The Church of the Nazarene (COTN) is a sister denomination to The Wesleyan Church with which we share an intertwined history of partnership. During their 2017 General Assembly this week, they elected Dr. Filimao Chambo and Dr. Carla Sunberg to serve on the COTN Board of General Superintendents. I celebrate their elections and welcome them to the always wonderful world of the General Superintendency!
Speaking of that, my office has received an unusual number of questions related to a COTN General Assembly display. I understand why some might have appropriate initial questions about the display’s ministry, and I wanted to report what I’ve learned about it. My staff were able to build a relationship with the leader of this work and other COTN leaders in order to do our homework before responding to questions. We learned about a Nazarene congregation called Trinity Family Midtown Church which has a ministry among those struggling with same sex attraction. This ministry is led by ordained ministers of the COTN, who have been faithful to their ordination vows as well as the doctrinal positions of their denomination. They have also been highlighted at COTN leadership events in the past, and are living out the calling and mission of their denomination in their work.
The Church of the Nazarene also expanded their statement on human sexuality in their manual (with a 97% vote) with some extended and carefully crafted text grounded in theological ethics. Their beautifully worded statement resonates with The Wesleyan Church views that have been clarified through the years in our Discipline and in other position statements.
Like us, Nazarenes affirm that sexuality is intended for a “monogamous lifelong relationship between one man and one woman within the framework of marriage” (TWC International Wesleyan View of Homosexuality). Like us, they also urge their churches to ministry that creates a “safe place for individuals to open up transparently to one another in the midst of personal struggles and successes” (TWC Pastoral Letter on Homosexuality).
I commend the Church of the Nazarene, its leaders, and its scholars on thinking well theologically and living well on mission in this area. They match their words and deeds in a way I admire. I also call on those in The Wesleyan Church, as A Wesleyan View of Homosexuality does, to “respond to the homosexual community with both boundless compassion and a call to biblical standards of sexual morality.” This seems to me to be the COTN approach, and it has my affirmation.
No one person speaks for our entire denomination. I want us to value a variety of voices speaking with nuance and different perspectives. However, as the General Superintendent, it is my role to bring clarity and ensure we are not doctrinally or missionally out of sync. Our variety of perspectives lie within the parameters of our doctrine. They should also be communicated within the parameters of civility and the fruit of the Spirit. At times it is not our views but the language and tone with which we communicate them that is out of bounds.
A Wesleyan View of Gender Identity and Expression warns, “Some observers and some recipients will mistakenly interpret simple compassion as approval of nonconforming gender behavior. However, every person deserves the care of others within the body of Christ, as we ‘carry each other’s burdens, and in this way… fulfill the law of Christ’ (Galatians 6:2).” I am glad to see many Wesleyans working hard this week to ask direct questions of our Church of the Nazarene brothers and sisters, for when digging deeper and seeking to understand, we find people who are committed to Christ, in agreement doctrinally with their church’s positions, and taking risks to see people come to Christ and be discipled toward holiness.
I want to conclude by congratulating our Church of the Nazarene brothers and sisters on a successful General Assembly in 2017.
-Wayne Schmidt, General Superintendent of The Wesleyan Church, June 30, 2017