Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Renovating Holiness: Millennial and Gen-X Nazarenes Revision Sanctification

   Imagine that you inherited your grandparents' house.  The only condition is that you have to actually live in the house.   Your grandparents, whom you love, have lived in the same house for going on sixty years.  This simple abode holds an infinite amount of family memories.  
Tim Stanley Photography
   And yet, if you are going to live there, you'll have to make it your own.  The vinyl arm chair that is permanently imprinted with the shape of your Grandpa's posterior is not something to keep for posterity's sake.  Although the massive old faux-wood-boxed TV faithfully cranked out Wheel of Fortune at 6:30 for decades on end, it too will have to go.  
   But the furniture is just the beginning; the whole interior desperately needs to be updated.  12 inch pink flowers on the bathroom wallpaper may have been "snazzy" in the 70's, but now it just makes you feel like Pepto Bismol had a fight with the Easter Bunny.  New paint and new carpet are a must in every room.
   However, we haven't even started talking about the real improvements.  The whole house could use some basic environmental updating.  The windows leak air like a sieve.  (Maybe that's why Grandma always had that nappy afghan and two cats on her lap?)  The wood furnace is literally a fire trap.  And there's a spongy spot on the floor near the back porch where water has been seeping in every time they got a good rain.  
   The kitchen and dining room were designed for a time when meals were formal affairs with fine china.  Your family prefers an open kitchen/dining/living room, so a couple of walls will have to go.
   Furthermore, Grandpa sure saved a lot of money by doing the work himself when he added the extra bedroom in '69, and again when he built himself "Grandpa's workshop" in '83.  But the additions are showing their age, especially around the seems where the sheetrock is starting to turn brown because of some leaks.
   Don't get me wrong.  You're grateful for the house and all of the family heritage that goes with it.  It's just that Grandma and Grandpa didn't see that their house was deteriorating on pace with their bodies.  They didn't seem to notice that wonky faucet in the bathroom because they had lived with it for 30 years.  But if you are going to live there, you'll have to bring the house into the 21st century.  The challenge for you is to reshape the family history so that it can be a working home for your family.

   This is essentially the challenge facing younger Nazarenes.  We have inherited a doctrine of sanctification that our grandparents built.  

   Our spiritual grandfathers and grandmothers were certainly faithful in their time, and we owe them a debt of gratitude.  That they have willed us their theological home is more than we deserve.
   But they didn't seem to grasp the radical depth of change happening while they sipped Metamucil and chatted about Vanna’s dress.  Their language doesn’t work in today’s world.  Their thought structures feel cramped in some places and leaky in others.  
   If we are actually going to live in this theological house with our family and our children, renovation is a must.  And I don’t just mean some new furniture and a little paint.  We need some sledgehammers and some heavy machinery.  We’ll need to dig up parts of the yard and rent a dumpster.  
   However, all of this work is not a sign of disloyalty or disrespect.  We are not being unfaithful to their legacy or rejecting their hard work.  We are faced with three choices: 
  1. Live with a theological house that is obsolete and uncomfortable and manage the resentment and hang-ups which necessarily come with that.
  2. Move out and leave all our traditions behind.
  3. Renovate the whole structure so that we can keep what is best and timeless and carry it forward into a new era for our friends and children.
The majority of Gen-X and Millennial Nazarenes have chosen option 1.  A frighteningly large minority have opted for the move-out, leaving nearly everything Nazarene behind.  This is a call to embrace and to empower option three: renovation.
   I am thrilled to announce that I am joining Thomas Oord (of Northwest Nazarene University) to facilitate an option three book.  (Check out his blog announcement here.) We are inviting more than 100 Gen-X and Millennial Nazarenes from around the world to write essays on how to revision our doctrine of sanctification.  

   No topic is out of bounds.  But we expect to cover at least the following issues: 
  • The effects (positive or negative) of postmodernism
  • The globalization of the Church of the Nazarene and whether that matters for our doctrinal formulation of sanctification
  • Frustrations about inherited holiness language or concepts
  • Myths and unreasonable expectations about the holy life
  • How valuable is having a “distinctive doctrine”?
  • The history of the doctrine and practice of sanctification within the Church of the Nazarene
  • What Wesley would say to the current Church of the Nazarene?
  • How does the monastic tradition inform our discussion of sanctification?
  • Discipleship, mission, or missional evangelism
  • The role of psychology and/or sociology in understanding sanctification
  • How do we understand sanctification in the context of addictions?
  • The proper (or improper) role of worship and liturgy
Biblical Themes
  • Biblical themes to be re-appropriated (e.g., covenant, law, love, set apart)
  • Biblical themes often neglected (e.g., kingdom of God, love, shalom, community)
  • Biblical themes we may have misinterpreted (e.g. baptism of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost, circumcision)
Theological Themes
  • Corporate and/or individual notions of sanctification
  • The place of sin, original and/or actual
  • Whether “second-ness” is still a meaningful concept for works of grace
Looking Forward
  • New metaphors for preaching or teaching
  • Proposals for rewording of the Manual statement on Article 10 (Sanctification).
  • How do you foresee this issue playing out within the Church of the Nazarene over the next 50-100 years?

   We will be collecting and editing essays all this year, and we expect the book to be ready in early 2015.  If you know a Nazarene who has an interesting perspective on some of these issues, please contact me directly.  (We are especially looking to add authors who are not North-American white dudes!)    If you are interested in having Dr. Oord or I facilitate a workshop on Renovating Holiness with your church, university, or district, please contact either of us.  Also, keep an eye out as we post sample essays throughout 2014.
   Even if you are not interested in writing a full length essay, we invite you to join the conversation by posting a comment here or at Dr. Oord’s blog.  How would you renovate our doctrine or practice of holiness?

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