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.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

ACNA Prayerbook Task Force Report

In my December 8 post, below, about the timeline for the new Eucharistic liturgies for the Anglican Church in North America, I "wondered allowed" about what the two Eucharistic liturgies that the ACNA Task Force are preparing might look like.  I mentioned the idea of contemporary English and questioned if the 1979 BCP might play a role in the new Prayerbook.

However, a recent comment on that article by Robin G. Jordan (thanks Robin!) has pointed out that some of those questions can be answered (to a degree) by the "Initial Report of the Prayerbook and Common Liturgy Task Force of the Anglican Church in North America:  What the Guiding Principles of Christian Worship Should Be," which is available on the ACNA website.

Prior to Robin's comment, I had missed that report, and even after his comment, it took me a little while to find it.  However, having read through the report, I would suggest that anyone curious about the ACNA BCP, or anyone simply interested in Prayerbook worship should take the time to read through the report.  It is worth taking a look at.

And, since it took me a little while to find it, (exclusively for readers of this blog!) I will provide the link to the report, here!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Great Birthday Ideas

Okay, my birthday isn't until April.  And, of course, I would not expect anyone who reads this blog to get me a birthday present, but . . .  Here is a great idea for a birthday present for Nazarene clergy!  (The first would be a great idea for any clergy in the Wesleyan/Methodist tradition.

John Wesley and Phineas F. Bresee bobble heads!  (They are also available as phone apps.)

They can be purchased at Grace and Peace Magazine.

(For non-Nazarenes: The Rev'd. Dr. P. F. Bresee is the principle founder and general superintendent of the Church of the Nazarene.)

A Covenant Prayer for the New Year

Lord Jesus, if Thou wilt receive me into Thy house, if Thou wilt but own me as Thy servant, I will not stand upon terms.  Impose on me what condition Thou pleasest; write down Thy own articles; command me what Thou wilt; let me be Thy servant.
Make me what Thou wilt, Lord, and set me where Thou wilt.  Let me be a vessel of silver or gold, or a vessel of wood or stone; so I be a vessel of honor.  I am content.  If I be not the head, or the eye, or the ear, one of the nobler and more honorable instruments Thou wilt employ, let me be the hand, or the foot, as one of the lowest and least esteemed of all the servants of my Lord.

Lord, put me to what Thou wilt; rank me with whom Thou wilt.

Put me to doing; put me to suffering.

Let me be employed for Thee, or laid aside for Thee, exalted for Thee, or trodden under foot for Thee.

Let me be full; let me be empty.

Let me have all things; let me have nothing.

I freely and heartily resign all to Thy pleasure and disposal.

O most holy God, I beseech Thee, accept the poor prodigal prostrating himself at Thy door.  I have fallen from Thee by my iniquity and am by nature a son of death and a thousandfold more the child of hell by my wicked practice.  But of Thy infinite grace Thou hast promised mercy to me in Christ if I will but turn to Thee with all my heart.  Therefore upon the call of Thy gospel, I am now come and, throwing down my weapons, submit myself to Thy mercy.

And because Thou requirest, as the condition of my peace with Thee, that I should put away my idols and be at defiance with all Thy enemies, I here from the bottom of my heart renounce them all.  I firmly covenant with Thee not to allow myself in any known sin, but conscientiously to use all the means that I know Thou hast prescribed, for the death and utter destruction of all my corruptions.  I humbly affirm before Thy glorious Majesty that it is the firm resolution of my heart to forsake all that is dear unto me in this world, rather than to turn from Thee to the ways of sin.  I will watch against all its temptations, whether of prosperity or adversity, lest they should withdraw my heart from Thee.

And since Thou hast, of Thy boundless mercy, offered graciously to me to be my God through Christ, I call heaven and earth to record this day, that I do here solemnly acknowledge Thee as the Lord my God.  I do here take Thee, the Lord Jehovah, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for my portion and do give up myself, body and soul, for Thy servant, promising and vowing to serve Thee in holiness and righteousness all the day of my life.

O blessed Jesus, I come to Thee hungry, wretched, miserable, blind, and naked, unworthy to wash the feet of the servants of my Lord, much less to be solemnly married to the King of Glory, But since such is Thy unparalleled love, I do here with all my power accept Thee and take Thee for my Head and Husband, to love, honor, and obey Thee before all others, and this to the death.  I renounce my own worthiness and do here avow Thee for the Lord my righteousness.  I renounce my own wisdom and do here take Thee for my only Guide.  I renounce my own will and take Thy will for my law.

And since Thou hast told me I must suffer if I will reign, I do here covenant with Thee to take my lot, as it falls, with Thee and by Thy grace to run all hazards with Thee, purposing that neither life nor death shall part between Thee and me.

Now, Almighty God, Searcher of Hearts, Thou knowest that I make this covenant with Thee this day, without any known guile or reservation, beseeching Thee that if Thou seest any flaw or falsehood therein, Thou wouldst reveal it to me and help me to put it right.

And now, glory be to Thee, O God the Father, whom I shall be bold from this day forward to look upon as my God and Father.  Glory be to Thee, O God the Son, who hast loved me and washed me from my sins in Thy own blood and art now become my Savior and Redeemer.  Glory be to Thee, O God the Holy Ghost, who by Thy almighty power hast turned my heart from sin to God.

O eternal Jehovah, the Lord God Omnipotent, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Thou art now become my Covenant-Friend, and I, through Thy infinite grace, am become Thy Covenant-Servant.  And the Covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.  Amen.

Taken from "John Wesley's Covenant Service: For Those Who Would Make or Renew Their Covenant with God, 1780," as found in Wesley Hymns, Compiled by Ken Bible, Lillenas (Nazarene) Publishing Co., 1982.