Thursday, May 31, 2012

Wesleyan-Anglican Society/Fellowship In Formation

I am trying to get the word out to as many interested folks as possible.  For those who have not joined the Wesleyan/Anglican page on Facebook, a discussion has begun concerning the formation of a Wesleyan-Anglican Fellowship or Society.

The nature of the group is still being discussed.  -  From the discussion it does not look as though the group would be an academic society, as such, though it may provide some academic presentations at an annual meeting for CEU credits.  The nature of the group may be similar to that of a religious order.  It would be open to laity and clergy.  It would provide fellowship and support.  It would include an annual meeting/retreat.  Beyond that, the actual nature of the group has not been determined.

Right now, we are trying to compile a listing of people who would be interested in such a group.  The hopes would be to have an initial meeting during which the group could be organized.

I have volunteered the church where I pastor as such a meeting place.  We are locate in New Albany, IN (across the river from Louisville, KY).

If you are interested in seeing the initial discussion, it can be viewed under Alan Brown's May 22 comment, here.

If you are interested, please join the conversation, there, or comment on this blog post.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Nazarene D.S. In Bishop's Attire

My attention was recently drawn to a news article from Nazarene Communications Network.  It is the story of the new district superintendent for the Kenya Eastern District, the Rev'd. Augustus Musili.  -  The article can be read, here.

The thing that caught my attention (and the reason it was pointed out) is that the (NAZARENE) superintendent is not only wearing a clerical collar, but he is wearing a purple (i.e., a BISHOP'S) shirt!  -  How great is that?!

This is heartening on multiple levels.

First, the idea that Nazarenes in other parts of the world embrace some of that which is consistent with our Wesleyan/Anglican heritage is fantastic.

Second, I am quite pleased to see that NCN has not shied away from publishing this picture.  That shows a willingness to embrace such attire as being "Nazarene" (at least Nazarene enough!).

Also, it is awesome that the ds is not just wearing the clerical shirt, but a bishop's shirt!  Such reinforces the argument that I made last year that for Wesleyans (at least Nazarenes), the episcopacy lies in the superintendency (not just the general superintendency).

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Charles Wesley on Christ's Ascension

Hail the day that sees Him rise, Alleluia!
To His throne above the skies, Alleluia!
Christ, awhile to mortals given, Alleluia!
Reascends His native heaven, Alleluia!

... There the glorious triumph waits, Alleluia!
Lift your heads, eternal gates, Alleluia!
Christ hath conquered death and sin, Alleluia!
Take the King of glory in, Alleluia!

Circled round with angel powers, Alleluia!
Their triumphant Lord, and ours, Alleluia!
Conqueror over death and sin, Alleluia!
“Take the King of glory in! Alleluia!”

Him though highest Heav’n receives, Alleluia!
Still He loves the earth He leaves, Alleluia!
Though returning to His throne, Alleluia!
Still He calls mankind His own, Alleluia!

See! He lifts His hands above, Alleluia!
See! He shows the prints of love, Alleluia!
Hark! His gracious lips bestow, Alleluia!
Blessings on His church below, Alleluia!

Still for us His death He pleads, Alleluia!
Prevalent He intercedes, Alleluia!
Near Himself prepares our place, Alleluia!
Harbinger of human race, Alleluia!

Master, (will we ever say), Alleluia!
Taken from our head to day, Alleluia!
See Thy faithful servants, see, Alleluia!
Ever gazing up to Thee, Alleluia!

Grant, though parted from our sight, Alleluia!
Far above yon azure height, Alleluia!
Grant our hearts may thither rise, Alleluia!
Seeking Thee beyond the skies, Alleluia!

Ever upward let us move, Alleluia!
Wafted on the wings of love, Alleluia!
Looking when our Lord shall come, Alleluia!
Longing, gasping after home, Alleluia!

There we shall with Thee remain, Alleluia!
Partners of Thy endless reign, Alleluia!
There Thy face unclouded see, Alleluia!
Find our heaven of heavens in Thee, Alleluia!

- Charles Wesley
(Thanks to Michael Scarlett for posting all of the verses on Sacramental Nazarenes' Facebook page.)

Ascension Day

Today is the fortieth day of the Great Fifty Days of the Resurrection (i.e., Easter) Season.  It is the day that Christians refer to as Ascension Day.  Many Churches will celebrate this day on this coming Sunday, Ascension Sunday.

As the name indicates, it is the celebration of the risen Christ's ascension into heaven where He is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

In celebration of Ascension Day, I offer the following Scriptures, hymn and prayer:

Christ's Ascension

After Jesus' suffering, he showed himself to the disciples and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive.  He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.  On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.  For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."

So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?

He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.  "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky?   This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."

Remember Jesus' words:  "Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." 
(Acts 1:3-11; Matthew 28:20b, from "Sing to the Lord")

Crown Him with Many Crowns

1. Crown Him with many crowns,
The Lamb upon His throne.
Hark! how the heav'nly anthem drowns
All music but its own!
Awake, my soul, and sing
Of Him who died for thee,
And hail Him as thy matchless King
Thro' all eternity.

2. Crown Him the Lord of Love!
Behold His hands and side
Rich wounds, yet visible above,
In beauty glorified.
No angel in the sky
Can fully bear that sight,
But down-ward bends his wond'ring eyes
At mysteries so bright.

3. Crown Him the Lord of Life!
Who triumphed o'er the grave;
Who rose victorious to the strife
For those He came to save.
His glories now we sing
Who died and rose on high,
Who died eternal life to bring,
And lives that death may die.

4. Crown Him the Lord of Heav'n!
One with the Father known,
One with the Spirit thro' Him giv'n
From yonder glorious throne.
To Thee be endless praise,
For Thou for us hast died.
Be Thou,O Lord, thro' endless days
Adored and magnified!

(Stanzas 1,2,4, Matthew Bridges, 1854; stanza 3, Godfrey Thring, 1874)

Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that as we believe your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into heaven, so we may also in heart and mind there ascend, and with him continually dwell; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

Friday, May 11, 2012

NCN Responds to President Obama

In a recent news release, Nazarene Communications Network responded to President Obama's recent announcement that he now supports same-sex marriage.  The news release reiterates the Nazarene position concerning homosexuality by quoting a previous statement made by the Board of General Superintendents.

What may be of interest is that the response given is a response by NCN.  That is to say, it is not a response by the Board of General Superintendents, themselves.  The response does quote the BGS' previous statement affirming the denomination's position concerning homosexuality.  However, it is NCN, not the BGS, that has issued this release as a response to the President's statement.

The news release can be read, here.

Written Prayers and Growing in the Faith

Recently, a pastoral colleague of mine asked me to help him complete an assignment for a "Spiritual Formations" class.  His assignment was to interview someone who regularly uses written prayers as a part of their devotional disciplines.  The question that he asked me was:

"How does your use of written or rote prayers help you to know God and to grow in your faith?"

My response was as follows:

I have, for the past 12 years, or so, prayed the Daily Office as a part of my spiritual disciplines.  At times, it has just been Morning Prayer.  At other times, I have prayed Morning and Evening Prayer.  I also pray the Litany on Wednesdays and Fridays.

In praying the Daily Office, I have most often used John Wesley’s The Sunday Service of the Methodists in North America, which was his (slight) revision of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer from the Church of England.  -  John Wesley faithfully prayed the Daily Office each day, and he passed on to the Methodists in North America a Prayer Book for their use each Lord’s Day.

In addition, I use other written prayers from the BCP and other sources in both corporate worship and personal devotions.

These prayers do not replace, but supplement my other prayers.

I find that God uses these prayers to help to shape me as a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.  The prayers have been prayed by Christians back to the early Church all the way up to today from around the world.  In this regard, God reminds me that, while my relationship with the Lord is deeply personal, it is not at all isolated.  God has made us to be a people, not just individualistic, “Lone Ranger” Christians.  -  The prayers serve as a sort of catechism in molding me in the Christian faith and life.

God uses these prayers to help me to pray beyond myself, as well.  By that I mean that they keep me from focusing just on my own concerns and move me to pray for those things that God would have me be concerned about.  Thus, God shapes my outlook and shapes me in Christlikeness. 

The prayers give me words that better articulate my own prayers.  They help me say what needs to be said.

Through these prayers God teaches me about my relationship to God, in that they set my priorities in prayer.  They call me to confession, but also remind me of God’s mercy, grace and forgiveness.  They remind me that thanksgiving is more than with “our lips,” but “with our lives.”

One of the most important prayers, for me, is the Collect of Purity.  While it is not a part of the Daily Office, it is a part of the regular Sunday service of worship, and I have incorporated it as part of my personal disciplines.  It is prayed by Anglicans and others every Sunday.  It has been said that it summarizes well what Wesley was talking about when he spoke of Christian Perfection (or Entire Sanctification).  It is a part of the context in which Wesley developed and articulated this biblical doctrine.  -  As I recall, P.F. Bresee once responded to some Episcopalians by saying something like, Why do you consider it strange that Nazarenes claim that God answers the prayer that you pray every Sunday? 

Since we are called to live under God’s sanctifying grace each day, the Collect of Purity is a prayer that helps me to seek God’s face, each day to the end that God might “cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of [God’s] Holy Spirit that [I] might perfectly love [God] and worthily magnify [God’s] holy name through Christ our Lord.”

Through these prayers, God focuses my day.  God draws me to Himself.  And then, in Evening Prayer, God puts my day in perspective and review.  -  At this point, I simply could not conceive of not including written prayers as a part of my spiritual discipline.

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: Tithes and Offerings

The following is the latest installment of my "Sanctuary Sights and Senses" bulletin inserts for Centenary United Methodist Church (New Albany, IN):

Tithes & Offerings  -  Each week, having heard God speak to us through the Word, we then give thanks to the Lord through the giving of our tithes and offerings. 

Tithing (giving 1/10 of our income) and giving offerings is grounded in Scripture as God’s plan for providing for the needs and ministries of the Church. 

Malachi 3:8-10 is one of the most powerful passages to talk about tithing, because it makes clear that when we do not tithe and give offerings, we are actually stealing from God!  We are warned that when Israel robbed God, they were under a curse.  -  Because the tithes and offerings belong to God, we bring them forward and place them on the altar/table as an act of worship.

On the other hand, God says, “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse (i.e., the local church), . . . and thus put me to the test . . . See if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.”  -  God actually challenges us to put Him to the test in this regard!

Jesus, too, in Matthew 23:23, affirms that we ought to be a tithing people.  However, with the coming of the Holy Spirit,  tithing becomes for us more of a bare minimum, for the Holy Spirit so fills us that we give generously, knowing that “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7).  -  That cheerful giving is symbolized as we stand and sing forth our praise to God from whom all blessings flow!

One can observe:  Those who refuse to tithe never seem to have enough.  Those who tithe always have enough.  It is not so much a question of money, but a question of the Lordship of Jesus Christ in our lives.  -  So too, I believe that a Church where members faithfully tithe will always have enough, but where members fail to tithe, it will likely always struggle.  -  Let us be cheerful givers of our tithes and offerings!

Friday, May 4, 2012

The United Methodist Church Maintains Its Statement on Sexuality

Once again, the General Conference has voted to maintain its statement on sexuality, including homosexuality.  Despite some of the press that the UMC has been given, and despite the loud voices of some within the UMC, the denomination has had this same position for decades.  While other mainline denominations (e.g., TEC, ELCA, PCUSA) have changed their stance, the United Methodist has refused to do so.

These votes indicate that, while the UMC may be out of step with other American mainline Protestant denominations, it is solidly in step with the majority of the larger Wesleyan/Methodist tradition and the vast majority of Christian denominations around the world and throughout history.

In paragraph 161 F), the Book of Discipline States:

¶ 161 F) Human Sexuality—We affirm that sexuality is God’s good gift to all persons. We call everyone to responsible stewardship of this sacred gift.
Although all persons are sexual beings whether or not they are married, sexual relations are affirmed only with the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage.

We deplore all forms of the commercialization, abuse, and exploitation of sex. We call for strict global enforcement of laws prohibiting the sexual exploitation of children and for adequate protection, guidance, and counseling for abused children.

All persons, regardless of age, gender, marital status, or sexual orientation, are entitled to have their human and civil rights ensured and to be protected against violence. The Church should support the family in providing age-appropriate education regarding sexuality to children, youth, and adults.
We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God. All persons need the ministry of the Church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self.
The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching. We affirm that God’s grace is available to all. We will seek to live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another, as Christ has loved and accepted us. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons. 1
1. See Judicial Council Decision 702.
From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church - 2008. Copyright 2008 by The United Methodist Publishing House.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Personal Frustration

After much searching, I finally found information on the ecumenical guests to the United Methodist General Conference.  (It can be found in this document.)  -  I was pleased to find that there were representatives of others in the World Methodist Council, besides those in the Pan-Methodist group.  Most notably is Bishop Ivan Abrahams, General Secretary of the World Methodist Council.

The Rev'd. Dr. David Wilson
I was also very pleased to see that Nazarenes, once again, were among those at the UMGC.  This time, we have been represented by our General Secretary, the Rev'd. Dr. David Wilson (unless there is another Dr. David Wilson representing us!).  -  This is especially pleasing when recognizing that neither the Free Methodist Church, nor The Wesleyan Church have representatives at this year's General Conference.  (That is, I am disappointed that they do not have representatives, but very happy that we do.)

What I found to be profoundly frustrating, however, is where Dr. Wilson was introduced.  You see, the guests were introduced under certain categories.  Pan-Methodism was one of the categories.  World Council of Churches was a category.  Ecumenical Guests from the U.S. was a group.  Ecumenical guests from Florida was the final grouping.  Prior to all of these (even Pan-Methodists), were World Methodism (i.e., those from the World Methodist Council).

I ask, in what grouping should Dr. Wilson, the General Secretary of the international Church of the Nazarene be introduced?  -  I would assert (I did say suggest, but that is far too weak a word) that it most certainly should not have been under the category of Florida!  Yet, that is where he was introduced!

In fact, in those categories, Dr. Wilson should not have even been introduced under "Ecumenical Guests from U.S.," though this would have been better than Florida, in as much as he is the General Secretary of an international denomination.

However, Dr. Wilson, by all rights as General Secretary of the Church of the Nazarene, a World Methodist Council member denomination, should have been introduced along with the other representatives of World Methodism.

Somebody, please explain . . .

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

No "Archbishop" for the UMC, and No more Guaranteed Appointments

The General Conference of the United Methodist Church has defeated a proposal that would allow the Council of Bishops to elect a full-time president without residential responsibilities.  The position has been given several different labels by various observers.  -  I have talked about it in terms of being an archbishop or a presiding bishop.  (Though I have argued elsewhere that, for the Church of the Nazarene, and other Wesleyans/Methodists, the episcopacy resides in the superintendency.  Thus, for Nazarenes, district superintendents are really residential bishops, while general superintendents are really "archbishops."  In the UMC, where the term bishop is used, the role has developed somewhat differently.)

Since this proposal would have been a change to the constitution, it require a two thirds majority vote.  With 490 in favor of the proposal and 399 opposed to it, the two thirds requirement was not reached.  -  Personally, I favored the proposal, though I think, perhaps it should have been the General Conference's role to elect such a person, rather than have the Council of Bishops make the decision.  But, such an idea is irrelevant, now!

More information about this action can be found, here.

Also of great interest to most UMC elders (presbyters) and those in the process toward holy orders has been the proposal that would end "guaranteed appointments" for elders in full connection.  It has always been understood to be the "covenant" that elders would agree to go wherever they were sent, and they were always guaranteed that they would have an appointment.  -  That is no longer the case!

According to this report at The United Methodist Reporter site, the General Conference has voted to do away with guaranteed appointments.  -  This is an action that will undoubtedly not be received well by several elders in the UMC.  -  There are now calls for "term limits" for bishops, to go along with this move.  Certain clergy have argued that justice would demand such additional action.