Being Nazarene and Nazarene Theology

I love the Church of the Nazarene. When I was 10 years old we moved to Stone Mountain, Georgia and began looking for a church. We didn’t know anything about Nazarenes, but Atlanta First Church was a group of lively, loving, friendly people and they had  great children and youth programs. We stayed.

Nazarenes led me to repentance and faith in Jesus. Nazarenes discipled me. Nazarenes taught me about selling out completely to God and the transformative power of the Holy Spirit in my life. Nazarenes affirmed my call to ministry. Nazarenes educated me in college and graduate school. Nazarenes provided me avenues of service, opportunities to be in ministry. Nazarenes ordained me.

I love the Church of the Nazarene. I owe her more than I can express. If you cut me, I bleed Nazarene. I love what Nazarenes are doing for the good of the peoples of the world. I love being with Nazarenes around the world. I love the place we inhabit on the theological spectrum and the wideness of our Wesleyan understanding of Christian theology and spirituality.  All true.

Also true is that I clearly understand myself to theologically inhabit a particular stream within the Church of the Nazarene. As I see it, there are predominantly two major streams of Christian tradition within the Church of the Nazarene. One stream is the American Holiness movement. It was a very mixed bag theologically. It affirmed some ideas I would not affirm. Maybe in some future post I will list some of them. It also sometimes had an anti-intellectual bent. The other stream was the Wesleyan Anglicanism inherited from John Wesley through the Methodist movement. I surely reside amidst this theological worldview. At times, there are differences of perspective between these two streams. Whenever these two streams diverge, I consistently find myself affirming the stances of the Wesleyan perspective rather than the Holiness Movement.

Wesley’s views were orthodox, familiar with the wide scope of Christian thought down through 18 centuries, well read and broad. He welcomed dialogue and friendship with other Christians even if they did not see eye to eye theologically. He still considered those he disagreed with to be genuine Christians. In fact, surprising considering the England of his day, Wesley affirmed his brotherhood with the Roman Catholics and urged them to work together with him for God’s Kingdom.  I love John Wesley’s spirit and his theology. He deserves the moniker “first rate” in many ways.

Also true is that being “in harmony with the doctrines… of the Church of the Nazarene” (Manual 39), has never meant, judging from the history of Nazarene General Assemblies, that an ordained elder was saying  he or she thought the Articles of Faith, as they currently stood, could never be improved upon. Thus, if I write about issues in our theology that I believe ought to change, including wordings in our Articles of Faith, I certainly do not mean I do not love the Church of the Nazarene or our theology. I love it all the more.

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