Wednesday, October 23, 2013

History, Theology, and the Church.

I (Aaron) have been reading a lot about the history of the Church of the Nazarene lately, as well as its distinguishing doctrine of Christian holiness and sanctification…mostly -but not entirely- for an ordination class I’ve been taking.

One of the texts I was assigned was Mark R. Quanstrom’s A Century of Holiness Theology: The Doctrine of Entire Sanctification in theChurch of the Nazarene, 1905 to 2004.

The following are some of the more surprising (and inspiring) passages I read along the way: 

“[Vincent Synan] has rightly characterized the [19th-century American] Holiness Movement as a ‘kind of “evangelical transcendentalism” that thrived in the idealism of a young and growing America.’ ” –Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Movement in the United States [Century of Holiness Theology, 17] 

“Martin Marty…characterized the interwar years (1919-1941) as yeas of conflict. He wrote: ‘Instead of harmony and simplicity, conflict ruled…Not since the Civil War had America been more torn. In matters specifically religious, the nation had never seemed more divided than it was in those interwar years…original-stock Protestants vs. everyone else; “100 percent Americans” vs. Communists and Slavs in the Red Scare; old-stock Anglo Saxons vs. Catholic or Jewish or Asian immigrants; the Ku Klux Klan vs. the same, plus liberals and blacks; white Christians vs. black Christians…Protestant Fundamentalists vs. Modernists…Protestant liberals vs. Protestant realists…and more.’ “ –Marty, The Noise of the Conflict [Century of Holiness Theology, 53] 

“The doctrine of sanctification must not be so interpreted as to be made a doctrine of despair to all Christians who have not consciously attained to such an experience, particularly in the definite manner of the second-blessing theory.” –John Miley, Systematic Theology [Century of Holiness Theology, 60] 

“Free agency was fundamental for Miley because that was the only way persons could be morally accountable. ‘If God is a moral ruler over responsible subjects, they must be morally free’…the paying field was always level when it came to choosing good over evil.” -Miley, Systematic Theology [Century of Holiness Theology, 63] 

“According to [Nazarene theologian Mildred Bangs] Wynkoop, the reason it was difficult to believe the doctrine of entire sanctification was because the American-Holiness Movement had uncritically adopted a fundamentally wrong ontology, an ontology which could not be faithful to the theology of John Wesley…

“Rather, the emphasis was more on the purity of a person’s consecration which would lead to unhindered communion with God. When one willed Christ without reservation or duplicity, one could be considered entirely sanctified by virtue of the purity of the subsequent relationship with God.” [Century of Holiness Theology, 143, 146]

Interesting, illuminating, exciting, and fascinating stuff for me…as both an historian and theologian-in-training. Love it!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Do Not Fear...

I (Aaron) was flipping through A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God yesterday and came across as passage that's been a real encouragement at different points over the past few years...both for us, and for several couples who are friends of ours in ministry in the States, Poland the UK.

"But now thus says the Lord,
    he who created you, O Jacob,
    he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.

For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior."

-Isaiah 43:1-3a (NRSV)

The moral of the story:
God is good, God is able, and God can be trusted! :)

Jesus, John Wesley, and the Poor.

"One of the few things John Wesley feared was the accumulation of wealth.

"As a biblical scholar and practical theologian he was convinced that to follow Jesus Christ meant involvement with, and ministry among and to, the poor.

"This conviction led him to live on a modest income even when his writing was producing significant return. His solution was to give away all but the money he needed to buy the essentials...

"Not only did Wesley beg on behalf of the poor, he preached to them and found ways to be with them. His journal is filled with entries that describe his experiences of visiting the poor, the prisoner, the sorrowing, and the suffering.

"The false stereotypes of the day were shattered as he came to work with and to know the poor and needy of the world. Had he ignored God's urging to ministry with the poor he would have missed a large segment of the population that turned toward Christ through the Methodist movement.

"He would have also missed living and witnessing to a balanced faith that emphasized love for God and love for neighbor in very simple and practical ways." -Reuben P. Job, A Wesleyan Spiritual Reader

Something more.

"Following the way of forgiveness prepares us to go one step further. Something more is asked of us by Jesus: 'Go and learn the meaning of the words, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.' (Matt. 9:13)

"This 'something more' is compassion. Once we grasp the depth of God's merciful love for us, he wants us to express that same compassion for others. This is the balm that softens the scars of sinfulness and suffering. As we show mercy to others, so they will extend the blessing to us in turn." -Susan Muto and Adrian Van Kaam, Divine Guidance

The Tyranny of "To-Do."

Full disclosure: I (Aaron) love to-do lists.

I mean, I LOVE to-do lists. Not having things to do, necessarily, but being able to order and (hopefully) prioritize the things I have to do in a way that incentivizes and reminds me to actually accomplish them all.

I have at times -only half-jokingly- audibly debated having "to-do" tattooed on the top of my left hand so I can at least keep my near-perpetual list there neat and tidy.

It is with that stubborn, near-OCD perfectionism in mind, then, that I offer the following prayer from Patricia F. Wilson's Quiet Spaces:

"Dear Jesus, during this day help me quiet all the thoughts that fill my head-where I must go, whom I must see, and what I must do. In their place, give me a sense of your order, your peace, and your time.

"Help me to understand that you are in control, and I can trust you with my day. Help me to realize that nothing on my to-do list is important if it is not what you want me to do.

"I give all my tasks to you and trust you to bring order to them. In these moments, dear Jesus, come to me, be with me, and free me from the tyranny of "to do."


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

This is Ashton.

As coffeehouse ministry experts assigned to the Church of the Nazarene in the UK, we currently live and minister (mostly) in a much-maligned suburb of Manchester, England called Ashton-under-Lyne.

Ashton has a fascinating, uneven social history. The town was at the absolute epicenter of the Industrial Revolution in the United Kingdom. But industrial privitization and the economic recessions of the 1980s hit blue-collar towns like Ashton especially hard, and our church's makeup and neighborhood in many ways reflect that.

But we LOVE Ashton. We love its sometimes-crumbling old buildings. We love its warm, plainspoken people. And we especially love our church, the Ashton Church of the Nazarene, which in recent years has redoubled its efforts to minister to members of our community with economic, social, and mental health needs.

You can imagine our pride, then, when I (Aaron) was reading for my Nazarene History & Polity ordination class this week and came across this passage in Our Watchword & Song: The Centennial History of the Church of the Nazarene:

 "Among the congregations that came into the Church of the Nazarene with the Calvary Holiness Church merger was one in Ashton-Under-Lyne, which had been established in 1874 -making it, probably, the oldest congregation in the denomination with a continuous history.

"The Old Cross Mission, as it had been known, was in the Manchester area. A succession of Holiness evangelists, including Thomas Cook, Amanda Smith, Reader Harris, C. J. Fowler, A. M. Hills, George Sharpe, and David Thomas all preached at the mission...After affiliating with the Emmanuel Bible College and adopting its doctrinal statement, the congregation in 1939 joined the Calvary Holiness Church. When, then, the Calvary Holiness Church joined the Church of the Nazarene in 1955, so did the Old Cross Mission."

This is Ashton. :)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Widows & Orphans

I (Aaron) have been doing a lot of reading lately for my "Nazarene History and Polity" class for ordination. This morning I was been reading about the denomination's early (and persistent) emphasis on compassionate ministry to widows, orphans, and the homeless when I came across this gem:

"Santos Elizondo maintained a church and orphanage on the Mexican side of the border near El Paso. The Mexican government was ready to close the orphanage.

The Mexican law said that 'no man shall have an orphanage in connection with the church.'

But, as Santos Elizondo was a woman, and not a man, the government allowed her to continue operating it!

On the Texas side of the border she ministered to Mexicans, most of them widows and children, waiting for deportation back to Mexico. 

The Church of the Nazarene, under her ministry, became known as the church the cared for widows and orphans." 

That's beautiful.

Floyd Cunningham, ed. Watchword & Song: The Centennial History of the Church of the Nazarene