Thursday, March 20, 2014

New Manual Available

According to the General Secretary of the Church of the Nazarene, the new Manual went into effect this past Saturday, March 15.  Unfortunately, the Manual was not yet available.  That issue has been resolved . . . at least by virtue of the online version.

It does not appear that the hard copy version of the Manual is yet available.  -  I have been waiting for my copy, and I am hoping that it will be ready, shipped, and will arrive before the end of the month.  -  I know, I know.  There are plenty of Nazarenes that joke about the Manual.  They joke about those who treat it like the Bible, and they, themselves, don't seem to consider it to be of much importance.

I suppose I am one of those about whom they joke.  Certainly, I don't consider it to be anywhere near as important as the Bible.  Nevertheless, I do hold it in high esteem.  It is the book of doctrine and discipline for the denomination through which I serve.  And, I have spent much time and effort working on various resolutions which have been incorporated into the Manual over the last few quadrenniums.  -  Then, again, we live in a time when people, even within the Church, have little regard for authority, despite the biblical call for us to submit ourselves to such.  This, of course, is not an attitude unique to Nazarenes.  I have found the same attitude among United Methodists concerning their own Book of Discipline.

Nevertheless, I'm excited about the release of the new Manual!  (I would be really excited if any reader of this blog had a 1911 version of the Manual they would be willing to sell.  That would complete my collection!)  -  Anyway, for those who are interested, to go to the online version of the 2013-2017 Manual, click here.

I have added the new link to the sidebar, as well.  (However, we'll have to wait for on online image of the new Manual, before I can replace the 2009-2013 image.)

Monday, March 17, 2014

The First Four Ecumenical Councils

While perusing various Anglican websites, I ran across the following information on the website of The Reformed Episcopal Church.  I am reproducing it here as a good (and brief) explication of the Anglican take on the ecumenical councils, especially as it concerns their general acceptance of the first four councils (over against Rome's insistence of the seven councils).

While my denomination (the Church of the Nazarene) does not make specific reference to the ecumenical councils in its Manual, it does state that "It receives the ecumenical creeds of the first five Christian centuries as expressions of its own faith."  Thus, it expresses a continuity with its Anglican heritage, concerning the councils.

The following can be accessed on the REC's website, here.


The historic Anglican position maintains that no council of the Church- general or otherwise - can claim immunity from error or corruption, and indeed that all councils "may err, and sometimes have erred, even in things pertaining to God."The historic Articles of Religion of the Church of England go on to affirm that all churches and councils of the church are subject to the scrutiny of Holy Scripture, so that"besides the same ought not [the Church] to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of salvation." (Cf. Article 21, 1662 BCP).

For these reasons, Anglicans have been manifestly reluctant to definitively enumerate those general or ecumenical councils claimed to have universal affirmation, though the first four ecumenical councils have always been held in special regard within historic Anglicanism. The following are brief summaries of the ecumenical councils of the undivided church.


Nicea I (325)

Summoned by the Emperor Constantine, Nicea was the first ecumenical council of the whole Church and was summoned primarily to deal with the rise of the heresy of Arius (priest of Alexandria, d. 336) who denied the consubstantiality of God the Son with God the Father. The council condemned Arianism and defined that the Son was "begotten, not made," and thus was of the "same substance" (i.e., homo-ousion) as the Father. The crowning achievement of this council was the production of a creed which would form the basis of our "Nicene Creed." This council also fixed the date of Easter.


Constantinople I (381)

This council was summoned to address a number of heresies inflicting the early Church at that time, including persistent vestiges of Arianism and semi-Arianism which suffered definitive defeat in this council's reaffirmation of the faith of Nicea (325). This council also condemned the heresies of Sabellius (who rejected the Persons of the Trinity), and Apollinarius (who denied the full humanity of Christ). But perhaps most significantly this council condemned the Macedonian heresy by clearly defining the Divinity of the Holy Spirit in the final affirmations added by this council to the creed of Nicea (i.e. the Spirit's Divine Lordship, His procession from the Father, and the equal worship and glory due to all three Persons of the Trinity).


Ephesus (431)

Called by the Eastern Emperor, Theodosius II, this council condemned the heresy of Nestorius by declaring that the Virgin Mary (i.e. Theotokos - "God-bearer") bore "in the flesh...the Word of God made flesh" (i.e. incarnate). Hence the council defined the unipersonality of Christ in its affirmation of two natures (Divine and Human) cohering in one Divine Person, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Nestorius was thus deposed as Bishop of Constantinople. This council also affirmed the condemnation of Pelagianism (condemned at the Council of Carthage, A.D. 416), a heresy that rejected original sin and taught that man contributes to his own salvation through good works.


Chalcedon (451)

The largest of the ecumenical councils, Chalcedon was summoned by Emperor Marcian to deal with the heresy of the Abbot Eutyches - Monophysitism - which claimed that there existed only "one nature" (the Divine) in Christ from the incarnation onwards, thus denying the humanity of Christ. The council reaffirmed both the Nicene Creed and the condemnation of Nestorianism by the Council of Ephesus, and in its own Definition (largely based on the famous Tome of Leo the Great), declared the final word on the Hypostatic Union of the Divine and Human natures of Christ, being fully God and fully Man with no diminution or commingling of either nature. Chalcedon represents the definitive victory over the Christological heresies plaguing the early Church.


Constantinople II (553), Constantinople III (681), Nicea II (787)

Anglicans generally acknowledge the fifth and sixth ecumenical councils (both held in Constantinople) to be consistent with, though adding nothing to, the substance of dogma defined by the first four councils. Largely disciplinary in character, Constantinople II (553) condemned a collection of writings allegedly supporting Nestorianism known as the "Three Chapters," while at the same time the council upheld the Definition of Chalcedon. Constantinople III (681) condemned the heresy of the Monothelitism, a contrived Christological model intended to appease the Monophysites by attributing only one will or operation to Christ (the Divine), instead of two (Divine and Human). Nicea II (787), the so-called seventh ecumenical council, is disputed in respect of its ecumenicity and application, though in principle its condemnation of Iconoclasm is conceded to be orthodox.

From Appendix A of the Reformed Episcopal Constitution & Canons (2005)

The Feast of St. Patrick

March 17 is the Feast of St. Patrick. Most people know it as a day when we celebrate all things Irish and when everyone gets to wear green, my favorite color. However, there is much more significance to the day.
The real reason we celebrate is because of the amazing missionary work of Patrick during the 5th century. - As a boy, Patrick was kidnapped and enslaved as a shepherd in Ireland. After his escape several years later, he entered Holy Orders in Britain. He was ordained a Presbyter (i.e., Elder or Priest) and consecrated a Bishop. God called Patrick back to Ireland, where, by the grace of God, Patrick brought about, in large part, the conversion of Ireland. In the process, he Christianized Pagan sacred places and objects (an approach I think would be helpful for evangelicals to embrace).
Additionally, Patrick provided a great means of speaking of the Holy Trinity by use of the three-leafed clover.
One of the most powerful prayers attributed to Patrick is The Lorica, or St. Patrick's Breastplate. While there is some doubt that it was actually written by the good bishop, it certainly expresses his faith.
May God make this a reality for us all.

I bind unto myself today
the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One, and One in Three.

I bind this day to me forever,
by power of faith, Christ’s Incarnation;
his baptism in the Jordan river;
his death on cross for my salvation;
his bursting from the spiced tomb;
his riding up he heavenly way;
his coming at the day of doom:
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
of the great love of cherubim;
the sweet “Well done” in judgement hour;
the service of the seraphim;
confessors’ faith, apostles’ word,
the patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls;
all good deeds done unto the Lord,and purity of virgin souls.
I bind unto myself today
the virtues of the starlit heaven,
the glorious sun’s life-giving ray,
the whiteness of the moon at even,
the flashing of the lightning free,
the whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
the stable earth, the deep salt sea,
around the old eternal rocks.
I bind unto myself today
the power of God to hold and lead,
his eye to watch, his might to stay,
his ear to hearken to my need;
the wisdom of my God to teach,
his hand to guide, his shield to ward;
the word of God to give me speech,
his heavenly host to be my guard.
Against the demon snares of sin,
the vice that gives temptation force,
the natural lusts that war within,
the hostile men that mar my course;
of few or many, far or nigh,
in every place, and in all hours
against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.
Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
against false words of heresy,
against the knowledge that defiles
against the heart’s idolatry,
against the wizard’s evil craft,
against the death-wound and the burning
the choking wave and poisoned shaft,
protect me, Christ, till thy returning.
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
I bind unto myself the Name,
the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One, and One in Three.
Of whom all nature hath creation,
eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
praise to the Lord of my salvation,
salvation is of Christ the Lord.
(The article, above, was originally posted in 2012.)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Lenten Hymn

As a Nazarene serving as pastor of two United Methodist churches, I have often been frustrated when planning the musical parts of worship.  It is so often the case that a certain hymn (or other song) will come to mind that fits the Scripture reading just perfectly, but when I go to look it up in The United Methodist Hymnal, it is nowhere to be found.  It's in the Sing to the Lord (Nazarene) hymnal, and I have sung it since I was a kid, but it is unfamiliar to these United Methodists!

However, for the hymn, below, it is just the opposite.  Here is a wonderful hymn for the Lenten season, that does not appear in the Nazarene hymnal.  It is one, that I am going to keep in mind whenever the time comes, and the Lord leads me back to a Nazarene setting.

We sang this hymn this past Sunday, the First Sunday in Lent.  It was written by Claudia F. Hernaman, in 1873, based on Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; and Luke 4:1-13).  It can be sung to the tune, Land of Rest.

1.) Lord, who through-out these fort days
for us didst fast and pray,
teach us with thee to mourn our sins
and close by thee to stay.
2.) As thou with Satan didst contend,
and didst the victory win,
O give us strength in thee to fight,
in thee to conquer sin.
3.)  As thou didst hunger bear, and thirst,
so teach us, gracious Lord,
to die to self, and chiefly live
by thy most holy word.
4.)  And through these days of penitence,
and through thy passion-tide,
yea, evermore in life and death,
Jesus, with us abide.
5.) Abide with us, that so, this life
of suffering over past,
an Easter of unending joy
we may attain at last.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Palm 86:11

Since I have "given up" Facebook during the Lenten season, I am hoping that I will invest a bit more time in my blog.  -  One of my frequent Facebook practices has been to pen quotes from Scripture or hymns that have impacted me during Morning or Evening Prayer, or, perhaps, a quote from a book that I happen to be reading.  I have usually not included such brief quotes on my blog, but . . . having given up Facebook . . . I may begin including such during Lent.

Here is one from today's Psalm (unless otherwise specified, biblical quotes will be from the NRSV):

Teach me you way, O LORD,
that I may walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart to
revere your name.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Reading the Church Fathers During Lent

The folks at has a great idea!  They are encouraging Christians to read the Church Fathers during the Lenten season.  In fact, they have gone to the trouble of providing a reading guide for the Lenten season.

I would commend this plan to you as a valuable Lenten devotion!

The reading plan can be found, here.  -  Check it out!

Begun, The Lenten Journey Has

Yes, it's true.  I'm not just a "liturgy nerd."  I'm also a "sci-fi nerd!"  So, obviously, the title to this post is a take off of Yoda's "Begun, the clone war has."  -  Ya' gotta' love Yoda! (And then I had to add a pic of Mace Windu, because he uses a purple lightsaber, and it is Lent . . .)


 In any case, today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the forty day (not counting Sundays) season of Lent. Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lencten, which means “spring.” The season is a preparation for celebrating the resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday. Historically, Lent began as a period of fasting and preparation for baptism by converts and then became a time for penance by all Christians.

Most churches that observe the season of lent will mark their worship space with somber colors such as purple (cf., Mace Windu's lightsaber!) or ash gray and rough-textured cloth as most appropriate symbols.

Ash Wednesday provides us with the opportunity to confront our own mortality and to confess our sin before God within the community of faith. The form and content of the Ash Wednesday Service focuses on the themes of sin and death, but it does so within the context of God’s redeeming love in Jesus Christ.

The use of ashes as a sign of mortality and repentance has a long history in Jewish and Christian worship, and the Imposition of Ashes can be a powerful and tangible way of participating in the call to repentance and reconciliation.
During the season of Lent, many Christians engage in specific efforts at prayer and fasting and various forms of abstinence.  Sometimes these special efforts are viewed as a kind of legalism imposed by certain denominations.  (Some Roman Catholics view it this way, though that is not the intent of the Roman Catholic Church.)  Others see this as a way of simply "proving they can do it."  And there are those who see Lent as a time to jump-start their diets.  (Though the loss of weight may be a favorable side effect, that is not the purpose of fasting!)

There are others, however, who recognize that fasting and the various forms of abstinence are truly spiritual disciplines with the intent of opening us up to God's presence and grace in preparation for the great celebration of Easter. 

Coming from a branch of Methodism that has thoroughly embraced the Camp Meeting and Revivalism, I have always told our people that Lent is revival preparation!  -  When we would schedule a revival with an evangelist, we would do more than schedule the revival.  We would set aside specific times for prayer and fasting, seeking God's face for the revival services, the evangelist, the lost in our community, the Church, and ourselves.  "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.  See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139:23-24)  -  That, very much, is what happens during Lent.

Additionally, in the congregations where I have served, I have made it a practice of distributing to everyone a "World Methodist Call to Prayer and Fasting and to Faith-Sharing" bookmark on the Sunday prior to Ash Wednesday.  This book mark, produced by World Methodist Evangelism, calls our people to participate in the "Wesley fast."

The WME website says this about the bookmarks:

The 2001 World Methodist Conference in England called upon Methodists around the world to "follow the Wesleyan Pattern of Prayer and Fasting, focusing on spreading the gospel of Christ Jesus through word, deed and sign" by participating in the same weekly fast which John Wesley observed most of his life. Because of this commitment, Methodists in 130 countries go without solid food after their evening meal each Thursday until mid-afternoon each Friday.

This time of fasting is focused in prayer for the vision of World Evangelism -- to see the Methodist movement alive, vibrant, growing and yearning to spread the good news of Christ Jesus in a world that so desperately needs healing, hope and salvation. Methodist churches and groups are encouraged to participate in the Wesleyan Pattern of Prayer and Fasting during Lent and/or during the period between Easter and Pentecost.

These ENGLISH PRAYER AND FASTING CARDS are available free of charge, in reasonable quantities, for congregations or groups wishing to participate in this worldwide commitment. The 2 3/4 x 8 1/2 inch laminated cards contain an explanation of the Prayer and Fasting Commitment plus special prayers for Thursday Evening, Friday Morning, Friday Noon, and Friday at the time of breaking the fast.

I would encourage all pastors in denominations that are members of the World Methodist Council to order these free bookmarks by going to the WME website, here.  Further, anyone who may pastor in a Wesleyan/Methodist denomination that is not a member of the WMC is still encouraged to join in this fast, during the season of Lent (and beyond!).

In the United States, the denominations that hold membership in the World Methodist Council are:

African Methodist Episcopal Church, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church,

Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Church of the Nazarene, Free Methodist Church,

The United Methodist Church, and The Wesleyan Church.

Indeed, may we "see the Methodist movement alive, vibrant, growing and yearning to spread the good news of Christ Jesus in a world that so desperately needs healing, hope and salvation."  And may we see lives marvelously transformed by the great grace of God!  In the name of and for the glory of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen