The New Nazarenes II
The Church of the Nazarene, as a denomination, must find its way anew. It must seek unity without legislating uniformity. It must celebrate diversity within its membership without its core principles becoming diffuse.
In my previous blog (see link below), I noted some labels New Nazarenes are trying on for size. The list was not exhaustive. Some have suggested additions.
We should add Bob Luhn’s “charismatic Nazarene” (which also Jamie Wayne Schmotzer affirmed) to the list of New Nazarene labels. The increasing globalization of the denomination and the accompanying diverse expressions of the Spirit makes the denomination’s “tongues controversy” of the 1970s seem less consequential now. My guess is that culling non North American tongues-speaking Nazarenes from the denominational fold would place a serious dent in membership totals.
I’m hoping those whom Mario Zani labels, “Comfort Zone Nazarenes,” will see the value of a taking a Spirit-led adventure!
Some labels I placed on the previous list are mutually supportive. Others are, as Jim Hampton pointed out, likely mutually exclusive. The question remains whether the denomination has an umbrella big enough to encompass these potentially exclusive sub-options. I think the umbrella is big enough.
I like the idea of being apprentices, which Brian Postlewait suggests. We all must take the posture of learners. This idea dovetails nicely into Hans Deventer’s notion that we can be changed into the likeness of God with ever-increasing glory.
Both Dennis Carter and Scott Daniels wonder about those ties that bind us together. Dennis sees evangelism and the integration of faith in all aspects of life as characteristic of early Nazarenes. I hope he’s right, but I don’t know for sure. I at least hope we can develop these virtues as we move into a new century.
Perhaps David Pettigrew is right when he wonders if the question the church faces today is “Are we going to be defined by love?” Not surprisingly, I’m hoping the answer is “yes!” I hope love defines us both love as a matter of our heart orientation and as a center of theological formulation. The two must be mutually informing, in my opinion.
I’m hoping that some day we will look back to today and say that Jason McPherson’s worry – ultimate denomination division – was ill founded. I suppose time will tell. I, for one, am on the side of working to maintain unity.
Ron Hunter Jr. wonders just how big the umbrella can be. He wonders if the future denomination will allow “conservative/quasi-fundamentalist Nazarenes” a place under the umbrella. I appreciate Ron’s passion and his raising this question. It’s a vital question — or at least it may someday become one.
My response to Ron is that typically those who do not identify as conservative or quasi-fundamentalist endorse a wide umbrella. This umbrella is wide enough to include the kinds of folk Ron describes. But the folks Ron describes as conservative or quasi-fundamentalist often don’t endorse an umbrella wide enough to include many who embrace the New Nazarene labels.
Jeffrey Sykes’s testimonial supports what I have also witnessed in this regard. Especially as we diversify around the globe, the Church must not identify itself with the state/country/government.
Terry Mattson’s appeal to a Nazarene history of openness and inclusivity seems to me the healthy approach. I suggest we embrace a hermeneutics of charity and a posture of hospitality.
The question of whether belief or behavior is primary proves difficult to answer well. It may be a chicken/egg dilemma. In general, however, Wesley’s gave greatest emphasis upon one’s heart. This seems the essence of his highly important writing, “Catholic Spirit.”
I want close by returning to Scott Daniels’s questions about what unites Nazarenes. I agree with him that affirming love as our common bond and sharing a historical trajectory are probably not enough to maintain unity in the coming years. And I agree with Scott that a shared religious experience is likely not sufficient to be the gelling factor.
I’m still formulating my ideas on this “what are the essentials?” question. But I’m beginning to wonder if a better approach is to identify several factors we might call “our orienting concerns.” I’m thinking we could talk about a cluster of orienting concerns. Among those concerns would be the three we’ve already mentioned: the centrality of love, a shared history, a common experience.
But we might add to the mix concerns such as 1) a theology emphasizing freedom-providing prevenient grace, 2) transformation from a life oriented toward sin toward a life oriented toward holiness [which is one important way to talk about sanctification], 3) concern and care for the poor, marginalized, and neglected, 4) passion to share the good news (which Dennis identified in his comments), 5) the integration of Christian faith into all spheres of life, etc.
We might expand this list to include some other orienting concerns. I’m sure there are others of import that I’m not thinking of right now (suggestions?). I think we might identify a dozen or so. However many we finally identify, the idea would be for members to affirm these orienting concerns to greater or lesser degrees and with various nuanced formulations. In fact, this seems the current de facto approach of many in the Church of the Nazarene.
I’m not suggesting we throw out the Articles of Faith. I’m not suggesting we do away with the Agreed Statement of Belief. These all have an important function.
At least that’s what I’m thinking lately. I want to find a balance between for example, on one extreme, forcing members of the denomination to affirm a particular theory of atonement as the only orthodox theory and, on the other hand, having a “believe whatever you want to believe” attitude.
I’m hopeful that we can “conform to the image of Christ,” which has to do mainly with love (thanks Daryl Johnson), But the image of Christ would involve reflecting a prism of colors. The New Nazarene labels I have identified are one way to account for this emerging color palette.
Let me emphasize, however, that these ideas are still percolating. I’m sure they need refinement. I surely don’t have it all figured out! And I’d love to hear comments on how my ideas might be improved…