Recently, the Board of General Superintendents of the Church of the Nazarene addressed various district superintendents (not sure if it was all) with a letter that referenced the Emergent/Emerging Church issue. As you will see in the letter, they provided a document (it follows the letter) to the DS’s, that the generals recommended the D.S.’s use as a means of explaining the generals’s position to others who might inquire about the emergent church. Some of us have had some time to think about this document and what it says and/or might mean. There are certainly some good things in it, yet some of the content is also troubling. I will not comment on either today, but simply let you read the letter and the document, and will post some remarks in a few days. Feel free to respond to me with your own thoughts on these letters.
ORIGINAL LETTER TO THE DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENTS:
May 4, 2010
Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
As you are aware, there is much conversation among Nazarenes throughout the United States and Canada regarding the “Emergent/Emerging Church.” There has been at least one minister who has chosen to leave the Church of the Nazarene because of what he perceived to be our involvement in the emergent movement.
We recently received a copy of a letter that was sent from a district advisory board to one troubled pastor. We believe this is a well-written, well-thought-out letter that states our doctrine very clearly and succinctly and upholds everything that our denomination has stood for since its founding over 100 years ago.
We want you to have this letter as a means of explaining our position to others. If you have questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us at any time.
Board of General Superintendents
Dr. J. K. Warrick
Dr. Jerry D. Porter
Dr. Jesse C. Middendorf
Dr. Eugénio R. Duarte
Dr. David W. Graves
Dr. Stan A. Toler
THE ACTUAL LETTER SENT BY A DISTRICT ADVISORY BOARD TO A PASTOR WHOSE CHURCH DECIDED TO SEPARATE FROM THE CHURCH OF THE NAZARENE (WITH NAMES REMOVED):
Your recent resignation of ministerial credentials in the Church of the Nazarene has raised the question as to whether or not the denomination is accepting and promoting heresy through embracing the “emergent/emerging” church movement.
It’s always legitimate to examine the direction of a church, especially in a day such as ours with the destabilization of society’s institutions, growing cultural diversity, and new challenges to missional outreach. However, after examining your concerns, we do not believe the Church of the Nazarene is engaging in heresy, nor embracing the “emergent church” movement.
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. The General Superintendents have issued the following statement regarding the Emergent Church;
“Sadly some in the Emergent Church have messed with the message. They have started down the road of compromise, eliminating the ‘useless baggage’ of specific scripturally based religious convictions. Such misguided attempts to eliminate critical theological content may lighten the load of some churches. It may even create a temporary euphoria of false freedom. In the end, however, these choices will prove to be liabilities.
Some in the Emergent Church have substituted the solid rock of Biblical Authority for the shifting sands of human reasoning. Dismissing the supernatural attributes of God as mere holdovers from older times leaves the Church with an impoverished understanding of God. The subtle seduction of other narratives infiltrates the very heart of the Gospel message, leaving it weakened in the face of great challenge.”
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.
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. We believe the Church can and must remain steadfastly committed to the faith of the Bible and the theological statements of the Church of the Nazarene; while redemptively speaking to the culture. The preservation of orthodoxy does not militate against the options of new and innovative methods of making Christlike disciples.
You spoke of the Church adopting “Catholic practices” such as lectio divina, contemplative prayer and meditation to “produce transcendental experiences”. Lectio Divina means “divine reading”. It is an ancient method of allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to you, direct and teach you while you are engaging in Bible study and prayer (John 14:26).
In the opening pages of Nazarene Publishing House’s Lectio Divina Bible Studies, we read the following steps and desired outcomes of this method:
1) a time of quieting oneself prior to reading the word
2) focusing the mind on the central theme of the text
3) carefully reading the passage of scripture
4) explore the meaning of the Bible passage
5) yielding yourself to God’s will
6) expressing praise, thanksgiving, confession or agreement with God
7) resolving to act on the message of the scripture
Instead of being something negative, we believe the above steps and desired outcomes will greatly aid our people in becoming Christlike disciples.
You also raised the concern regarding silence and meditation as Catholic practices. The scripture advises us “to be still and know that I am God”. (Psalm 46:10). The Hebrew word for meditate, “hagah “, is used 25 times in the Old Testament. The word means to “muse” or “to quietly think about”. We are told to meditate on:
1) the scripture (Joshua 1:8)
2) the person of God (Psalm 63:6)
3) the works of God ( Psalm 77:12)
4) and on God’s precepts and statutes ( Psalm 119:23, 48)
We are not blanking out our minds and chanting some transcendental meditation mantra. Meditation in the Judeo-Christian tradition is radically different from that practice. Christian meditation involves a focus on God and His Word, and quieting ourselves while engaging in this devotional discipline.
You wrote about the pastor/missionary being fired allegedly for speaking out about the emergent church movement. We only get one side of the story from the article. Legal issues prevent the discussion of personnel matters in an open forum so we really don’t know the whole story.
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. The Church of the Nazarene must remain vigilant that we neither compromise our message of holiness; nor ignore the cultural challenges around us.
We regret the decision you made to leave us; but we wish you well in your new venture.
In Christ’s Service
END OF DOCUMENT