Thanks for coming back to the blog! We took most of the month of June off because it was a little hectic around here for a while… But we are BACK with some great stuff this week!
If you were at church this past Sunday, or if you follow any Nazarene pastor on Twitter or Facebook, you are probably aware that something big was happening last week. Every four years, the global Church of the Nazarene comes together in one place to take care of the business of the church. Over 40,000 people from around the world come together to vote on new General Superintendents, amend the manual of the Church of the Nazarene, and worship together as a global community of believers. At times during the week, the process of this can seem clunky, and flawed, and inefficient… But at the end of the week when everything has been resolved, everyone leaves knowing that the Church of the Nazarene is united and God is in control.
As I was live streaming the plenary sessions last week, I knew that I had to give you the chance to see some of the great things that were happening in YOUR denomination. So, for the next three weeks, we are continuing the sermon series that Pastor Steve started this past Sunday. I’m going to take this spot on the blog and highlight some of the greatest things that came out of the 29th General Assembly of the Church of the Nazarene, so that you can see for yourself what your Church is doing!
Usually in any kind of series like this, you’re supposed to save the best for last… But I think that if any conversation about last week is taking place, then it must start with the beautiful statement that was added to the manual on Human Sexuality. (If you want to read the whole statement you can find it here. Lines 10-37 on the first page are what is being omitted, and everything else that is underlined is what is being added.)
This resolution does not change the stance of the denomination in any way on major issues concerning sexuality. But what it does change is the mindset and the language surrounding these issues. It starts by painting this picture of human sexuality that is an “expression of holiness” and created in the image of God. It says that our desires are “shaped out of the very character of God.” And that “Our bodies are good, very good.”
It goes on to tell the story of how sin has corrupted the perfect image that we were created to be, and that in the fall of man, human desires were fractured and broken. Sin has caused our desires to become less God focused and more self-focused, and this has caused us as humanity to “live on our own terms apart from God.”
It then lists some of the areas of brokenness that are prevalent in the world today. These are WELL WORTH the read. For each form of sexual brokenness not only does the resolution state the issue, but it also shows how the church should respond to this brokenness. Regarding sexual activity between people of the same sex, the resolution states that it is “the shared responsibility of the body of Christ to be a welcoming, forgiving, and loving community where hospitality, encouragement, transformation, and accountability are available to all.” What a great calling on the body of Christ to love like Jesus loved! This is not a statement to “hate the sin, love the sinner”, it is a call away from any form of judgement or hatred all together as we welcome, love, and forgive those who are different from us and show them the perfect love of Jesus.
It’s time that we as the Church get away from the thought process that it is “us against them”, and instead realize that it is simply “us”. The amendment states that “The people of God are marked by a holy love… the people of God are to clothe themselves with love. The people of God have always welcomed broken people into our gathering.” This kind of Christian hospitality is not excusing sin. It is simply recognizing that participating in the restoration of humanity takes a love that “invites the broken person into the circle of grace known as the church.” We aren’t fighting our fellow man, and we aren’t against our fellow man. Instead, we are working with them and for them to bridge the gap between Heaven and Earth.
The resolution has one statement in it towards the end that gives me chills each and every time that I read it. It says “Therefore, we affirm that where sin abounds grace abounds all the more.” That just makes me want to shout. Through the grace of God, through Christ and the Holy Spirit we can and will be renewed in the image of God. “The old is gone and the new comes.” And even though it may be a gradual process, the grace of God is effective and efficient in healing the brokenness of humanity.
I know that in the Church today, human sexuality is a touchy subject. And I know that it’s impossible for any statement on this issue to be well received from both the church and society. But if our mission as the Church is to reach every person in every nation, and to make our communities and ultimately our world a little bit more like Heaven, then this is the perfect place to start. We have to start by trusting in the grace of God. We have to start by opening our doors, our homes, and our hearts to those who have been broken by divorce, to those who have been a participant in adultery, and to the LGBT community.
Hunter Thrasher, Creative Arts Pastor