Thoughts on Human Sexuality

Thoughts on Human Sexuality

The Church of the Nazarene recently passed a resolution to rewrite the Covenant of Christian Conduct section under Human Sexuality. The vote was 97 percent affirmative on the resolution.

Purchase your copy of the ebook here.

Several friends have asked for a copy of the resolution, so I have placed it below, in its entirety. It was my privilege to work on this for three years with a group of international scholars, psychologists, pastors, and theologians. As we were doing this work, I was simultaneously working on curriculum for the church. It is now available in ebook format as Human Sexuality II: A Primer for Christians. The first hard copy volume by the same title is out of print. The second volume has several new chapters and has been re-edited to be more current. The book has discussion questions at the conclusion of each chapter for group conversation.  

Human Sexuality and Marriage

The Church of the Nazarene views human sexuality as one expression of the holiness and beauty that God the Creator intended. Because all humans are beings created in the image of God, they are of inestimable value and worth. As a result we believe that human sexuality is intended by God to include more than the sensual experience, and is a gift of God designed to reflect the whole of our physical and relational createdness.

As a holiness people, the Church of the Nazarene affirms that the human body matters to God. Christians are both called and enabled by the transforming and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit to glorify God with our bodies. Our senses, our sexual appetites, our ability to experience pleasure, and our desire for connection to another are shaped out of the very character of God. Our bodies are good, very good.

We affirm belief in a God whose creation is an act of love. Having experienced God as holy love, we understand the Trinity to be a unity of love among Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Therefore, we are made with a yearning for connection with others at the core of our being. That yearning is ultimately fulfilled as we live in covenanted relationship with God, the creation, and loving one’s neighbor as one’s self. Our creation as social beings is both good and beautiful. We reflect the image of God in our capacity to relate and our desire to do so. The people of God are formed as one in Christ, a rich community of love and grace.

Within this community, believers are called to live as faithful members of the body of Christ. Singleness among the people of God is to be valued and sustained by the rich fellowship of the church and the communion of the saints. To live as a single person is to engage, as Jesus did, in the intimacy of community, surrounded by friends, welcoming and being welcomed to tables, and expressing faithful witness.

Also within this community, we affirm that some believers are called to be married. As defined in Genesis, “a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.” The marriage covenant, a reflection of the covenant between God and the people of God, is one of exclusive sexual fidelity, unselfish service, and social witness. A woman and a man publicly devote themselves to one another as a witness to the way God loves. Marital intimacy is intended to reflect the union of Christ and the Church, a mystery of grace. It is also God’s intention that in this sacramental union the man and woman may experience the joy and pleasure of sexual intimacy and from this act of intimate love new life may enter the world and into a covenantal community of care. The Christ-centered family ought to serve as a primary location for spiritual formation. The church is to take great care in the formation of marriage through pre-marital counseling and teaching that denotes the sacredness of marriage.

The Scriptural story, however, also includes the sad chapter of the fracturing of human desire in the fall, resulting in behaviors that elevate self-sovereignty, damage and objectify the other, and darken the path of human desire. As fallen beings, we have experienced this evil on every level—personal and corporate. The principalities and powers of a fallen world have saturated us with lies about our sexuality. Our desires have been twisted by sin, and we are turned inward on ourselves. We have also contributed to the fracturing of the creation by our willful choice to violate the love of God and live on our own terms apart from God.

Our brokenness in the areas of sexuality takes many forms, some due to our own choosing and some brought into our lives via a broken world. However, God’s grace is sufficient in our weaknesses, enough to bring conviction, transformation, and sanctification in our lives. Therefore, in order to resist adding to the brokenness of sin and to be able to witness to the beauty and uniqueness of God’s holy purposes for our bodies, we believe members of the body of Christ, enabled by the Spirit, can and should refrain from:

  • Unmarried sexual intercourse and other forms of inappropriate sexual bonding. Because we believe that it is God’s intention for our sexuality to be lived out in the covenantal union between one woman and one man, we believe that these practices often lead to the objectification of the other in a relationship. In all its forms, it also potentially harms our ability to enter into the beauty and holiness of Christian marriage with our whole selves.
  • Sexual activity between people of the same sex. Because we believe that it is God’s intention for our sexuality to be lived out in the covenantal union between one woman and one man, we believe the practice of same-sex sexual intimacy falls short of God’s will for human sexuality. While a person’s homosexual or bi-sexual attraction may have complex and differing origins, and the implication of this call to sexual purity is costly, we believe the grace of God is sufficient for such a calling. We recognize the shared responsibility of the body of Christ to be a welcoming, forgiving, and loving community where hospitality, encouragement, transformation and accountability are available to all.
  • Extra-marital sexual relations. Because we believe this behavior is a violation of the vows that we made before God and within the body of Christ, adultery is a selfish act, a family-destroying choice, and an offense to the God who has loved us purely and devotedly.
  • Divorce.  Because marriage is intended to be a lifelong commitment, the fracturing of the covenant of marriage, whether initiated personally, or by the choice of a spouse, falls short of God’s best intentions. The church must take care in preserving the marriage bond where wise and possible, and offering counsel and grace to those wounded by divorce.
  • Practices such as polygamy or polyandry. Because we believe that the covenantal faithfulness of God is reflected in the monogamous commitment of husband and wife, these practices take away from the unique and exclusive fidelity intended in marriage.

Sexual sin and brokenness are not only personal, but rather pervades the systems and structures of the world. Therefore, as the church bears witness to the reality of the beauty and uniqueness of God’s holy purposes we also believe the church should refrain from and advocate against:

  • Pornography in all its forms, which is desire gone awry. It is the objectification of people for selfish sexual gratification. This habit destroys our capacity to love unselfishly.
  • Sexual violence in any form, including rape, sexual assault, sexual bullying, hateful speech, marital abuse, incest, sex trafficking, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, bestiality, sexual harassment, and the abuse of minors and other vulnerable populations. All people and systems that perpetrate sexual violence transgress the command to love and to protect our neighbor.  The body of Christ should always be a place of justice, protection, and healing for those who are, who have been, and who continue to be affected by sexual violence.

Therefore we affirm that:

  • Where sin abounds grace abounds all the more. Although the effects of sin are universal and holistic, the efficacy of grace is also universal and holistic. In Christ, through the Holy Spirit, we are renewed in the image of God. The old is gone and the new comes. Although the forming of our lives as a new creation may be a gradual process, God’s healing is effective in dealing with the brokenness of humanity in the areas of sexuality.
  • The human body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. We affirm the need for our sexuality to be conformed to God’s will. Our bodies are not our own but have been bought with a price. Therefore, we are called to glorify God in our bodies through a life of yielded obedience.
  • The people of God are marked by holy love. We affirm that, above all the virtues, the people of God are to clothe themselves with love. The people of God have always welcomed broken people into our gathering. Such Christian hospitality is neither an excusing of individual disobedience nor a refusal to participate redemptively in discerning the roots of brokenness. Restoring humans to the likeness of Jesus requires confession, forgiveness, formative practices, sanctification, and godly counsel—but most of all, it includes the welcome of love which invites the broken person into the circle of grace known as the church. If we fail to honestly confront sin and brokenness, we have not loved. If we fail to love, we cannot participate in God’s healing of brokenness.

As the global church receives and ministers to the people of our world, the faithful outworking of these statements as congregations is complex and must be navigated with care, humility, courage, and discernment.

Reframing the Alcohol Question in the Church of the Nazarene

Reframing the Alcohol Question in the Church of the Nazarene


Every denomination has its hot buttons. Alcohol is one of ours.

When the issue of social drinking comes up, we line up to tell our stories of abuse, destruction, and slippery slopes. And these stories are true. As a result of this passion, we are unable to carry the conversation forward on a meaningful level. I watched, again, as our General Assembly sought to address the issue. My friend, Rick Powers, simply requested that we spend 15 minutes talking about the issue that had been referred. We got no traction on his request. So I would suggest a simple reframing of the question in this way. Rather than asking, “Can Nazarenes drink socially?” what if we change the question to this: “Is our call to abstinence a matter of membership, discipleship, or both?”

I’ll start with where we might gain consensus (and by consensus I mean a majority opinion of General Assembly delegates, not a popular vote of all social media Nazarenes). We might agree on the following points:

  1. From our beginning, the Church of the Nazarene has expressed concern for the abuse of alcohol. We believe it is part of our historic calling to stand with those who suffer its abusive consequences while also opposing a culture that glorifies its use to the detriment of many.
  2. We have chosen abstinence as the means by which we will stand in solidarity with those who suffer, and as our means of bearing witness to the world that our love for the neighbor expresses itself in such a witness. There are also other ways to express the same concern.
  3. We do not believe that God has called every denomination and movement to the same expression of abstinence. While the issue of alcohol may be rooted in our historic origin, other movements were formed around different issues – peace/reconciliation for the Mennonites, helping the poor for the Salvation Army, biblical inerrancy for the Baptists. When these movements discuss these issues, the same passion we see around alcohol emerges among them. So, as we stand among the wider people of  God, it might do us well to admit that this is unique to us and our history. Therefore, we will not make this an issue that is central to Christian faith.
  4. I believe that we should confess a period of legalism in our movement which caused us to view abstinence as a personal badge of holiness. We did it for our own righteousness rather than in love for the neighbor. It became proof of personal holiness rather than a practice of social justice.  If we intend to be honest about the Bible, the only position for abstinence to be made is rooted in love for the neighbor. And a very good case can be made for this.

While many will wish to disagree on some or all of these points, I believe this where consensus might begin.  If so, might we tame our passion a bit and tackle this question: “Is our call to abstinence a matter of membership, discipleship, or both?” I’ll take a shot at each option.

  1. It is a matter of membership. The covenant of church membership is a vow of solidarity with the church. Preparation for membership should include a thorough introduction to what we believe and practice. Those who join should follow the practices of the Covenant of Christian Conduct. Our ethic is based on the concept of the collective Christian conscience as guided by the Holy Spirit, which is expressed by a General Assembly of the denomination. Our call to abstinence is found there. We also state that “those who violate the conscience of the church do so at their own peril and to the hurt of the witness of the church.”  This seems to suggest that we recognize the reality that not all members adhere to the corporate conscience of the church and thus, harm our social witness.

So what do we do with this? Is abstinence from alcohol the leading litmus test for membership? Or possibly the lone remaining litmus test? The same Covenant of Christian Conduct also calls for tithing, justice for the poor, education via our Nazarene schools, discernment in movies and dancing, and a lot of other things. Shall we place the same membership emphasis on tithing, engaging social justice for the poor, sending our youth to Nazarene colleges, and not going to raunchy movies or making suggestive dance moves? It strikes me that you can be a member of the church and not tithe, attend, serve, or profess the experience of sanctification.

The conversation we should be having revolves around the difference between calling persons to embrace ethical convictions and making these same convictions essential to membership. Could it be that there are many who wish to join us in our mission to make Christ-like disciples, but who respectfully do not embrace every ethical position that we hold. The millennials, for all their interesting ways, are giving us a gift by calling us to honesty around this issue. In the words of a wise young pastor, “This isn’t about the young person who wants to social drink, but the lifetime 50-year-old members who already do.” They are asking for honesty. Our current practice resembles looking the other way, “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Had I chosen to evict the members who were social drinkers from the Nazarene congregations I pastored, I would have decimated the church. Some of the most Christ-like persons I have pastored fit the category. But I would also say that, over time, many of them eventually came to the practice of abstinence as I carefully preached the call and as they observed the ministry of the church to those abused by alcohol. We were able to call people to abstinence without shaming or evicting those members who respectfully disagreed. Which leads me to the second option.

  1. It is a matter of discipleship. I understand the concern of those who believe that removing this as a membership requirement softens our position. I would suggest that a membership requirement ignored by many causes us to play games of avoidance. We become silent, or we wink at known behavior, or we shame people, or we just look the other way. I view membership as invitation to join us in the mission to make Christ-like disciples.  I prefer the requirement that one be baptized to join the church thus affirming that one already belongs to the body of Christ. And in the body of Christ, we believe that God has the right to tell us what to do with our time, money, and bodies. I also believe that a brief statement of doctrinal affirmations is a requirement. If a person understands God in an essentially different way than we do, there are other families they can and should join. Membership is an early association decision. Discipleship is the life-long work we do to call and empower people to live in likeness to Jesus. I prefer to think of the call to abstinence as a matter of discipleship rather than a check-the-box for membership.
  2. It is both a matter of discipleship and membership. This is where many would land. But if we do, we need to rethink membership. It would need to become a long-term, delayed, highly catechism-ed act. We would create a process by which one does not join the church until they are a consistent tither, a servant among the poor, a tee-totaller, a graduate of one of our Nazarene colleges (yes, I’m kidding… but just a little), wholly sanctified, clean movie list, and innocent on the dance floor. Forgive my attempt at over-statement here, but I think membership is either an entry point followed by careful discipleship, or it is an achievement recognized by those who are the walking brand of everything we believe (which begins to sound a little like our earlier legalism).

I am encouraged by the way our church dealt with human sexuality. It was a privilege to help craft that work and to offer curriculum to the church for calling people to a sexual ethic and practice. I hope we can rewrite our whole Covenant of Christian Conduct as a cohesive call to the life of holiness as we understand it. It would serve as an understanding of our specific, historic, and present call, not a litmus test for all believers. And I pray that our welcome to membership could be the beginning of participation in a family with lots of holy practices.

During the General Assembly deliberations, I tweeted the line, “The church is both clunky and wise.” I believe this. We are deliberately slow because global conversations are not easy, because generations matter, and because we always fight our own ghosts. But hope is among us in the person of Jesus. If we keep pursuing his likeness, we will find ourselves in a good place. In the words of a retiring General Superintendent, “The church is a mess, but I love her.”

And I would add, “Jesus is a stretch, but I desire to be made like him.”

Reflections on the bombing in Manchester

Reflections on the bombing in Manchester

Friends, the following is a reflection of a Trevecca alumnus, Joseph Wood, who works as a theology professor in Manchester. His theological leadership is a healing touch following the terrorist attack in his city. May God grant grace to our friends in the U.K.  
The old motto holds true: the sun never sets on Trevecca. Our graduates serve globally. 
—Dan Boone

A screenshot of Wood’s reflections at Seedbed, movement and media platform whose mission is to gather, connect, and resource the people of God to sow for a great awakening.

Terror. Death. Grief. Pain. Anguish. Fear.

These are the words which appeared on my social media feed and the news two days ago. I live in Manchester, UK and our city was attacked late Monday night by a suicide bomber. Almost 2 dozen people, many of whom were children, lost their lives, and many more are still in hospital fighting for theirs. Yesterday was a day of grief, pain, and deep sadness.

As I opened my social media apps yesterday, another word appeared: Aldersgate. In the midst of tragedy, I see a word which sends my mind racing.

Yesterday, people around the world recognized a significant moment in the life of John Wesley. Nearly 300 years ago on that day, a young John Wesley, ‘went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street.’ For months he had been struggling with faith and doubt, grace and works, and he had been praying for God to bring him a sense of assurance of faith. In this meeting a passage from Martin Luther’s Preface to Romans was being read. Luther, too, struggled with faith and fear. As a young monk, he longed to have an assurance of the state of his soul. As he began to study the letters to the Romans and Galatians, he became convinced of the fact that assurance comes through faith alone and faith is a gift of God, made available through the righteousness of Christ.

As Wesley was hearing Luther explain the depths of love being expressed in Paul’s letter to the Romans, he recorded later in his Journal, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.” This was a pivotal moment in the life of Wesley, one which many see as a catalyst for what would become of his life: the leader of a worldwide movement in the Church.

So, I am thinking today about Aldersgate and I am still grieving of what happened in my city on Monday and I wonder, what does it mean to have a ‘heart strangely warmed’ in the midst of tragedy?

On a day like yesterday, hearts in Manchester could easily feel cold and sad. People affected could have hearts of hostility and anger. The hearts of those in the emergency services could be simply weary and tired.

But this is not what I saw in the town square yesterday. Thousands of Mancunians gathered together to speak hope over the city, to pray for the city, and to show their love for the city. I have heard story after story of ordinary people caring for the injured, giving rides to those who were stranded, and offering hospitality to strangers. I saw church building after church building with doors opened wide, welcoming anyone who wanted to pray, speak with someone, or simply find a place of quiet to reflect.

This week, in many ways, I saw a city with a “heart strangely warmed.” This may seem an odd phrase to use to describe the atmosphere, as not all of those people at the town hall were Christians and not all of those willing to help would claim faith in Christ. But as I reflect on Aldersgate and as I observe the response of a city in which Wesley preached many times, I wonder if the Spirit of God may be moving over our city, gently warming the hearts of this great place, offering the gifts of faith, hope, and love.

Please continue to pray for the people of Manchester.

Holy Week Ramblings

Holy Week Ramblings

It affected me in more ways than I had expected.

I suppose the way the funeral meshed into my week gave it all kinds of things to spill over into.

Yesterday I went to the funeral of Ben Speer, sat on the back row, listened to songs I hadn’t heard in years sung by the Gaither Homecoming crowd and the Stamps-Baxter choir and found myself deeply moved. Why?

I think it is more than nostalgia. I think it is all the other things floating around in my life these days.

A few nights ago, I went to the Trevecca Undergraduate Student Research Symposium and heard bright young scholars make presentations on topics like producing a documentary film, anxiety in undocumented students, reforming girls of the 19th century England, and the massacre of African-American Union soldiers at Fort Pillow. These were just a few of the 30 presentations.

I saw young minds creating and discovering, then sharing their findings with standing-room only crowds. The Fort Pillow massacre report connected me to J. J. White Memorial Presbyterian Church in my hometown. He was the founder of my birthplace, but I had never heard the story that he had served time for war crimes committed in the massacre at Fort Pillow. And he has a church named after him a hundred plus years later.

My cousin Andy and I talked late last night about growing up in Mississippi and all that was going on there that we did not know then and how we are responsible for the worlds we are making now.

Then, yesterday morning a committee of the Tennessee legislature failed to recommend a bill to allow DACA students to pay the same in-state tuition as the same kids they went through TN K-12 schools with. They have to pay out-of-state tuition, which makes college practically unaffordable for them. And my DACA friends are heartbroken.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to get AT&T U-verse installed at my house. Today will be their third trip. I forget how dependent I am on wireless connections to be omnipresent.

Then in chapel this week at Trevecca, students and professors shared about their trip to Israel and the film they are making, Thy Kingdom Come. Our chaplain asked the students on the panel a question: How did this trip affect how you know Jesus? When people travel to the Holy Land, we usually ask if they read the Bible differently after being there or if their faith seems more historically grounded, but Shawna Songer Gaines asked these students if they now know Jesus differently.

Their humble responses made me grateful for professors who do life with students and for the Jesus that is knowable.

And then, I’m navigating two worlds with the recent decision to serve as president of two schools, one in Nashville and one near Boston. I know the Nashville school well having served 12 years as president of Trevecca Nazarene University, six years as its campus church pastor, and four years as a student. Its history is entwined with my own and that of my older friends. But the role of president of Eastern Nazarene College has me learning a new history. I’ve been reading the 2-volume work of Dr. James R. Cameron detailing the history of the college. Founded in 1900 and surviving against the odds, this school is my newest challenge. It is a gem worth bringing back to stability and strength. I am humbled that they would let me try (along with several friends who are smarter than me at what they do).

And finally, we have 20-30 people coming for Easter weekend. Our own gang is approaching 20, and then we have friends from lots of places. Our celebration will include family and friends of all ages, from 1 to 90. We’ll attend Good Friday service with one daughter’s family and Easter Sunday with another daughter’s family.  It’s Holy Week.

So I went to Ben Speer’s funeral yesterday and found myself in a quiet place reflecting on the timeless Christ and the frail time-marked humans that I live among. For the grandkids in my back yard this weekend and the college students making discoveries in the lab and the Holy Land, my musings make little sense … because when you’re young, you can’t look back far enough to wonder.

And for the long-dead founder of my hometown who slaughtered Union soldiers because of the color of their skin but got his name on a church sign anyway and for Mom and Pop Speer who welcomed Ben home, it is too late to do anything different about anything. We live with the world they created, good and bad.

And for the AT&T installer, the state legislators, and the friends coming for Easter weekend, I pray grace over what they do.

And if the Lord tarries, what we’re doing now at Trevecca and what we will attempt at Eastern Nazarene College will be history of some kind. And we will live with that.

I suppose it was the songs we sang at Ben’s funeral: “In a Land Where We’ll Never Grow Old,” “Time Has Made a Change,” “Sheltered in the Arms of God.” You can Google those lyrics if you’d like, but these are the songs I grew up singing. They still mean a lot to me, but now, all these years later, I think I’m really beginning to understand them.

The common denominator in all of this is the timeless Christ, who wastes nothing, preserves everything and rises from the worst we can do. Jesus seems very near this week.

I saw something beautiful today

I saw something beautiful today

A few reflections from this past Sunday. 

I saw something beautiful today: a new church was born.

The congregation that my wife and I attend opened their arms 16 months ago to a pastor couple who have worked among us to collect a group of people with the commitment to launch a new congregation in a different part of the city. Ours is a congregation that had its own birth less than 10 years ago in a storefront building. Now it has reproduced itself in loving generosity. With the world awash in “big,” it was moving to see something tiny and small take its first steps today.

The launching pastor, with tears in his eyes, compared the mother church to a pregnant woman glowing in the beauty of new life. The two congregations gathered as one for the last time today and shared the Lord’s Supper, sang “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” and spoke a blessing. Next week, another part of the city will be graced with the presence of a loving new congregation.

I saw something beautiful today.


Celebrating Legacies of Service

When I think about people who have graced my life, the men being honored by our sister university fit that category. Before moving to serve at Southern Nazarene University, they were professors in the Trevecca School of Religion. I admire them both, consider them friends and wish them well in the next chapter of their lives. Men like these make the term Christian winsome.

Thanks, Don and Hal, for your exemplary service to the people of God.

Long-time Educators Leave Lasting Influence

With over 80 years combined service to Nazarene higher education, two stalwarts of ministry are bidding farewell to SNU. Dr. Hal Cauthron, Professor and Chair of the School of Theology and Ministry at SNU, and Dr. Don Dunnington, former SNU Vice President for Academic Affairs and currently Professor in the School of Theology and Ministry, have announced their retirements at the close of the current academic year. Their service to the Church of the Nazarene has impacted multiple Nazarene educational institutions and thousands of students preparing for ministry. Their influence on our denomination is reflected in the lives of those who sat under their teaching and now serve in ministry roles around the globe.

Dr Hal CauthronDr. Hal Cauthron received the BA degree in Religion from BNC/SNU in 1967. Now, fifty years later he is retiring as a faculty member and Chair of the School of Theology & Ministry at SNU. He received the MA degree in Religion from BNC in 1969, and later completed the M.Div. degree at Nazarene Seminary and the PhD degree (in New Testament) at Vanderbilt University. In January of 1995 he began teaching at SNU, serving 22 ½ years in the same department. His teaching ministry included service at 3 other Nazarene institutions – Trevecca in Tennessee and two theological colleges, one in Swaziland and the other in South Africa. The combined total years of ministry in those places is another 22 ½ years.

Of God’s call and his preparation for Christian higher education, Cauthron said, “I have been given the highest of privileges that I could ever imagine in serving my alma mater in the role of teacher of New Testament. My sense of gratitude arises out of the profound, life-changing influence of the New Testament teacher under whom I studied at BNC. That teacher was Professor Richard Howard. He was the Spirit’s instrument in making the New Testament writings become so very powerful to me.” Cauthron’s impact on students over the years has been immeasurable, but he expressed the return on his investment in them by saying, “My heart is full when I see or hear of former students fulfilling God’s call to ministry as pastors, evangelists, teachers, and church leaders.”

When asked about future plans, Dr. Cauthron said, “Retiring from full time work in ministry does not mean retiring from God’s call to minister. I am already finding opportunities of continuing the ministry of God’s word.” Beyond some much-anticipated travel with his wife, Nancy, and spending time with their two children and their families, Cauthron hopes to work on writing projects and be available for some teaching and preaching as God leads. “We are just looking forward to things which we cannot necessarily imagine at this point,” he said.

Dr. Don W. Dunnington has served SNU for 26 years. Dr Don DunningtonDon came to SNU in 1991 and served for 15 years as Vice-President for Academic Affairs/Academic Dean before returning to his love for students and teaching in the School of Theology and Ministry for the last 11 years.

Prior to his years at SNU, Don was Chaplain and Professor of Pastoral Ministry at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tennessee from 1980-1991. Early in his career he served the Church of the Nazarene full-time as an evangelist and pastor for 7 years. His areas of teaching have included Preaching/Homiletics, Pastoral Ministry, Pastoral Counseling, Worship, Spiritual Formation, Christian Life, New Testament, and Introductory courses in Christian Theology.

Throughout his work at TNU and SNU Don has been active in preaching and teaching ministries of the Church of the Nazarene. In addition to regularly teaching a Sunday School class at Bethany First Church of the Nazarene for many years, he recently developed and led an elective seminar at BFC on “Christian Life in the Wesleyan Tradition.”

When asked to reflect on his career in ministry preparation, he said, “I am grateful for the privilege the church has given me to serve in Christian higher education and for the great partnership that exists between our church and Southern Nazarene University. I look forward to serving Christ and the church in whatever opportunities that might develop in the days ahead!”

Don and his wife, Jane, who retired in 2014 after 16 years as a valued member of the SNU staff, will continue to live in Oklahoma City–when they are not traveling. They have three sons who are all SNU grads and 7 grandchildren living nearby who fill their lives with joy.

(Information about Dr. Hal Cauthron and Dr. Don Dunnington is from SNU’s Good News-February 2017 update.) 

A few thoughts on presidential inaugurations

A few thoughts on presidential inaugurations

My inauguration was a deeply meaningful event in my life. Both humbling and energizing, it launched me into 12 years of work as the president of Trevecca Nazarene University. In retrospect, I’ve been thinking about the things I’ve learned following my own inauguration. Here are my top 10.

  1. I stepped into a stream of history that did not begin with me and most likely will not end with me. The blood, sweat, and tears of those who have gone before me represent a depth of wisdom that I can draw on, if I’m humble enough to receive the lessons of history.
  2. Honoring those who held office before me makes me larger, not smaller. Unlike the mass executions of royal relatives in the Old Testament takeover stories, it is not necessary that I murder—with my words and actions—the friends and family of those who preceded me.
  3. Positional power is seductive on more levels that I originally knew. The trappings of inaugural power are accompanied by sinister sweet voices in my head that affirm my worst prejudices and opinions. An inaugural ceremony does not make me omniscient or infallible. Resisting these voices is the hardest work I do.
  4. An inauguration doesn’t signal a graduation from listening and learning. I need to know what I don’t know. The intoxication of inauguration tempts me to think they elected me because I could fix everything. I have found that leading a Christian university is fraught with complexity on more levels than I suspected. I’m still trying to figure it out, thus the posture of a listening learner.
  5. It isn’t about me. Yes, I am the one who was paraded down a center aisle, introduced with fanfare, had hands placed on me by holy people, pledged things in printed response liturgies, had a heavy medallion hung around my neck, and gave the keynote address. But that was all over in an hour. This enterprise was not created for me or by me, and it does not exist to showcase me. Trevecca is about those it serves, and the world they serve in the name of Jesus. As an inaugurated person, I need to get over myself quite rapidly.
  6. The work is too demanding to spend a lot of time defending myself. People are rightly suspicious of institutions and their leaders because the path to leadership is usually through the thickets of people-pleasing and favor-collecting. People assume the right to critique institutions and their leaders. I have to understand that this comes hand-in-hand with the medallion they hung around my neck. Yes, the criticism is often unfair, uninformed, and unkind. But sometimes it is dead right. So rather than living in a defensive posture, I must enlarge my soul, become thoughtful and develop a thick skin. I can be criticized without being enslaved by the criticism.
  7. It takes significant discipline to remain mission-centered rather than becoming enemy-centered. Loving one’s enemies is actually the most cost-effective way to deal with them. Their influence expires faster. Of course they don’t like me, and, of course, they said and did that. Now let’s get to work.
  8. I have to know when to take center stage and speak and when to shut up. An inauguration gives me platforms of importance, but I don’t need to climb atop each platform that presents itself. The quiet conversations and deep dives into complexity are often more needed than applause. When public presence is called for, I must be there. When the wisdom of quietness and reflection beckon me, I must be there, too.
  9. I must surround myself with people who are wiser than I am, then convince myself that they are wiser than I am. I must respect their wisdom and offer them the opportunity to contribute. I am not qualified to fill the role of a single cabinet member on our team. They are better than I am at what they do. I am neither threatened by their leadership nor jealous of it. My role is to shape a collaborative culture in which they can work together for the good of Trevecca.
  10. My inauguration does not erase my accountability. Rather, it increases it. I remain accountable to the King who was crowned Lord at his ascension to the right hand of God the Father. I am also accountable to trustees, employees, students, parents who entrust their children to us, accrediting bodies, bankers, laws, civil rights, alumni, donors, and constituents—and to my family, living and dead. While I am free in Christ, I am a slave to all. Inauguration only increases accountability.
Merry Christmas from Trevecca!

Merry Christmas from Trevecca!

Each year, it’s my joy to share Trevecca Nazarene University’s Christmas card. As this year’s card encourages, I invite you all to take a deep breath in the middle of this busy season to simple rest in the presence of God and enjoy His creation and blessings.

Denise and I wish you a blessed Christmas season.

Trevecca student snowball fight from last winter

Click here to see our Christmas greetings from the past few years:

And for some more Christmas cheer, enjoy this video!

An open letter to the students and employees of Trevecca

An open letter to the students and employees of Trevecca

The past two weeks have wearied me.

College campuses are the perfect tinderbox for conflict regarding the presidential election. In one unique place, you find diversity, passion, inherited parental politics, newly emerging generational politics, old-people politics, professors with differing viewpoints that are held with unflinching certainty, women who were hoping for a shattered glass ceiling, immigrants who were hoping for a responsible path to citizenship, LGBT persons running the gamut from “seeking dignity as persons” all the way to “affirmation of any and every sexual behavior,” white working middle class people who are tired of being called uneducated, black persons who hope their lives matter, economic-minded citizens hoping for lower taxes and more jobs, Democrats defending the poor and minorities, Republicans wanting less government interference, students just out of the military, 22 nationalities, about 3,500 very different people, and the normal immaturity of the human race. Add to all of this the fast-moving gas fumes of social media looking for a fire somewhere.

I live and work in this community.

So, yesterday I went to church hoping for salvation from my weariness. It was Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the Christian calendar year. In a sense, it was the day we celebrate the end of time. We read Psalm 46. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (You may want to pause and read the entire psalm in light of the election.) Then we sang “This is my Father’s World. O let me ne’er forget that tho’ the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet. This is my Father’s world. The battle is not done; Jesus who died, shall be satisfied, and earth and heaven be one. This is my Father’s world, why should my heart be sad. Jesus is King, let the heavens ring. God reigns, let the earth be glad.”

Then my pastor simply told the story of Jesus, laying aside power, absorbing brokenness, dying in love.

I found myself asking, how do people who believe Christ is King live now? What is the posture of a Christian in a frightened, fractured, fighting world? After two weeks of “How can you be a Christian and vote for x?”, two weeks of people taking and giving offense, two weeks of seeking to reconcile the unreconcilable … I found myself drawn into God on Christ the King Sunday. And similar to an Augustine moment, the Spirit instructed me to pick up the book and read Romans 12. The title of this section in the NRSV is The Mark of the Christian.

“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:9-21, NRSV).

I won’t attempt a full exegesis of this because—in keeping with the ethic of the kingdom of God—it pulls us in odd ways. My takeaway? Stand in the middle of the mess, seek to understand first, honor people, love, suffer in the mode of Jesus, stay humble, leave room for God to be God rather than rushing in with my answers, remain hopeful, offer blessing everywhere possible in every way possible.

Is this possible today? Only if Christ is King and the end of time invades this day. Back to work.

Dan Boone

Voting Booth Questions

Voting Booth Questions

For a few election cycles now, I have gone to the voting booth with specific questions in mind. I shared these with Trevecca students last night and several asked me to post them today.

Rarely has any candidate been the answer to all seven and quite often the answer is neither. But these questions do help me to think about why I vote for a person or choose to write in another name.

  1. Under which leader is the world most likely to be at peace?
  2. Under which leader will the people of God have the most freedom to carry out the agenda of the kingdom of God?
  3. Under which leader will human life and God’s creation be protected, valued and nourished?
  4. Under which leader will justice be carried out in creating a peaceful society of neighborly concern?
  5. Under which leader will I be expected to be a more responsible citizen in my community rather than a dependent consumer of government goods?
  6. Under which leader will honorable work be valued and made available for all to participate in?
  7. Under which leader will fragile persons be given dignity, then helped to become as whole as possible and then be expected to live as responsible citizens?

I hope these questions help you as you enter the voting booth today.