One year from now, the 2023 General Assembly (GA) of the Church of the Nazarene will be in the books and we will be in our churches discussing the events of the past week. Clearly writing from a North American perspective, the church I currently see is divided like never before. Will a GA expose these divides and bring healing or gloss over them as they continue to fester?
The Board of General Superintendents (BGS) had a difficult decision on even convening the 30th General Assembly. Covid is still a real thing (take it from me, I had Covid last week). Delegates from some world areas will have great difficulty in obtaining a visa. As such, in many world areas, districts will be voting not for the most qualified from their district to be a delegate but from those who are available (with visa in hand). The result will be less world representation, possibly a less qualified and a more-North American-centric assembly.
In spite of these problems, the BGS made the right decision. In each of the last several assemblies, a resolution has been submitted to move GA from four years to five, and every time it’s been rejected. GAs are expensive and a logistical monstrosity is the argument, but the delegates have repeatedly said that moving to every five years will lessen our relationships and widen any divides that might exist. Thanks to Covid, the validity of the anti-five-year-assembly argument will be shown as it will have been six years since the last GA. The BGS has seen that our church family (like all families in the pandemic) has been shaken. We need to gather.
The theme chosen, “Jesus is Lord,” seems to indicate that the BGS recognizes the divides and hope to bring unity by getting the church back to the basics. It’s like the old football story of how legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi, after a loss held up a football and said “This, boys, is a football.” The General Superintendents appear to be doing the same for the church as they hold up a banner that says: Jesus is Lord.
I hope it works. Our family is teetering. Factions are gathering. Newsletters are sent. Blogs (ahem) are written. Social media is not anyone’s friend. The pandemic and our six-year gap have hurt us. Unity is essential to our church. As we watch the United Methodist church implode, one needs no prophetic anointing to see the same thing happening in the Church of the Nazarene if we do not gather and come together in unity. Nothing is more uniting than “Jesus is Lord.” It is the most basic of the essentials.
What will we be saying about the 30th General Assembly in one year? That depends entirely on the amount of prayers lifted this year. Pray cursory prayers and we will further divide. Pray fervent and intentional prayers and the Holy Spirit just might bring revival to our old church and rekindle the flame of Christ. The world still needs a strong, biblical, holiness message and a united church delivering it. If we can’t do it, God will raise up someone who can. Pray that we might unite around the ancient truth that Jesus is Lord and set about making Christ-like disciples in the nations.