Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Role of Women in Ministry in the Church of the Nazarene

It is a debate in some parts of Christ's Church.  In other parts of the Church, it is settled; some on one side, and others on the other side.  It is the question of women in holy orders. 

Rome and Constantinople have said that the presbyterate is for men only.  The Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, and the Wisconsin Synod, along with Southern Baptists are very "Roman Catholic" on this matter (Sorry, I couldn't help it!).  They agree with the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox. 

One church that I have a great appreciation and affinity toward, the Anglican Church in North America, is in the midst of an ongoing discernment period, as to whether they will ordain women, or not, and, if so, to what orders.  Currently, there are parts of the ACNA that do not ordain women; parts that ordain them to the diaconate, only; and, parts that ordain them to the presbyterate.  Nowhere in the ACNA do women serve in the episcopate.

However, those churches in the Wesleyan-holiness tradition have settled that question, long ago.  In fact, even main-line Methodism eventually came to agree, wholeheartedly.  My denomination, the Church of the Nazarene, has ordained women since even before our official denominational organization.  That is, all of our primary parent churches ordained women from the beginning.

Recently, one of our general superintendents presented a video in which he provides a very important episcopal reminder about the role of women in ministry in the Church of the Nazarene.  I encourage you to watch this video by the Rev'd. Dr. Jesse C. Middendorf, general superintendent, emeritus.

Jesse Midenddorf on acceptability of women in ministry from Church of the Nazarene on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Increasingly Amazing: Our Understanding of Christian Baptism

Not too long ago, on my Facebook profile page, I posted a quote from Galatians.  I often will post a verse (sometimes several) of Scripture from that morning or evening's time praying the Daily Office.  On that particular day, I quoted Galatians 3:27-28.  It reads:

As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (NRSV)

After posting that verse, I commented on my own post.  I said, "When one has a sacramental view of baptism, and one is consistently faced with passages of Scripture like this one, it becomes increasingly amazing to hear the claim that baptism is ONLY a personal testimony of what God has previously down in one's life."  -  Isn't that true?

Perhaps it is connected to my post, below, from
June 30th.  There I gave a challenge to look up all of the passages that one can find in the New Testament about Christian baptism.  And then, in one column, list all of the scriptures that indicate that baptism is "simply our testimony" of what God has already done by faith, prior to our being baptized.  In a second column, list all of the texts that you can find that seem to indicate that there is "more" going on in baptism.

It seems to me that these verses in Galatians 3 would fit, clearly in the "second column."  There is no indication that baptism is about a testimony.  However, we are said to be "baptized into Christ," and, as such, we "have clothed [our]selves with Christ."  Further, this has resulted in a change in our relationship with others.

Please understand, this is not to say that there is no element of testimony in baptism.  Certainly, for the person who has come to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior by faith, who has not previously been baptized, their baptism will be a part of their testimony of what Christ has already done in their lives by grace through faith.  -  Even so, that is a secondary element in their baptism.  It is first and foremost God's testimony of accepting them, and God is, even then, at work by grace through the holy sacrament.

Further, in the West, we like to pin things down as to the exact moment, before which the person was not "saved," but after which they were "saved."  -  I like to ask the question:  If a person responds to an altar call to receive Christ as their Lord and Savior, but before they make it to the altar to pray, they are struck by lightening and killed, will they make it to heaven?  They didn't quite make it to the altar, and they didn't pray "the prayer."  However, they did respond to the call, and had determined to pray "the prayer."  -  If they hadn't been struck by lightening, we would have said they "got saved" when they prayed, so were they eternally lost?  -  We like to pin down the exact moment.

However, what we often find in Scripture is that baptism seems to be the very act of faith.In any case, it seems clear in this passage that baptism is NOT viewed as just a personal testimony of what God has previously down in one's life.

What other verses about Christian baptism reinforce this same conclusion?

Faith Or Good Works? - A Brief Excerpt

Here is a brief excerpt from this past Sunday's sermon, "Faith or Good Works?"  -  The sermon text was James 2:1-17.  (To hear the entire sermon, click here.)

Our sisters and brothers from the three historically black Methodist denominations (with whom we are in partnership through the World Methodist Council) have called upon the Church to focus this Sunday on ending racism. How does our faith work through love to end racism? - All over the news are stories about refuges from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, fleeing to other countries across Europe. How does our faith work through love to address this humanitarian need? 

We are in the midst of a political season, and issues that for Christians should go beyond politics confront us. How does our faith work through love when it comes to immigration in the U.S.? How does our faith work through love in the midst of the changing face of our nation surrounding marriage laws? How does our faith work through love when it comes to the lives of the unborn? - Our response; our actions; our political decisions, as citizens of the Kingdom of God, must be informed, not just by a political party, or political ideology, or by conservative talk radio, or by the liberal media, but rather, as citizens of the Kingdom of God, our responses; our actions; our political decisions must be informed and formed by our faith working through love.

Our faith working through love certainly includes our spiritual disciplines, our devotions, our involvement in the church, our sharing our faith with others, but, as St. James points out, it also includes our response to those who are hurt, who are in pain, who are in need all around us. - Folks, Wesley says this faith working through love is “all inward and outward holiness.”