I am no longer a Nazarene. I have primarily shifted my focus on pastoring my church and taking care of my family. So it’s been a while that I posted. But when I saw the latest statement by an official Nazarene group, I was outraged and could not let it go.
My outrage is at the Church of the Nazarene leadership, and their continuing deviation from emphasizing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to a capitulation to divisive social justice politics, and now divisive racial politics. Instead of seeking to unite the church behind the Gospel of Jesus Christ, leaders in the church are bringing it further into chaos and confusion by choosing a stark political viewpoint based on skin color. The following Nazarene statement was written by the ‘Black Strategic Readiness Team’ of USA/Canada Region. I was never aware that such a group existed! Is there a ‘White Strategic Readiness Team’? In a church that serves the Lord Jesus Christ, and that preaches holiness, is there really a need for such polarization?
In the statement by this group (which probably does not even represent a majority of Nazarenes), assumptions are made which are insulting and condescending. Proposals are made which, ironically, are actually racist, as I will point out. Their statement as a whole is racially divisive, and will serve no purpose other than to further create a schism in the denomination that has been adrift for years now. No Christian denomination should be creating racial division, and yet this is what exactly has been done here.
You be the judge for yourself after reading the statement. And we are not simply calling out this group, because surely this is with full approval of the General Superintendents. Here are just a few of the disturbing issues I have summarized:
- The group recommends hiring on a National level a Chief Diversity Officer, and of course, the person must be “of color.” And he/she will have the authority to implement hiring quotas, based on… race! This is racism.
- They also want to create a list of candidates for District Superintendent- based only on the color of their skin! Apparently the content of a pastor’s character will matter far less than the color of his skin. This is clearly racism. Absolutely outrageous.
- From their document: “As a denomination, the Church of the Nazarene heralds a message of holiness and transformation but tends to remain comfortable with the status quo as the calls for racial justice ring through our congregations and communities.” This is such a polarizing statement. How do these folks come to the conclusion that the church is “comfortable with the status quo”? And what is the status quo?
- They recommend that on the District level, “cultural sensitivity training” for all pastors and leaders be done. And… it must be led by a person of color! Racism again! And what an insult to the many pastors who have faithfully served the Lord without a single bit of racism in their body and mind, to now ask them to be “re-trained?”. What is the purpose? To make sure that all white Nazarenes are singing along with the same chorus of Black Lives Matter?
- They “affirm the significance of black lives”. They “affirm black lives matter.” They may not like this, but all lives matter! They are focusing on racial division. It will not go well.
- From their document: “…unjust and systematically unheard stories of unarmed Black and Brown people at the hands of those who are tasked to “protect and serve.” As many others are doing, they are seemingly lumping all law enforcement officers as being problematic, which would be a lie. It is a disrespect of those who work so hard to defend their very lives.These are just a few of the disturbing things in this document. But to summarize again, these people do not speak for the vast majority of honest, loving and totally non-racist Christians in the church. They have bought into an idea which they feel is the only correct one, and that is that there is systemic racism in the country and in the church. It is a lie, and there are countless blacks and other people of color who would disagree almost completely with this document. Many will say that they will not play the victim card, and that it is time to stop the racial division now in the church.
So why is this racial division being exercised? I believe these Nazarenes mean well, but they have made a huge mistake. They have bought into the Marxist ideology of a hateful and terroristic organization (Black Lives Matter). They have been duped by a tool of Satan. Instead of bringing the church together, they have helped further sow the seeds of division by emphasizing the color of one’s skin.
A Phony Outrage
Has this group ever expressed their concern for the thousands of blacks who die at the hands of other blacks in Chicago and other war-torn cities? Has this group expressed their outrage at 1,000 black innocent babies that day on a daily basis? Has this group, or the church leaders, expressed outrage at the killing of police officers as a result of these protests and riots? Have they expressed outrage at the many blacks whose livelihoods have been destroyed- by other blacks! Has this group, and the General Superintendents, ever expressed outrage at ALL racism, including black on white racism? Have they called out Black Lives Matter, a totally racist organization led by people who promote an unbiblical and Marist agenda? No. Instead, they shamefully stand with them. Sadly, I don’t see any evidence that they truly care about racial justice for all.
What a shame, and what an insult to God’s word. I am no longer a Nazarene, but as many others like me, I cry in my heart as this holiness denomination is becoming a tool of the radical leftist agendas, just as it has been captured by the emergent church ideology already. But there are no watchmen anymore at the top of the leadership, and so it’s up to the people in the pews to do something about it.
And as Dr. Everett Piper stated recently regarding Black Lives Matter:
“How can you stand with an organization that mocks God, denies the Bible, belittles men, demeans women and subjugates generations of black children to the dysfunction of fatherless families? What is wrong with you?” (Evangelical Pastors Pander to Black Lives Matter)
—————-Here is the link to the full statement:
Statement Toward Racial Justice and Righteousness Black Strategic Readiness Team – Church of the Nazarene USA/Canada June 5, 2020
We, the Black Strategic Readiness Team of the Church of the Nazarene – USA/Canada Region, long to see our denomination better connect with and support Black communities, churches, and leaders throughout the United States and Canada. Be it known to all that we stand against racial injustice. We are personally affected and also caring for many who are affected by the recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. We acknowledge that their deaths represent many similar unjust and systematically unheard stories of unarmed Black and Brown people at the hands of those who are tasked to “protect and serve.” Words cannot adequately express our heartbreak for families, churches, communities, and all of humanity in this season of communal grief and urgency.
A national outrage ensued that has rapidly spread across the nation and many parts of the world. “Enough is enough!” is the wearied outcry reverberating through the streets of our cities as protesters and allies call for change, not only against another incidence of racial injustice, but against the structures and systems that have historically and continuously devalued and marginalized the lives of Black and Brown people. Indeed, the historical sin of racism is very much a present reality and challenge for the church to address. We are seeking more than a statement.
The complex issues of racism are deeply ingrained in the fabric of our nation, and a mere statement does not alleviate the constant searing anguish Black families and communities continue to endure. As a denomination, the Church of the Nazarene heralds a message of holiness and transformation but tends to remain comfortable with the status quo as the calls for racial justice ring through our congregations and communities. We acknowledge those who recognize and empathize with our raw pain, and we recognize our denomination’s Manual statement against racial “discrimination.” However, this is a crucial moment for the Church of the Nazarene to make commitments toward real change. We sense the need to move toward prayerful, thoughtful, and expeditious action.
Our denomination’s growth in righteousness and justice must not be separated. Let us take seriously the Word of the Lord spoken through the prophet Isaiah: Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? (Isaiah 58:6) We ask leaders and congregations in the Church of the Nazarene to commit to breaking the chains of racial injustice. Join us in both lament and advocacy: We lament. We lament that racism continues to narrate the nation and negatively affect Christians’ imagination of what is possible. With the Psalmist, we cry out, “How long, O Lord?” We plead for the Holy Spirit to open calloused hearts and closed minds. We plead for the Holy Spirit to make the truth plain to those accustomed to finding their away around the Way of Jesus.
Amidst this lament, we recognize that God has given human beings agency to participate in the Way forward and has empowered the church to bear witness to the kingdom of God here and now.
We stand. We stand with every church and pastor who continues to trumpet the call for true justice and peace. We stand in alignment with God’s heart for justice to set the oppressed free (Luke 4:18)
We affirm. We affirm God’s call to holiness of heart and life, which necessarily includes a commitment to racial justice. God chose the oppressed Hebrew community. God also identified with the oppressed people of Nazareth. We are called to illuminate the lives of people who have been systematically devalued in the United States. Affirming the significance of black lives is an essential way of resisting the evil fist of an unjust and prejudiced system that capitalizes on the suffering and death of Black people. We affirm that Black lives matter.
We call. We call on the church to welcome and support courageous conversations about race and take bold action against racism in America and the Church of the Nazarene. This includes reflection upon the way racial injustice may be linked to other forms of injustice and will take commitment and intentionality from all levels of our denomination.
We seek. We seek unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. We seek the peace of our communities. We seek shalom for all, recognizing that we can no longer settle for false notions of amity and
reconciliation. True peacebuilding requires the uncomfortable work of unmasking and naming oppressive power structures as well as embracing the diligent work of change.
We, hereby, recommend the following immediate action steps as we engage in longer-term planning:
Action Steps on the National Level
- The General Board should facilitate an honest conversation with church leaders at every level about systemic racism in the Church of the Nazarene.
- The General Church (GMC) should hire a Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) of color for the USA/Canada region. He/she must be a member of the senior leadership team and be given full authority/power to enact hiring practices and recommendations and to ensure their implementation. He/she must also work with District leaders on developing objectives to ensure that districts reflect the diversity of their locality at every level.
- The General Superintendents should include and recommend on their short list qualified persons of color to fill District Superintendent vacancies in the USA/Canada region.
Action Steps on the District Level
- District Superintendents and DAB (District Advisory Board) should conduct ongoing cultural sensitivity & diversity training for all local pastors and leaders. This training should be led by someone of color, preferably from outside the district.
- During pastoral assessments, District superintendents should openly engage the local church board/congregation about racial injustice in their congregation.
- The (DAB) should reflect the cultural diversity of the district that it serves.
- District Superintendents and DAB’s should develop relevant action steps aimed at increasing the presence of Black leaders and churches of color.
Action Steps on the Local Level
- Pastors should intentionally address the challenges that people of color face.
- Pastors/church boards should promote and encourage intercultural activities.
- Pastors should seek opportunities to exchange pulpits with ministers of color who are in harmony with the Wesleyan doctrine of holiness.
- The local church and leadership should develop a plan for the church to reflect the diversity of the community at large and provide resources and support to its constituency.
- Churches should promote and provide a platform for open dialogues on racism with children, youth and young adults.
Action Steps for Black Pastors and Leaders
- Pastors should encourage their parishioners to exercise their right to vote.
- Pastors should seek opportunities to exchange pulpits with Anglo pastors and ministers who are in harmony with the Wesleyan doctrine of holiness.
- Pastors should seek opportunities to preach about racial harmony, justice and a proper response to unjust treatment (e.g. nonviolent direct action, voting, participation in police merit boards, etc.…)
- Pastors/churches should open their doors to community forums that address their community’s racial disparities (i.e. health, economic, education, etc.)
- Pastors, church leaders, and parishioners should participate in District and General church activities throughout the year. May we move together toward racial justice and righteousness as we seek to bear witness to the kingdom of God here and now. May we move with faithfulness and urgency.
Grace and peace, Dr. Charles A. Tillman, Facilitator Rev. John Wright Rev. David Solomon Dr. Sidney Mitchell Dr. Montague Williams Rev. Dianne Bonner Rev. Althea Taylor Min. Cassandra Trotman