Dear Board of General Superintendents,
As many more Nazarenes are aware of by now, there have been things happening in the Nazarene denomination in the last ten, perhaps even 20 and 30 years, that have gradually changed the fabric of our denomination, both in the churches, and in the universities. In this post-modern era, apparently many of our churches and universities have clearly jumped on the emergent church bandwagon. Is that a good thing, or a bad thing? Or perhaps it is both. I am not trying to make trouble for its own sake, but I am raising questions that many believe are vital and need to be answered. One of my biggest concerns is this: our college kids walking away from the real Jesus, into the arms of a fake Christ and a phony gospel. It hurts just to think that even one might walk away from the Lord, because of what our schools are allowing.
One of the problems that have arisen is the bleeding that is occurring in our churches and universities. Nazarenes, both young and old, have been deciding to leave their church, and sometimes the denomination. Students and parents are opting out of the usual automatic decision to go to a Nazarene school, and instead are searching for alternatives. Surely, that is a common thing that happens all the time in all denominations, as people shift and move around, or make personal decisions based on their own circumstances. However, the reasons of departure that I am aware of are much different than the random comings and goings that occur. It is much more serious, and there is a pattern that is most disturbing. I don’t have statistics nailed down, but the many reports I have received, as well as others, shows that there is a commonly shared reason. That reason can be summarized as “an erosion of solid biblical principles, in exchange for a humanistic, mystical, ecumenical, and relativistic approach to our Christian faith and practice.” In other words: many Nazarenes are absolutely fed up with what is going on in our churches and universities, and have decided they are not going to stand for it anymore. I don’t even have time here to go into the extreme social gospel and environmental gospel that is being pushed to the detriment of preaching the true gospel message.
I believe that is one of the reasons we are seeing some churches dropping precipitously in membership, sometimes within just a year’s time, as emergent ideology creeps into their congregation. Former members have sat in utter amazement and dismay in their pews, as a pastor introduces new rituals that were never part of the Nazarene tradition, but were more reflective of the Roman Catholic Church. That same pastor, who perhaps when he was interviewed for the job spoke clearly of his respect for God’s word, now preaches sermons that are more out of his personal opinion and philosophy, with an occasional scripture passage thrown in as an after thought. Less is mentioned of true repentance and sin, and instead, sermons are filled with social justice themes and an over-emphasis on “fellowship”, to the detriment of studying God’s word. And more and more, these post-modern pastors, (some who are fresh out of seminary, but others have been around a long time), are frequently heard quoting heretics and false teachers from the pulpit, such as Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, Richard Foster, Rob Bell, and Brian McLaren. So much for the Wesleyan holiness heritage of our fathers! Now we are looking more and more to Desert Fathers instead, and mystics who promote emptying the mind in order to “listen to the voice of God.”
These Nazarenes were also hearing new phrases like “missional”, or “spiritual formation”, and gradually realized that they don’t necessarily mean what they thought it meant. We now have people leaving in groups, forming their own fellowship because they can no longer stand sitting in a church that is looking more and more like the Roman Catholic church with its rituals and traditions. No wonder people are walking away. I am sure you are also aware of at least one church whose membership voted to completely separate themselves from the denomination, rather than compromise their biblical principles. Sure, perhaps that is only one church out of thousands, but were they all mad (as in crazy?), or were they justified biblically to “divorce” themselves from the denomination? Perhaps the Nazarene church is not just bleeding, but close to hemorrhaging. It is heartbreaking to me, the many emails I have received from former Nazarenes who have been pushed out of their churches, many of them being called hateful and troublemakers and dividers, all because of asking questions of their leadership as to what is happening to their church.
And then there are the universities. Spiritual formation programs throughout the schools are pushing what is essentially contemplative spirituality. It’s just another word for it. This is not Nazarene, this is not Christian. This is simply a Christianized version of transcendental meditation, and false teachers such as Richard Foster, Leonard Sweet, and Tony Campolo are being embraced, and even being given a platform for mentoring pastors or future pastors! Even a universalist like Jay McDaniel was allowed to speak at NNU, as summarized in this video. Can you tell me what is going on, when a university allows this kind of foolishness to be given a platform at our “Christian” schools?
One college chaplain enjoys reading The Shack (a heresy filled book), and praises Brennan Manning, a mystic and false teacher. Another chaplain recently told the students in a chapel service on Sept. 22 that “I consider myself a mystic”, and quotes Brian McLaren, a false teacher. This same chaplain is an unabashed promoter of lectio divina, and claims one of his heroes to be Brother Roger, the late founder of a contemplative, interspiritual community called Taize in France. Why Nazarene chaplains promote this kind of stuff, and name this kind of “hero”, is beyond me as a Nazarene, and as just a Christian. But this is probably becoming the norm amongst college chaplains, and that’s my fear.
Many of our universities are sold out to this contemplative movement. Prayer labyrinths perhaps will soon become the norm in more of them. Prayer labyrinths are a practice borrowed from pagan religions, and these are okay now in the Nazarene schools and churches? Many are also coming together and embracing Roman Catholic practices, or are recommending RCC churches to our students, or selling Roman Catholic Bibles in the bookstores. Evolution is supplanting the Genesis account, and it’s okay now if students are taught that Adam and Eve were not real, or that the worldwide flood did not occur. Instead, they were most likely just allegorical stories or myths. Thus they are teaching our students to doubt the veracity of the word of God. It’s no wonder that at this point, I would not even consider sending my son to a Nazarene university, or recommending anyone to send their own child. It’s too dangerous!
You see, right now, I am still a Nazarene. Perhaps the main reason that I remain is that I am still able to attend and worship at a Nazarene church whose pastor does not believe in this nonsense that is being promoted and passed off as something good for us. Many of us refuse to be under the leadership of any pastor who does not believe in the inerrancy and authority of scripture, and so I am thankful I can still attend a church whose leadership is committed to the word of God, not committed to silly programs, mystical rituals and even secular music played in worship services. Another reason I have stayed is that I have taken on a responsibility I never really thought I would have or even am the best qualified for, but I welcome, out of love for my new friends, who often call me or email me with requests for advice on what to do. Because of what I have gone through myself, I am able to help others (in some small way) deal with the serious disruption and broken fellowship that this movement has brought into their lives.
I don’t believe that the Nazarene denomination’s health should be measured by numbers of people, or how healthy the budget is, or even how many churches have been built in the last year. Rather, it is measured in the steadfast, faithful obedience to Christ in ALL that He commands, and thus is also measured by the rejection of anything that contradicts the gospel “once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3) If any one preaches another gospel, Paul said that person should be accursed. Is the Nazarene church starting to preach another gospel?
I could go on, but I have written to you before with my concerns in the past year. Ever since General Assembly, when a group of us passed out 6,000 DVDs, yet were rebuffed by some of the leadership there, we have continued to ask questions and make others aware of the problem. Many others have written to you with their concerns. I cannot speak for them, but I am still waiting for answers. I am asking you to please give a clear and unambiguous answer to the many questions that have been raised in the past several years. Is lectio divina really a biblical practice? Are prayer labyrinths okay? Should pastors and teachers promote books by heretical mystics and pastor such as Rob Bell, who deny the infallibility of scripture? Should Nazarene congregations worship inside a Roman Catholic Church, which teaches a false doctrine? We know that you have denounced false teachers as unacceptable, but many are preying on our youth right now. I think Nazarenes deserve to know which ones are they specifically that you think are false teachers, so we can “mark them” and “avoid them” as scripture commands.
“Where do you stand on these issues?” It is a fair question that I believe deserves a fair answer.
Blessings and peace,