Open Letter #2 to Holiness Today

Dear Reverend Felter,

First of all, I wish you a Happy New Year!  I had previously written to you in an email on Oct. 9, 2009 in response to your editorial in Holiness Today, entitled “Are The Emerging Church Folks Stealing the Church?”  I was very concerned about what I understood from your editorial, because Holiness Today is so very influential and reaches so many Nazarenes across the world.  I realize that it is difficult to respond to every email, but I believe, based on the enormous audience that the magazine reaches within the Nazarene denomination, that it would be very helpful for you to clarify some things that are written in Holiness Today that are not so clear to all readers.  And it seems that your editorial is one of those that still needs clarification.

Previously, I had asked you to read my article, and then if possible, respond to some of the questions I raised in my critique, which was posted on September 26, entitled “Does Holiness Today Endorse The Emergent Church?”  Some things you wrote did not necessarily give clear answers to the questions in my mind, and I believe in the minds of other Nazarenes who have written to me, or who have posted questions on our blogs and FaceBook group.  Perhaps it might be easier if I asked a few specifically targeted questions, and you could answer them.  I do understand you are busy every month with new editions to put out, but again, I believe many Nazarenes are awaiting some answers that will clarify where Holiness Today really stands on the emergent church. So here are some questions that I hope you will be able to answer for us.

One of your comments that gave me pause was this one: “These [emergent] Nazarenes, not content to simply lock the shutters or man the battle stations, are joyously dreaming new expressions of the Body of Christ that can thrive in the arid deserts of cultural change.”

1. Question: For you, does “new expressions” include any or all of the following:  prayer labyrinths, prayer stations, Walk To Emmaus, use of prayer beads, lectio divina, ecumenical services with the Roman Catholic church (which I am sure you know teaches a lot of false doctrines), and rejecting the Bible as the infallible, inerrant word of God?  Many emergent Nazarene churches and some universities are actively doing some or all of these things.  What is your position on these?  Is that part of what you meant when you used the term “new expressions?”  If not, what are some of the new expressions that you referred to?

Another quote stated: “they believe we more closely resemble our beloved founders than at any other time since the beginning of our history.”

2. Does this statement mean that those emergents who are using all these expressions I mentioned in question #1… that they are truly reflecting the holiness tradition of our founders, even though none of these practices were officially in use in our denomination, and still are not officially sanctioned or recommended by our leaders?  (Regarding our founders, my position is that even though they were great men of God, that even they are not infallible, and whatever they wrote, should always be scrutinized in light of what the infallible word of God says, would you agree?)

3. Regarding scriptural authority: (This was not mentioned in your article by the way)  I have noticed a trend amongst emergent Nazarenes, particularly those who I have interacted with on NazNet (a Nazarene discussion site, although unofficial), of lowering the bar regarding scriptural authority.  Many of them say that the Bible only CONTAINS the word of God, instead of stating that the Bible IS the word of God.  Some have incredulously said that holding the scriptures to the highest level is idolatry! (They say that Jesus is the real Word.  Well… yes.. but.. aren’t the scriptures the only sure way for us to really know what God has revealed to us?  Yet this is a strange position many of them take, including pastors!)
My question is: is it your position that the entire Bible IS the word of God, as opposed to those in the emergent movement who seem to be casting doubt on the complete veracity of all scripture?  In other words, do you believe that ALL of the Bible is trustworthy in ALL it affirms, and not the view of emergents that it is probably allegorical in the creation account, in the global flood account, when saying Methuselah lived 967 years, etc?

4. You also stated: “the bold lengths to which these innovative Nazarenes are prepared to go in order to be the people of God in a changing world.”
Would you agree with me that we Christians ought to be as bold as possible to reach out to the world with the gospel, as long as we do not violate, change, or water down the gospel message itself? (I believe the only way people are changed by the gospel is when the power of the Holy Spirit is behind it).
And also, would you agree with my statement that “we should NEVER change or compromise the gospel in ANY way, in order to accommodate the world, or our “changing post-modern culture.”
Would you instead agree with me that we ought to follow Romans 12:2 in its admonition:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

In other words, cultures may change, Rev. Felter, but the true gospel and its effectiveness and power NEVER changes, no matter what culture we are in. Would you agree?

5. Finally this statement from you: “Others, for whatever reasons, have chosen the caricatures of exaggeration and the use of disingenuous rhetoric to assail both the character and the efforts of a new generation of visionary Nazarenes.”

Can you please give us some very specific examples of this so-called exaggeration and disingenuous rhetoric? I am so perplexed with this statement, Rev. Felter, because surely you know by now that there are many Nazarenes all across the denomination, including internationally, who are extremely concerned abut the direction of our denomination with these new emergent and contemplative spirituality practices, which never were around in the past, but now in the last ten years or so, have filtered in, under the radar of many Nazarenes.

I truly feel it is an insult to those Nazarenes (which includes pastors like you, evangelists, and ordinary laypersons like me) who are grieved tremendously by the fruits of this movement, to simply imply that we are exaggerating and being disingenuous.  Did you know that there are many Nazarenes across the country who have been forced to leave their churches, because of these emergents and their “joyous expressions of faith”?  Did you know that even though there is no official position by the leadership or even in our church manual about the emergent church, some pastors cannot readily speak out against this movement without risking some level of intimidation or pressure?  I could tell you some real life stories I have received, that would make you cry for those families who have had their lifelong relationships and fellowship with other Nazarenes totally disrupted and severed.  It is real, and that fact cannot be ignored forever without real long term consequences to our churches and universities.

I wonder if the revenues into our denomination have not reached its projected targets lately, and if not, I wonder how much of that has been affected by long time Nazarenes giving up and leaving their churches in disgust, because of emergent ideology and these “new expressions of faith.”  Or perhaps there are churches who have decided not to submit their budgets to their designated university, until that university cleans up its act and stops the indoctrination of our youth with contemplative spirituality practices, or with teachings that God does not know the future (Open Theism), or that He makes mistakes. Perhaps these new teachings about God are what you mean by “new expressions?’  But we just don’t know for sure..

So that is something to think about, Rev. Felter, and perhaps I may be able to get those financial statistics from headquarters.  I think this is a big problem that may continue to show itself more prominently as more Nazarenes become aware of what seems to be a quiet behind the scenes operation to weave emergent ideology into the fabric of our denomination, without ever hearing any official announcements that it has been welcomed. If people are not aware, how can they make good decisions, especially the kind that determines what university their child will go to?

But, I digress.  I’ve written more than I had planned.  Were you able to read the 3,000 word post I sent out last month, called “Nazarene Denomination Losing It’s Way?” It was written as an introduction to our many concerns, and mainly targeted those who have never heard of the emerging church.  I am praying that the paper copy of the newspaper also reaches many in New England who were not yet aware of the emergent church problem.  If you also have time, let me know what you think of it. And do you think it is just a matter of time until there is a formal declaration that the emergent church ideology has been welcomed into our denomination?  If so, would we expect new training programs denomination-wide to introduce all Nazarenes to the emergent church and its practices?

I sincerely ask that you are able to spend a few minutes of your time and answer these questions.  I believe a lot of Nazarenes around the globe would really appreciate it.  Please keep in mind you are not the only person I am asking for answers.  I realize you are one part of our large denomination.  Rest assured I and others will be asking questions of our leadership as well, until we can get some answers.

I think we deserve that much.

All the glory to Jesus,

Manny Silva

23 responses to “Open Letter #2 to Holiness Today

  1. I think you and your group know exactly what he meant when he wrote every word as does every other nazarene who read it. its not that cryptic.

  2. Unconcerned,

    I kind of disagree, and I have laid out my case that clarity is needed in some of these things rev. Felter talked about.
    By the way, “my group”, whatever you are referring to, is part of a large group, including internationally, that is very unhappy with the lack of clarity on these matters from our leadership. This is not a tiny little radical and crazy group- these are Nazarenes sincerely worried about the direction of our denomination.

    There are too many unresolved questions. I do not want to assume anything about Rev. Felter’s true position on these matters just yet- I think straight answers are deserved. Is there any shame in declaring fully that someone supports and believes in the emergent church ideology? If not, shout it to the world, don’t you think? And to all Nazarenes.

    However, as time goes on, and silence is the rule of the day, there comes a time when if nothing is said, we will have to assume the worst.

  3. Dear Manny,
    The Light and Life magazine of the Free Methodist church is full fo Spiritual Formation and contemplative spirituality practices every issue. They have embraced every form of cultural relevance available. Every cool and radical idea is the next topic of the lastest issue. Apparently The Lord’s plan for spreading the gospel message was not good enough, man has to improve on it ,make it more acceptable to the post modern man/woman. Well, what line do we want to be in the goat or sheep line on judgement day.
    Keep fighting the good fight,Manny.
    Thank you,
    Beth Lockwood

  4. Manny, great open letter to Felter! I went to his website
    and from what I saw (and this was some time ago) it looked like he was leaning more towards emergent ideology then conservative Nazarene doctrine. Also in “Holiness Today” articles on “spiritual directors” which we know is part of the same craziness Al Sproull is into.
    My prayer is that those connected with this emergent heresy will repent and return to God and cling wholly to
    His word for truth and direction. If they don’t may the Lord remove them and they join some Catholic group. That is the doctrine they are bent on promoting.

  5. Hi Manny,
    I am curious . . . how many people are we talking about here? The term “many Nazarenes” is such a vague and relative phrase. Are there any hard numbers? Can you venture a ball park figure?


  6. The death of Christ on the cross – but that doesn’t answer the question. I wasn’t at all asking about the value of a soul. I was simply curious as to how many Nazarenes we are talking about here. You have lead me to believe that you represent “many Nazarenes” I am wondering you have a number. Just how many nazarenes are we talking about?

  7. I really don’t have a number to give you- but believe me, it is a number that spans the entire country and across the world in other countries. We are talking about thousands and thousands- and more are waking up to this emergent stuff every day.

  8. I agree with Manny that we need answers to his questions. If Holiness Today is going emergent they should admit to it. Few people in our church are aware of what is creeping up on them and they need to be made aware.

  9. Hello Manny,
    please keep me abreast of any answers you receive to these questions. I write the Richmond Evangelical Examiner. It would be a pleasure to post an article on this. I too am a Nazarene. However, I no longer attend. One of the pastors said he saw nothing wrong with Jeremiah wright’s statements and it appeared he and another pastor supported Barak Obama, wich is about as unChristian thing a Christian can do. The Evangelical vote was part of what gave Obama the influence to sign that abortion bill.
    Anyway, if you type my title into a search engine, it should bring you to my library of articles.
    Jim Leasure

  10. Thanks, Jim. I will do that. And thanks for covering the Rifqa Bary story; many of us continue to pray for her and others in her situation.

  11. Hey Beth, thanks for your thoughts and encouragement. It is appreciated and good to know of more folks like you who are not blinded by this stuff.

    Will, thanks also for your comments. I pray we can get some answers soon.


  12. Thank you Manny for changing the name of your website and organization. I am a concerned Nazarene but am in no way a Reformed Nazarene. This would be akin to an Armenian Calvinist. Much of the Emergent trends concern me and I have been in dialogue with many about this but I am honestly more concerned with the directions that You purport and offer as input for consideration at any level within the Denomination. I trust that you are sincere and I too recognized some veiled inference in the Editors column but the concern for “rejecting the Bible as the infallible, inerrant word of God?” in that you ask the Church to recognize inerrantcy displays a brazen disregard for the position of the Church historically. That your cries fall on deaf ears would seem to be no surprise to me.
    I have been watching your discussion for nearly a year and have concluded that you truely offer nothing for the church and so with all due respect, I will also tune you out.
    May God Bless and illuminate your concerns with grace.

  13. Hello Ron,

    If you had only paid attention and read my About page, you would know why I call myself Reformed. That is such a minor thing in this battle we are going through.
    It has nothing to do with Calvinism or any other theology, although the emergents like to ignore my reason why I call myself Reformed. If you have not tuned out completely, read it.

    Deaf ears? I don’t think so sir. Many are finding out more every day about this deadly dangerous movement. You can tune me out, but there are many tuning in- not just because of me, but many others around the country who are educating those Nazarenes who are not being told the truth.

    As far as the church’s position, I’m not so concerned about that as I am about the Bible’s position on the Bible.

    Since you are concerned also I’d be curious what kind of dialogue you are doing to help correct the problems in the church- and what specifically are they? I like specifics- not general answers.
    If you have no response, that’s fine. I’ll continue with my work if you have tuned me out already.

  14. Manny,

    I am not much on the computer, have no facebook, I do not even know what “twitter” means and I do not frequent any blog other than yours.

    However, I do not live with my head in the sand! I enjoy praying for you and the effort you are putting forth, as does the Lord! I find it rather odd that on numerous occasions the “Armenian Calvinist” issue is always mentioned. Now I know that the Nazarene Church as been teaching more than “self esteem.” As I always suspected.

    After 100 years of ministry that’s a funny place to have led your people!

    Thank God I forsook that place in time to do something edifying for the Lord.

    Stay in the fight!
    Pastor Steve Sumner

    I could probably account for 100 that have already left and another 50 that haven’t. Just in case you want get a ball park figure together.

  15. Thanks Pastor Steve! I can add a few more also, and get numbers from quite a few people across the country. Of course, the emergents would want some kind of documented verification before they would believe it.
    Perhaps affidavits would be needed by them to finally accept the fact that they are causing so much havoc and division- the kind of division that is not acceptable.

    100 is 100 too many for me- that’s 100 Nazarenes who should have not had to pay the price for confronting emergent heresy.

    Thanks for the prayers, you are on our list as well.



  16. Hi Manny,

    Just to help on the lighter side with your last reply about the emergents probably wanting documented verification of Nazarenes that have left the denomination. I can get a notary public to verify 12 Nazarenes that have left the denomination down here. 🙂

    I’m still praying for you and your task at hand.


  17. I want that list in the mail by this weekend! 🙂

    Thanks bro, prayers are going all around for all of you fighting the fight!

  18. manny, i have read many of your letters and discussions. i have found them most refreshing , straight ,and bibically very correct! my wife & i found out about this e.c.heresy inauguust of 09. since then we’ve spent many many hours investigating . to say we are heartbroken is a major understatement. we are also very frustrated at the complete lack of urgency,and outright lazy attitude toward solving this sinful problem. if i have one more person tell me ” it is a passing fad” i’m going to bite nails!!! i’ve gone to the pastor at bfc in bethany. said the same thing and agrees with 75% of what brian mc has to say. to be completely factual ” the other 25% is a bunch of non -sence . ” it is like if we don’t say anything about this there is no problem!!!! it is absolutly amazing how men CALLED BY GOD HIMSELF will not stand for the righteousness they pledged to preach. my grandfather was a naz. minister .started many naz.churches.i’m glad he is in heaven!!!! he wouldn’t stand for this spineless lack of direction on the part of our “church leaders .” since i’m named after him, i’m not standing for it either. so i’m calling out the general superintendants, d.s.’s, pastors, seminary professors, college professors ,deans, presidents,chaplains, s.s. teachers who have any and i mean any affiliation,teaching of this emergant church methods ,ideas,promotions, discussions or conversations to stop their heretical teaching, to repent,and to seek HIS righteousness…. if they choose to continue in is real simple. THIS IS SIN PEOPLE….. THESE PEOPLE NEED TO BE FIRED!! rather harsh people might say, but i think not. i really feel like moses did when he’d had it with the people. HE WHO IS ON THE LORD’S SIDE!!! if you want to be an apostate,not follow His word and do what is right in your own eyes either get right or get ready to be left! so any of those i’ve listed, look at the person in the mirror. there you will see the soul of the one you really are. CHOOSE! one last thing, if the G.S’s can’t lead. have the guts to step aside .there are GOD CALLED holiness ministers who will follow THE WAY ,THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE. so again,…. CHOOSE.!!

  19. Manny,

    I do not personally know you, but that does not matter. Your zealousness for Christ and His Word is enough for me. 🙂

    I for one appreciate what you have evidently been doing for some time. I am soon to graduate from Nazarene Bible College with two BA’s, but fortunately have not bought into the “conversation.” Having seen the things that Brian McLaren has said (as well as Rob Bell) in his books I am surprised that any would want to associate themselves with them. I see no benefit in the Emergent “conversation” or the “movement” itself. Instead what I do see is an unfortunate buying into what “seems” right, instead of adhering to/living what is right.

    That there are Nazarene’s out there who question whether or not the Bible really speaks against homosexuality or gay marriage…it literally blows my mind!! You may count me and more than twenty others off hand who are against this trend working its way through the Nazarene church.

    As you already probably realize making such stands against for biblical authority and the true Gospel message puts you right in the cross-hairs of persecution–even from within the church itself. It is my hope and prayer that God’s people continue to become aware of the dangerous wolves who are lurking in the church in sheep’s clothing.

    I am not saying all who have been swept up in the movement are “wolves,” but I reckon that there are far more than we realize or would even want to know about.

    Keep up the Good Fight, and May God bless you and your family!!

    In Christ,

    ‘a fellow brother in Christ’

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