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Where is the leadership? by Eric Barger

Posted by nazarenepsalm113 on March 19, 2010

March 19, 2010
WHERE IS THE LEADERSHIP?

Nazarene Pastor Resigns while Church Officials Attempt to Ignore Heresy

Many of you have tracked my research and involvement concerning the Church of the Nazarene and the alarming inroads that Emergent leaders and philosophy have made into this once-sound denomination. Though I am not a Nazarene (and never have been), I speak regularly in solid Nazarene churches and it is no secret that I am a friend and supporter of many inside the Nazarene Church who are engaged in fighting heresy throughout every tier of the denomination, in particular the hierarchical leadership and the extensive Nazarene university system. (See “The Church of the Nazarene and the Emergent Church” for an extensive menu of information concerning this.)

In a newly released position statement, Nazarene General Superintendents acknowledge the controversy and extreme disagreement within their church concerning Emergent teaching and practices. However, according to one District Superintendent, the General Superintendents of the denomination have decided not to take a position concerning Emergent ideas and theology. This is a sad and troubling turn of events.

Bluntly put, one has to wonder how those leading such a large body of Christian believers can ignore the Bible’s strong exhortations to those who would lead God’s Church concerning what can only be described as blatant heresy.

Exposing and routing false teaching was nothing foreign to Jesus, His Apostles and the early Church. Nearly every book in the New Testament outlines a struggle for truth or a warning about apostasy, false teachers or the disastrous outcome of theological error. Paul instructed the Galatians to accept only the authentic Gospel (as represented in the Scriptures) and pronounces a double curse on those who would purvey false doctrine (Galatians 1:8-9). The letter written by the Lord’s half-brother, Jude, is consumed with warnings over false teachers, including the famous statement that Christians are to contend earnestly for the one true faith. Jesus Himself points out that the end of days will be signaled by an exponential increase in false teachers (Matthew 24:11). He caps this by warning that, because of the work of false prophets and their perverted views, the love (for truth) of many (in the Church) will grow faint. Paul clearly instructs Titus that the mouths of those who oppose accurate teaching and doctrine are to be stopped! This is the very crux of biblical apologetics – a reasoned statement of truth and a defense of the true faith in the face of what is false. Thank God that many are vigorously engaging in apologetics inside the Nazarene Church at this time.

One pastor told me recently that he has personally challenged his own District officials concerning Emergent radicalism and when told that there will not be an official denominational position concerning Emergent error he bluntly replied, “No position IS taking a position. To take no position on Emergent isn’t leadership!” I agree. We are also now told that Nazarene university officials are being instructed to try to play down Emergent thought in their midst and, at least for a season, they should cease having Emergent leaders as guest speakers on their campuses. It may be too little, too late, regarding trying to keep key Emergent leaders off the premises however. Emergent philosophy is heralded by many professors and has broad appeal to many unsuspecting students. The unorthodox teaching of Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, Rob Bell, Doug Pagitt, Phyllis Tickle, and Alan Roxburgh (among others) has spread like wildfire in the bible colleges and seminaries associated with nearly every denomination. So any effort to limit the appearances of Emergent leaders by the Nazarenes really can’t be construed as any sort of refutation of Emergent teaching but rather only an effort to allow the existing controversy surrounding them to wane.

The Results of Ignoring Heresy

In one of his most emphatic and corrective letters, the Apostle Paul warned, “A littleleavenleaveneth the wholelump.” (Galatians 5:9) That is, if we allow heretical views to gain ground and spawn, it won’t be long before the entire loaf (the Church) is corrupted with heresy.Nothing better illustrates the deep divide present in the Church of the Nazarene than the fact that solid, bible-believing churches and leaders are now seeing their only recourse to be to leave the denomination. One would hope and pray that the international leaders of the Church of the Nazarene (and nearly every other denomination including the Southern Baptists and Assemblies of God) would wake up and stop courting Emergent heresy as nothing more than just a “new way to do church.”

I have been in constant touch with others who have now been threatened, intimidated and, in one case, actually put out of his ministry position, by Nazarene officials intent on stifling any negative discussion opposing Emergent philosophy. Now there is the case of Pastor Rick Headley from Ohio. Here is the letter he wrote to Rev. Jerry Porter, one of the General Superintendents of the Church of the Nazarene.

Dear Rev. Porter:

On May 5, 2000, after 10 long years of studying and working to finish my studies and complete necessary service time, you ordained me as an Elder in the Church of the Nazarene. At the altar of Grove City (Ohio) Church of the Nazarene you looked me in the eyes and charged me to be faithful to the Word of God and its ministry. You then placed your hand upon my head as I knelt at the altar and you prayed that God would help me carry out the charge that you had given me. I took that charge seriously, Rev. Porter. I have faithfully attended to this charge as a local pastor for a total of 20 years.

I have been disheartened to see our great denomination travel a very slippery slope as it has allowed emergent thinkers to infiltrate our educational institutions, publishing house, and our districts. The heart of this movement is an open denial of the inerrancy and relevancy of God’s Word. The very Word of God that you charged me to be faithful to. I have waited for you and the General Board to refute the leaders of this movement in our denomination and reaffirm the Church of the Nazarene’s commitment to scripture. The General Board’s silence on this issue has been deafening.

Rev. Porter, I am conflicted by the idea that you charged me to be faithful to God’s Word and its ministry and yet you choose to be silent as well known Church of the Nazarene leaders such as John Middendorf, Dan Boone and others use their influence to propagate the emergent ideology. I am compelled to believe that the silence of the General Board on this issue is communicating an acceptance through tolerance.

“How much further will they go?” was the question that was asked by the great preacher C.H. Spurgeon in his magazine “Sword and Trowel” in August 1887. He asked this of the Baptist Denomination – a movement that he had faithfully served for 35 years and in which he was the most prominent preacher. For some time, he and others in the Baptist Union had been concerned that apostasy from earlier standards might be showing up in the denomination. They were also concerned at the character of the teaching being given in some of the Baptist colleges. After asking the above question, the great soul-winner said, “It now becomes a serious question how far those who abide by the truth once delivered unto the saints should fraternize with those who have turned to another Gospel.”

After much prayer and deliberation I have decided to return my ordination document to you. I can no longer tolerate the idea of being associated with a denomination that openly allows an ideology that promotes disdain for God’s Word, ancient mystic practices, and pagan catholic traditions.

Sadly Submitted,
Rev. Rick Headley

To the dismay of Nazarenes’ intent on placating Emergent thought, letters like this could indeed be just the tip of the iceberg. Literally every day I am receiving emails or phone calls from Nazarene pastors on the verge of leaving the denomination because of what is being allowed by Nazarene leaders and openly advocated in Nazarene universities. One pastor told me he had been blatantly lied to by those wishing to protect Emergent teaching in the Nazarene university system. Another told me that waking up to the reality that heretical ideas are being forwarded inside Nazarene classrooms was like being blindsided in the worst way. Still another Nazarene pastor called last week to say that his church was simply not going to follow the status quo any longer and was about to embark on an effort to confront Emergent error being promulgated at Mt. Vernon Nazarene University in Ohio by simply withholding funds that would normally be earmarked for use there. Ladies and gentlemen, if there is any way to get the attention of district officials it is this way. As my mentor, the late Dr. Walter Martin, once said, “If we REALLY want to fix the problem of false gospels in our churches we need to use the ‘gospel of the checkbook.’ It stimulates almost instantaneous repentance.” (Click Here to watch Dr. Martin address the “Cult of Liberal Theology” from 1987.)

It is an understatement to say that many are heartbroken that the church they have invested their lives in has been slowly transformed by what can only be described as a satanic infiltration of cultic teaching and false teachers. Though I feel like a broken record repeating it again, this is a nearly identical attack that brought the once-evangelical Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Congregationalist, and other denominations down 100-150 years ago. As I mentioned to a Nazarene pastor who called me today, the issue isn’t really over mystical practices, Open Theism or Brian McLaren. Those are sub-issues of the larger point. The REAL issue is over the authority and validity of the Bible. That’s where Satan focused his attack from the very beginning, when the serpent mused, “Hath God Said?” (Genesis 3:1)

Please hear me clearly here. I thank God for men, women, and churches who are righteously standing for the whole counsel of God’s Word. There are thousands upon thousands of biblically-minded Nazarene clergy and laypeople who are not willing to in any way support false teaching. To them, I encourage you to stand up, and continue to stand on the teaching of the scriptures as you warn your friends, families, colleagues, and congregations. Remember that, in the end, your allegiance is first to God, His Word and His truth – not to any earth-bound organization, no matter how storied and trustworthy a history it may have. The final question is, if we do not make ourselves vulnerable and challenge heresy now, what will the next generation of Nazarene, Baptist or Assemblies of God pastor resemble?

Though some may misconstrue this, I hope that what I’ve stated here is taken as a call for righteousness, for clarity, for truth, and for sound doctrine. Those holding to aberrant theology may not like it, but Paul told the Thessalonian church to “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil” (I Thessalonians 5:21-22). The Ephesians were instructed to “Prove what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:10-11). The command in both passages is clear: we are to “prove” what is true, avoid what is heresy, and expose the activities of those who deceive.

Although following in the footsteps of Pastor Rick Headley is for many an unthinkable end to consider, there is hope for any and every pastor or layperson that God leads out of any group. Life didn’t start and will not end with the hierarchy of any fellowship or denomination. This is especially true if those who’ve been entrusted with the faith seem content to ignore or worse yet, even protect heresy while merely hoping the opposition to what is plainly false teaching would somehow subside. Yes, speaking up may cost you. Someday ask Paul, Peter, or Stephen about the price they paid to stand for truth. You may be denigrated and shunned for defending the faith. You may feel threatened and your very ministry may seem to be in jeopardy but, in the end, to whom are you accountable?

Those who are publicly tackling issues such as the Emergent heresy are often made out to be misfits and troublemakers by those who’ve refused to expose and root out heretical ideas in our denominational structures and theological institutions. Having been such a target throughout the years, I personally know this all too well. The current group of detractors has chosen to attack and malign me personally because of their inability to present valid arguments against what I am proclaiming. Emergent defenders have neither history nor the Bible on their side, so a few have decided to just spend their time and energy lampooning and ridiculing those of us who dare oppose their favorite brand of apostasy. Although they often tout the tired claim that “apologists destroy unity,” it is disingenuous and laughable for the opposition to claim that those speaking up and biblically exposing error are themselves actually the issue.

Emergent sympathizers would like me and others to just shut up and go away. But retreat doesn’t shine the light on error or warn the unsuspecting. I honestly know of no one involved in apologetics and discernment ministry who relishes confrontation and the other often uncomfortable aspects of the work. However, we understand that peace at any cost isn’t real peace and that unity for the sake of appeasement isn’t real unity either. Error must be exposed no matter how unpopular or disquieting it may be. Truth – God’s truth – is the most important element and without it as our guiding force, unholy compromise quickly spreads and becomes the norm. That’s just not acceptable.

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