Disingenuous: An Open Letter to the Friedemans, Jared Henry, and the Holiness Partnership
(This essay was first posted in June of 2023 on lovingnazarenes.com.)
That’s the most charitable word to describe your actions in recent days. Disingenuous. The actions to which I am referring are characterized by quotes like the following:
In your (Caleb’s) review of Why the Church of the Nazarene Should be Fully LGBTQ+ Affirming, you say, “First, we should call Nazarenes who reject the denomination’s stance on human sexuality to repent—including Thomas Oord and other Nazarene authors in this book. Second, we should remove the credentials of Nazarene clergy who refuse to repent—including Thomas Oord and the sixteen other authors in the book who are ordained Nazarene ministers. Similarly, we should relieve any LGBTQ+ affirming faculty at Nazarene institutions of their positions and titles.”
In your (Jared’s) blog, you claim, “More evidence is readily available for Oord to lose his credential in the Church of the Nazarene.” And near the end, you ask what seems to be a rhetorical question, “Why does Oord still have his credentials?”
Your (Matt and Elijah’s) edited book is a response “to members of the Nazarene tribe [who] have sought to amplify their opinions regarding sex and gender issues…,” an apparent reference to Why the Church of the Nazarene Should be Fully LGBTQ+ Affirming. Some essayists in the book say people like me should be disciplined for wanting changes on the denomination’s statement on human sexuality.
To understand my claim that you’re disingenuous, we need to return to 2009. In that year, a proposal from the Southwest Indiana District came to General Assembly. It asked for radical change to the denomination’s Article on Scripture.
The proposal sought to remove the phrase “inerrantly revealing the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation.” The replacement said the Bible is “inerrant throughout, and the supreme authority on everything the Scriptures teach.”
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe some people now in the Holiness Partnership advocated for this change. And many in the Partnership today would like to see something similar replace the Manual’s current statement on Scripture. (See Concerned Nazarene and Former Nazarene statements.)
The General Assembly committee sent the Southwest Indiana proposal to what it called a “Scripture Study Committee.” That group subsequently issued a document they called, “Report of the Scripture Study Committee.” (Find the full report here.)
The committee strongly supported the denomination’s longstanding statement on Scripture. They did not want an Article of Faith that said the Bible was “inerrant throughout.” The committee believed the proposed change had a “Calvinist origin” and reflected “Calvinist belief.”
In other words, the proposed inerrancy changes did not fit a Wesleyan-Holiness view of the Bible.
During this time, I was in conversation with Stan Reeder, who was then the district superintendent of the Oregon-Pacific District. He’s now USA/Canada regional director. The recent statement claiming all major sections of the Manual are essential came from his office.
Stan interpreted Article 4 as saying something similar to what the Southwest Indiana district had proposed. In my discussions with Stan, I said those changes assume a Calvinist view of biblical inspiration. They did not reflect our theological commitments.
Of course, the Scripture committee eventually sided with my perspective. I did not respond, however, by asking Stan to leave the denomination. Nor did I seek to have him disciplined. And to my knowledge, no one from the Southwest Indiana district was asked to leave when their changes were not adopted by the General Assembly. They were not disciplined.
Inerrant in Autographs
Now, to my primary point…
You (Matt and Elijah Friedeman) are employed by Wesley Biblical Seminary (Mississippi). And you (Jared Henry) are a trustee at Kentucky Mountain Bible College. But these two institutions have statements on the Bible that do not align with the Church of the Nazarene’s Article on Scripture.
Both institutions claim the original documents of the Bible are inerrant. That’s not what we find in the Church of the Nazarene’s Manual. The idea that the original biblical autographs are inerrant is not only unverifiable. It’s the kind of claim you’ll find in Calvinist-oriented institutions like Wheaton.
In other words, the people wanting to discipline me and others are out of step with the Manual’s statement on Scripture!
It could be, of course, that you (the Friedemans and Henry) are actively trying to change the Scripture statements at the institutions at which you serve. But if you are, you’re being disingenuous when you seek change but don’t allow others to do the same.
More likely, however, you (the Friedemans and Henry) endorse the original autograph inerrancy views of Wesley Biblical Seminary and Kentucky Mountain Bible College. You embrace them, even though they diverge from the Manual. And yet you want to discipline me and others who want changes in the Manual.
The Letter Kills
I’m not surprised that you (the Friedemans and Henry) have views that don’t fit the Manual of the Church of the Nazarene. We Nazarenes are a diverse bunch! Any independent-thinking person is bound to come to conclusions that don’t fit the Manual perfectly.
I do not plan to ask for your discipline, however. I will turn the other cheek. Love does not repay evil with evil.
I fear, however, that your call to remove credentials returns the denomination to the Fundamentalist legalism of yesteryear. As someone who grew up seeing such legalism, I had hoped the denomination had matured. Afterall, living by the letter of the Manual kills.
My hope is that we have a real conversation without calling for credentials and without seeking discipline. Let’s come to the table in good faith. And let’s hear our differences on Scripture, science, culture, and more.
Let’s aim for genuine love (Rom. 12:9).