Friday, February 7, 2014

Renovating Holiness: More Early Contributors

"Old House in Bucharest" by Apollinaire Zdrobeala
Renovating Holiness is a joint project in which 100+ Nazarenes from around the world are revisioning our doctrine and practice of sanctification.  So far, we have 44 confirmed contributors from 12 different countries and about as many universities.

For today, feast your eyes on these introductory submissions.

Michael Scarlett (Pastor, Texas)
I propose an essay on revisioning sanctification through the lens of baptism. We are marked by our baptism with a new identity--a holy identity. From that moment, much like the people of Israel and Gilgal, we have a reference point that marks our entry onto a new map. The holy life is one that continually lives from, lives by, lives in, and lives out one's baptism. Baptism and our daily dying and rising to new life elevates both baptism and sanctification in the common life of the church. Baptism is also the point at which we are set apart for our co-mission (The church is co-missioned with God) of the ministry of reconciliation.

Greg Crofford (Missionary, U.S.A. / Africa)
Holiness as Liberation: A Perspective from Africa
The doctrine of holiness has always had a place for the concept of freedom from sin. God in Christ - and through the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit - has broken the chains that bind us. As Wesleyan-Holiness denominations have worked in Africa, the theme of liberation has been one way of preaching holiness. This makes sense, since the history of Africa entailed a centuries long chattel slave trade and the throwing off of colonial oppression in the last half of the twentieth century. 

Sadly, forms of exploitation persist in 21st century Africa, including the sale of children into slavery and other types of domestic child servitude in urban settings. Also, the fear and oppression of demonic forces are never far from the minds of the average churchgoer. In short, a message of holiness that is framed in terms of God's liberating power finds greater resonance than one that is predicated on Western concepts of guilt and cleansing. The proposed essay will explore the holiness-liberation nexus in dialogue with Scripture,  Ghanian theologian Bénézet Bujo's African Theology in Its Social Context, and other relevant materials written from an African perspective that have bearing upon the topic.

Julene Tegerstrand (Northwest Nazarene University)
There is no question sin is a problem.  It impacts our relationship with God, creation, others and ourselves.  We often use phrases like, "I'm only human", to refer to the quality in us that is sinful.  We define our humanity by our sinfulness.   But is sin the defining characteristic of our humanity?  I don’t think it is.  Yes, sin deforms our relationships but it doesn't define our humanity.  Our sinfulness doesn't make us human but instead our sin dehumanizes us. Christ re-forms our relationships and defines our humanity.  As we participate in Christ and his body we move towards our true humanity.

Nathan Napier (grad student, Tennessee)
How the Fire Fell? Rethinking Pentecost as Power rather than Prescription.
Basically I would discuss how our tradition has so often linked the pentecostal event in scripture with the same infilling of the HS in the life of the believer.  Our hymns have hinted at it, our preachers have encouraged it and we have done a very poor job of understanding pentecost for what it is narratively and textually because we have been so busy as a tradition reading the event with heavy doctrinal and ideological lenses.  We have treated the story of Pentecost as a prescriped movement in the life of each and every believer, whereby the Fire fell on them, rather than as an event that was necessary because of the nonsense the church was impassioned to proclaim: the resurrection of Jesus.  While we have used Pentecost as a proof for the sanctified portion of the ordo salutis that prepares our souls for glory, the text of Acts 2 never asks us to do so.  Thus, its not a prescriptive normative part of a mechanical spiritual walk that Luke/Acts wants all people to much as it is the description of an event that empowers the church to perpetually proclaim the impossible because the spirit is already present in the church, not because the fire is an essential paradigmatic moment in the believer that gives them the final spiritual grace they will need to get to heaven. 

Michael R. Palmer (Pastor, California)
Holiness and the Beauty of Marriage
I would like to write about Sanctification and a metaphor we can use to describe it. For me, this metaphor has been born out of personal pain and  has created in me a new depth and understanding of love. There was once a day when sanctification, or holiness, was a topic or belief that only served to push me away from the church and away from God. I could never match up, and I could never be enough, but this began to change on a beautiful fall day when I married the love of my life, and I began to discover the beauty in preferential love; a love that says “you instead of me.”

Philip LaFountain (Eastern Nazarene College)
 My research interests have been the interfacing of sociology and theology, particular sociology of culture (and personality) and theological method.   The approach I would like to take is to draw from the sociology of religion, particularly social identity theory, to inform the theological task of forming religious identities, and, again, in particular, holiness identity.  I will situate the essay by laying out the practical theological need to reflect on contemporary holiness identity and the need for a reformulated holiness theology informed by social identity theory – I will be using Nancy Ammerman’s religious identity theory as a dialogue partner for the theological formation of faithful holiness identities.

Grant Miller (grad student, Northwest Nazarene University)
I think I'd like to write about entire sanctification: why it seems to have been lost in translation from the Boomers to the Millennials, why I think it's important we seek to understand it, and how I think Millennials can reconnect with the concept. 

Stephen Riley (Northwest Nazarene University)
"Following in the footsteps of a loving God"
Many contemporary discussions about God are formed by a view of God that arise out of Jonathan Edwards famous sermon "Sinners in the hands of an Angry God."  While it is true that Edwards main point was to encourage his congregation to mend their ways because God has given them such a chance, unfortunately too often the portrait of God that many derive from the sermon is one of a demanding God who will at any moment cast backsliders into the fiery furnace of Hell.  Consequently, this unfortunately overdrawn characterization is read back into the Old Testament.  This leads to a poor understanding of the continuity between the two testaments of our canon, and the broader theological reflection of ancient Israel.  I would like to briefly explore one metaphor for holiness found in the call of God on Abraham's life, "walk with me and be holy" that will see holiness as a continual journey (the Hebrew root halak has this connotation) that develops practices so that Israel (and we today) can fulfill the call to be "a blessing to the nations."  I will argue that this portrait of a loving God who calls us to act in a repetitive way (though we may fail as Israel did) offers hope as we journey toward a holiness of personal and corporate life.

Scott Marshall (Pastor, Indiana)
As a pastor, I'm interested in people's ordinary, every-day lives; how they work, how they get along, how they see themselves, what they think is possible, their struggles, their challenges, their fears. And it's been my experience that many --if not most--feel stuck. They feel stuck by the past, stuck by decisions they've made, stuck by how they are, stuck by their circumstances and stuck by their choices, so much so that following Jesus often looks like a last ditch attempt to pull out of their life of quiet desperation. If we're going to take Jesus seriously, we have to address people's lived reality. People's lived experience always meets Jesus' resurrection power and is changed. So I'd like to write about how the message of holiness means we are not stuck

Mark Maddix (Northwest Nazarene University)
The "Means of Grace:" A process of holy living.
The essay will provide a critique of the Church of the Nazarene's focus on sanctification primarily as a "instantaneous" experience that has lacked a focus on growing in grace as a process of holy living.  Specific attention will be given to the role of Christian practice as a pathway to holy living by giving focus on Wesley's "means of grace."   The essay will also show how the focus on practice is more in line with a postmodern view of discipleship and formation.

Kim Hersey (pastor, Northwest area)
What's in a name? Is it really all that important that we use the right words? Or is language so contextual that we have to trust the essence of communication within a given relationship, even if it sounds quite different than how we would choose to say it? In other words, does it matter if I speak of “holiness” or “sanctification” or can I speak of love in all its fullness and growing toward perfection?

Rob Snow (Ambrose University, Canada)
I would like to write on the theme of holiness and the gifts of the Spirit with special attention to the value of the gifts for the edification of the worshipping community (cf. I Cor. 14). Since holiness people have a high view of the Holy Spirit and his cleansing work, I would like to argue that the gifts are an indispensable means by which the church as a worshipping community becomes holy. I might, depending on how provocative I feel, offer some brief reasons why Nazarenes have not embraced the gifts and argue that this is to our detriment.

Ryan Patrick McLaughlin (Pastor, Midwest)
Holiness as Consecratory Distance (Like a Kiss)
When discussing holiness with my college students, I use the metaphor of a kiss, noting, “A kiss is only a kiss because it is preceded by distance.”  The otherness implied by holiness and the distance mandated by that otherness is always and essentially for the sake of communion—it is the distance that makes a kiss possible.  This metaphor suggests a fresh understanding of God’s holiness, which entails transcendence for the sake of immanence—for, God desires to kiss the world.  It also suggests that the Christian pursuit of holiness ought never to emphasize the status of “other–than” over and against the vocation of openly seeking communion with those who are “other,” a point made well in Jesus’s parable of the Good Samaritan.   

Nabil Habiby (Jordan)
My essay will be in the area of Biblical studies, specifically Mark. I will attempt to briefly study the role of the Holy Spirit in Mark using a narrative approach. I want to apply the findings of that brief study on the role of the Holy Spirit today. In the Middle East region, the different congregations of the church of the Nazarene are either “Pentecostal” in their worship and teaching, relying heavily on the Holy Spirit, or rather “conservative,” barely mentioning the third Person of the Trinity. 
The above essay will be taken from parts of the MA dissertation I am working on right now, which is a narrative study of the narratival character of the Holy Spirit in Mark. 

Teanna Sundberg (Missionary to Bulgaria)
 I will take a missiological perspective, quite probably tying it to Wesley and the early church fathers and how that connection helps us in an Orthodox setting. 

Ryan Scott (Pastor, Delaware)
I'd like to address the social aspect of holiness - not in the typical way you often hear Wesley's "all holiness is social holiness" explained - but in terms of communal participation in individual holiness.  Historically, I think, the teaching on sanctification has been just as individualistic as the teaching on salvation.  Even if we don't wholly ascribe to a mandated crisis moment, surely the process is one between the individual and God.  I'd like to explore the idea that our ongoing personal sanctification is not based entirely on the work of God in our lives, but also through the work of God mediated by the Church.

Ank Verhoeven (Pastor, Netherlands)
“Viewing sanctification from the pews…”
In order to choose one of the topics, I started out by rereading Wesley’s Plain Account on Christian Perfection. It came to my attention once again that the arguments against his doctrine are not that different than what we experience now in the dialogues about holiness. If holiness is discussed in my congregation, the questions are also very similar to those Wesley had to answer. But, truth be told, we hardly speak of sanctification, for the people in the pews hardly believe in the possibility. At best, they believe in growing towards Christlikeness, through grace, but also through hard work on our part (in killing our flesh, so to speak). 
In many ways the Netherlands have become a secular country. Or even worse, there is a strong anti-christian attitude, especially in the urban environments. Missionary ground, one could say.  Persuading the secular Dutch towards faith in general is challenging enough, as it is in all western countries perhaps, but to present the doctrine of entire sanctification to them is even more difficult. People who live completely out of the pure love of God in their heart, are rare and hardly acknowledged even in the churches, so how could this be a plausible vision for those who are unknowing or just new to the faith. Since there are quite some people new to the faith in my congregation, it could be interesting to interview some about this topic, and come to some observational conclusions.

Andrew Schwartz (Ph.D. student, Claremont)
As John Wesley famously stated, “The gospel of Christ knows of no religion but social; no holiness but social holiness. 'Faith working by love' is the length and breadth and depth and height of Christian perfection” [Hymns and Sacred Poems]. In the early years of the Church of the Nazarene, this call to social holiness took the form of caring to the poor, marginalized, and oppressed.  I will argue that in the pluralistic context of the 21st century, social holiness must include embracing members of non-Christian religions, members of the LGBT community, and those with whom we have theological and political disagreement.

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