Big Tent Christianity: Just An Illusion

Many in the Nazarene denomination, including prominent leaders, talk much about the “Big Tent.”  It is a term used to describe the way Christians are said to accommodate a wide range of differing views while still peaceably working together for the good of God’s Kingdom.  Dr. Thomas Oord of Northwest Nazarene University was a speaker at the “Big Tent Christianity” conference which included Brian McLaren and other notables from the emergent (apostate) church movement.  Dr. Oord’s obvious “fondness” for fundamentalists (Bible believers) can be read at his blog, called Christian And Scientific Fundamentalism.

In an article from Grace and Peace magazine titled The Value Of Our Collective Ideas, Nazarene and executive editor Bryan McLaughlin says the following:

“We are looking for pastors, theologians, educators, and church leaders who are willing to share their thoughts and ideas for the benefit of our greater church and God’s kingdom. If we are going to make Christlike disciples in the nations, we need everyone in our big Nazarene tent to get involved.”

Sounds like a good thing, does it not?  We need everyone!  That could possibly include me, and that would be great, because I have a lot of thoughts to share with a lot of people I have been trying to reach out to.  However, for some reason, they don’t return my calls or emails.

At the aforementioned Big Tent Conference, I noted such names as Tony Jones, Phylis Tickle, Peter Rollins, Jay Bakker, Nadia Bolz-Webber, Tim King, Spencer Burke, Greg Boyd, and godfather of the emergent church, Brian McLaren.  I searched real hard, but did not notice a single name of anyone that could be called a conservative, orthodox or fundamental Christian.  Hmmm…  Big Tent?  Seems a bit small to me, in terms of ideology.  Frankly, I consider every single one of these people to be heretics, based on what they believe and teach! Spencer Burke is an outright universalist!

Tony Jones believes that practicing homosexuals are no problem in Christianity, and denies the doctrine of original sin.  Brian McLaren likens the Cross to “false advertising for God.”  Jay Bakker and Nadia Bolz-Webber are part of the new brand of “outlaw preachers”, and that is an apt name for them.

Yet apparently their Big Tent cannot accommodate anyone else but extreme liberal thinkers who share a disrespect for biblical authority!  And for further confirmation, look who is on the schedule for the next Big Tent Conference in Arizona, including the blasphemous heretic Marcus Borg1, and Richard Rohr.  You can cautiously follow these Big Tenters on FaceBook.

In an official statement on the Emerging church issue, the Board of General Superintendents said the following:

The Board of General Superintendents neither endorses nor affirms “emergent churches” or leaders who are not orthodox in their theology. “We Believe,” the statement issued by the BGS, clearly articulates the position of the Board regarding the Articles of Faith, the values, and the mission stated in the Manual of the Church of the Nazarene, encouraging Nazarenes everywhere to join them in embracing these vital truths…

That sounds like it might be a Big Tent philosophy to me, does it not?  Nowhere in this statement can anyone read that emergent church philosophy is THE sole ideology that is acceptable in the Nazarene denomination, correct?  So, it seems, at least in word, that we are a Big Tent denomination that allows many viewpoints, doesn’t it?

Smoke And Mirrors

Well, I believe it is all smoke and mirrors, this concept of a Big Tent, which I do not agree is a good thing anyway.  Those who claim to be part of the Big Tent, and therefore say they welcome all kinds of dialogue and viewpoints, are saying one thing, and practicing another.  Big Tent Christianity, frankly, seems to be an oxymoron in practice.  And, it certainly does not “jive” with Christ’s words regarding entering in “by the narrow gate.”  So Big Tent seems to be another way of saying “the wide road.”  You know where that leads.

How can our denomination be a Big Tent, when in December of 2009, just before Christmas, a Nazarene pastor in Texas was not only relieved of his duties as a missionary, and then as pastor of his congregation, but then was asked to turn in his credentials?  Why?  Simply because he preached against the emerging church, and a few “tolerant” pastors could not stand hearing him speak the truth about their Bible-mocking ideology.  Does that sound like a big tent to you?

Where was the Big Tent at General Assembly in 2009, when Pastor Joe asked General Superintendent Jesse Middendorf, “will we be allowed to have a voice in this discussion about the emerging church?”  The answer was, “that’s not likely.”  Does that sound like a Big Tent philosophy to you?

Sometime also last year, a Nazarene pastor in Marietta, Ohio, along with his church, refused to drink the emergent coolaide, and instead, severed their ties with the Nazarene denomination, and became independent.  You see, they apparently did not fit within the parameters of the Big Tent people, and made them uncomfortable when they said no to the district.

Just this past December, another Nazarene pastor was fired and subsequently turned in his credentials.  This was apparently his Christmas present, as a result of preaching against the dangers of the emergent church.  Obviously, his views could not fit inside the Big Tent of the “tolerant ones.”

Finally, a young pastor-to-be in my own New England District was told by the credentialing board that he would probably not get his ordination.  Why?  Because his views on the inerrancy of scripture- that he actually believes in the complete truthfulness and infallibility of scripture- just could not be accommodated!  Are we to assume then that some New England leaders do not believe in scriptural inerrancy?

I could also go on and on about the many Nazarene laypeople who have emailed me with their stories of “tolerant, understanding” pastors and leaders, who all of a sudden turned on them, when they would not stop asking questions about what was going on in their churches.  Apparently these pastors and leaders did not get the memo that the Nazarenes are supposed to be a Big Tent kind of people!


I sense hypocrisy here.  If so, it is a result of the slow but steady apostasizing of the Nazarene church.  Perhaps we need to start calling all of this “the apostasy movement”, because there are a whole lot of other heretical things coming into the denomination,  such as mysticism, soaking prayer, Dominionism theology, open theism, social justice, environmental justice, and many other heretical teachings.

Will there be a Big Tent welcome for my like-minded colleagues at the M11 Conference in February, or just more smoke and mirrors?  Will it be the beginning of the end for many in the Nazarene denomination?  I would love to go and ask some questions, and get some real answers.  For those committed to going, I pray that you will have the chance to ask questions without any retribution.

For now, there is no such thing as a Big Tent in the Church of the Nazarene.  It seems that those in leadership will accept only two things: churches that promote the emergent movement, and churches that keep their mouths shut and don’t make a noticeable fuss over the emergent or apostasy movement (aka missional).  All others need not apply, and you may as well leave.


Related article on Big Tent ideology:  Big Tent Or The Broad Road (Pastor Jason Bjerke)

End Notes:

1. Marcus Borg, a member of the infamous Jesus Seminar, does not believe Jesus was virgin born, or that He rose from the dead, or that Christianity is exclusively true.

Quote: “I would argue that the truth of Easter does not depend on whether there was an empty tomb, or whether anything happened to the body of Jesus. … I DO NOT SEE THE CHRISTIAN TRADITION AS EXCLUSIVELY TRUE, OR THE BIBLE AS THE UNIQUE AND INFALLIBLE REVELATION OF GOD. … It makes no historical sense to say, ‘Jesus was killed for the sins of the world.’ … I am one of those Christians who does not believe in the virgin birth, nor in the star of Bethlehem, nor in the journeys of the wisemen, nor in the shepherds coming to the manger, as facts of history” (Bible Review, December 1992).


5 responses to “Big Tent Christianity: Just An Illusion

  1. Marcus Borg is delusional to consider himself a Christian at all with his views.

    I looked again at the BOG statement. They neither endorse or affirm an emergent church that is not orthodox. Apparently they choose to be silent about the unorthodox ones and not stand against them.

    Big problem, I don’t see ANY of the emergent as orthodox. And the real life examples of dismissed pastors indicates at least some of the leaders in the COTN have long lost the ability to recognize actual orthodoxy; in fact they reject it.

    Maybe there needs to be more ex churches of the Nazarene like in Ohio. Maybe referring to yourself as ECOTN would get an invite back under the tent because anyone with an acronymn that starts with eco must be a Nazagreen. I’ve seen that detestable term in a missions magazine, I didn’t make it up.

    Sadly, my wife and I left the denomination mid-year last year, she, a fourth generation Nazarene, and I one for 41 years, because we could not find a local congregation we felt was holding to true orthodoxy. It was both heartbreaking and depressing, but we now have a church home where the Bible is held as inerrant and faithfully preached. We have been accepted and have new places of ministry.

    Praise God for the pastors who are discerning and holding firm. Sounds like you have one, Manny.

    Blessings to both of you for continuing the good fight.

  2. Hi Manny,
    Unforunately this is what happened a few years ago to the Free Methodists. They wanted all manner of thought and ideas because “Churches are for the unsaved”. While churches do have unsaved attending, the gathering of God’s people is for the worship of God. I do not believe too many non-believers worship the Lord. The leadership in both denominations have sold out. They no longer think God’s plan is sufficient, they need to help Him. Looking at dwindling numbers and looking at others who are (Rick Warren etc.) having great success they chose to follow the latter. Very sad. Isn’t that why Jesus wept over Jerusalem because they had chosen religion over the Lord. They rejected the gift of eternal life. Both leaderships are throwing everything away with both hands. I am very sad about all of this, but I keep praying for the light to shine again on what was once two great holiness denominations that once believed God was Supreme and His Word sufficient.
    God bless,

  3. “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matt. 7:13-14)

  4. Manny,

    This is a great post that shows a major issue within the CotN. As long as the leaders in the church promote this “Big Tent Theology” we will continue to see more and more compromise on orthodox Christian beliefs.

    Those that promote this heresy especially from the pulpit, but also through silence will be held accountable by the Lord for leading many astray.

    Grace and Peace

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