Anticipating the 2021 Nazarene General Assembly Debate on the Use of Intoxicants

One of the interesting discussions from the 2017 General Assembly was in the Christian Action committee about resolution CA-710 regarding the Use of Intoxicants.

Living (apparently) under a rock in Flint, Michigan, I didn’t think resolution CA-710 brought to us from the good people of the Nebraska and Mid-Atlantic Districts would wet anyone’s whistle (so to speak).  In Flint, we don’t drink the water and as Nazarenes we don’t drink the spirits (except for the Nazarenes that drink and don’t tell).  But much to by surprise, the committee voted in favor of social drinking. It wasn’t close.

When the matter came to the floor of the assembly (I believe) General Superintendent Warrick, informed the delegation that there was a proposal for a study on the use of the intoxicants, so resolution CA-710 was referred to the General Superintendents. Our drinking discussion was put off for four years.

Then last week, a study published in JMAA Psychiatry stated that 1 in 8 Americans have an alcohol problem. One in eight!  Moreover, the article stated that the population segment that is seeing the biggest increase in alcohol abuse is not those “gotta-have-a-beer” millennials who we are trying to stop from leaving our churches, but senior citizens.  African Americans and women also saw dramatic increases in alcohol abuse in the last ten years.

My question is this:  Will we take this latest study into account when the discussion heats up at GA2021?  Will we continue our historic stance on the side of those that struggle with alcohol (which apparently is growing every day) or will we say (as I heard in the committee debate): 1) Our people (especially millennials) are already drinking; and 2) If it was good enough for Jesus it should be good enough for us (that is an over-simplification of the debate, but that was mostly the point).

Shouldn’t a holiness church side with the 1/8th of our society that struggle with alcohol abuse?  If not us, who will?  Can’t we honestly and simply say, Jesus drank wine and having a beer at a ballgame isn’t going to send anyone to hell.  But given what we know about the devastating effects alcohol has on society, whether that is in the form of the growing number who daily struggle with addiction, the deadly mix of alcohol and automobiles and the vast majority of domestic violence circumstances that are fueled by liquor, as a group we still choose to say “thanks but no thanks” to the use of intoxicants.

Just my two cents.

21 thoughts on “Anticipating the 2021 Nazarene General Assembly Debate on the Use of Intoxicants

  1. Dave Bundy

    Pastor Rob it is a issue that will be discussed for years to come. I agree it is better to say “no thanks.” It has worked for me for many years.

    Dave Bundy

  2. Ronald Arnott

    Thank you. That has been my stance as I’ve worked with folks in Celebrate Recovery for the last 11 years.

  3. Kevin

    The committee debate at GA was fascinating in that thw pro alcohol types argued the usual points about legalism, historical and geopolitical context and being relevant. The anti alcohol types, though, didn’t argue those. They said, “My father only hit me when he was drunk.” And, “I was a drunk until I met Jesus who helped me stop drinking amd be reconciled to my family.” Deidre Brower-Latz noted that there seems to be a large number of people who have lately joined our denomination from alcoholic pasts. It would be a shame to alienate and lose them.

    1. Charleen DiSante

      I agree with your well-spoken discussion about alcohol but check your math. One in eight is approx one twelfth of the populationn not one eighth. The many people with their own drinking priblems who come from drinking families has been documented but I do not have those stats handy. I come from alcoholic parents and have a nephew with a drinking problem. Education is key.

      1. Justin

        Actually, one in eight is 12%, not one twelfth (1/12). If course, this is only accounting for a sample study of specifically picked demographics in one part of one country. Does the same percentage apply to the global population of the Church of the Nazarene, or of the world as a whole? I don’t know, but I would hope that in the next four years, better studies and better math are both performed.

  4. Lowell T. Clyburn

    I am with you, Pastor Rob. I could mention many things where use of alcohol was the major factor in crime, abuse, even death. I am shocked that if has even become a matter at our assembly. One instance: While serving as DS of Mississippi 1987-93, I was asked by one of our lady pastors who’s grandson was on death row, waiting to die after being drunk, raping a young lady, mutilating her body (so drunk, he had not recollection of what he had done). As I stood before him, a fine looking young man, entering the prime of his life, good background, waiting to die. He listened as I witnessed to him, urged him to except Jesus invitation of forgiveness and salvation. I was quick to be very honest that his salvation did not mean he would go free, but he could meet death free of guilt and sin, and die in peace–which thank God, he did!

  5. Mike kohl

    You guys are taking this drinking out of proportion and justifying it.
    Jesus never drinking wine, it was grape juice, because when Jesus made water into wine kids were there so couldn’t be alcoholic wine.

  6. Mike Adams, Pineville Naz, Pineville, WV

    Well written Rob! Even while live streaming most of the sessions, I didn’t catch this one…
    Yes, even though more and more of our people are social drinkers, let us not become promoters of social drinking!

    “What you permit, you promote!”

  7. Randall James

    As a pastor who was injured permanently while making pastoral calls on my people when a drunk driver pulled out in front of my motorcycle, I have little sympathy for the debate for the use of alcohol. If our church ever passes in favor of it we will be betraying the mission to the poor and desperate that first launched our denomination. Becoming like the world is not the answer to providing an answer that transforms the world.

  8. Jim

    I have watched this debate for awhile and what concerns me about this entire discussion is the isolation of one behavior – that of drinking of alcohol. While I recognize the issues of abuse, and while I do not promote a free drinking society or church, the argument here doesn’t seem to stand up on other issues.
    First – the broadening of the discussion of intoxicants covers other dangerous substances both illegal, and the abuse of prescribed medications. How many people have been in a situation where a “friend” offers them a muscle relaxer or pain pill not prescribed to them because they have extras?
    Secondly, we do not take this same stance with other issues of sinful behavior. One example would be sexuality. There was a lot of fabulous work done on the issue of Human Sexuality for this assembly, and the work continues for issues of gender identity and such. With many in the world struggling with sexual purity, even inside the church, we do not take a stance that we should be celibate, or even celibate except for procreation. But that is what we do with this one-of-many substances that we see, justifiably, as destructive. It is not intellectually honest about how one deals with sin and addiction. We expect people to be sexually pure and to get help to handle their relationships according to scripture, but we do not do the same with alcohol.
    Another example would be that of our eating habits. Nazarenes, at least in the USA, help lead the way on over-eating and unhealthy eating, but we take very soft stances on this and do not stand in solidarity with those who abuse food and/or have eating disorders.
    I do not think that this resolution was one of “approval” of social drinking, I see it as a recognition that our rules don’t make sense in light of our doctrine of holiness and our stance on other issues.
    IMO -we need to find a way to be FOR something without spending so much time being AGAINST things. If we believe our doctrine of holiness and the role of the Holy Spirit and teach obedience to God, we can trust him to transform people’s lives. In doing so, we can still hear stories where someone who is addicted to alcohol can testify that they came to Christ and were delivered from addiction and sin!

    1. Rob Prince Post author

      Jim I appreciate your comments. I guess my view (that maybe I didn’t quite articulate well enough) is that I would like us to continue to be FOR those that struggle with alcohol. I do not think having a glass of wine will send anyone to hell. I am not suggesting that at all. Rather I am suggesting that with 1/8 of the population struggling with alcohol abuse as a church we need to be FOR this growing population. I am not trying to add more rules or suggesting that we need to be legalistic or judgmental in our approach, but I believe that standing alongside those that struggle with alcohol far outweighs those who wish to have the freedom to have a beer at a ball game.

      1. ellensteward

        Can we be for those who struggle In our teaching and support; but, at the same time not isolate this as a condition for church membership? I think the opportunity for teaching about this topic is much wider when we don’t set it as a condition for inclusion. Just a thought.

      2. Rob Prince Post author

        Ellen, I am admittedly biased in this discussion. My dad was a alcoholic when he became a Christian. Had he gone to a church that did not require abstinence for membership, my guess is he would have died an alcoholic and I would not have been born because my parents would have divorced. I understand those who disagree with this position, but I continue to think a holiness church is called to side with the struggling and the weak. I’m glad that was the case in my family.

  9. Jay Trainer

    And how many people have a caffeine problem and can’t survive without their first cup of coffee? It’s not just a drinking issue, it’s a heart issue! Maybe the Nazarene church should be involved in addressing the heart instead?

    1. Rob Prince Post author

      Jay, I believe the CotN is concerned about the heart. I know plenty of great churches and good pastors still preaching strong heart holiness messages. Holiness matters in our lifestyle choices and how we love and come along side our fellow human beings.

    2. pastorcitomiguelito

      Well, I for one, stand with Uncle Buddy Robinson who when asked, “How can you be a holiness preacher and drink coffee?” answered, “With a little cream and sugar”. But at the same time, I’ve never known anyone who drank too much coffee and went out and killed a family of 5 with their car.

  10. Zach

    If we take the Bible out of it and approach this with a logical argument, we can reasonably conclude that drinking any alcohol is an incredibly stupid and unwise decision. Statistics tell that approximate 12-15% of people have a problem with alcohol. Over 88,000 deaths annually are related to alcohol. So here is the argument: my first proposition is that the overwhelming majority of those that struggle with alcohol didn’t know ahead of time that alcohol would become a problem for them. They thought they could control it. The second proposition is that none of us knows if we can control our use of alcohol or if it will become a problem. Therefore no one should ever drink any alcohol ever. To do so means you are taking a very big risk of destroying your own life and even worse destroying your own life and the lives of others. The third proposition you could add to the argument to make it even stronger is that there is no good reason to drink. Don’t like water? There are countless non-alcoholic drinks available. It’s expensive. It doesn’t matter how you spin it, they is no good reason to drink alcohol. When you add in biblical reasons the case for drinking is untenable and borders on sinful. I don’t mean actually drinking alcohol itself is sinful any more than Adam & Ever eating the fruit in the Garden was singing in itself. It wasn’t the fruit but the disobedience and the reason why people justify drinking at the very least border on sinful.. It’s very unwise in my opinion.


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