This letter is in response to your article (“I Am A ConcernedNazarene”) in the March/April edition of Holiness Today, the premier publication of the Church of the Nazarene which reaches Nazarenes across the world, in print and on the internet. After reading it several times, I hardly knew where to begin to respond. I do not especially like to correct a pastor who is in error. It is not the first time I have had to do this, and it is never enjoyable. A pastor is charged with the responsibility to lead and teach his flock as an undershepherd of the Great Shepherd. But undershepherds are not perfect, they are susceptible to error like anyone else, and must be corrected when necessary, even by a layman without a theology degree. (I recall the Bereans who were commended by Paul for making sure he was in line with Scripture, even though from the viewpoint of men, he was of greater stature then they).
You posted your article publicly, therefore this response must be public. Please understand that this is intended for the purpose of correction, for reproof, to help you see the errors of what you have written to many Christians. I have no animosity towards you, but many Nazarenes believe that what you and other pastors and college professors are promoting is very dangerous and unbiblical. You have only succeeded in attacking and questioning the integrity and sincerity of many more than you know, but you have not succeeded in destroying their integrity.
There is no Matthew 18 imperative here to confront you in private. When serious error is put forth publicly to Christians, it must be refuted publicly for the benefit of all, and for reproof and correction of the one who is in error. Paul the apostle saw the need to correct Peter in public, because Peter had been promulgating incorrect teaching to other Christians. Paul did not concern himself with Peter’s credentials as an original apostle of Jesus Christ; he did not worry about what others would say about him criticizing such a great man as Peter; he was only concerned with the truth, and correcting any false teaching, no matter who it came from. And as I recall, Peter humbly took this public rebuke, and learned from it. I pray that you do the same.
You said that you are a fourth generation Nazarene born into a Nazarene pastor’s family, the son of a district superintendent, and you have a BS and MS from Nazarene institutions. I’m a second generation son of a Nazarene pastor who was rescued from the bondage of the Roman Catholic Church and who preached holiness for 50 years, and I have a BS and MS from non-Nazarene institutions. But it really does not matter, does it, our heritage or educational pedigree? Whatever credentials or background you or I have are irrelevant to any of these issues; let’s judge them only by the word of God.
There are a few areas I wish to address:
1. The Personal Nature of Your Attacks Against Many Nazarenes
This was I believe the most irresponsible thing you did, and for a pastor who is charged with greater responsibilities, it was doubly shameful. What was worse was that not one of these words you used had one ounce of substantiation and had no documented information and proof. Here are just some of the words you used to characterize a lot of Nazarenes:
“driven by categorization, guilt-by-association”; “gotcha” tactics that more represent radical politics than anything remotely biblical, Christian, or certainly holiness”; “Internet rumormongers”; “Salem-witch-hunt”; “Inquisition-type atmosphere”; “Our presidents… are under direct and often slanderous attacks from various sources”; “full of self-righteous piety”; “great derision and mistrust in the scurrilous E-mail exchanges”; “mistrust and gossip”; “no regard whatsoever to biblical conflict resolution principles”; “inflaming the emotions of the faithful”; “unjustly and manipulatively ratcheted up by the fully-aware bloggers”; “special-interest-political-action-group thinking”.
May I suggest that if you have even read the things we all have been saying, that you have simply ignored the substance, and resorted to your only strategy available: demonize those who disagree! You said all these words simply because we are speaking out against what we believe to be false teachings according to God’s word? With these words and more, what you have done is not only vilified the obvious and more visible “Concerned Nazarenes”, but you have attacked the integrity, honesty, and sincerity of the many Nazarenes who you do not know, and who have sent me many testimonies. “These people”, as you refer to them, have written to me many times to tell me of the heartbreak they have experienced as they have watched their denomination of many generations slowly being infiltrated from within with false teachings like a cancer. Some have told me of being demonized, of being called the divisive ones, and forced to leave their churches of many years, simply for daring to be Bereans and questioning the “new” teachings of their pastors. Others have left the denomination because they could not find another Bible believing Nazarene church to go to. Some still struggle on in their church, hoping that they can still make a difference.
These are the very people you speak of when you use those words. Some of these godly and saintly people have served the Lord faithfully long before you were born, and for you to paint them all like this is an insult to them and their faithful testimony. Most of them have risked a lot more than I have risked, including pastors who have stood up for the truth. You have no idea what kind of destruction has occurred because of those who promulgate a theology of emergent openness to everything under the sun, which is doing nothing but watering down the Gospel, and is destroying our churches and our Christian universities. You owe these people a sincere apology for the false words that were uttered in your attack piece, and you need to repent to God for painting them all in this light.
I quote here a former Holiness Today editor, the late Rev. William McCumber, who wrote in his book This Jesus:
“… I am troubled by “emergent theory” that is moving toward an “emergent church.” Leaders of this “conversation” or “movement” call themselves “post-modern” and I guess if you need a tag that one is about as good as another. My concern about them springs from their distortions of Scripture and their diminishing of Jesus …. More disturbing to me is the fact that the Jesus they talk about is not the Jesus of Scripture … Only the Jesus disclosed to us in the New Testament is relevant to our times and adequate for our salvation. To diminish Him is to destroy ourselves.”
I could give you further examples and quotes from God-fearing, Jesus-loving men and women of God in the Nazarene denomination, as well as other denominations who have rejected the godless ideology of the emergent church. Perhaps someday, with their permission, I will publish their testimonies, as a witness to those who are siding with God’s word, not man’s word. I prefer to be on their side of the issue, not yours. I ask you, who then has been led by the Holy Spirit, and who has not? It can’t be both, can it? (See point #3).
After some people read your article at the Holiness Today FaceBook site, I was amazed at what some of them said, in spite of the caustic words you used to describe so many Nazarenes. I have attached a running dialogue of that Holiness Today Facebook Discussion. Here are some of their words:
“ Excellent, Kevin!”
“ It was such a well-thought out, even-handed look at the whole issue. If anything could bring about true and charitable conversation, it would be this.”
“ Thank you for this timely article.”
“ This article is a needed statement that has been long in coming. I commend the editors of Holiness Today for the courage to publish what they knew would be a controversial article. The way in which many in the church have had to suffer under unfounded attacks often based on second hand information or on ignorance has been heartbreaking. I know that on my own district one church was divided by these unfounded attacks and a young pastoral couple suffered greatly because of it.”
“ I agree with you, David, an article meant to reconcile and bring civility has brought out such animosity, anger and personal attacks.”
“ Best article I have ever read in H.T. Maybe there is hope!”
“ No longer only saddened, now I am outraged that good pastors are being subjected to attacks such as this. I don’t even have words to express my disgust. It’s not a defense of truth or correct doctrine, but an outright assault on those who do not kowtow to a narrow interpretation. Pastor Ulmet, HT, thank you for the article. I might otherwise have never known the vitriol many of our pastors and professors are facing. Pastor Brickley is correct in that we have a way to settle differences. This is not it.”
And finally, Rev. Ulmet. These are your words:
“We can handle these challenges in biblical ways. We can sit down and reason together.” (K. Ulmet)
You call this diatribe that you wrote a biblical way of handling these challenges? This is how you like to sit down and reason together? Have you actually taken up anyone on their offer to sit down and discuss these issues with you, in front of others, and let them decide for themselves? I know others have accepted your offer, so let me do the same. I would travel to a venue of your choice, let you select whomever you wish to help you, and bring the same number of people with me. Sure, let’s sit down and not necessarily just reason together, but compare our ideologies and let others decide which is biblical. Would you accept this challenge from someone who has no theology degree?
There have been quite a few “Likes” for your article on the HT FaceBook page. It was more than 100 the last time I looked. (There have been over 2,000 on the Holiness Today website). And yet, these folks who complimented you somehow looked past the vitriol that flowed from your pen, and complimented you on how kind and loving and wonderful your words were. They thought that this was a great example for others to see. Yet, they switched on the condemnation immediately upon any Nazarene who dares to say a word against the ungodly movement called the emergent church. Is this where our denomination is heading, that discernment is thrown out the window, and the ones who are insisting that we stand for biblical truth, and believe in the Bible, have become the enemy of the church?
It is no wonder that I truly believe that we are in the last days, and that satan has already started sending a great delusion into the minds of many Christians.
2. The Sol Alinsky-Like Tactics Of Diversion From The Facts
That being said, I want to also point out that this is no surprise to us. This is a tactic that my friend John Henderson spoke of in his response, which is the tactic of personalizing the issue against your opponent, much like Sol Alinsky promotes in his book Rules For Radicals. If you have no substantive argument against your opponent, just go after him personally, and divert the attention of your readers from the core issues, like the facts of the matter, and how they hold up to scripture. Rev. Ulmet, I believe you are guilty of that tactic, but it’s no surprise, because I have yet to see one person who promotes this emergent foolishness defend his positions and beliefs using Holy Scripture, which is the ONLY source of authority for our Christian faith. Our infallible authority is not the Church Manual, nor a professors’ theological musings; it’s nothing else but the word of God, and if the Church Manual goes against God’s word; we ought to correct it, not hold allegiance to it.
This diversionary tactic I have no doubt will fail, because the truth of God’s word will overcome the false attacks against those who love God and respect His word.
3. You Said That The Holy Spirit Prompted You To Write Your Words
You said in a posting to your congregation:
“This article was prompted by the Holy Spirit some months ago after observing for some time the tactics and approaches of a few who are critical of our denomination, our pastors and leaders, our Universities and other entities.”
And now compare this quote:
“After the truth was revealed to me by the Holy Spirit, and being prompted by the Holy Spirit to be in obedience to God’s word, I went out determined to refute the emergent church and its’ false teachers in our denomination, exposing their tactics and approaches to as many Nazarenes as I could, in order to keep many from being deceived.” (A concerned Nazarene)
Rev. Ulmet, the prompting of the Holy Spirit never leads a man to error, because the Holy Spirit always leads a trusting believer into truth, and will never contradict the Scriptures. If it does lead to error, then it is not the Holy Spirit. It is another spirit that leads a man to say two opposites in one breath: that the Bible is God’s inspired word, BUT that it is also only inerrant in “matters that pertain to salvation.”
The implication from your “Holy Spirit” statement is obvious: since the “Holy Spirit” guided you to write what you did, then everyone should accept that all those who do not agree with you are wrong. If that is the case, we ought to all repent of what we are doing, and join your “side.” But wait, how does one determine who is correct, when two people claim the Holy Spirit prompted them to opposite conclusions? One must compare what they claim with the word of God. I will leave it to informed readers to make up their minds as to which statement is Holy Spirit inspired.
4. Your Own Words Tell Us That You Do Not Trust All Of Scripture
Quotes: “To those who would deny full inspiration of all 66 books or dispute inerrancy “in all things necessary to our salvation” we must lovingly but firmly respond with our deep conviction of this Word being God’s Word!” and “We subscribe to God as Creator, the Bible as the fully-inspired and with regard to all things salvific the inerrant Word of God.”
I find it incredible that you start out with an affirmation of the inspiration of Scripture and that it should be defended firmly; but then you weaken that very affirmation by qualifying inerrancy as being only in regards to those things necessary to our salvation! First, I reject that revision of our official statement because it reveals your distrust in all of Holy Scripture. Secondly, who or what has given you or anyone else the authority to declare that Scripture is inerrant ONLY in matters of salvation? And thirdly, who or what is the arbiter of what is or is not necessary for salvation?
You also seem to have an unusually high esteem of the Church Manual, perhaps too high. You said: “our precious Articles of Faith”, and “”we must boldly declare our allegiance to Article IV of the Articles of Faith of the Church of the Nazarene.” Perhaps that is the problem today in our church. We are almost holding up the Church Manual as equal to Holy Scripture, and that surely we must hold allegiance to it, in spite of the fact that we fallible Nazarenes seem to change the meaning of that very Manual every four years! So our final allegiance should only be to one set of words, and that would be the Holy Bible, not the Church Manual.
5. Your High And Misguided View Of What Our Schools Should Teach Our Students
This I really had to address, because one of the major problems with our schools today, including our seminaries, is the reckless and careless teaching (all documented by the way) of unbiblical practices and ideas. These are not taught as things to avoid, but as good things, and this is destroying the solid foundations these schools once had. It is troubling what you said:
“But we must also remember that higher education requires exploration of many ideas and various traditions. Our professors must be supportive and encouraging of our theological and doctrinal positions, while also carefully leading students through a necessary and healthy process of critical evaluation, as well as personal growth and maturity.”
Unfortunately, the way you phrase this is not the way it is being done. You and many of your colleagues instead promote and encourage an “anything goes philosophy under the guise of “we are a liberal arts institution.” A Nazarene school should not be claiming to be a Nazarene school, if it does not reflect and teach its students the core values that the denomination says that it holds and teaches. Under this excuse, our schools have introduced our students to dangerous teachings by Tony Campolo, Tom Oord, Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, and many others. Instead of promoting the equipping of our students to combat and refute the false teachers, you promote the indoctrination of our students with these false teachings.
This pastor’s words reflect the same philosophy, which is what is coming out every year from our seminaries as they are being themselves indoctrinated with emergent (aka missional) ideology:
“A fine quality Christian Liberal Arts Education like the one you will find at Eastern Nazarene College, Northwest Nazarene University, Nazarene Theological Seminary… operate with an educational philosophy that equips the next generation of nurses, doctors, lawyers, ministers, business men and women, musicians etc. to engage our post-modern world as effective and exceptional young Christians. The fact of the matter is that neither the world nor the church of the Nazarene operates under this closed system of thought that you have chosen for yourself and continue to promote with your e-mails and blog. Some denominations and many bible colleges find it their purpose to operate within these strict confines and that is fine for them. I believe they have a valuable place in God’s Kingdom. But a liberal arts education and a missional church do not operate that that way”
That is exactly what is wrong today with many of our pastors and professors today, captivated by liberal post-modern thinking, in exchange for the simple truth of God’s word.
6. You Seem To Have An Aversion To “Test All Things, Prove That Which Is Right”
“Our ability to historically separate the biblical from the unbiblical-while at the same time loving the person and leaving the judgment to God…”
“Under the guise of protecting the church from ‘emergent ideas and concepts, whatever those are…”
“We can sit down and reason together.”
“Even when we disagree, we can do so agreeably without casting dispersion and eternal damnation on someone else.”
“discourage others from division…”
These are things that jumped out at me, so I ask you: as a pastor, do you not wish to preach the whole council of God? I think we all know that at some point in time any Bible believing pastor is going to confront error filled beliefs or false teaching. Are you saying that we should always just simply agree to disagree? If so, you have an incorrect understanding of the many passages in Scripture that command us to reprove, rebuke, to even shun and cast out of the church, those who would cause divisions by their false teaching. You see, the dividers are not those who are trying to keep God’s word pure. The real dividers are the very people Concerned Nazarenes are fighting to either correct and lead to repentance, or if not, to make them leave the church so as not to cause any further harm to God’s people!
Another concerned Nazarene read your article and here is what he said about a few of your thoughts:
“Apparently the author considers “emergents” mavericks that God has raised up to be used by God for His Glory and the advancement of His kingdom. Really? It is my opinion that none of the emergent leaders are in the class of those the author cited and I cannot believe the author includes the “emergent” leaders in his reference to “God’s servants” that are responsible for the “explosion of new and creative ideas” today.”
I assume also that is what you meant in your reference to mavericks, and if so, I believe that the “mavericks” of today do not come close to being called God’s servants. In fact, in most of these mavericks’ cases, you will find a real disdain for the Bible, and a pick and choose attitude as to what is relevant. They all ignore many parts, and particularly the passages that warn of false teachers, which is no surprise.
If you refuse to obey the Scriptural commands to expose and refute false teaching, you would be just as guilty as those who promote false teaching. The only question left is, are you simply in error, or are you purposely and knowingly promoting the false teachings of the emergent church? And so, your plea for Christians to stop using words such as “heretic” and “unorthodox” and “emergent” and “threat” should be ignored by Bible believers in exposing the dangers to the church. We will not accede to this request to keep silent, for we will be as guilty as the watchman on the wall who fails to blow his trumpet at the sign of danger.
You were so correct when you said “our Wesleyan-Arminian and Holiness Movement history that have guided us well for over a century are under attack. Not from those outside our Christian faith, but from those inside.” How right you were, but little did you know that this “inside attack” is coming from folks who are redefining John Wesley in ways that fit their emergent ideas. This attack comes from those of you who reject true holiness and invent one that is based on social good deeds. This attack is from those who reject the Bible as fully God’s word, instead qualifying it as “containing” God’s word.
My prayer is that those who are reading this will have a better understanding of what we are fighting. I am fighting your ideas, not you personally. However, since you are promoting these ideas, I have a responsibility to respond when these ideas run contrary to Scripture. If you truly want to help out in these situations, then I suggest that the next time you write something, please use specific quotes and specific documented information if you are going to accuse a bunch of Bible believing Christians of such things that you have. It is only fair, because what we strive to do is document everything, state what the person is saying or teaching- and make our opinion known based on the Bible only.
I conclude with these quotes of Dave Hunt, which reflect solid biblical doctrine and teaching:
“The Bible allows for no compromise, no discussion, no dialogue with the world’s religions (emergent) in search for common ground. Remember, Christianity is not a religion but distinct from all of them.
Jesus didn’t say, “Go into all the world and dialogue about faith. He said, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel.
A reasonable and genuine faith must take very seriously what Jesus said – not what somebody says about what Jesus said, but His very words as recorded in the Bible.”
(Dave Hunt, The Berean Call)