For years now I’ve watched from the sidelines as some church groups have fought the so called “Battle for the Bible.” I say I’ve watched from the sidelines because I’m a part of the Church of the Nazarene and Nazarenes, from the beginning, refuse to enter into the fray. Our founders arrived at the wise stance that the Holy Scriptures are inspired and inerrantly reveal “the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation.” By making this one of our Articles of Faith it removed us from the endless debates about whether thus and so “really happened.”
Still, I can’t claim that we aren’t impacted by the issue. Some of our folks get their theology as much from Christian radio and TV as they do from their local church. Since we do “believe the Bible” arguments framed as “do you or don’t you?” cause us to unknowingly drift into the raging waters of this debate.
We Nazarenes have a Wesleyan view of Scripture. That means, as our forefathers stated, we believe the Bible has been given to us for the purpose of revealing God’s will concerning our salvation. Some folks read the story of Jonah and the big fish and think they have to prove Jonah really was swallowed by such a fish or the whole Bible is placed in doubt. A Nazarene reads it and asks, “What does this tell us about God and his redeeming grace?” The big fish may or may not have existed (personally, I’m on the “did exist” side), we’re free to believe however we conclude. It’s what this story tells us about God and salvation that matters. That, for us, is the inerrant part.
For some folks “believing the Bible” is about proving whatever they think the Bible is saying is factual. To them, it’s a science-history-math-theology book. For Wesleyans, it’s a book about God and man and salvation. We believe everything it says is about that is hard fact, inerrantly pointing us to God and his redemptive purposes for us.
I said in my previous entry that I’d probably have more to say about Nazarene General Assembly in Orlando. Know what? I don’t. I find that, in itself, rather interesting. In the weeks leading up to the event I found myself thinking more and more about what might happen. Someone posted all the resolutions to their blog and I read every one of them and decided whether I was for or against them. While I was actually in Orlando I enjoyed all the fellowship and the good worship services. I also chatted with folks about what might happen once the delegates actually went to work. I found the election of the three new GS’s quite interesting and when I got home I told my friends about it.
Then real life reappeared. We immediately had a wedding to attend and then Vacation Bible School began. Now, we’re looking forward to vacation time. The responsibilities and joys of everyday life have taken over and GA seems less important than before.
Maybe, after 2013 and the Internationalization movement is acted upon I’ll feel different about it all, but for now, I’m reminded that the “big” deal is what happens out here in ordinary life. The Church that matters is the one I’m part of. Ultimately, the decisions our family will make about our own concerns, rather than the results of voting at General Assembly, are the ones that will matter the most to me.
I love Nazarene General Assembly. In fact, I haven’t missed one in over 30 years. But know what? It isn’t all that big a deal when “real life” is factored in.
Now that our journey is over and 2009 Nazarene General Assembly is history I’m in a reflective mood about it all. I went to GA to work as an exhibitor at the NazNet booth. To me, that’s the very best way to go to a Nazarene General Assembly. Wearing the “exhibitor” tag has a few minor perks, and having a booth gives one a place to call “home” at the Assembly. When you stay in one place you end up seeing about everybody sooner or later. I enjoyed connecting with the NazNet regulars on a more personal level and I enjoyed seeing friends from years gone by. Sad to say, I didn’t see as many of those dear friends as I’ve seen in the past. I imagine it was because the location change brought in a different group than good old Indy!
I haven’t said much about the business of the Assembly. Frankly, a person could spend a lot of time at General Assembly and know less of what was really going on then someone sitting home watching it all on their computer. Now, though, I’ve had some time to digest at least the highlights.
I think the election of Eugenio Duarte of Africa as a Nazarene General Superintendent is huge. For years we’ve claimed to be an international denomination that just happened to have as it’s highest officers six North American white guys. Four years ago we allowed a woman into the club (although she has now retired) and this year we looked to Africa for leadership. It’s a big deal and a giant step toward true internalization. Some immediately started complaining that we didn’t elect others from other places around the world. I have the idea that Duarte may be the first, but he won’t be the last. Beyond that, I think David Graves and Stan Toler will be terrific GS’s who will be loved by Nazarenes worldwide.
The other major result isn’t really a result at all. Four years ago an International Church Commission was formed. They brought to the Assembly recommendations for sweeping changes in the structure of the denomination. The Assembly voted to accept their recommendations and send them on to a new Commission to work on implementation of those recommendations. So, in four more years we’ll have the big one — with new approaches that will change the church forever. I know it’s rather frustrating to see a ball start rolling in 2005, then in 2009 like what we see, and then wait till 2013 to see if the denomination will be willing to take the plunge. Still, when you have a 100 year old denomination you can’t go around just messing with stuff to see what happens. Hopefully, the 12 year process will be worth the wait.
Stay tuned, I’ll likely have more observations in the days to come.