My friends and coworkers in the kingdom,
Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
I am a pastor and ordained elder in the Church of the Nazarene. I will say now what I have said many times to my congregation: I LOVE the Church of the Nazarene and I love its doctrine. I preach and teach according to our doctrine without exception, reservation, or apology. I always have done so, and I will continue as long as our Lord gives me the strength. With that being said, I am very troubled by your latest ruling.
Our church as well as our country is walking through very confusing times. Hatred, bad news, one tragedy after another comes over the newscasts on a daily basis. Even the news agencies themselves, once trusted sources of objective reporting, now give much more in the way of biased commentary than true facts. Add to that the division in the church over gun control, LGBTQ+ rights, abortion, etc. and you have a time when fear seems to rule the day.
This great sense of uncertainty sows in so many believers the seeds of doubt, apprehension, and suspicion. Many believers understandably wish to “go back to the old days” in an effort to make things appear solid and more peaceful. A time when we supposedly knew what to think and how things were, rather than the chaos of these current times.
It seems you have attempted to do just that in your latest ruling. You elevated the Covenant of Christian Character and the Covenant of Christian Conduct to the status of doctrine equal to our Articles of Faith. I think you have made a grave error.
The Articles of Faith, even though the wordings have been changed and “tweaked” over the years, have always remained consistent. They are our foundation in the COTN because they are based in the Word of God and easily defended therein.
However, the Covenants of Christian Conduct/Character are fluid statements, designed to be changed as the culture around the church changes. These are to be helpful guidelines to a life of holiness while keeping, at least somewhat, in step with the language of the culture in which we minister. If this were not true, then attending a movie theater, going ballroom dancing with one’s spouse, and smoking a cigar in celebration would still be considered mortal sins. Yet, they are not.
My friends, now is not the time to go back to the old days, to the basics, or any other comforting idiom. It is not a time to tighten our views on conduct and character to the point of brutal legalism. It is a time to encourage those in our denomination to walk in faith and the Spirit in the midst of uncertainty. It is a time to trust the Word of God on which we base our beliefs and our very souls. We must encourage our people to offer grace in the midst of our disagreements, not throttle the slightest sign of dissent. Now more than ever we must walk in faith, not by sight.
I have met many godly, humble, loving, grace-filled people in the COTN, the greatest examples of which have been pastors and district superintendents. However, I have also met those whose sense of holiness is attached to their egos. They are people whose desire to control others dwarfs their love for Christ; whose compassion and leadership skills are not fit for the role of dog catcher, much less a position of leadership in the Body of Christ. I fear it is to the latter that you have given a great club with which to bludgeon those whom, for any reason, they label as a heretic. You have given great power to the bullies in the COTN.
It is this kind of decision that has led other denominations to division. Please don’t allow the same thing to happen to the Church of the Nazarene that we all love so dearly.
In all godly love and respect, I ask you, the Board of General Superintendents of the Church of the Nazarene, to repeal this ruling. Give only our cherished Articles of Faith the status of doctrine and lead our church into the future with faith and trust in our Holy God.
Even though I vehemently disagree with this ruling, I will submit to your leadership and continue to preach the gospel of Jesus.
You are all in my prayers.
Pastor Chris Gravesen
Lead Pastor, Clearlake Church of the Nazarene