Denominations

What is the Church of the Nazarene?

What is the Church of the Nazarene?

The Church of the Nazarene is a denomination formed by the merger of over a dozen other Wesleyan holiness denominations over the last century. Today it is the largest Wesleyan-holiness denomination in the world.

Let’s discuss the doctrine of the Church of the Nazarene. On Christian doctrines that are accepted by Evangelical Christianity, the Church of the Nazarene is in the mainstream. They accept the Trinity, Divinity of Christ, Virgin Birth, Resurrection, Literal Heaven and Hell, literal Devil and literal final judgement. On the beliefs page of Nazarene.org they say the following:

WE BELIEVE in one God—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. WE BELIEVE that human beings are born with a fallen nature, and are, therefore, inclined to evil, and that continually. WE BELIEVE that the finally impenitent are hopelessly and eternally lost. WE BELIEVE that our Lord will return, the dead will be raised, and the final judgment will take place.[1]

The Church of the Nazarene teaches two sacraments, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Baptism or good works are not viewed as necessary for salvation, and Baptism in the Church of the Nazarene can be either believer’s baptism or infant baptism, and sprinkling, pouring, and immersion are all acceptable modes.

The Lord’s Supper is viewed as a means of grace, more in that way than being a simply symbolic ordinance. The Articles of faith of the Church of the Nazarene do speak mostly symbolically on the issue of whether Christ’s body and blood is truly present, but the 2017 general assembly has proposed a change which is now heading toward ratification which states, “The Lord’s Supper is a means of grace in which Christ is present by the Spirit.”[2]

On the topic of scripture, the Church of the Nazarene believes in Biblical Inerrancy, and the 66-book canon. They articles of faith state,

We believe in the plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, by which we understand the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, given by divine inspiration, inerrantly revealing the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation, so that whatever is not contained therein is not to be enjoined as an article of faith.[3]

On Creation and Evolution, the Church of the Nazarene Manual says,

The Church of the Nazarene believes in the biblical account of creation (“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”—Genesis 1:1). We are open to scientific explanations on the nature of creation while opposing any interpretation of the origin of the universe and of humankind that rejects God as the Creator.[4]

On the topic of human sinfulness, the church of the Nazarene believes in original sin. This from their articles of faith:

We believe that sin came into the world through the disobedience of our first parents, and death by sin. We believe that sin is of two kinds: original sin or depravity, and actual or personal sin. We believe that original sin, or depravity, is that corruption of the nature of all the offspring of Adam by reason of which everyone is very far gone from original righteousness or the pure state of our first parents at the time of their creation, is averse to God, is without spiritual life, and inclined to evil, and that continually. We further believe that original sin continues to exist with the new life of the regenerate, until the heart is fully cleansed by the baptism with the Holy Spirit.[5]

The Church of the Nazarene teaches a necessary born-again experience of salvation, including a necessary repentance. The articles of faith state:

We believe that repentance, which is a sincere and thorough change of the mind in regard to sin, involving a sense of personal guilt and a voluntary turning away from sin, is demanded of all who have by act or purpose become sinners against God.[6]

And specifically on the belief of a moment of salvation or justification, the articles state,

We believe that justification, regeneration, and adoption are simultaneous in the experience of seekers after God and are received by faith, preceded by repentance; and that to this work and state of grace the Holy Spirit bears witness.[7]

The Church of the Nazarene teaches that after salvation, a person should seek for and experience a second work of grace, entire sanctification. This is synonymous with the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. However, unlike what you find in Pentecostal Denominations, this is not viewed as being accompanied with speaking in tongues. The Articles of Faith state,

We believe that entire sanctification is that act of God, subsequent to regeneration, by which believers are made free from original sin, or depravity, and brought into a state of entire devotement to God, and the holy obedience of love made perfect.

It is wrought by the baptism with or infilling of the Holy Spirit, and comprehends in one experience the cleansing of the heart from sin and the abiding, indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, empowering the believer for life and service. Entire sanctification is provided by the blood of Jesus, is wrought instantaneously by grace through faith, preceded by entire consecration; and to this work and state of grace the Holy Spirit bears witness.[8]

 

 

The view of Salvation in the Church of the Nazarene is Arminian, where Salvation can be lost. The Nazarene Manual States,

We believe that all persons may fall from grace and apostatize and, unless they repent of their sins, be hopelessly and eternally lost.[9]

Pentecostalism is not accepted by the Church of the Nazarene. The church of the Nazarene views Entire Sanctification as the Second work of grace that accompanies baptism with the Holy Spirit, whereas many “Finished Work” Pentecostals preach that Speaking in tongues is the evidence of this baptism and that entire sanctification is not necessary for it. In 1972, the Church of the Nazarene General Assembly made the following resolution:

“Any practice and/or propagation of speaking in tongues, either as the evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit or neo-Pentecostal ecstatic prayer language shall be interpreted as inveighing against the doctrines and usages of the Church of the Nazarene.” [10]

As for Eschatology or end-times, H. Ray Dunning, writing for the Church of the Nazarene magazine Holiness Today explains the Nazarene position in this way:

The Church of the Nazarene has always avoided adopting a particular position concerning end-time events. It has consistently affirmed the basic belief in the second coming of Christ as the consummation of history. […][11]

In the article, Dunning goes on to explain pre, post, and amillennial positions and the view of the rapture, and concludes with “both the concept of the millennium and a specific period of tribulation are highly ambiguous.” [..] “The bottom line, I repeat, is that there is no place for dogmatism.”[12]

Dunning’s viewpoints aside, his ability to write this in official Nazarene publications show that there is room for many different perspectives on eschatology within the Church of the Nazarene.

The Church of the Nazarene practices ordination to ministry, but also recognizes a role of Lay Minister. The Nazarene Manual says,

Any member of the Church of the Nazarene who feels called to serve as a church planter, bivocational pastor, teacher, lay evangelist, lay song evangelist, stewardship minister, church staff minister, and/or other specialized ministry on behalf of the church, but who does not at the present time feel a special call to become an ordained minister, may pursue a validated course of study leading to a certificate of lay ministry.[13]

However, Lay ministers are subject to some restriction. The manual goes on to say,

A lay minister shall not be eligible to administer the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and shall not officiate at marriages.[14]

As for clergy, the manual states,

The Church of the Nazarene recognizes only one order of the preaching ministry, that of elder. It also recognizes that the member of the clergy may serve the church in various capacities.[15]

Women are accepted in leadership in Nazarene churches. The Nazarene manual says,

The Church of the Nazarene supports the right of women to use their God-given spiritual gifts within the church and affirms the historic right of women to be elected and appointed to places of leadership within the Church of the Nazarene, including the offices of both elder and deacon.[16]

The Polity of the Church of the Nazarene doesn’t fit neatly into normal classification. Here’s how the manual puts it:

The government of the Church of the Nazarene is distinctive. In polity it is representative—neither purely episcopal nor wholly congregational. Because the laity and the ministry have equal authority in the deliberative and lawmaking units of the church, there is a desirable and effective balance of power.[17]

Abstinance from alcohol is taught in Nazarene Churches. The manual states,

In light of the Holy Scriptures and human experience concerning the ruinous consequences of the use of alcohol as a beverage, and in light of the findings of medical science regarding the detrimental effect of both alcohol and tobacco to the body and mind, as a community of faith committed to the pursuit of a holy life, our position and practice is abstinence rather than moderation.[18]

Homosexuality is viewed as sinful. The manual says, “we believe the practice of same-sex sexual intimacy is contrary to God’s will for human sexuality”[19]

The Church of the Nazarene holds a pro-life position. The manual states,

The Church of the Nazarene believes in the sanctity of human life and strives to protect against abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, and the withholding of reasonable medical care to handicapped or elderly.[20]

Nazarene Churches may have more traditional music and hymnody, or contemporary, or both.

The Church of the Nazarene is part of the Christian Holiness Partnership, National Association of Evangelicals, World Methodist Council, and the Global Wesleyan Alliance.

In 2019, the denomination reported over 2.6 million members in 30,875 congregations worldwide. The number of members in the US is declining slowly, but strong growth overseas has led to an increase in the decade from 2009 to 2019 of 34.5%[21] and a 26% increase in number of churches. In that same time though, professions of faith are down 19%.

 

[1] Statement of Beliefs, https://nazarene.org/beliefs (Accessed 6/10/2020)

[2] Church of the Nazarene 2017-2021 Manual, p.34-35, https://nazarene.org/sites/default/files/2019-11/2017%20-2021%20Manual.pdf (Accessed 6/10/2020)

[3] Articles of Faith, The Holy Scriptures, https://nazarene.org/articles-faith (Accessed 6/10/2020)

[4] Manual, p. 400

[5] Articles of Faith, Sin Original and Personal, https://nazarene.org/articles-faith (Accessed 6/10/2020)

[6] Articles of Faith, Repentance, https://nazarene.org/articles-faith (Accessed 6/10/2020)

[7] Articles of Faith, “Justification, Regeneration, and Adoption”, https://nazarene.org/articles-faith (Accessed 6/10/2020)

[8] Articles of Faith, “Christian Holiness and Entire Sanctification.”, https://nazarene.org/articles-faith (Accessed 6/10/2020)

[9] Manual, p.30

[10] Nazarene Layman, “The Church of the Nazarene’s Response to Pentecostalism”, https://nazarenelayman.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/the-church-of-the-nazarenes-response-to-pentecostalism/ (Accessed 6/10/2020)

[11] H Ray Dunning, “Not an Escape”, https://www.holinesstoday.org/not-an-escape (Accessed 6/10/2020)

[12] ibid

[13] Manual, p.194

[14] Manual, p.195

[15] ibid

[16] Manual, p.192

[17] Manual, p.6

[18] Manual, p.50

[19] Manual, p.56

[20] Manual, p.51

[21] 2019 Statistics, https://resources.nazarene.org/index.php/s/T2jApsjczYXQySp#pdfviewer (Accessed 6/10/2020)

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