Please read the following disclaimer/facts before reading the article below:
Fact 1: My dad was an alcoholic before becoming a Christian. Had he come to Christ in a church that allowed social drinking, I believe my dad would have died an alcoholic.
Fact 2: Medical professionals are now admitting that even small amounts of alcohol can have a negative effect on a person’s well-being. See the August 23, 2018 study here.
Fact 3: The Church of the Nazarene has historically taken the stance of prohibition in part to side with those who struggle with issues of alcohol and chemical dependency.
Fact 4: Many Nazarenes are already drinking (I have had plenty of attenders, members, and leaders admit to social drinking and voice disagreement with our current policy).
Fact 5: Other historically “dry” denominations have allowed social drinking in recent years.
Fact 6: The Bible argues against drunkenness. It does not mandate abstinence or prohibit the consumption of alcohol. (Note: a case could be made that clean drinking water was not readily available for the Biblical writers and the medicinal purposes of wine in ancient times outweighed the dangers of moderate alcohol consumption.),
Fact 7: The Social Action Committee at the 2017 General Assembly passed a resolution that would have permitted social drinking. There was not a vote on the General Assembly floor because the proposal was sent to committee for further study (I do not know if a committee has been formed nor do I know what is/was the outcome or recommendations from that committee).
Given these facts, will the Church of the Nazarene split over the issue of Social Drinking?
I have heard from people that if the church changes its stance regarding social drinking they will leave. I liken this to their parents who made similar statements regarding the cinema 30+ years ago. They didn’t leave then, and most won’t leave now. Members won’t leave in droves should the alcohol position change. There won’t be a split. Where would the teetotaler members go? As already stated, most once dry denominations have already allowed for (or turned a blind eye to) social drinking among its membership. Moreover, for many of the younger members in the Church of the Nazarene, drinking is a nonissue. They already socially drink.
The great likelihood is that the General Assembly delegates will pass legislation that opens the door for moderate social drinking (if not in 2021 then surely in 2025), Given my family history (see Fact 1), I will not be happy with the change. Given modern research (see Fact 2) we may regret the decision. Given our historic stance of siding with those who struggle with alcohol (See Fact 3) we may lose some of our voice with the victims of alcoholism and its effect upon individuals and families.
Ultimately, the reasoning to move away from our historical stance regarding alcohol is less about righteousness or coming alongside a struggling believer and more about pragmatism:
1) The ship has sailed. Many are already drinking (see Fact 4);
2) “Peer pressure.” Other once dry denominations now allow social drinking (see fact 5); and
3) Making a Biblical argument is difficult as the Bible doesn’t expressly forbid it (see Fact 6).
For these reasons, the prohibition against alcohol consumption seems likely to be lifted once the debate reaches the General Assembly floor. I will not leave the Church of the Nazarene over this issue, nor do I think that many others will. But I will be saddened for the children of alcoholics like myself whose family was salvaged because of the grace of God and the historic stance of a church that stood with those who struggle with alcohol.