Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Renovating Holiness Project: Early Responders

Photo by GenBug.
This week Thomas Oord and I announced (here and here) that we are launching the Renovating Holiness Project.  We are inviting Gen-X and Millennial Nazarenes from around the world to revision sanctification with us.  We have inherited the doctrine of sanctification from our grandparents and great grandparents.  In order to make this theological structure work for our friends and children, the whole house needs major renovation.
We thought you might be interested in some of the introductory essays from the contributors who have responded already.  Not a bad turn out after just a few days.  Enjoy.

Erik Groeneveld (Netherlands/Australia):
The topic of my doctoral thesis is 'a practical application of a Wesleyan theology of love in decision making processes' (working title). I build my thesis on Tom Oord's approach of love and on the Government Network Theory (GNT) I came across during my Masters of Public Administration. What Essential Kenosis and GNT ties together is a relational way of decision making, instead of top-down decision making. In GNT-language, the pastor (as representative of the church board) should take on a position of 'network manager', embedded in the congregation, intentionally engaging with different voices and opinions to take these into account when a decision needs to be made. 
My field research among the Australia and New Zealand clergy shows that too often church boards or pastors consider themselves capable enough to take decisions, leaving out opinions and feelings of the congregation. Obviously, in the end the church board needs to take a decision. But my hypothesis is that when the congregation had the opportunity to engage in the process leading up to the decision, they feel acknowledged and valued. It is an expression of love when this opportunity has been given intentionally and not randomly. 
My idea is to leave out the technical language in the essay and spice it with some interesting quotes (anonymously of course) from pastors I interviewed.

Ryan Giffin (Pastor & PhD candidate, Kentucky)
I would like to explore Paul’s theology of holiness as simultaneously individual and communal, and the potential his theology has to renovate our understanding of holiness in a way that is more faithful to the teaching of the NT and more sensitive to the world of Millenials and Gen Xers. Historically the Church of the Nazarene has emphasized individual aspects of holiness. While crucial, Millenials and Generation Xers are more interested than previous generations in relational and communal aspects of holiness. Paul’s theology holds both together in ways that honor our past and embrace our present.

Rick Lee James (songwriter, Ohio)
I would love to write about how the monastic tradition informs our discussion of sanctification? Thomas Merton has been a real influence on my understanding of holiness through books like 'No Man Is An Island', 'Contemplative Prayer', and 'Life and Holiness.' There is a real communal understanding of holiness in Merton's writings which is directly passed down from his monastic roots that I find helpful to the discussion of holiness for the Nazarene Church today. 

David Bartley (DS, NW Indiana)
     I would love to submit an essay addressing a particular issue that has affected me over the past several years: the missing/incomplete eschatological hope necessary as a context for sanctification.
     This would involve discussing the purpose of sanctification, understanding it as a means rather than an end. It seems we have presented entire sanctification as an end to attain personally. As we proclaim the kingdom, our already-not-yet eschatological hope, as the end we seek first and foremost, sanctification can be seen in that context as the means by which we become a holy people bearing witness to the kingdom. Holiness, therefore, involves a holy people together living out the compassionate sacrifice modeled by Christ as a witness to the already-not-yet kingdom, on earth as it is in heaven.

Scott Dement (pastor, Kansas)
I would write my essay on “Holiness at the Table”.The people of Nazareth didn’t live with Jesus for 30 years and say, “Jesus is such a good guy, I wonder what makes him so different.” Why were his neighbors so surprised that Jesus was the Son of God? To them, he was just the carpenter’s son. That reality challenged my notion of Holy living and holy witness.
Michael Frost points out that during his ministry, Jesus was accused of hanging out with Drunkards and Gluttons. Then, when he ritualized his memorial supper, he said, “Eat and Drink,” spurring his followers on to maintain that reputation. It’s little wonder that we Nazarenes are seen as prudish and miserly. When we eat the meal of Christ, we eat little pieces of hard bread and have tiny sips of juice. And we only do that once a month, if we’re really “living it up”.
Holiness, by Jesus example, was participating in some really great feasts and parties. My neighbors know I am a Christ follower NOT because I don’t drink, pray regularly, and read my Bible. They know I’m a follower because we throw great parties at our house. Every week we invite neighbors in for a meal. Most of the time we make discussing marriage or parenting a priority. But sometimes, we just throw a party. This past week, we had a Super Bowl Party, BYOB (Bring your own beer). I didn’t drink any, I have too many friends and family that I’m choosing to stand in solidarity with. But, I don’t expect my unbelieving neighbors to feel the same way.
We’re starting a community garden. We believe that HEALTHY food for our poor friends is a part of our holiness…
When we take the Eucharist at church, we make it a celebration. We have learned an Anglican liturgy and really press into the celebration of this feast. As I invite people to come to the table, I tell them that everyone is welcome. It’s for those who are willing to receive the forgiveness Christ has offered, even if it’s their first time. It’s for those who aren’t sure they believe yet, but are willing to take some first steps toward Christ. We’ve given up the hard little tooth-breaking bleached flour and glue thingies. Instead, we have fresh baked, unleavened honey bread and juice every week. We actually can taste that the Lord is good. We are holy people earning a reputation for throwing great parties around the table.
When we think of holiness, we think of our food and who we eat it with at the table.

Roland Hearn (Nazarene Theological College, Australia)
The concept of “death to self” is one that seems to play less and less of a role in our understanding of holiness. At the same time, our ambivalence over the usage of the concept of instantaneous sanctification, and the potential for exclusivity in experience and understanding, has led to a more inclusive perspective that is seemingly less absolute. However, in my opinion, in the misunderstanding of both of these issues lies a real danger. The central issue of life, whether we are cognizant of it or not, is the issue of identity. Our entire life journey shapes our understanding of who we are. For the most part that journey, filled with pain, struggle, and disappointment juxtaposed to hopes, dreams, and ambitions, shapes daily our sense of who we are. Our understanding of holiness must wrestle with the issue of identity and what it means to be “crucified with Christ.”

Jay Akkerman (Northwest Nazarene University)
I'd like to explore something I've been thinking for some time now: what inspires me most about following Jesus is how freely he lives. For me, holiness is all about living freely with God, for others, and with myself. It's more than living free from sin, but also freedom to love and freedom with others and oneself.

John Bechtold (PhD candidate, Duke)
The initial thought that I had upon considering such a topic would be something along the lines of a rejection of American Holiness Movement "sinless perfection" language as it pertains to a doctrine of holiness. While the problem with this language doesn't fall squarely on Wesley, and while Wesley's work does contain some possibilities for moving beyond, it seems to me that the church is often deceived by Wesley's definition of sin 'properly so-called'. In an increasingly globalized world (and certainly even before globalization as well) it simply doesn't make sense to speak of the cessation of sinful behavior. When our buying choices, our transportation choices, our dining choices, etc. all have a real global impact (which is to say, an impact on the globe itself as well as on inhabitants across the globe), even benign actions can be profoundly sinful. Thus, I'd rather begin to speak of holiness as a purity of motivation (action motivated by love) than as in any way the absence of sinfulness. 

Rob Fringer (Nazarene Theological College, Australia)
Those who are ‘in Christ’ are already part of a new reality. In the words of the apostle Paul: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). While this passage has often been erroneously individualized, it is not foremost about us becoming new creations. Rather, it is about us joining God’s already-not-yet new creation.
The certainty of the future has broken into the present, and we call it ‘hope.’ This hope is not given for our comfort, though it does bring comfort. It is not given so we can sit back and do nothing. Rather, this hope transforms us and moves us to action. Like love, hope is expansive in the present. As we reside in Christ and thus in this new age, we are indeed changed and made new, but more than that and more importantly, we are people who are helping to make all things new. We have been tasked with the great responsibility and the great authority to reveal the already not yet Kingdom to the world around us. This is indeed a great mystery and we are a part of the unveiling of it, helping to make it less mysterious to the world around us. This process of participation is holiness and is making us holy.

Caswald Jemmot (Carribean Nazarene College) 
I am proposing to write using the topic, “An Uncertain Sound: Confusion in the Pews Concerning Entire Sanctification.”
A few years ago, I was teaching an extension class on “Doctrine of Holiness” and was confronted by a student who related how he had attended a “holiness convocation” at one of our local churches and had left thoroughly confused.  According to him, no two Nazarene ministers had the same explanation of entire sanctification.  Others within the class confessed their lack of understanding of this distinctive doctrine of the Church of the Nazarene.
If the members of our congregations do not have a clear understanding of the doctrine of entire sanctification then how do we expect to see holiness lived in the marketplace by our members, far less give a clarion call to others to live a life of holiness?  This is in keeping with the principle enunciated by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:8, “… if the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself for battle?” (KJV)
My essay will seek to explore the reasons for the confusion in the pews and thus the “uncertain sound” that is the result.

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