from the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.  -  That is to say, unlike The Wesleyan Methodist Church or the Free Methodist Church, the Church of the Nazarene was not a schism, itself.  It was a uniting group, uniting many of the Wesleyan-Holiness people across the nation.  Some of those who united did not have a Methodist background, but they did accept the Wesleyan emphasis on holiness of heart and life, and they understood that they were joining a denomination that was essentially Methodist.  Further, in early leadership, theology/doctrine, government, etc., the Church of the Nazarene is clearly identifiable as Methodist*

John Wesley
The Nazarene superintendency, then, finds its roots in American Methodism, and beyond that, in the founder of Methodism, the Rev'd. John Wesley.

Francis Asbury
When Wesley sent his The Sunday Service of the Methodists in North America to the American Methodists, he did so via the hands of the Rev'd. Dr. Thomas Coke.  Coke, like Wesley, was a priest in the Church of England.  However, prior to his coming to America, Wesley laid hands on Coke and "ordained" (yes, ordained) him "Superintendent" for the Methodists in North America.**  He instructed Coke to ordain Francis Asbury, deacon, elder and superintendent.  The two were to be "general superintendents" of the Methodists in North America.  -  It was a short time later that (much to Wesley's frustration)  the two men began to use the term bishop in place of general superintendent.  -  And there were plenty of good reasons for them to do so.

First, it was clear that the term superintendent was simply another way of identifying the episcopacy.  The Greek word, itself, while usually translated as bishop, actually means overseer (i.e., one who superintends).  A superintendent, then, is an overseer or bishop.

This identification is clear in that, even when the term superintendent was being used, the newly formed denomination was called the Methodist Episcopal Church.  Further, the "ordination" rite used by Wesley for Coke, and used by Coke for Asbury, and printed in The Sunday Service, was simply the rite for making bishops in the Church of England.  The term, bishop, was simply replaced with the term, superintendent.

Charles Wesley

Also confirming this identity was Charles Wesley's scathing response:

So easily are bishops made
By man or woman's whim!
Wesley his hands on Coke hath laid,
But who laid hands on him
(As quoted in Manschreck's A History of Christianity, vol. 2, p. 294)

Charles clearly understood that Wesley had acted to make Coke a bishop.***

To this day, the United Methodist Church, in The Book of Discipline, identifies the bishop as a general superintendent.  (Another aside: despite Wesley's rite of "ordaining superintendents," American Methodism is united in stating that the office of bishop is just that, an office.  It is not understood to be a separate order from that of elder.)

When we look to the various (major) Methodist denominations in America, we discover that: the United Methodist Church (as the MEC) went from using the title general superintendent to the title bishop; the three African Methodist denominations have continued to use the term, bishop; the Free Methodists originally used the term, general superintendent, but changed it to bishop; The Wesleyan Church and the Church of the Nazarene, both use Wesley's term of general superintendent.

Phineas Bresee
Carl Bangs, in his book, Phineas F. Bresee: His Life in Methodism, the Holiness Movement, and the Church of the Nazarene, says that whenn Bresee chose the term general superintendent, he knew well that this was the Methodist term for "bishop."  -  Likely, this was a wise choice, in that one of the issues that holiness people had was the perceived abuse of power by Methodist Episcopal bishops.  Using the other term, not only harkened back to Wesley's language, it also distanced the Nazarene "episcopacy" from that of the Methodist Episcopal Church.  Additionally, unlike the Methodist bishops, who were elected for life, Nazarene general superintendents would serve four year terms.  They could be re-elected at each General Assembly, but they had to be re-elected in order to stay in that office.

The denominations mentioned, above, have each developed their understandings of the power, authority and role that their general superintendents/bishops.  The three African Methodist denominations are very similar to each other and the UMC.  The Wesleyans, Free Methodists, and Nazarenes are similar to each other (though there are differences, with the FMC leaning toward the episcopal side, and The Wesleyans leaning toward the congregational side of their connectional governments).

All of this should make it clear that, for Nazarenes (and other Wesleyan/Methodists in America), the superintendency is their episcopacy, and a general superintendent is a bishop.

Further, the Church of the Nazarene, itself, has identified the superintendency with the episcopacy.  Admittedly, this is not as prominant as I would like, and it has not always been in a way that I would like.  In fact, it often makes this identification as it is describing the limitations of our superintendency/episcopacy.  Nevertheless, the identification is made. 

For example, in recent editions of the Manual, our general superintendents' "Foreword" has stated, "The government of the Church of the Nazarene is distinctive.  In polity it is representative - neitherly purely episcopal nor wholly congregational" (p. 6, emphasis mine).  In the "Preamble" to our section on "Government," it is stated, "The government of the Church of the Nazarene is representative, and thus avoids the extremes of episcopacy on the one hand and unlimited congregationlism on the other" (p. 62, emphasis mine). 

In Called Unto Holiness: The Story of the Nazarenes: The Formative Years. vol. 1, it is recounted how there was a (perceived) need to ". . . 'correct any interpretation' that the church's government was episcopal in form."  (In other words, the government was understood by many to be episcopal!)  The resolution at that General Assembly (which passed!) stated, "We are not an episcopal church in the common sense of that term" (emphasis mine).  The statement went on to explain the limits of the superintendecy's oversight, stating that "Our pastors are the overseers of their particular charges" (p. 247).

Those Nazarene quotes should indicate that:  1.) The Nazarene form of government is not purely an episcopal form of government.  -  None of the American Methodist denominations have a purely episcopal form of government, but rather all have a modified episcopal government.  It is a connectional, representative government that includes an episcopacy.  Each of the denominations lean, to greater or lesser degrees, toward or away from the episcopal side of their respective government.  The UMC, AME, AMEZ and CME lean more heavily toward the episcopal side.  The FMC leans somewhat less in that direction, while The Wesleyan Church leans more toward the congregational side of their connectional/representative government.  Nazarenes are probably between the TWC and the FMC.  -  It should be noted that not even The Episcopal Church (Anglican) in the U.S.A. has a purely episcopal form of government (much to the confusion and frustration of some global south Anglicans).  -  2.)  The Nazarene form of government blends epicopal elements with congregational elements as it forms its representative government.  3.)  The episcopal side of the Nazarene government is expressed in its superintendency.

What should be clear from this post is that the superintendency within Wesleyan/Methodist denominations (including the Church of the Nazarene) constitutes their episcopacy.  It was not the intent of this post to argue that the Church of the Nazarene has an episcopal form of government.  Rather, it was the intent to show that the Nazarenes, like other American Methodists, have an episcopal element in their government structure.  Further, it was the intent to demonstrate that that episcopal element is expressed in our superintendency.  Specifially, it was the intent to demonstrate that general superintendents in Wesleyan/Methodist churches are to be understood as bishops.

In the second part of this "reconsideration," I will look at the view that district superintendents ought to be identified as bishops.  I will further discuss and "reconsider" my three major reasons for opposing this position, viz., 1.) Wesley's Intent; 2.) Ecumenical/Fraternal Relations Within American Methodism; and 3.) The Authority to Ordain.


*cf., especially, Our Watchword & Song: The Centennial History of the Church of the Nazarene, edited by Floyd Cunningham. (Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City. 2009).  -  This history emphasizes that Nazarenes not only have a Methodist heritage, but they maintain an underlying Methodist identity.  Nazarenes are Methodists.  - This emphasis was confirmed in emailed conversations with the book's editor and conversations with one of the contributing authors.

**I have no desire to get into the conversation of Wesley's authority to ordain.  That will take too much time and distract from the immediate subject at hand.  Suffice it to say, Wesley understood that elder and bishop were essentially the same order.  However, that did not mean that any elder could, at any time, simply choose to ordain.  Rather, for Wesley a number of things came together leading to his ordaining.  1.) God providentially giving him leadership of the entire Methodist movement (because of which, Wesley could say that he understood he was as much a New Testament bishop as the Archbishop of Canterbury).  2.)  The emergency situation of those in American not having access to the sacrament, and the refusal of Church of England bishops to act.  3.)  The fact that he was not interfering with the established government and realm of the Church of England.

***I should mention that, it is true, John Wesley was not happy that the two general superintendents were now calling themeslves bishops.  However, the evidence seems to indicate that the reasons for his negative response was not because he did not understand the superintendency to be the episcopacy.  Rather, it seems to have more to do with a fear of a sense of pride and, possibly, the additional trouble that he might experience from other Anglicans.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Additional WMC Information

Just wanted to post a couple of additional comments concerning the post, below, about the World Methodist Conference.
In the post, below, I listed a page link for news releases from the WMC.  That page now contains newsletter download links for Day One, Two, and Three.  -  Even though the Conference concludes tomorrow, I would encourage those interested to keep visiting that page for continued/late updates.

Also, the Facebook page has really been putting out a considerable amount of information and pictures, including the one, below, which shows the Church of the Nazarene banner among some of the other denominational banners.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Wesleyan-Holiness Mergers Not Taking Place Anytime Soon

Nazarene Communications Network (on Tuesday) made the following announcement on their facebook page:

"The Board of General Superintendents recently met with several sister denominations. Of interest was a special facilitated session to explore the many issues involved in a possible merger. We can report the group voted to not pursue merger at this time. However, leaders of these denominations are working on a global alliance. More information will be posted when made available."

No information was given as to the specific denominations involved in this special facilitated session.  Hopefully we will be able to find that information in the near future.

I have to say, I like the idea of a global alliance.  It is a step in the right direction.

As many of you will know, I sent a resolution to the last Nazarene General Assembly that would call us to approach The Wesleyan Church and then the Free Methodist Church in order to pursue possible merger.  The G.A. committee amended the resolution so as to no longer talk about merger, but rather closer partnering.

I would still like to see merger talks for two theological reasons.  First, I think we must take seriously Christ's prayer that we be one.  Second, I think it drastically undermines the holiness message when so many (relatively) small denominations claim "perfect love" as our distinguishing doctrine, and yet we cannot seem to get together.

However, rather than try to put forward another resolution for merger (especially in light of these recent developments), I would like to see the Church of the Nazarene, The Wesleyan Church, and the Free Methodist Church work together to develop a united set of Articles of Faith/Religion, a common preparation process for ordination, and a common ordinal (with recognition of each other's clergy) with a goal of having our General Assembly/Conferences declaring that, while we remain separate organizationally, nevertheless we understand ourselves to be essentially one church.

(I have specified the three denominations because we The Wesleyan and Free Methodist churches are most like the Church of the Nazarene.  We share, not only a Wesleyan-holiness commitment (like other Wesleyan-holiness denominations), but also similarities in government/structure, as well as a strong Methodist heritage.  All three of these denominations share membership in the National Association of Evangelicals, the Christian Holiness Partnership, the Wesleyan Holiness Consortium, and the World Methodist Council.)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The ACiNA's New Ordinal

Well, I'm not always up to date, but recently the Anglican Church in North America has approved their new ordinal.  It was actually approved on June 24.  Sorry I didn't catch this earlier!  (I personally find this to be timely, none-the-less, given a couple of posts that I have in the works and will hopefully have out soon.  It is also timely in that I have had the opportunity this summer to attend ordination services for three Wesleyan/Methodist denominations, viz., the United Methodist Church, the Church of the Nazarene, and The Wesleyan Church.)

The article related to the approval of this new ordinal can be found, here.  A PDF copy of the ordinal, itself, can be viewed, here.

Those who have been waiting for a new Book of Common Prayer for the newly formed (still forming?) denomination will have to wait a bit longer.  However, I'm sure they will find the ordinal to be of interest.

I know that many have been waiting to see how the new ordinal will deal with women's orders.  What kind of language will they use?  This has been of special concern for some of my friends in the Reformed Episcopal Church.  The following information, printed in "General Information and Notes . . ." is telling:

"Throughout the entire ordinal, language referring to the number of ordinands (he/them) has been placed in italics. This is to aid the presider in shifting plural language to singular, and singular to plural. This is also the case when referring to the gender of the ordinand (in the liturgies for the ordination of Deacons and Priests)."

Indeed, the singular masculine has been used in italics, throughout.  -  REC folks will be happy about that, but not so happy about the above quoted note.

This issue of women's orders is (as I understand it from some of my REC friends) a major issue that could determine whether the ACiNA will be able to hold together as a cohesive group.

In fact, the idea that the Archbishop presented in his recent address to the new denomination (viz., that members now think of themselves as ACiNA first and whatever originating group second) seems to me to be wishful thinking.  The fact that the REC, for example, continues to identify itself as the Reformed Episcopal Church and continues to elect a presiding bishop seems to imply that they still view themselves as REC first and ACiNA second.

How does an REC priest view things?  They have their own bishop, then the presiding bishop of the REC, and then the Archbishop of the ACiNA.  And how do the REC bishops view matters (and how are they viewed by others)?  They are all a part of the ACiNA bishops; equal with each other, but then there is their own presiding bishop.

Anyway, this post was supposed to simply report the new ordinal.  I confess that this latter stuff comes from an idea for a post that I was wanting to write, but never got around to writing.  -  Still any REC comments would be quite welcome!

Hope you enjoy the ordinal!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

2011 World Methodist Council/Conference

The World Methodist Council is currently meeting in connection with the 20th World Methodist Conference in Durban, South Africa.  The Council has been meeting since August 1, and it will end its meeting today, August 3.  The Conference will begin tomorrow, August 4, and continue through August 8.

The World Methodist Conference takes place every five years.  In 2001, I had the privilege of serving the Church of the Nazarene as one of four official delegates to that year's Conference in Brighton, England.  The 2011 theme is "Jesus Christ - for the Healing of the Nations."

The WMC, having just received three new denominations into its membership, now has 77 member denominations in 135 countries.  (-  I have to say, I have always had a problem with that last number, because the Church of the Nazarene, itself, has a presence in over 156 world areas!  So, I'm not sure where they are getting their figures, but . . .)

For news releases throughout the Conference, you can visit this page at the World Methodist Council site.  (I would have had this information up earlier, but they just published news articles, today.)

There are seven World Methodist Council denominations in the United States.  They 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.