Jul 14, 2009

A Final Word on "Concerned Nazarenes" and Orlando Convention

Eric Barger
By Eric Barger

There was no action taken by the Nazarene Church as a body on the matter of the Emergent Church philosophy. Also, there was at least one very pro-Emergent seminar session presented at the General Assembly by John Middendorf of Oklahoma City, who is perhaps the best known Emergent-leaning pastor in the Nazarene denomination.

During the Q&A time after Middendorf spoke, Pastor Joe Standiforth of Brownsville, TX, stood and asked if there was any forum where he or other "Concerned Nazarenes" might be allowed to present an opposing view. Pastor Joe was summarily shut down - and that was with General Superintendent Dr. Jess Middendorf (John's father) sitting in the front row, I am told. Though I was not present at the Middendorf session, the pastor of a prominent Nazarene church from a major southern city (who attended two of the seminars that I presented while in Orlando) told me personally that he was "ashamed and embarrassed" for the way Pastor Standiforth was treated for merely asking a question that opposed the endorsement of Emergent thinking.

As we have known for quite a while, opposing voices are not welcome when criticizing Emergent ideology in at least some sectors of the Church of the Nazarene and elsewhere. As I have constantly cited, Emergents rarely attempt to present a defense for their beliefs and ideas. Rather than answering the charges that biblically-based thinkers bring, many Emergents simply use the unseemly political tactic of attempting to discredit their opponents through character assassination, baseless charges, guilt-by-association and the like. I know those are serious charges but I am all too aware of this first hand. Recently I have been called numerous things such as a "liar," "unqualified," "uneducated," a "trouble maker," a "church splitter," an "online discernment ministry," a "fundamentalist," a "Calvinist" and on and on - all to simply try and portray me and our ministry in what the Emergents would consider a negative light.

One pastor even inferred that because one-time radio host, Bob Larson, endorsed my book, From Rock to Rock, in 1991 I couldn't be trusted. It didn't matter that I haven't had any communication whatsoever with Bob Larson in 15 years and for better or for worse have never endorsed his ministry! The fact that Larson interviewed me long ago was in this particular Nazarene pastor's eyes the best argument he had to try and discredit me. To this very day, Emergent Nazarenes have attempted again and again to make me the issue but have failed to address the real problem - the Emergent heresy they insist on promoting.

Moving on to perhaps the most important issue, it is apparent that there is great disagreement inside the Church of the Nazarene concerning biblical inerrancy. Their current articles of faith are very carefully worded to avoid the idea that they affirm the Bible to be inerrant. I perceive that this is how some in the Nazarene universities have successfully introduced Open Theism and evolution without much opposition.

One thing is certain - Bible believers in the Church of the Nazarene are not going to be silent. Nor are they going to go away. I suspect (and hope) that at the next General Assembly in 2013 there will be an even stronger push to affirm inerrancy. That will probably mean a fairly nasty showdown IF (and that's a big "if") there is a large and organized push to bring the issue to the floor of the convention.

Concerning the three new General Superintendents elected by Nazarenes in Orlando... What I am hearing from conservative Nazarenes seems to indicate that the three, Eugenio Duarte (Africa), David W. Graves (U.S.) and Stan Toler (U.S.) are not in any way Emergent - at least not publicly. Duarte did use the phrase "missional church" during his address to the Assembly in Orlando but the consensus is that he may actually be the most biblically evangelistic and conservative of the three new G.S.'s. (His use of this Emergent buzzword may indeed hold a completely different meaning than its use in Emergent teaching.) Though I surely do not know with certainty, it would appear that the new G.S.'s range from fairly to very conservative.

Time will tell, but from the reaction I have read by some of the Emergent-minded Nazarenes it would appear that the new General Superintendents are not what they had hoped for. Praise the Lord! However, no one should presume that the election of conservative General Superintendents fixes the encroachment of the Emergent philosophy inside the Church of the Nazarene. As a long-standing and well-known Nazarene evangelist told me yesterday,
"Regardless of the hope we might have in these three (G.S.'s), it still remains our schools have to be purged of this heresy, along with the professors promoting it, or we die as a denomination!"
Finally, as I mentioned in my video updates to our subscribers on June 26 and 27, I am so glad to have been involved in this effort with the group of biblically solid "Concerned Nazarenes." Again, our efforts were surely not without opposition and this opposition continues in some pretty ugly and unbiblical ways. However, when the truth is obscured and error is exalted, standing on the side of the Bible is always the right thing to do - even if it's unpopular.

Ultimately, anything we did in Orlando was for one goal - that in the future the lost would hear the unadulterated gospel of Jesus Christ faithfully taught and preached.