Monday, July 1, 2013

@NazPublishing's "The New Familiar" and the End of the Concerned Nazarenes' Argument

A lot has happened since my last blog post and it has all been welling up inside me, just dying to find its way onto your computer screen. First, "The New Familiar."

Nazarene Publishing House had a creative, dynamic, and inviting idea for its booth at General Assembly - the New Familiar Stage. Throughout the first few days of conventions and workshops, they invited several authors, professors, pastors, and leaders to initiate round table discussions in the middle of their exhibit hall booth area. They were all recorded and I cannot wait to get my hands on the ones that I missed. I had the privilege of being a part of two different conversations (and wow, was it fun!)
The first discussion group that I was a part of was hosted by Dr. Jeren Rowell, District Superintendent of the Kansas City District Church of the Nazarene. Jeren is working on a new book on Wesleyan pastoral theology and disciplines. I have been one of his readers through the writing phase, and I loved having the opportunity to engage in conversations on the topic. We talked about the primary roles of the pastor, the conflicting models of pastoral ministry, and some of the barriers that stand in the way of young people being engaged in pastoral ministry. I did my best to give all those bivocational pastors out there a voice in the conversation.

Bruce Peterson (MVNU Professor), Steve Estep (Clarksville Grace Church of the Nazarene), and Dustin and Olivia Metcalf (Mountain Home Church of the Nazarene) were the other members of this panel.

Jeren's panel helped me feel more comfortable leading my own panel on Conversations on Holiness. I was joined by D. Brower Latz, Principal of Nazarene Theological College Manchester, Libby P. Tedder Hugus, a Nazarene Pastor from the Casper, WY area, and Brent Peterson, Associate Professor of Theology from NNU.

The goal of our few minutes together was to provide a real-life example of a conversation on holiness. Our book (Libby and D are two contributors) isn't just a definition or explanation on the doctrine of holiness, but an invitation to engage in continual conversations on the topic.

Some were more eager to talk about holiness after the discussion than others. One man, in particular, wanted to make sure that I knew that our entire conversation was not helpful to him at all. He disagreed with everything that we said. So, as you would imagine, he went and bought the book! Unfortunately he was more interested in telling me what he thought than really engaging in a conversation with me.

After finishing that one-sided conversation, I heard a story about a woman pastor who was once surrounded by a group of men yelling at her about holiness and how she had the doctrine all wrong.

I think it's time we learn to talk about holiness is better ways! It seems like folks are interested in engaging in these discussions; NPH sold out of Conversations on Holiness before lunch time on Saturday! Of course, my mom probably bought most of the copies.

If you are reading it, or already finished, I would love to hear what you think. If you write a review, send me a link. If you're going to use it in your local context let me know! Feel free to mention me on twitter ( @keithmdavenport ) or use #ConversationsOnHoliness. If you write a review, I'll even post it on my blog (even if you don't like the book!)

Now, onto another topic, the end of the Concerned Nazarene debate. My most popular blog post in the history of this blog has been My Verdict on Concerned Nazarenes. It has more than two times the number of views as the second most popular post on my blog - A Review of Manny Silva's blog.

To be sure, my understanding of the authority of Scripture has been shaped and molded over these past two years. I am especially indebted to Al Truesdale and Company's Square Peg: Why Wesleyans Aren't Fundamentalists. However, I think the debate on Scripture in the Church of the Nazarene is officially over.

At General Assembly 2009, the assembly referred to the Board of General Superintendents a small handful of resolutions connected to the Articles of Faith on Scripture and the Atonement. The BGS then commissioned the Scripture Study Committee, a representative group of theologians and pastors from the global church. This group presented their findings to General Assembly 2013, which were received with applause and gratitude.

The Report of the Scripture Study Committee articulately establishes the Church of the Nazarene's official understanding of inerrancy. The Church of the Nazarene has now officially rejected the belief that the Bible is "inerrant throughout, and the supreme authority on everything the Scriptures teach" and has affirmed the stance that it inerrantly reveals God's will in all things necessary to salvation. From the report:

"Such is the strength of Article IV therefore, that as a committee we believe that when it is fully understood, it is a good and sufficient guard against any theology that departs from Holy Scripture. Its strength and clarity needs to be understood and appreciated by all who preach in Nazarene pulpits and teach in Nazarene colleges/universities. The committee therefore believes that it is not only unnecessary, but that it would be untrue to the Wesleyan tradition, incompatible with Wesleyan theology, and unwarranted by the Scriptures themselves, to add any assertion that the Scriptures are ‘inerrant throughout’ not only in revealing the will of God for our salvation, but in determining the truth of any statement whatsoever. That would be to turn the Bible from the saving word of God into an almanac or encyclopedia. To say that the Scriptures are ‘the supreme authority on everything the Scriptures teach’ merely raises the question of what exactly the Scriptures teach, and there are numerous unsettled disputes among Christians (and even among Nazarenes) about that. To assert the complete detailed factual literal accuracy of every part of Scripture (‘inerrant throughout’) raises more problems than it solves and diverts people into unnecessary, distracting and futile disputes."

You should read the whole report! It is great!

This report, referred by the General Assembly 2009, commissioned by the Board of General Superintendents, developed by a committee of experts, and received by the General Assembly 2013, firmly closes the case on those who have been perpetuating a detailed inerrancy (Fundamentalist) approach to Scripture.

Continuing to argue that the Church of the Nazarene maintains a stance on Scripture sympathetic with the Reformed tradition would be illogical and counterproductive. The highest legislative and ecclesiastical bodies have accepted the report of the Scripture Study Committee.

Should we still be wary of what theologies and voices we allow to speak into the Church of the Nazarene? Definitely.

Should we stop reflecting theologically on the culture of our date and the competing ideologies of our time? Absolutely not.

However, this theological reflection must take its stand on this official understanding of Scripture, in the catholic spirit of Wesleyanism. We should not be militant against those who have differing views from us simply for the fact that the views are different. Instead, we must test everything and hold onto the good. And get rid of the rest!

The open letters and biased slandering of pastors and leaders based on a Fundamentalist approach to Scripture must stop. 

At this point those who have been so divisive over this issue must conclude one of two things: Either the Church of the Nazarene's Wesleyan approach to Scripture never was the detailed inerrancy those with this view asserted and they should apologize and move on or, the fact that the General Assembly accepted this report shows that the Church of the Nazarene is "so far gone" that there is no point in trying to "bring it back" to the detailed inerrancy approach and those who have been militantly suggesting otherwise should move onto a different theological tradition and denomination.

There are things that the Fundamentalist tradition brings to the theological table of the Global Church.  We should continue to be engaged in grace-filled conversations. However, if we cannot be open to learn from the other, we need to stop talking.


  1. This view on scripture is why I surrendered my ministry credentials in the Nazarene church and have joined the Wesleyan Church.

  2. Well...I am a Nazarene Pastor who does believe in biblical inerrancy and is not part of the Concerned Nazarenes, although I do read their stuff so as to be informed about the debates in my denomination. First of all, inerrancy is one of the 5 platforms of fundamentalism, but inerrancy does not, in and of itself, equate to fundamentalism. Second, I have read the CON's paper this yr on the inerrancy issue, and like this blog and other such discussions, no one will go on the record and say where exactly the bible is "errant". Until you do, I would say the CON has pretty much lost this debate. I cannot imagine standing before my congregation and telling them that an all powerful, all knowing God could not produce His revelation to man without error. Can the bible be right about things we cannot test (the trinity, salvation by faith, God's holiness) but be errant about things that can be tested, like dates, history, and general facts? Please explain where you think the bible is "errant"....

  3. I recommend you read the report that I posted in this blog. There's no point in debating the beliefs of the Church of the Nazarene on Scripture before you read that report. The word "inerrant" is still a part of our article of faith.


What do you think?