FOLLOWUP: The following are comments by a couple of contributors that came in during the past few days, regarding the letter that the General Superintendents are recommending to D.S.’s to use to explain the Generals’ position on the the emergent church. (original link here)
Jerry: The first important thing to note is that the GS’s are communicating more about the EC. This can only mean that the work Tim Wirth, Manny Silva and others are doing in exposing the EC is paying off and that more Nazarenes are becoming aware of the EC and are speaking out against it.
Manny: I mention this comment from Jerry not to toot anyone’s horn, but to also point out that there is much more “behind the scenes” work being done to bring these important issues to the forefront. For every blog we have out there, there are many more concerned Nazarenes engaging and challenging Emergent pastors and other leadership, educating other Nazarenes to the problem, sending letters, and praying. My late father-in-law was an example of a pastor who respected authority, but never backed down on biblical principles, and instead, challenged anyone who was promoting ill-conceived ideas, methods, or books, that ran contrary to our traditional doctrines of Nazarene holiness and biblical standards. Respect authority, yes. Bow down to authority and never dare to question them? Never.
Comments on some key quotes:
“Finally, let me mention the “Everything Must Change” conference. McLaren’s book Everything Must Change and conference named after it is simply a rehashing of old classic liberalism and “realized eschatology” from around the turn of the 20th century with a green twist. The Church of the Nazarene does not embrace that position; but we must engage it. We must be in conversation with it if we are to remain an influential force in our culture for Christ. Otherwise, we will simply slink into the obscure corner of historic irrelevance; congratulating ourselves on our holiness, while the world disintegrates around us.”
Gary: This rationalization that we must engage this view to better promote the Gospel is absurd. Being aware is one thing, but embracing and giving such a view a platform to promote it is entirely different. There are many things in life that I would make my children aware of, but would not encourage them to participate in “to fully understand” the potential dangers it holds. The Church of the Nazarene needs to not only make a statement but they need to adhere to it and hold those within its influence accountable to be consistent with their ministries. We are making blanket statements dispelling our association with the Emergent Church while we plant, license and foster churches [and universities] directly tied and encouraging involvement in the Emergent Church. Doesn’t this seem to be a significant contradiction?
Jerry: I’m guessing the “troubled pastor” was upset because Northwest Nazarene University hosted the conference. That’s an interesting way of “engaging” a position you don’t embrace: invite the people who hold that position to tout it from your campus! Mr. McLaren’s advertisement for the book and the conference can be seen on YouTube. [Also see Eric Barger's YouTube description of this seminar at NNU, which he attended on all three days].
It is clear that the Emergent church not just the Emerging church has been influential in the Church of the Nazarene. Any attempt to say otherwise is naive at best and dishonest at worst. Those who are concerned about the Emergent church have very good reason. The General Superintendents should explain why, unorthodox as it is, it is being allowed to influence the future leaders of our church.
Manny: Instead of “engaging” them, I suggest that we follow this biblical command: “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” Eph. 5:11
“The Church of the Nazarene must remain vigilant that we neither compromise our message of holiness; nor ignore the cultural challenges around us.”
Manny: Compromise happens when we stand by and continue to allow McLaren, and a whole host of others (Tony Campolo, Rob Bell, Henri Nouwen and Thomas Merton) to be good resources via lecture or chapel sermons, or via the books they have written, to be fed to our youth on the college campuses. Would you allow your child to be slowly fed a small dose of poison every day? In the end, it just might kill him.
Note Leonard Sweet, who is scheduled to speak at several PALCONS this year for pastors. If the Emergent Church is not a Nazarene “thing”, why is a New Age sympathizer like Sweet speaking to Nazarene pastors frequently? Again, we ought to separate ourselves from false teachers, not engage them, and certainly never bring them in as good resources!
“There are some misunderstandings which have grown from using the terms “emerging” and “emergent” interchangeably. They are not the same. The Emergent Church finds its roots in the Emergent Village which is an intellectual and philosophical network made up of writers and thinkers such as Brian McLaren, Toney Jones, Doug Pagitt and others. These individuals are unorthodox in many of their theological positions and are all over the map in methodology. They are far from being unified as a movement.”
Jerry: First, that these men are not unified as a movement is irrelevant, and the argument could be made that they are very much unified considering that Tony Jones is the “theologian in residence” at Solomon’s Porch (the church Doug Pagitt founded), and Brian McLaren and Tony Jones have worked closely on several occasions. Second, Brian McLaren has spoken at Point Loma Nazarene University, Northwest Nazarene University, and Mid-America Nazarene University. Three of his books are currently listed as textbooks at Northwest Nazarene University. Tony Jones has lectured at Olivet Nazarene University, Mid-America Nazarene University, and Mt. Vernon Nazarene University.
So my first questions to the Board of General Superintendents are:
Are you OK with unorthodox speakers coming to our universities to influence our students?
Are you OK with their writings being used as text in Nazarene University classrooms?
“We think it’s clear from the above statement that the General Superintendents are not about to lead the Church of the Nazarene in embracing the Emergent Church.”
Manny: Perhaps they are not going to lead the Church in embracing the Emergent Church. But what does it say if many of us continue to have the perception that they may be simply standing by while allowing it to happen? There is good reason for that by the way, if that is what it looks like, for there has not yet been a definitive statement on these issues since General Assembly. Perhaps there is more study going on by the leadership, but many of us have clearly seen what is happening, and many Nazarenes have left the church, or some have separated officially from the church as this letter mentions. How much more fire will there have to be in the house, before the “parents” start telling the children, “get out?” And can we get rid of, once and for all, of all the things that are causing the fire, so that it won’t occur again?
“Emerging Churches, on the other hand, are churches that recognize the non-negotiable elements of our historic faith while adapting their methodologies for a rapidly changing culture.
quoting the largely “unorthodox” Doug Pagitt:
“The underlying struggle to contextualize the Christian faith in new cultural situations—to make sure that it is proclaimed and lived in both a culturally relevant and biblically coherent manner—is of crucial importance. ― “The gospel of Jesus has always found its ways in new cultural settings, and not only by changing its methods, but also making adjustments to the message …” (bold text mine)
Jerry: It would seem that these Nazarene leaders think its ok to “mess with the message” along with changing their methodology. Which raises the question: How can something be biblically coherent if it has been “adjusted” from what the Bible says? By the way, the white paper also quotes Brian McLaren and cites some of Tony Jones’ work. The entire white paper may be found at: http://ragingbhull.wordpress.com/2009/06/02/emerging-nazarenes-white-paper/ .
A final thought by Gary to conclude:
“I do not judge the church or its leadership with regards to their spiritual condition. It is clear however that [some] have initiated, planted and conducted their ministry as they embrace the Emergent Church. They have both past and present involvement with the leaders of the Emergent Church (even as indicated by the letter authored by a District Superintendent and substantiated by the statement from the Board of General Superintendents) and support other organizations (communities) that also fully embrace the Emergent Church.
While I respect their right to serve the Lord in ways they deem suitable, it is not appropriate to discount or ignore the beliefs, doctrines and directions of the Nazarene Village (as they reference the church) while they pursue opposing directions of ministry. The common “unwritten rule” of ministry for associates has been, “If you can’t support your pastor you should resign and find another place to serve instead of causing issues within that local church” and I think the principle is a good one. In this case, the local church should function in similarity as to the associate. The local church subjects itself fundamentally to the doctrines and directions of the larger, global church. The local church should support in word and deed the core doctrines, directions and beliefs of the church they belong to and that support can and should be measurable. When inconsistencies are discovered they should be corrected, not merely dismissed as “just another way of looking at it.” The responsibility of the church is to hold its ministries accountable for adhering to the doctrines and beliefs accordingly and likewise the local church and its leadership should be in harmony with the same.
It is a simple issue of integrity. If a pastor deems that the Church of the Nazarene is drastically different from his or her views and feels obligated to live and lead according to their beliefs, disregarding the position of the church, they should tender their resignation and cease receiving support from the church (financially speaking.) To accept financial support from an organization and disregard its doctrine by teaching or leading opposing doctrines (where core values are concerned, not “pre trib versus post trib”) is to be hypocritical.”
I think where we all get side tracked is simply this. We try and make a place for everyone. The fact remains (as shown in the statement by the BofG’s) that the Church of the Nazarene is not an Emergent Church nor do we embrace or endorse this organization or its leaders. That means we should also not allow a local church, pastor, evangelist, DS, GS, NPH (or affiliates) or Nazarene College, professor or administrator to promote the Emergent Church, period. It is that simple. You cannot be a supporter of the Emergent Church and also be a supporter of the Church of the Nazarene as they are not the same.
And while I am typing…all this dialogue about being missional and caring for the poor, etc. This IS NOT a new concept or movement. This is not a post modern revelation. Perhaps if we could quote Scripture better and faster than the most recent author or latest quote from a monk from hundreds of years ago, we would recognize this simple truth. Jesus came to seek and save the lost (lost souls, bound for the real place called hell) not trees! Be a good citizen, yes! Don’t litter, don’t be wasteful, etc. but remember that is not why Christ died and that is not the mandate for God’s church. The body of Christ’s mission is not to be a eco-friendly organization rivaling the Peace Corps and we are not the Rotary Club. Not knocking either one, just reminding us that is not the role of the church.
I better stop before I really get to preaching!
Love in Christ,
(*Thanks to my contributors for their commentary.)