Monday, January 16, 2012

A Few Positive Liturgical/Sacramental Signs From Nazarene Leaders

In recent days, I have seen a few more positive signs from Nazarene leaders that there is more openness to, perhaps even an embracing of our more sacramental and liturgical heritage found in John Wesley.  -  Oh, indeed, the Church of the Nazarene has always been and (I trust) always will be a strongly "evangelical" and "holiness" oriented Wesleyan denomination.  -  If there are those who think that being "Wesleyan/Anglican" is somehow inconsistent with that, I would strongly suggest that they simply do not know what it means for one to be Wesleyan!  I strongly and thoroughly embrace the evangelical and Wesleyan-holiness identity.  I simply believe that if one leaves off the sacramental/liturgical side, one fails to be fully Wesleyan.  Further, Wesley's holiness theology is firmly rooted in his liturgical theology.

In this post, I simply want to share a few of these positive signs.  This is not a thorough analysis, nor an exhaustive report; just a few things that I have noticed in recent days.

The first comes from ++J.K. Warrick, general superintendent.*  In the most recent edition of "Grace & Peace" magazine, Dr. Warrick is interviewed. 

I think it is fair to say that Dr. Warrick would not be considered the most "liturgical/sacramental" general superintendent.  That is not to say he is anti-sacramental, but he would probably not identify himself as being "Wesleyan/Anglican."  Still, in the interview, it is reported that Dr. Warrick has stated that Nazarene congregations should offer Communion more than once a quarter (which is the absolute minimum, according to the Manual).  Then, Dr. Warrick is asked to share his thinking about this.
++J.K. Warrick

He indicates that in his last two or three pastorates, they served Communion once a month, sometimes more.  He confesses that he doesn't know all that God intends for Communion to be, but he is convinced there is more happening than we (typical Nazarenes) usually believe is happening.  He talks about Christ sanctifying these very common elements and making them to be a way for us to draw near to Christ.  He goes on to indicate that he wishes Nazarenes had a higher appreciation for Communion, and he affirms that Communion is a sacred moment where we meet with Christ and come together with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Now, I know for the sacramentally minded, more could certainly be said and explained.  Still yet, I see this as a very good, positive sign that, not just with younger college and seminary grads or those who have a strong passion for the liturgical/sacramental roots of the Wesleys, but with established, evangelical, holiness, Nazarene leaders, we are rediscoverying our Wesleyan sacramental heritage!  -  (As a bit of a side note:  ++Warrick is the jurisdictional g.s. for my district.)

Also, within that same magazine (and here, I must confess, I have not read the entire magazine.  There may be much more that I could reference, but, from what I have read, within that same magazine . . .) +Jeren Rowell, superintendent of the Kansas City District, has a wonderful article on "A Wesleyan Theology of Superintendency."  Dr. Rowell clearly understands the Nazarene superintendency in terms of episcopacy and the call "to express and promote the visible unity of the body."  He looks to find his moorings in the offices of Christ (viz., Prophet, Priest, and Shepherd-King) rather than in the strategies of contemporary corporate models of leadership.

Closer to home, my own (Nazarene**) district superintendent, +Garry Pate, has recently including in
+Garry D. Pate
one of his frequent pastoral letters to the clergy on the Southwest Indiana District, two suggestions that we, Wesleyan/Anglican types, can see as very positive moves.  First, he recommended that we include in our services the liturgical declaration, following the reading of Scripture, that it is "The Word of the Lord," with the people responding, "Thanks be to God."  (The actual wording was something like, "The Word of God for the people of God," though I don't think that is quite it, either.  Anyway . . .) He picked this up from the newly elected president of Nazarene Theological Seminary, the Rev'd. Dr. David Busic.

Dr. Pate also encouraged pastors on our district to begin serving the sacrament of Holy Communion every first Sunday of the month.  -  Now, I understand that the goal for we Wesleyan/Anglican types is that we serve it, as Wesley said, every Lord's Day.  It should also be said, there are a number of Nazarene congregations on the Soutwest Indiana District (and elsewhere) that already serve Communion monthly.  However, there are still many that are on that once a quarter schedule we inherited from the circuit rider days, and I believe this suggestion from our district superintendent is a very positive move.  (Actually, I believe, strongly that Dr. Pate is making a number of very positive moves for the district.  He is being the kind of superintendent that Dr. Rowell talks about in his article.)

One more.  -  Without going into all of the history, but only mentioning that it has not always been the case that Nazarene superintendents have had hands laid on them during the prayer of consecration into the superintendency, I have recently heard (from my friend, Eric Frey+) that ++Jerry Johnson, general superintendent, emeritus, who was presiding over the consecration and installation of the first husband/wife, co-district superintendents, did, indeed, lay hands on them during the prayer of consecration. 

Again, I understand that many of the Anglican readers of this blog would call into question the episcopal status of Nazarene (and other Methodist) superintendents.  Nevertheless, I have already argued in previous articles the Nazarene & Wesleyan understanding of supreintendency/episcopacy, and that is the setting from which this report comes.  I also understand the confussion that might be out there about those times when superintendents did not have hands laid on them during the consecration.  There is a long and complicated history that I am not going to address, at this time.

The point, here, is that these are positive moves by Nazarene leadership in the areas of liturgy, sacraments and an episcopal understanding of the superintendency, for which I say, "Thanks be to God!"

* As I have argued in previous posts, the general superintendents in the Church of the Nazarene ought to be seen, in the words of Bishop Francis Asbury, as "arch-superintendents" or "arch-bishops."  Thus, the "++" before the name.  The district superintendent is then viewed as a district bishop.  Superintendency = episcopacy; general = "arch;" and district = localize/diocese.

**Since I am serving in the United Methodist Church under the category of "Other Methodist," I thought I should indicate, for clarity sake, that I am here referring to my district superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene, where I hold my membership and orders.


Avey said...

Hi, I am a Nazarene Minister, as is my wife and in both our churches we take part in Communion twice a month. Here in the UK there is (and has been over the last 10 years certainly) a deeper understanding in doing so. Some of us would do so more often, as we understand every day being one where God is present.

You mention the issue of Nazarenes celebrating Communion on a quarterly basis according to the Manual.... interestingly enough, that is also consistent with Anglicanism..... of course, Wesley did so as often as possible, and was actually ridiculed by many for doing so. Yes, Wesley was deeply Anglican, but he was also greatly influenced by non-conformists, hence his richer understanding of many things.... We are non-conformist in many ways.... and we have to be guarded in worship the institution of Anglicanism - one that was dysfunctional then, and very much so now... It is also interesting if you speak to many Anglicans in the UK. Yes they have wonderful liturgy, and the practice it almost ritually, but very few understand what they say, or why.... it has not helped discipleship according to many Anglican Priests.... Depsite the regularity of liturgy, they are lost without the pamphlet that they follow every week.

Todd Stepp said...


Thank you for your comments. It is great to hear from other Naarenes, and especially from Nazarenes in the UK!

I am very pleased to hear of the Communion practices in the CotN in the UK.

Certainly, Avey, there are dangers as you mention. However, I would suggest we don't throw out a practice simply because some fail to understand it.

In on of my previous pastorates, we had a couple who had been attending the local Episcopal Church. The comment they made was that there was so much power in the liturgy, but it was as though the people just didn't get it.

Wesley got it. And he desired that the people called Methodists would get it as well.

I did my doctoral work on Wesley & worship, and he was quite clear that one must be convinced that the way we worship be the most Scriptural, etc. way possible. For Wesley (and for me), the Anglican liturgy fits the bill.

I would interested, Avey, in hearing about the relationships that exist between Nazarenes in the UK and folks from the Church of England, as well as the British Methodists. - I had the honor of being in Brighton, England in 2001, representing the CotN at the World Methodist Conference.



Todd Stepp said...

By the way, Avey, Anglican worship was not enough for Christian discipleship in Wesley's day, either. Thus, the Methodist Societies (and bands, etc.) Still, the Societies were never intended to replace Anglican worship, but rather to suppliment it.

Anglican worship did not answer the question for evangelism, either.

I'm in favor of a full Wesleyanism.


Dr.D said...

Todd, have you perhaps read a fairly recent book titled "Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist," by Pitre? The author is a Roman Catholic scholar, and he has done some very interesting research in Jewish sources (Talmud, Midrash, etc) to gain some Jewish insight into how 1st century Jews would have seen and heard Jesus. In particular, he addresses questions about how Jesus words and actions would have been received by a 1st century Jew.

We are all, of course well familiar with the OT prohibition against eating or drinking blood, so how were the disciples supposed to understand his teaching at the Last Supper, what we call the Words of Institution, wherein he commands them to eat His body and drink His blood? This is one of the several difficult questions that the author attempts to address (and does a rather good job of it). I recommend this book to you.

Fr. Sam Doughty+
Continuing Anglican Priest

revbwalk said...

Hey Todd,
One of my church members recommended your blog to me. What a surprise to me to find out it was a college classmate! I love what you have said about the sacrament of communion, I am learning more daily of its importance. I come from a very Nazarene but non liturgical background and I find myself falling in love with the liturgy and the specific seasons of the liturgical church year. I have always loved Easter but Maundy Thursday and Good Friday were not really highlighted in my growing up years and I never even heard of Ash Wednesday until I asked a guy in seminary why he had ashes on his forehead. You can imagine how embarrassed I was as he graciously answered. Anyway, Todd its great to get to read your blog, I do hope we can stay in touch. It was great being with you and Bobbi at Homecoming on the "holy hill"!
I pray God will bless you and your ministry and if you see my folks tell them to go visit their son in South Carolina.
Brian Walker

Todd Stepp said...

Thanks, Brian, for your comment! (And thanks to your church member who pointed you in my direction!)

It was good to see you on the hill, as well. - I was just down there this past week for the Wesleyan Theological Society meeting, as well. - I plan to say something about that in the futue, as well. - I confess, I haven't kept up on my blog like I should over these last several weeks. I need to do better!

Again, good to "see you"!