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
Church of the Nazarene