As you know, the United Methodist church is spiraling toward a denominational split later this year. The Divided Methodist church seems a more accurate moniker for our brother and sister Wesleyan denomination. Here’s the rub as it relates to the Church of the Nazarene: The United Methodist Articles of Religion regarding scripture and the Church of the Nazarene’s Articles of Faith regarding scripture are similar. Very Similar.
The Methodist statement on Scripture contained in Article Four (“Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation”) and Article Five (“The Holy Bible”) say they following:
We believe the Holy Bible, Old and New Testaments, reveals the Word of God so far as it is necessary for our salvation. It is to be received through the Holy Spirit as the true rule and guide for faith and practice. Whatever is not revealed in or established by the Holy Scriptures is not to be made an article of faith nor is it to be taught as essential to salvation….
The Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those canonical books of the Old and New Testament of whose authority was never any doubt in the church…
The Nazarene Article of Faith regarding Holy Scripture (article four) states the following:
We believe in the plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, by which we understand the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, given by divine inspiration, inerrantly revealing the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation, so that whatever is not contained therein is not to be enjoined as an article of faith.
The Methodists are wordier, but the statements are similar.
What’s the big deal you say?
In the Methodist split that is (probably) coming in May, both sides in the great divide over the LBGTQ questions cite scripture as the basis for their argument. Both believe that they are standing firmly on the Scripture, but they have come to very different conclusions. Their issue ultimately is about the interpretation of scripture as it is expressed in the question of whether to be affirming or not toward homosexual lifestyles. I apologize for this oversimplification of a complex issue, but after all is said and done, it’s mostly about differing interpretation of Scripture.
Do you see the little Nazarene dilemma that could rear its head in the future?
We mostly agree with the Methodists on our theology of Scripture. But currently, Nazarenes are mostly united regarding this issue (97% of the delegates of the 2017 delegates to Nazarene Assembly approved the statement regarding Human Sexuality and Marriage). One can legitimately ask the question: How long will the Church of the Nazarene remain 97% unified regarding human sexuality? How long will it take for someone much smarter than me to stand before a microphone on the floor of the General Assembly and declare, “I know that 97% of Nazarenes voted in 2017 for the statement on Human Sexuality and Marriage, but when I read the Bible I draw a very different conclusion.”
I have heard in discussions both public and private how the Church of the Nazarene generally lags behind by 20 years the United Methodist Church. Will we be debating this question in 20 years? Is a split in the Church of the Nazarene just as inevitable as the United Methodist church just 20 years in the making? In our social media driven, instant news generation will it be that long before the issue is debated? Probably not in 2021, but will there be an outcry in 2025 or 2029?
In tomorrow’s blog, I will offer a few options that Nazarene’s might take in avoiding the fate of our United Methodist brothers and sisters.