Nazarene General Assembly Resolution Recap

Added on by Keegan Osinski.

I watched every second of the business of the Church of the Nazarene 29th General Assembly. This is not something I’m proud of, and it was mostly an accident.

When the resolutions were first published back in May, I found their presentation on the GA website to be a nightmare to navigate. Long lists of links to individual PDFs, only labeled by number. I wanted a better, more descriptive way to present this information.

So I made a spreadsheet.

Before I knew it, a bunch of other people were referencing the spreadsheet (turns out I wasn’t the only one who found the GA website cumbersome), and hoping it would be updated with the voting results for each resolution.

So I watched the livestream.

Here's my commentary on what seemed to be the 10 major-drama resolutions.

CA-701—Human Sexuality

This resolution was a complete rewrite of the CotN’s statement on sexuality. There’s a lot of good stuff here—assertions of the inherent goodness of the human body, condemnation of sexual violence of every kind, affirmation of singleness as a valid and holy mode of being. There’s some not-great stuff as well, primarily regarding homosexual intimacy as an example of sinful “brokenness,” but at least we’re no longer talking about the “depth of perversion” that leads to homosexuality.  The really remarkable thing about the passage of this resolution is that 97% of delegates were in favor of it. That kind of consensus about anything, much less a statement on sexuality, is practically unheard of—in the CotN, or anywhere, really. While not perfect, this statement had something for everybody, such that we could all get on board and say “OK. I can work with this.”

 

CA-704a—Discrimination

This was an extension of the existing statement on discrimination (which the Assembly voted to keep), renouncing “any form of racial and ethnic indifference, exclusion, subjugation, or oppression,” and sought “to repent of every behavior in which we have been overtly or covertly complicit with the sin of racism.” It also called “upon Nazarenes everywhere to identify and seek to remove acts and structures of prejudice, to facilitate occasions for seeking forgiveness and reconciliation, and to take action toward empowering those who have been marginalized.” It’s really a beautiful statement, and one that I am so proud to see go in the Manual. However, something I can’t get out of my mind is that during the debate on the floor, someone got up to speak against its adoption, saying that it would be “co-opted in support of tolerating the LGBT community,” which was, of course, unacceptable. And while the intent of his statement was malicious, I think he’s right, and I look forward to doing just that.

 

CA-709—Social Media

This was a weird and completely unnecessary resolution that I was surprised to see pass. While I certainly believe people should be decent to each other on social media, I also think people should be decent to each other in all areas of life, and that should go without saying. To codify proper behavior for this specific mode of communication without mentioning any other seems very strange. Further, I am certain that this statement in the Manual will be weaponized and used to police the speech of pastors and laypeople—evidenced by one church leader who IMMEDIATELY took to Facebook after the resolution’s passage to call for the “accountability” of Nazarenes in certain online spaces. I have a feeling this resolution will cause far more problems than it will solve.

 

CA-710—Use of Intoxicants (JUD-833 Task Force on the Use of Alcohol)

It seemed that the main thrust and intention of this resolution was completely lost on most people. The debate devolved into a discussion of why the CotN would “soften” its position on alcohol, when it did nothing close to that. It still called Nazarenes to abstinence, however it recognized that abstinence is not a Christian imperative and that consumption of alcohol should not be a barrier to fellowship with other Christians. More than anything I think the discussion revealed how deeply ingrained abstinence as a matter of personal, legalistic morality is in the denomination. As one speech against the resolution said, “Good Wesleyans don’t drink.” It ended up being referred for study by the Task Force formed by the passage of JUD-833.

 

CA-723—Membership/Baptism

This resolution was, strangely, killed in committee and didn’t even make it to the floor. It asserts baptism as a prerequisite for membership, and apparently there are a lot of people against this? I personally don’t understand why or how someone would be willing to commit to membership in a church but not willing to be initiated into The Church. But it didn’t even make it to the floor for debate so maybe I’ll never know.

 

CA-724—Gender Identity

This was an absolute shitshow. To begin with, the resolution was not good. In asserting that “a person’s birth gender is primary and formative,” the resolution sought to quash any legitimacy of transgender experience under the guise of “divine sovereignty.” The resolution became even worse after an amendment changing it to “birth sex is primary and formative,” which I interpreted as “birth sex” being formative of gender, which was the subject of the previous clause. And then it got even WORSE with an amendment that changed “the vast majority of people are born male or female” to “all people are born male or female,” which is completely contrary to scientific observation and entirely erased intersex people from existence. Jeremy Scott gave an excellent speech against it, but even a doctor, getting up to state that such an amendment made the statement demonstrably false, could not keep the resolution from being adopted. It was as if we had passed a resolution that said the earth was flat, or the sky was green. After the lunch break, however, the BGS explained that the latter amendment had made the resolution contradictory to itself, for it states that there are people “born with ambiguous genital formation,” but then also states “all people are born male or female.” Therefore given this contradiction, they moved to have the resolution reconsidered. The motion passed, and the resolution was referred for further study after several doctors spoke to the importance of not having a scientifically inaccurate statement in the Manual. I hope the study yields a better, more graceful statement that actually takes into account the experiences of our transgender, genderqueer, and intersex friends.

 

DA-211—Age Limit for DS

There was a lot of debate over this from—shockingly—District Superintendents. The resolution was to remove the DS age limit of 70 years. It was adopted in committee, and initially adopted by the assembly, but then reconsidered and ultimately rejected.

 

LA-411—Electronic and Multi-site meetings

This was a surprisingly contentious resolution. It was ultimately referred to the BGS for further study and a decision. I can’t even pretend to understand why there was so much debate about allowing phone/Skype discussion and voting for local church boards, especially after DA-214, which was basically the same resolution but for District meetings, passed easily. There was even a motion the next day to reconsider the referral, though that motion did not pass.

 

GA-300—Time of General Assembly

This was another hotly debated resolution, seeking to change the time between General Assemblies from 4 years to 5. Most of the arguments for this change were from delegates outside the United States, expressing the challenges of coordinating delegates, preparing for travel, and especially raising money. Most of the arguments against changing were about “this is the way we’ve always done it” with a side of “5 years is too long and things go slow enough as it is.” The encouraging thing was that most of the 4-year-ers seemed committed to answering the 5-year-ers’ concerns about money in order to make 4 years more doable. One possible solution was to have US delegations raise money to send more delegates than they had, thereby paying the way for outside-the-US delegates. I sure hope they will put that money where their votes were, as the resolution did not pass—next GA will be in 2021.

 

JUD-813—Article X: Entire Sanctification

This resolution was referred after a debate that basically came down to “crisis vs. process,” which I guess I should have predicted, but which I did not expect people to get so heated over. It initially was rejected (I’m not exactly sure why), but there was a motion to reconsider it that passed, perhaps because it’s such an important and distinctive doctrine, and subsequently referred to the BGS.

 

Between the outcomes of these resolutions and the election of Filimao Chambo and Carla Sunberg as our new General Superintendents, I was surprisingly quite pleased with the way GA turned out. Along with others, I actually feel optimistic about the future of the Church of the Nazarene, and I feel a deep and abiding love for these people whom I’m glad to call family. We’ve a long way to go, but we’re going. If only a baby step at a time.

Queering Wesley, Queering the Church: Toward an Ecclesial Circumcision of the Heart

Added on by Keegan Osinski.

This is my paper presentation from the 2017 meeting of the Wesleyan Theological Society.

Abstract: Holiness churches find their name and identity in their understanding and practice of holiness, that is, a certain flavor of Christian living in which the ultimate focus and goal is the perfect love of God and neighbor, exemplified in the life of Jesus Christ. In so doing, these churches often look to the margins, where Jesus would be most likely to dwell—with the poor, the sick, the outcast. John Wesley himself emphasized the importance of being in community and solidarity with the marginalized, not only to help them in their need, but also to engage with and learn from them as the locus of God’s presence in the world.

This paper will offer a queer feminist reading of John Wesley’s 1733 sermon “The Circumcision of the Heart,” in an effort to show that the perspective of LGBTQ+ people has vital contributions to make within the holiness church that so often marginalizes them. Reading John Wesley queerly offers unique insights for thinking holiness—the core aspect of our faith—as an expansive openness to the grace of God rather than a limiting and restrictive legalism. Indeed such a reading will not be “a setter forth of new doctrines,” but will preach only “Jesus and the resurrection.” That which may sound queer to our ears will reflect only “the most essential duties of Christianity”: to love God with one’s whole heart, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself.

The paper will consist of three parts: (1) An analysis of the queerness ofthe concept “circumcision of the heart,” aspresented in Wesley’s sermon and in Scripture, (2) An analysis of holiness as queer, and 3) Some consequences and implications for the life and practice of Wesleyan-holiness churches in light of (1) and (2).

Read the full paper HERE.

We Who Are Many Are One Body: Rethinking the Real Presence of Christ in the Loaf and the Church

Added on by Keegan Osinski.

This was my term paper for Laurel Schneider's "Theologies of Multiplicity" class. I'm fairly pleased with how it turned out, and I thought others might be interested in reading it.

I draw primarily from Schneider's Beyond Monotheism and from Catherine Keller's Cloud of the Impossible to dialogue with my understanding of real presence in hopes of probing and prompting possibility.

A short abstract: This paper will attempt to re-imagine an understanding of real presence in terms of multiplicity. First I will briefly survey some of the common historical understandings of real presence and how the doctrine functions in the observance of the Eucharist, and point out how these understandings favor obedience to the law of identity over what I argue is a more polydoxically Christian understanding, free of this obligation and open to a multiplicity of identities. Then I will join the cacophonous chorus of constructive theology and rethink what real presence might look like, taking seriously relational ontology and dynamic incarnation, and assert that the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist materializes rhizomatically as the Body of Christ, in and as the flesh and bodies of those who participate in the ritual, such as the many are one and the one is many.

We Who Are Many Are One Body: Rethinking the Real Presence of Christ in the Loaf and the Church

 

Theology of Luck: Fate, Chaos, and Faith

Added on by Keegan Osinski.

Fringer and Lane’s Theology of Luck addresses the complex questions of God’s nature and sovereignty straightforwardly, but without contending to know all the answers.

Somewhere between the “God of control” and the “God of passivity,” with their respective “theology of certainty” and “theology of absence,” Fringer and Lane argue for a “God of relationship”: a God that does not wield power, but yields it; a God that “has demonstrated a willingness to initiate but a hesitance to dominate”; a God that is working “to transform this world through love and not through magic and manipulation.” The arguments are clear, the language is accessible, and the sources are adequately academic and sufficiently biblical, such that truly anyone might take and read—laity, clergy, or academician. For each study, the authors provide further reading—both “beginner to intermediate” and “more advanced”—as well as provocative and productive questions for individual or small group reflection.

Written by Nazarenes and published by Nazarene Publishing House (!), Theology of Luck is a gentle introduction to open theism for a denomination that is in the ideal theological location to consider such an understanding of God: evangelical, Wesleyan, and rooted in holiness traditions. I absolutely recommend this book to Nazarenes, but also to anyone who struggles with questions of God’s will and human freedom in the face of evil, abuse, and sheer bad luck.

Review and Critique of Dan Boone's "Human Sexuality: A Primer for Christians"

Added on by Keegan Osinski.

This post serves as a kind of Table of Contents for my in-depth review and critique of Dan Boone's book, Human Sexuality: A Primer for Christians.

While I understand that Boone's audience for the book was primarily members of the Church of the Nazarene, and that he endeavors to show compassion to all people engaging in questions about sexual ethics and the Christian life, there were many assumptions and assertions in his book that I felt were harmful and needed to be addressed. I'm Nazarene too, and I think the Church of the Nazarene can do better than this book in our discussions of sexuality. So I tried to offer an alternative perspective.

Chapter 11: Behind the Veil

Added on by Keegan Osinski.

This is the last post in a twelve-part series reviewing and critiquing Dan Boone's book, Human Sexuality. Read more: Intro / Chapter 1 / Chapter 2 / Chapter 3 / Chapter 4 / Chapter 5 /Chapter 6 / Chapter 7 / Chapter 8 / Chapter 9 / Chapter 10

To wrap up the book, Boone talks a bit about holiness. He says that “we veil that which is holy to respect its dignity and to protect it from usage that cheapens it” and that “the veil before the Holy of Holies signified to humans that boundaries are to be respected” (152).

The whole book has been about drawing lines and parsing distinctions of what’s right and wrong. About what needs to be covered, hidden, denied. About what we should turn away from and fear.

Boone says that the tearing of the veil at the crucifixion is “the epitome of evil,” and that God somehow makes something good out of it, but what if the tearing of the veil is an act of holiness itself?

What if, instead of talking about holiness in terms of protecting and defending, we talked about holiness in terms of loving with reckless abandon and radical openness? What if instead of talking about the death of Uzzah, who touched the Ark of the Covenant “unworthily,” we talk about the hemorrhaging woman, who touched Jesus—God in the flesh—knowing she would be healed? Holiness is about healing and love. It is about opening your door to the broken, sitting to eat with the sinner, giving all you have to the needy. It’s not about establishing who’s “in” and who’s “out,” or telling people what they must do to be accepted. It’s about ripping through these distinctions completely—from the top to the very bottom.

I hope the Church of the Nazarene can embrace this kind of holiness.

Chapter 10: The Church in Exile: Interpreting Where We Are

Added on by Keegan Osinski.

This is post eleven in a twelve-part series reviewing and critiquing Dan Boone's book, Human Sexuality. Read more: Intro / Chapter 1 / Chapter 2 / Chapter 3 / Chapter 4 / Chapter 5 /Chapter 6 / Chapter 7 / Chapter 8 / Chapter 9

This chapter compares American Christians to the Israelites in exile. This is foolish. As long as our banks are closed on Christmas but not on Rosh Hashanah or Eid, you can’t talk about our pluralist society as if Christians are not in a position of privilege and power. There is no “500 pound cultural gorilla beat[ing] the church into quiet submission” (132). There are people living their lives differently than white middle-class hetero evangelical Christians would have them live. This is not persecution. This is not oppression. This is not exile.

Say it with me: The Church in America is not oppressed.

Boone explains that “exile was a time when [the Israelites] remembered having had a Jewish king, Jewish army, Jewish laws, Jewish land, Jewish economy, Jewish religious structure,” etc. (133). That is, while they were oppressed, they longed for a time when they were powerful rulers.[1] Today in America, Christians are still powerful rulers. The United States has never had a non-Christian president. According to the Pew Research Center, 92% of the 2015 House and Senate are Christian.[2] In 2010 the Military Leadership Diversity Commission reported that about 78% of military personnel identify as Christian.[3]

One more time for those in the back: The Church in America is not oppressed.

Instead of fearing how the Church should react or challenge a culture that is opposed to us, continuing to construct an “us vs. them” narrative, we should be concerned about how we go about loving the people that make up this culture. I think that might be what Boone is trying to say, but when he talks about “warning” culture about the supposed consequences of their actions and “defending our religious liberties” (147), it sounds more like a defensive stance than an openly loving one.


[1] It’s worth noting that many scholars, following the archaeological work of Israel Finkelstein and others, don’t actually believe there ever was a powerful Jewish monarchy at all, but rather that these were stories written to encourage the Israelites in their faith.

[2] “Faith on the Hill,” Pew Research Center, January 5 2015. http://www.pewforum.org/2015/01/05/faith-on-the-hill/

[3] “Religious Diversity in the US Military,” Military Leadership Diversity Commission, June 2010. http://secular.org/files/mldc-ripsdemographics_0.pdf