How to Divide the Church During a Pandemic: A Texting Conversation (with apologies to Screwtape, Wormwood and CS Lewis)

In order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” 2 Corinthians 2:11

A conversation between two demons, Dreadsock and Sliverbug

Sliverbug: Any great ideas on how to get church folks running for the exits?
Dreadsock: How about a global pandemic?
Sliverbug: Been there. Done that. We thought the plagues of the 2nd century would wipe out the early church, but those idiots actually grew. One of the worst decisions, we’ve ever had.
Dreadsock: The world is different now.
Sliverbug: During the plagues in the Middle Ages, the church kept building cathedrals. What we thought would decimate the church to a point of hopelessness, seeing the cathedral construction sites actually gave people hope that “this too shall pass.” Ugh I hate that phrase!
Dreadsock: The world is different now.
Sliverbug: The Spanish flu on the heels of one of our great triumphs (World War I) was intended to destroy the remaining morale and the church. It didn’t.
Dreadsock: I’m telling you, the world is different now.
Sliverbug: IDK
Dreadsock: How about this? We pick a large city that no one has heard of so the pandemic can get a great start and disseminate quickly.
Sliverbug: Where would that be?
Dreadsock: Wuhan, China. It has 11 million people, but who can point out where Wuhan is on a map? No one I know.
Sliverbug: Go on…
Dreadsock: It will spread like wildfire. With the way people travel these days (which wasn’t the case with the Spanish Flu), the virus will spread faster than some of the rumors and gossip we’ve started about church leaders.
Sliverbug: Hmmmmm…
Dreadsock: Here’s one the best features– people (even followers of the Enemy) will blame Him for being mad at the world and sending a curse for this or that— He’ll take the heat, not us! lol
Sliverbug: I like it. One of our best ideas ever was to get insurance companies to call disasters “An Act of God.”
Dreadsock: Lol.
Sliverbug: Let’s shoot the idea down stairs to get approval.

Three Months Later…

Sliverbug: Your stupid idea isn’t working
Dreadsock: What are you talking about? People are infected. Lots are dying. Fear is  rampant. Churches have closed down all over the world.
Sliverbug: Those closed churches have gone on-line. More people are hearing the blah, blah, blah of the Enemy than before the pandemic.
Dreadsock: What should we do?
Sliverbug: We gotta divide the Enemy’s minions to conqueror them.
Dreadsock: I loved the way we divided the church over styles of music. Nothing got people riled up more than hymns vs. choruses!
Sliverbug: lol.
Dreadsock: One of our greatest success stories!
Sliverbug: If we can split churches over music, we ought to be able to come up with a plan.
Dreadsock: Any ideas?
Sliverbug: Let’s go back to an oldie but goodie– fear! Fear has been one of our great weapons down through the centuries, right?
Dreadsock: Play on their fears?
Sliverbug: Exactly.
Dreadsock: Take something helpful like music was 15 years ago, and turn it into a major point of contention.
Sliverbug: What do you suggest?
Dreadsock: Face masks.
Sliversock: Face masks?
Dreadsock: Sure. People are fearful. Some insist on them. Others hate them. Our conspiracy theory department is doing a great job sowing confusion regarding them! Some folks even have preexisting conditions that legitimately make wearing masks difficult if not impossible. Everybody has an opinion on face masks.
Sliversock: Facemasks? Hmmm… It just might work.
Dreadsock: lol

Should the Church of the Nazarene Postpone the 2021 General Assembly?

Who has thought, “I’m glad the Nazarene General Assembly wasn’t in 2020″? Probably most globally connected Nazarenes watching the cancelations of every large group gathering in 2020. But will 2021 be better? Of course, no one knows the future. I’m fairly certain there are no crystal balls at the Global Ministry Center. But it seems the question should be asked (as it is being asked by the IOC concerning cancelling the already postponed 2020 Olympics in Tokyo) should we cancel or postpone the 30th General Assembly in 2021?

I’m not a prophet or the son of a prophet (to steal a line from Amos), but it’s sensible to presume that by June of 2021, in Indianapolis the worst Covid-19 troubles of 2020 will have passed. But will the virus be completely contained worldwide by June of 2021? What if there is a second wave in the United States in January or February of 2021? What if there is not a vaccine? What if there is a vaccine but it has not been delivered globally to the 160+/- countries that the Church of the Nazarene operates in? Will the U.S. government allow entry into the country from those countries that have had no access to a vaccine? Obtaining a visa into the US was not easy in 2017 before the pandemic (just ask those delegates from the Philippines or Guatemala who did not have their visas approved in 2017). It is reasonable to assume that it will be even harder for international delegates to obtain visas in a post-pandemic, but still weary United States in 2021.

Postponing the General Assembly for a year might not be the worst decision. In the last several General Assemblies resolutions have been proposed to move General Assemblies to a five year cycle. At the 2017 General Assembly, if I remember correctly, all of the General Superintendents (and a few formers GSs) were in support of moving General Assembly to every five years. I believe their endorsement was based on the increasing cost of holding a General Assembly (the actual cost of a General Assembly is held tighter to the vest than nuclear launch codes, but I think it’s a lot). I voted against the resolution because of two big reasons: 1) The world changes so quickly. Waiting five years is too long to address our changing culture and subsequent changing challenges; and 2) General Assembly is like a family reunion. If we are serious about being an internationally connected church, the four-year gathering is essential to those relationships. I think it’s too late to change my vote, but in light of the pandemic I wish I had voted differently.

The question should be reasonably asked can we have a family reunion if half the family is denied entry into the United States? Can we afford a General Assembly in a year when the World Evangelism Fund (WEF) will probably decline because of the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic? It may be time to ask if the 30th General Assembly should take place in 2022.