Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Renovating Holiness: Discovering the Values of Holiness [Grant Zweigle]

This is the first full essay submitted to the Renovating Holiness Project.

Grant Zweigle pastored in Kansas City, MO; Seattle, WA; and currently in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Grant and his wife Aisling are relocating to Manila, Philippines with their two boys in 2015. Grant is completing a Doctor of Ministry at Nazarene Theological Seminary. 

  My grandmother lived in a German Mennonite Brethren community in Southern Russia as a young girl. When her parents immigrated to Canada they made their new home in a German Mennonite Brethren community in Yarrow, British Columbia. My grandmother learned some English in school, but spoke German at home and in church. Her family maintained their cultural distinctiveness in their new home, even as they adapted to a new way of life in Canada.

  My mother spoke some German in home and in church, but English was her first language. Her parents brought her up in the German Mennonite way, but as a young adult she forged her own way and more fully embraced the life and culture of Canada than her parents did.  

  My mother never spoke German to me. When I was 2, my Canadian mom and American dad moved to the United States. I am culturally an American and an English speaker. I tried studying German in high school and college, but it didn’t stick. I’ve always known my ancestry is German Mennonite with a Canadian flavour, but it didn’t seem to have much bearing in my everyday life.

  Eight and a half years ago, I moved back to Canada to pastor First Church of the Nazarene in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Since coming back to Canada, I’ve been able to spend more time with my grandmother who is now 95. When I visit my grandmother, she shares stories with me about her childhood in Southern Russia; about why and how her family came to Canada; and about the joys and struggles of making a new life in a new land.

  Over the course of her lifetime, my grandmother has learned to adapt to the cultural changes taking place around her. Some of these changes were forced upon her, but some she willingly embraced. As I’ve listened to her stories, I’ve discovered that many of the values that are dear to my grandmother are dear to me as well. Some of these values transcend culture. These include hospitality, generosity, stewardship, courage, diligence, faith, hope and love. As a dad, I now want to instil these values into my two boys. I like to take my boys to visit their great-grandmother so they can hear her stories and be inspired by the values that have shaped our family.

  Our spiritual grandparents and great-grandparents in the Church of the Nazarene had to adapt to cultural changes taking place around them. Some of these changes were forced upon them, while others they willingly embraced. As the spiritual grandchildren of these holiness pioneers, we would do well to listen to their stories, and in doing so we might discover values that we can embrace and pass on as well. 

     Vancouver First Church of the Nazarene is a traditional Nazarene church in the midst of a rapidly changing urban context. Many of the core members of our church are of that generation of spiritual grandparents who lived a life of holiness in the midst of changing and challenging circumstances. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Renovating Holiness: Contributions Part 4

Photo by Want2Know
We now have more than 100 confirmed contributors to the Renovating Holiness Project.  Having inherited our grandparents' theological house which desperately needs updating, we are faced with three options: resentment, rejection, and renovation.  Nazarenes from around the world (from at least 16 countries) are joining together to revision sanctification for our world and our time.
Here are the next round of introductory submissions.  Enjoy.

To read the previous submissions, click here: Round 1, Round 2, Round 3.)

Oswald Vidal Cole (Pastor, Sierra Leon)
In my essay I will be sharing about how Christians understood holiness or what holiness meant to them in the days when evangelical Christianity was still in its early stages in our country (Sierra Leone). I will proceed to share how the concept of holiness also seemed to have disappeared on the scene because of other emphasis on different theological concepts. I will then share the present perspective and interest of Christians on the holiness concept and where this concept stands today in the church in our nation. I will not just share the perspectives but I will also shed light on certain happenings that led Christians to come the said perspectives and conclusions on this concept.

Frank Mills (District Superintendent, Ghana)
I want to talk about the way our holy God expects His ‘holy’ children to handle the injuries caused by the decisions and actions of others…whether caused by people within the church or outside the church. We still have many people within the church who are struggling with the practicing of true forgiveness of sins trespassed against us. There are Christians who still nurse their wounds because the wounds are so deep that they find it very difficult to let go of it. I will talk more on the biblical way of handling injuries caused by others. 
The above topic is my favorite because it all flows out of my past personal struggles and experiences and I have always wanted an opportunity to put it into writing for the sake of others who currently struggle with similar challenges.

Deanna Hayden (Pastor, Missouri)
While the topic of feminism has been at the forefront of our culture for decades now, it can sometimes be a taboo topic within the Church.  To broaden the idea a little, the concept of being “politically correct” is approached by many Christians as tongue-in-cheek at best, and completely absurd at worst.  We are sometimes comfortable supporting areas of feminism like equal rights in voting or education, but when we approach feminist theological topics like egalitarianism, female ministers, or even the feminine characteristics of God, our fundamentalist tendencies might tempt us to close ourselves even to conversation about it.  Our Wesleyan-Holiness theology not only calls us to open ourselves to this conversation, but to name it as valuable and vital to our faith.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Renovating Holiness: Contributions Part 3

Photo by Houstonian
Introductory essays for the Renovating Holiness project keep rolling in.  For the third installment today, notice the increase in ladies and international contributors.  (See other contributions here and here.)

Lori Ward (Pastor/Teacher, South Korea)
I’d like to write about holiness expressed through hospitality.  We are invited by Christ to open ourselves in vulnerability, welcome, and service to others.  When we welcome the stranger, when we share a meal, when we open our homes, when we are present with others in celebration and suffering, we engage them with the love of Christ.  The work of Christ in us enables us to lower our guard and to invest our lives intimately with others, especially those who live in the margins.  Holiness expressed through hospitality does not set us up as proprietors, but as hosts—broken and consumed by those we love and serve, that we may embody the presence of Christ in our world.

Steve Walsh (Pastor, Australia)
Using the insights provided by Floyd T. Cunningham's Holiness Abroad: Nazarene Missions in Asia, as well as the research found in J Fred Parker's Mission to the World: A History of Missions in the Church of the Nazarene Through 1985, and Cunningham's Our Watchword & Song: The Centennial History of the Church of the Nazarene, my essay would seek to examine the relationship between our emerging contemporary understanding of the theology and experience of entire sanctification and the international and intercultural dissemination of our distinctive message by endeavoring to answer the question "What might Hiram F Reynolds say to the Church of the Nazarene today?"  Reynolds addressed the concerns of his contemporaries who worried about "doctrinal confusion, and a low standard of experience" in churches planted on foreign mission fields, which would lead the church to be ashamed to call its progeny  "Nazarene". I believe this parallels concerns especially of the American church as the denominational demographics change dramatically. The essay would consider the tensions between missional strategies aiming at both the indigenisation and internationalisation of the Church of the Nazarene as it wrestles with the forces of globalisation and localisation. From its inception, the Church of the Nazarene was both "missionary-oriented and American-centered"The pragmatic Reynolds, one of the founders of the Church of the Nazarene, and the architect of early Nazarene mission policies and strategies, who maintained  that "the work and manifestations of the Holy Spirit are practically the same in all countries" has much to say to the Church of the Nazarene today on such issues as contextualisation of theology, holistic ministry, and missional strategy.

Jason Robertson (Olivet Nazarene University)
Over the past year I’ve been contemplating our tradition’s emphasis on the “radical optimism of grace.” This notion made sense at the turn of the 20th century when optimism was woven through the fabric of American society. But does it work for a generation that is not given an optimistic outlook on most areas of life? “Optimism” is an anemic notion better suited for the social sciences. Millennials and Xers have to fight to be optimistic about the future, and older generations seem more optimistic about days gone by. From my experience those who are most passionately teaching radical optimism are hardly optimistic about the direction our world is going. The disconnect for their younger audience is obvious. I think our tradition needs to recover the robust, biblical notion of hope. Hope draws us into the future with expectation of something better for the world, as well as our own souls. I would make a distinction between hope and optimism and then suggest the holiness tradition should recapture the essence of hope as a lived reality in light of God’s kingdom, past, present, and future.

Tara Smith (Pastor, Indiana)
I would like to discuss holiness as participation in the life of God.  When Nazarenes recall that the word "holy" means "to be set apart," we still struggle to understand what this could possibly mean concerning a human life.  So we fall short in our practical application:  to be holy is to be particularly good at following rules; to be holy is to be counter-cultural; to be holy is to love slightly better (more often?) than the average person.
It's my suggestion that we apply the word holy quite literally to God, who is something other than we are; i.e., set apart.  To "be holy as [God] is holy" is to participate in God's life.  This may mimic the rule-following, counter-cultural-operating, optimal-loving lifestyle, but its source is never any of those things.  Rather, the source of holiness is only ever God, and thus our stake in it only ever our participation in the divine life.  

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. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

You Might Be Rich If ...

Despite what you think, you might be rich by global standards if ...
... you complain about wifi.
... food spoils in your fridge.
... you have a refrigerator.
... you are worried that you don't have enough money saved for retirement.
... you actually expect to stop working before you die.
... you have a savings account worth more than $100.
... you have health insurance (of any kind).
... you make more than minimum wage.
... you make minimum wage.  
... you have ever felt like your closet is getting too full.
... you have more than one of any of these: coat, pair of shoes, phone, computer, car, earbuds, twenty dollar bill, book, water faucet.
... you have enough food in your house to sustain you for more than a week without going shopping.
... you have ever said that your kids have too many toys.
... you or your wife owns a diamond.
... you are only concerned about WHAT your family will eat tonight, not IF your family will eat tonight.
... you are able to read this blog worrying about how you will pay for the internet access.

Instead of trying to prove all of these simple statements individually, I offer you a few simple yet shocking facts (from here and here).
  1. 80% of the world lives on less than $10 per day.
  2. Almost 50% of the world lives on less than $2.50 per day.
  3. Half of the 2 billion children in our world live in extreme poverty.
  4. One in eight people are chronically undernourished.
  5. One in six people don't have access to clean water.

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. 

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.