General Assembly is the quadrennial gathering of the global family that is the Church of the Nazarene. Every four years delegates from all over the world come together to celebrate what God has done, discern how the Holy Spirit is leading, and make decisions about how to faithfully advance the mission of Making Christlike Disciples in the Nations in the years ahead.
The Church of the Nazarene has always been theologically and biblically conservative, yet progressive in practice. In other words, we believe the Bible is true and we take the message of holiness seriously. Nonetheless, we’re willing to stop at nothing to reach people with the life-transforming message of the Gospel.
From the beginning, the distinctive doctrine of the Nazarene movement has been “entire sanctification,” which teaches that after one becomes a Christian there’s a deeper work to be experienced. When a person is filled with the Holy Spirit (entirely sanctified) his or her devotion to Jesus becomes the essence of life. Entire sanctification is the doctrine of “love made perfect,” lived out as the Holy Spirit empowers us to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
At General Assembly, we make decisions about resolutions that have been submitted by districts and committees from around the world. These resolutions affect the theology, polity, social positions, and overall governance of the church and are incorporated into the Manual (book of discipline) if passed by the global delegation. I am thankful for the growing delegation from the Africa, South America, and Mesoamerica Regions, as I believe they will keep us on track theologically.
After reading the resolutions for the 2017 General Assembly, I decided to elaborate on a few that are categorized in the “Christian Action” grouping. This category informs our identity more than any other as it pertains to who we are theologically and where we stand biblically.
While administrative matters need to change as we discover better ways to faithfully steward the organizational structures of the church, theological distinctiveness should only be strengthened, never diluted. In a world of pluralism, relativism, moral decline, and social injustice, if our theological distinctiveness is not reinforced the church’s influence in the world will diminish.
CA-700: Affirmation and Declaration of Human Freedoms – The United Kingdom British Isles South District submitted this resolution. It calls for us to “confess our complicity” as it pertains to the enslavement of human beings. That statement alone makes this resolution a bad idea. With that kind of wording, this could become a legal issue in some world areas. It reads as an admission to a crime against humanity. This resolution is not necessary because our involvement in “setting captives free” is a given by nature of the holiness message (Isaiah 61:1, Luke 4:18).
CA-701: Human Sexuality – Resolution 701 was created and submitted by the Board of General Superintendents. It is the best choice of the three submissions on “Human Sexuality.” There is unquestionably a minority looking for loopholes as it pertains to same-sex marriage. While we need to be gracious in our response, we must also remain committed to biblical orthodoxy concerning sexuality. The Board of General Superintendents engages this topic with a deep sense of compassion, yet they also remain clearly grounded in Holy Scripture and Wesleyan-Arminian theology. This resolution lovingly speaks to the various nuances related to the doctrine of human sexuality.
CA-701a/701b: Human Sexuality – The Netherlands, New England, and Kansas City Districts submitted these two resolutions. They remove any language pertaining to homosexual behavior. Without such language being supplemented elsewhere, these resolutions weaken the biblical doctrine of sexual purity and potentially opens the door to homosexual behavior becoming acceptable. It’s impossible to remain biblically responsible, yet remove language pertaining to homosexuality from our doctrinal statements.
CA-708: The Christian Life – The Mid-Atlantic and Northwestern Ohio Districts, and the General Assembly Resolutions and Reference Committees collectively submitted this resolution. The new wording offers a much-needed global perspective. Without it, this entire section of the Manual is established on paradigms employed primarily in western culture, especially the U.S., and is not reflective of the fact that we are an international church. This resolution is a great addition to our Manual.
CA-709: The Use of Social Media – While I appreciate the efforts of the Mid-Atlantic District and the Reference Committee, to say that all social media activities should be affirming and uplifting to all people is biblically inaccurate (Jer. 1:10). There would be large portions of the Bible that couldn’t be quoted on social media if our activities must continually be uplifting to all people. This would also deny anyone the ability to speak prophetically about the difficult issues facing the church. Beyond that, who decides what qualifies as “respectful” when it comes to social media interaction? Various personalities speak, write, and communicate differently. Interpreting online interaction becomes an impossible task if we attempt to judge one person’s written expressions based on what another person considers respectful and/or offensive. Being gracious and forgiving to one another on social media should be a given.
CA-710: The Use of Intoxicants – The Nebraska and Mid-Atlantic Districts, and the Reference Committee submitted this resolution. While we could certainly work on the wording of this Manual paragraph, this particular submission weakens our position on the use of alcohol to the point that we might as well remove it altogether. I struggle with the missional implications as it pertains to something as addictive as alcohol consumption. We certainly realize the devastating effects it’s had on the poor and marginalized. We should consider rewording these paragraphs our Manual. However, I’m not comfortable with this resolution as it’s presented.
CA-714: Sanctity of Human Life – The Mid-Atlantic District submitted this resolution. I struggled more with this submission than any other. The suggested change weakens our current stance and actually devalues human life beyond what we presently affirm. It’s a slippery slope that we should avoid at all costs. When we arrive at the place in our theology where we view the sanctity of human life as a “political” issue we fail the most innocent human beings among us: those still in the womb. If anything, we should make a stronger statement on the sanctity of human life, especially as it relates to abortion.
CA-717: Covenant of Christian Character – The Netherlands District submitted this resolution. The Covenants of Christian Character and Conduct are designed to give additional direction to members of the Church of the Nazarene concerning what is beneficial to the Christian life. They are not exhaustive, but they are helpful. They serve to strengthen believers in the pursuit of holiness. Eliminating these details deprive us of our distinctiveness. When we lose the things that make us unique we ultimately ignore the distinctive call of God on our movement, and in turn become generic and ineffective.
CA-718: The Christian Life – The New England District submitted this resolution. Rewording this Manual paragraph to include the Great Commandment and the Sermon on the Mount would be extremely helpful. However, removing the reference to the Ten Commandments when Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law…” (Matt. 5:17), only weakens the statement. I agree that focusing exclusively on the Ten Commandments centers primarily on rules and lends itself to legalism. The teachings of Christ should be highlighted in this paragraph. Rewording this resolution slightly would strengthen our theological position.
CA-721: Christian Marriage – The Southwest Indiana District submitted this resolution. This amendment strengthens our theological and legal position on marriage. As society continues to change at a rapid pace there will be more and more groups attempting to redefine marriage in light of cultural shifts based primarily on human reasoning. One recommendation: if we are going to change the word “biblical” to “Christian” in the last sentence, we should also change it in the second-to-last sentence.
CA-724: Gender Identity – The Board of General Superintendents submitted this resolution. In a day and age where gender identity is surrounded by controversy, we desperately need a statement that provides direction on an issue that is predominantly driven by culture and politics. This resolution is rooted in biblical doctrine and Christian tradition and affirms that gender identity reflects God’s divine plan for humanity.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the resolutions submitted to the General Assembly. This article only speaks to resolutions that some feel could have a significant impact on the future identity of the Church of the Nazarene. These particular resolutions are what I describe as “identity declarations.” When we amend the Manual paragraphs concerning what we believe and how we practice what we believe we are reinterpreting how to apply biblical doctrine, which cannot be done lightly.
The sentiments expressed in this article are based on conversations with various leaders in the Church of the Nazarene, analysis of the negative impact that secularized culture is having on the church, application of Scripture in the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition, and personal convictions as it pertains to how the church can best move forward in the power and authority of the Holy Spirit.
Please feel free to contact me at email@example.com with any questions or comments. If you have more insight as to how we can better discuss these issues in the future I’d love to hear from you.
19 thoughts on “General Assembly Resolutions”
Thanks Brian for your comments on these resolutions.
I would want to correct the statement that entire sanctification is the “central doctrine” of our church. “Christ and him crucified” is more central and foundational to our faith. Entire sanctification is instead our “distinctive doctrine” distinguishing us from other denominations.
I also think it’s time to stop using abstinence (from alcohol) as a condition of membership (and of course, fellowship). In a growing church like ours where we are baptizing new disciples monthly, and seeking to lead them into a growing relationship with Christ and the church, we find ourselves speaking with two voices in our membership classes. We say, “welcome to a family that loves you like Christ, but here are the rules if you want to belong.” This standard is not supported by the New Testament, or our Master, who was mistakenly called a “drunkard” but did produce an abundant amount of wine for a wedding as his first miracle. It has a place in our history alongside our other old fashioned legalistic attempts to be “holier than our neighbors” and in this case, “holier than Jesus.” The results are that many Nazarenes use this standard as a primary point of identity, and judgment of others.
I don’t think the Nebraska resolution will pass, but I wish it would. We’re making more Pharisees than disciples, we abstain from drinking a beer, but swallow a six pack of pride.
I agree wholeheartedly. In a time when some ministers in this denomination openly state that a person need not believe nor follow the teachings of Jesus Christ found in the Bible to be considered a Christian, I find it unconscionable that these same ministers doggedly hold on to this distinctive tradition as if it were the 12th Commandment. We already recognize an eleventh – above all else, Be Nice.
Mark I have to disagree. I was a child who grew up in a alcoholic abusive home and will stand until my dying day stating that there is nothing “good” that can come from alcohol. To open a door that accepts ANYTHING that impairs your mind, causes your defenses to go down, your lips to loosen, or your judgement to wane must be turned from at all cost.
My grandfather was an alcoholic. My father was an alcoholic. I struggled with alcohol for many years as did my brother. There is NOTHING good that comes from it. NOTHING.
There’s an old saying: “First the man takes a drink, then the drink takes a drink, and then the drink takes the man.” That is full of truth. We are commanded to be “sober minded” for a reason. To be anything else allows Satan to gain a foothold and possibly another soul for all eternity.
Thank you Mark, “distinctive” is certainly a better word as it pertains to entire sanctification. I’ve updated it in the blog post. I appreciate your thoughts.
I’m with Mark on the alcohol issue. I think many pastors who are in growing churches face these similar problems with this one issue. I joined the Naz church in ’95 so this was not my tradition growing up. I usually hear the argument that we side with the weaker brother. That’s a nice sentiment and I respect it and I do see how alcohol has destroyed many lives but I must admit I see a lot higher percentage that it has not ruined their lives but the issue as we present it does often ruin our opportunity to make them a part of our membership. Plus as people who stress so much how biblical we are, we cannot justify this stance biblically, only in Christian tradition. That’s weak to me and to those I lead.
Thank you for this insight on resolutions being considered. This helps those of us called to intercede this week for GA know how to pray!
Great post, as usual. Glad to see the GB is taking the stance of Scripture over “experience.”
As a Nazarene Evangelist for 50+ years I do to a degree know the church having preached abroad as well. Alcohol like what was once the issue of the cinema is floating into reality regardless of any resolutions. Preaching not votes creates who and what we are. I’ll leave it all at that. So much more to say.
My husband and I are 2nd generation Nazarenes. Our parents accepted Christ as their Savior as adults with children. Our heritage, though a short linage, is very important to us. Our families were lost until someone from a Nazarene church loved them enough to invite them to church and share Christ. I don’t see a problem with abstinence from certain things such as alcohol. I don’t judge anyone who drinks but I see no problem in that being a part of our doctrine. Yes, there was a time when attending a movie was considered taboo. Let’s be perfectly honest in that there are still movies today that no Christian should attend…garbage in, garbage out. I don’t say these things to be provocative or argumentative. I’m simply stating my opinion.
In addition, my husband and I have talked and are in full agreement that we will leave the church if it continues to be more like the world and less of an alternative to the social mores of today.
We’re very concerned about the growing influence of society norms in the evangelical community. We would rather meet in our home with those who share our beliefs and our love of Christ, live our our lives for Christ by loving our neighbors while not living like our neighbors than be part of a church that takes on the culture and identity of a lost world in order not to offend.
We will be watching this GA closely. May God’s will prevail.
I’m a lay member and I have a question for Pastor’s who support the amendment that weakens our position on the use of alcohol. A couple, who are members of your church, ask you to officiate their wedding and reception. All events, including the pre-wedding dinner which will be held the week end before, are to be held at the church facilities where you are the pastor. The bride’s family have been Nazarenes since you first became their pastor when through prayer and counseling, Dad was saved and delivered from alcoholism. The grooms family are not church members yet but you have been witnessing, working and praying for them. They come to you and are adamant about wanting alcohol to be available and served for all wedding events. In hopes of solving the situation, you explain that it’s traditional for the bride’s wishes be prioritized, but to no avail. They remind you that the pre-wedding dinner is hosted by the grooms family, and there is no reason to abstain at this joyous event according to the Manuel. After all Jesus turned water to wine for a wedding. And of course you give in and explain to the brides family that they will be ok just for this special occasion.
So many questions come to mind. Such as the conversation the grooms dad has with his neighbor. “I’m buying this whiskey for the punch at the wedding. It’s at the First Church of the Nazarene.” Do we really want this? Do we really want half of the church not going to this couples wedding because there will be alcohol served, and some of the membership getting tipsey and missing the front step or some other item. Do we want the brides dad, who really can’t stay home, to endure such a hard evening of being tempted to a pre-Christ lifestyle. Again, I’m just asking, and I am open to answers.
If you’re going to dream up a worst case scenario, I’m sure you can come up with a solution as well.
At my daughter’s wedding, her husband’s family asked if they could provide a keg of beer for the reception. Though my wife and I do not partake, and they paid for the beer, we agreed that this occasion was the place for celebration of two families becoming one, and not the place to “take a stand” for our church’s rules. We had a glorious party, full of joy, and thanksgiving. And nobody died, embarrassed themselves with public drunkenness, or became an alcoholic that night.
Stories like yours are meant to win arguments, but are seldom realistic. Our preachers have used these to keep us in fear, and away from “bad people” for years. That’s why so few of us have any friends outside the church.
As for people from the church being offended and not coming. I do know of a few who excluded themselves from the reception when they heard there would be alcohol there. But didn’t Jesus warn us that choosing not to attend a wedding banquet is a dangerous choice, that may end up having ironic eternal consequences?
I think the answer to your question is in the last few statements; the Christian lifestyle. Which Christian lifestyle? Or do you mean the Nazarene lifestyle? Jesus turned water into wine (sorry, not juice) at a wedding party. I believe the question you ask is “loaded” based on your own bias. As you said, drinking alcohol is not part of the Christian lifestyle so any disagreement leads to the ultimate conclusion that one is obviously not a Christian. There are three parts to theology: dogma, doctrine and opinion. This denomination’s stance on alcohol is opinion raised to doctrine but it is not dogma (sin in this case). It is better to say that our doctrine does not allow drinking alcohol than to suggest someone is less of a Christian because they do. If drinking alcohol is a sin then we are in a lot of trouble because Jesus, the apostles, most of the early church fathers and the reformers were not living the Christian lifestyle.
Ken: My last statement where I said “pre-Christ” lifestyle was referring to this particular man’s deliverance from alcoholism when he was saved.
Betty, thanks for the clarification. I am not necessarily against this denomination’s stance on alcohol but I am against any suggestion that we are “holier” because alcohol is prohibited. As I said, it is opinion not dogma. However it is also true that when you join a denomination you agree to live by their bylaws. My point is that we obviously have more than a few pastors and denominational leaders who do not agree that what is found in the Bible is true, i.e. they cling to opinion (tradition) but reject dogma (what the Bible says). The alcohol prohibition is the least of our worries, in my opinion.
Mark: Thank you for replying with your thoughts and experiences.
Just to clarify, the scenario I used as an illustration is near 80% accurate as to how it happened many years ago in my home town right after a church of another denomination first condoned the use of alcohol.
I was the neighbor, and I was rattled.
Maybe I am fear monguring, but I really just believe I’m trying to seek the right answer.
Like this article Pastor Brian. Very thorough, and well written.
Thank you for your thoughts Brian. As always you speak with grace and try to be fair in your evaluation of situations. I agree with your thoughts and hope and pray that this is reflective in the electorate at our GA.
Brian, we are glad to have a DS that believes the word for what it is, and doesn’t try to sugar coat. Thank you