Emergent Church statement from Nazarene church

The Board of General Superintendents of the Church of the Nazarene recently released this statement below regarding the “Emergent Church”.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this statement, especially for those of you who have engaged in reading the “White Paper” that myself and several others released regarding this issue.  I have some thoughts I’ll bring to bear in a few days, in the meantime…

What do you think? Does this change anything?  Does it make “room at the table”?  Does it lead us into further dialogue?

Here’s the Statement and you can click here to see its original internet posting:

The emergent church – From the General Superintendents

We appreciate your concerns regarding the conversations surrounding “the emergent church.” The issues related to this topic are many. Some are helpful and positive; others are problematic and deeply troubling.

“The emergent church” is really somewhat of a misnomer. While there are many attributions which imply that there is a single focus or movement called “the emergent church,” in reality, the conversations range all over the map. Some people believe that there is a monolithic kind of conspiratorial entity that is seeking to undermine the church with heresy and immoral license.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are people who view the whole concept of an emerging church as a positive and hopeful expression of the church seeking to genuinely come to terms with ministry in a complex and rapidly-changing culture, while seeking to make Biblical truth relevant. These people depend heavily on the authority of the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit to radically change lives, communities, and nations. They are often radically engaged with the brokenness in society through active, compassionate ministries that work hard to bring renewal and conversion.

Nazarene Theological Seminary (NTS) and some of our universities are engaged in the conversation in order to help correct some of the aberrations that are associated with some of the “emergent” churches.

There are widely-read authors who readily identify themselves as “emergent church leaders.” While some of them are orthodox in their theology and views of Scripture, others embrace positions which we would view as far away from what is orthodox and acceptable. Yet even those authors and pastors who are not orthodox in their views of Scripture and its authority have an awareness of the need to make the church more engaged in society so as to bring about a radical change and improvement.

We do not endorse those “emergent churches” or leaders who are not orthodox in their theology. The involvement of many of our young pastors and students in the conversation is an attempt to embrace the positive dimensions while clearly articulating an orthodox interpretation of Scripture and theology.

By most definitions of what is genuinely meant by “emergent,” John Wesley more than fits the description. He was radically engaged in the social needs around him while clearly calling men and women to a radical commitment to Christ and to the fullness of the Spirit in cleansing and heart purity. That is the objective toward which Nazarenes, engaged in the conversations regarding the emergent church, are committed. It is a vital conversation, but one that also carries with it the risk of being misunderstood or being classified with positions which are not healthy or appropriate.

We hope these thoughts are helpful to you. The issues are complex, and the rhetoric is sometimes shrill and angry. We are hopeful that we can be patient with what is a phase in a conversation that is already beginning to wind down in some areas even while it is just now being engaged in by others. Hopefully, we can move beyond the mischaracterizations and embrace what is legitimate while we readily and without hesitation reject the aberrations.

We pray for you as you work with your people through this issue. We are not at all embracing anything heretical, but we want to engage in conversations with our young Nazarenes who want a vibrant church that is committed to our theology and actively engaged in ministry to the lost and broken people around us.

Jesse C. Middendorf
General Superintendent
Church of the Nazarene

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6 Responses to Emergent Church statement from Nazarene church

  1. Josh says:

    Is this in response to the Concerned Nazarenes or to the White Paper?

    I think this may further the conversation, because it spins out a few more questions. What are the aberrations? What does the emergent conversation really have to add to the Nazarene movement? Are all young Nazarenes in this conversation? Are all people involved in this conversation “young Nazarenes”?

  2. Mike Tisdale says:

    I have to speak on this based on someone that does not have a clear understanding of the “emergent Church” but of the poltical aspect of this letter.

    “It is a vital conversation, but one that also carries with it the risk of being misunderstood or being classified with positions which are not healthy or appropriate.” Isn’t this line talking out of both sides of their mouth? It’s a vital conversation (important) but might not be healthy or appropriate….huh???

    “We do not endorse those “emergent churches” or leaders who are not orthodox in their theology.” Nice job, Church of the Nazarene, way to open your eyes to a different viewpoint. I doubt highly Jesus would be considered orthodox but we still follow his teachings.

    In my opinion, this falls under the “good talk Russ, now shut up” portion of the Nazarene leadership. The leadership will submit a letter to address it but not truly approaching it with an open heart and open mind. It almost gives me sense of the military’s stance on gays with the “don’t ask, don’t tell policy.”

    Keep fighting Brian, you are not changing religion but trying to enhance it…bravo to you and your colleagues.

  3. Keith Raney says:

    I don’t see this as talking out of both sides of their mouth at all. They said it is an important conversation to be had, but like many important conversations should be approached wisely and not in haste as there is the risk of misunderstanding. Anytime an energized topic is discussed there is the risk of misunderstanding. We come in with our passions leading rather than our wisdom. This naturally can lead to misunderstandings in the conversation.

    On the idea of Jesus being orthodox, I believe the Nazarene Church would certainly consider Jesus as Orthodox becasue they would consider Him as the basis of orthodoxy. You see, orthodox means something that complies to a standard and the Nazarene church views Jesus as the standard. Therefore He certainly would be orthodox as He is the standard by which orthodox would be measured.

    • ragingbhull says:

      Thanks for the in put Keith. Indeed orthodoxy means “right belief”. What I would argue is that the one certain right thing to believe in is Jesus! We must be careful not to try to control who Jesus is, that is to pretend that we have it all figured out and “known”. But what we will continue to do is commit to following this way of Jesus in the best possible way as we understand and know it. We believe God continues to reveal himself to us and in so doing we know more of Christ and more of this way and so we are changed by that revelation, and sometimes that means changing what we believe or how we believe… but never away from the central character of Jesus himself!

      In short: God is still working on us, changing us, revealing himself and we are glad to be a part of a tradition which acknowledges this!

  4. Naomi Gilroy says:

    My husband and I are certainly in a quandry and have some serious decisions to be thinking about. We believe that the issues within the Emergent Movement are far deeper and more serious than it would appear on the surface. We cannot condone contemplative meditation, lack of accepting the scriptures as the truth of God, and other elements within the Emergent Church. I love the Church of the Nazarene, but my first loyalty is to God and His truth.

  5. ragingbhull says:

    I appreciate your willingness to express these concerns here Naomi. Assuming you’ve read the paper, are there places within the paper that are examples of the kinds of things that you are talking about?

    I’m not exactly sure what you mean by “contemplative meditation”, but I certainly feel that we value Scripture as God’s truth and attempt to honor that within the paper.

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