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.
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|
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.