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.”

Comments

  1. Deborah Hubbs says:

    I wouldn’t limit the honesty request only to the millennials – I would add the Gen-Xers to the list as well. When I heard ‘drinking is a sin’, but ‘I want to divorce your mother of 30 years so I can be happy.’ It was a problem for me. Can we honestly say drinking is more destructive? I know some people who drink who aren’t destructive, but I can’t say that about even one divorce.
    When you see Christian families who love their neighbor, are generous people and love Jesus and make them the center of their home, but exclude them from your church over this one issue then it’s a problem, especially if you can’t say these same things about every member who attends your church.
    I agree with the potential destructiveness of alcohol, in fact I think you make the best argument for not drinking. There’s just hypocrisy when other destructive things are taken lightly or ignored.

    • AMEN

    • Naphtal says:

      Totally agree with you. There are so many destructive things. Even the food we eat. So many things can bring harm to the body to the family and to the church at large. They need to be addressed with equal measure as they are addressing the issue of alcohol.

    • Naphtal says:

      And could someone lease elaborate more on what is a suggestive dance.

    • Samantha says:

      I have never seen where we approve divorce for happiness. Now if there is abuse or cheating then yes, but not just for happiness.

    • Hersh Johnson says:

      You offer very good points, also regarding divorce…. thanks!

    • Dan Boone says:

      Deborah, it is sad how we seek to rationalize destructive behavior for the sake of ourself…and to the detriment of others. It’s why love for the other always has to be at the heart of ethical behavior.

  2. Are we are holiness denomination or are we like all others?

  3. I disagree with some of this. Abstinence will never lead someone else down the wrong road. We need to live in the world but not be a part of it…not a litmus test but a way of holy living.

  4. Doug Runyan says:

    And true ministry is often truly messy but yet we must ‘wade in’.

  5. Tom Travis says:

    The church IS a mess but I don’t love it so much as the years go on…
    The lgbtq issue especially. What the CotN has basically concluded is that those strughling to figure out these issues which may include still “acting out” the lifestyle that there is no place for them in the church. If not so much in words and written form socially they (we) are politely asked to exit and we have no role in the church. Because there’s this unwritten belief in the church that God can’t speak to those struggling with issues. Which flys in the face of Wrsleyan Armenian theology. That’s wrong and hurtful. Lgbtq people love God and are trying to figure out life like any General Superintendent or a holier than though board member is (hopefully they are??) Im hurt, yes. But keep talking – honest conversations are the ONLY way we get anywhere. But honest conversations are RARE and FEW and FAR between.

  6. Steve Digby says:

    This sentence may need some editing: “While many will wish to disagree on some or all of these points, I believe this where consensus might begin. ” (I didn’t want you to think that I am not paying attention to your every word.)

  7. Richard Stout says:

    So glad you are in leadership in the church that I am blessed to be a part of. Thanks, Dan, for continuing to share your wisdom in the midst of the continuing dialogue. You are appreciated!

  8. Rodney Lee Shanner says:

    You raise some important issues, Dr. Boone. Ultimately, I think the Bible is the authoritative Word on all subjects. As far as I can tell, the Bible does not forbid drinking. That said, it does forbid drunkenness. I grew up in a family of heavy drinkers. As a child and teenager I saw Aunts, Uncles, other family members, including my parents, and friends, drunk. In all my years, almost seven decades, I never saw a person drink who did not ever get drunk. That’s a fact. So I have preached, “if you never take a drink, you will never be a drunk.”

    • Rodney Lee Shanner says:

      Where did the “Your comment is awaiting moderation” come from?

    • Jake R. Minius says:

      Hallelujah! Rodney, may your tribe increase! I have the exact same background! Alcohol resulted in the worst days of my childhood! My parents separated, we lived in poverty for years. Then AA came into our home. God used it to restore our home, but the desperation continued until years later an Al-Anon friend took us to a CotN. The church’s abstinence position was a most attractive one to us. It was very easy for me to embrace. And I know in my heart that if I were to drink, I’d simply repeat the tragedy of my childhood and inflict it upon my own family.
      I don’t have to swim in a mud puddle to know I’ll get dirty. I don’t want to see how close to the edge of the cliff I can drive. And if I never drink, I’ll never become a drunk.
      We preach that Christians should stay as far as possible from sin(ful ways). This idea of Christian ‘social drinking seems to me to be toying with the dragon.
      My early life, subsequent exposure to AA, and my relationship with Christ, brought me to the place where I was part of a team that created a very successful substance abuse detox and recovery program at a hospital. One thing we would teach our patients and clients was, “if you have to drink to be social, that’s not social drinking”. Are we proposing that Christians must drink to be social???

  9. Carlton Harvey says:

    Very interesting, Dr. Boone. Thank you for a helpful step forward in the discussion.

    May I suggest yet another way of framing the question of alcohol consumption? I’m asking: What need is fulfilled when drinking alcohol? Or, what need is fulfilled by abstinence? Do I need alcohol, or do I need to avoid it? Addressing that question will unveil motive, and in turn help to call us to the sanctification of our motives before a holy God.

  10. Brian Farmer says:

    Good thoughts, Dr. Boone.

    I believe a major portion of the controversy here is that the Manual statements deal largely, if not entirely, with social drinking, while a major portion of the Nazarene population in America, at least, applies the arguments to *all* consumption of alcohol, social or private. Defining and separating the two would help, I think. We do, however, have a great deal of legalism to which we should confess on this and several other fronts. Though, if we wanted to, we could use our statements on alcohol and unprescribed stimulants to condemn Nyquil and Coca-Cola, too, and no one bats an eye at drinking them (rightfully so). 🙂

    To be honest, I have to confess that, as someone who has neither consumed alcohol nor has any desire to do so, as I have engaged more in the study of the Word, I’ve found it harder and harder to justify our denominational stance on alcohol as it’s currently crafted with Scripture, even on the specific topic of social drinking. This is mainly why I was disappointed that this resolution wasn’t passed. I may still personally disagree with portions of it, but it made a much clearer, more balanced argument on the subject that acknowledged both social stance and Biblical reality.

    • You could also add gaming and other electronic addictions as well.

    • We could also add banning tobacco also. This is a disgusting terrible habit that causes illness and death from terrible diseases as well as making others ill.

    • Dan Boone says:

      Brian, there was a funny moment in the CA Committee when we were working on this and a friend brought me a tall coffee on the front row. They challenged me with duplicity over stimulants.
      But yes, the legalism over the issue needs to be replaced by Biblical honesty. Thanks for your comments.
      Dan

  11. I see it as a way to reach out to others by not drinking alcohol. We do set ourselves apart. Perhaps the same way dress codes are used by some. The why we do it is important. If it is love for others and a honoring of history, I see nothing wrong with encouraging others to avoid alcohol. Yet, can we sit next to the person who is drunk, smelling of liquor making sure they sober up saftey (homeless shelter or even a church) in love without saying..oh, tisk,tisk..but How can I help you see transformation is real and possible in Jesus.

  12. Love this!! Thank you for continuing to swim against the tide of status quo. You and your ministry are appreciated.

    • When drinking became accepted at an official level in our local Nazarene church we were liberated to be able to talk about alcohol. It couldn’t be mentioned before as the end point of the conversation and teaching was obvious – ‘don’t drink’ and those that were abstinent didn’t need telling and those that weren’t just shut their ears to more Nazarene legalistic drum beating; even if the conversation or teaching was of a more graceful and compelling content. Now the end point of such conversation and teaching includes abstinence among other healthy options. We have seen people reduce their drinking or change their drinking habits and the heavy cloud of legalism has lifted. Furthermore those who, equally as legalistically, cling to ‘the right to drink’ are now unable to hide. Their legalism is now out in the light and able to be challenged. I’ve even seen Nazarenes choosing to start to have the occasional drink, but not as a compromise on holiness, but rather as an expression of freedom; they were liberated from legalism and this is a good thing.
      I used to be abstinent because of the Manual. Now I am abstinent because of choice and conscience. Previously it was legalistic and shallow, now I hope it is more fruitful.
      I speak as a 2nd generation Nazarene from a family that experienced salvation precisely as a result of liberation of alcoholism and abuse and from within the framework of a church that has an active NCM focused upon addiction issues. IE If anyone has historical and present tense motivation to defend abstinence it’s me.

      Rather than the manual having a list of ‘answers’ regarding a code of Christian conduct, it should embrace the cultural diversity of our truly global denomination and trust the educational foundations that have been laid in each world area. Consequently, we should have a list of ‘questions’ and not ‘answers’. Each world area/ region/district could then work through these questions and come up with relevant, missiologically driven answers. Imagine the beauty of a global denomination where different districts are answering the question of ‘what are the primary causes of hurt in our communities?’ and choosing to abstain from whatever us the root cause.

    • Dan Boone says:

      Glad to.

  13. Don Hastings says:

    Once again Dan Boone lays out clearly the call and discipline of the Church of the Nazarene. Making Christlike Disciples in the Nations. Christ followers should Be not seem!

    • Karolyn Roberts says:

      The Bible says not to do anything that would make a weak brother stumble. I have dealt with only a few alcoholics, but oh how I wish they would never have had that first drink. Ruin, wasted lives are so sad.

    • Dan Boone says:

      Thanks friend.

  14. Michael Cork says:

    Dan, thanks for your thoughts and helping us to look at this topic from a different perspective. The COTN was born during prohibition which could mean that it was mandatory for a new church movement to have a stance on alcohol at least as conservative as the culture. I was raised in a very legalistic Nazarene church in Missouri and have spent most of my life trying to get over the theology I was taught as a teenager. Growing up this way I felt that our churches stance on everything went one step further than the Bible did. I have served in three denominations and now am back in a COTN. Our denomination is the only one I have been part of that still speaks of having a “distinctive”. I realize that is in reference to doctrine, (which I still don’t get……I don’t think Jesus had this in mind when He prayed for us to be one) . This topic is a matter of practice, but I think our church in an effort to be distinct still falls into the trap of taking matters one step further than the Bible does. Its a tough place for a denomination to argue from.

  15. Charlene Whitworth mills says:

    I was raised in the Holiness Denomination and I fully believe in abstinence. I would never feel comfortable with drinking. I know that my mother lived the life of a holiness and as long as I have breath I will never err from her teaching and what she stood for. What is good enough for my mother is good enough for me. She was a true God fearing follower of Jesus Christ. Praise be His wonderful name.

  16. Susan Kirby says:

    How about we allow God to lead each one personally as He is the only one to judge. Holding oneself accountable to man or to man’s rules, regulations and requirements only creates standards that are judged by others and challenged by some. Isn’t God the One setting the standards and challenging us in our daily life? Doesn’t the Bible stand as the Only worthy guide in our lives? Why would man add, change or delete words from the Bible? Using man’s standards seems to say the Bible doesn’t get it quite right, so you’ll need this book of rules to accompany it? By putting these “rules” in place, you’re changing the relationship that God desires to have with us. He and He alone wants to guide us daily and He already gave the model of living. It needs no revision.
    And, just so you can judge me more accurately, I do not drink and never have. God showed me it’s not the best way of life for me.

    • Susan, I think it is hard to call people to mature faith without seeming to be in control. However, I do not believe the Christian life is best defined as everyone doing what they feel free to do. There is validity in the collective wisdom of other believers. We just need to share it as a an expression of love rather than a desire to control.

  17. Robert Hale says:

    Excellent, well supported argument. I have NO interest in drinking but find it sinful, prideful and rather assuming and disrespectful of the Body at Assembly that this was so easy brushed aside at GA2017.

  18. Sherri Duggan says:

    I grew up died in the wool Nazarene. My grandfather was a Nazarene pastor. I went to a Mazarene college and found my husband there. I do not drink and have first hand seen the devastation of substance abuse. However, I am no longer Nazarene. The Nazarene churches around me have all slowly died or are in the process of dying. Why? I think it is because we are far from transparent and have winked at some “sins” while comdemning others. Is gossip any less a sin than social drinking? Is having a haughty spirit any worse a sin than a rated R movie? I have experienced my greatest joys and came to know Jesus as my personal savior in the Church of the Nazarene. I have also experienced my deepest hurts at the hands of those in the ministry who hinted to church elders that I was somehow not fit to serve in the church while overlooking an affair happening with another leader and a married member. I love the Church of the Nazarene but I am no longer Nazarene. I sadly see a sinking ship if leadership can’t change the type of legalism I grew up experiencing. The first time I heard a pastor admit from the pulpit (not a Nazarene one) that he struggled with some of the same things I did, my jaw dropped but my heart lept; maybe holiness was not in appearing to be perfect but in allowing others to see Christs grace and forgiveness shining through our messy brokenness.

    • I hope we can be so honest and loving that you will want to come home some day. But if not, you are still my sister in Christ. Sorry for the legalism that wounded you.

  19. For every code, covenant and call that is prescribed in our Manual there are Nazarene members who struggle to live it out. I think the concern is how can we offer grace to those who struggle? Our General Assembly is tasked with the responsibility to describe in our Manual who we are as a people called Nazarene. We should stay true to our convictions on the harmful consequences of certain ethical behaviors. We should continue to wave the warning signs and then point people to what we understand from scripture to be a lifestyle of holy living. That’s why I believe it’s okay to say “no” to someone who stands against any of our ethical positions when they still want to join the membership of the Church of the Nazarene. We can say “no” to membership while at the same we can say “yes” to accepting them and loving them as a valued part of our congregation and community. For our members (and non members) who struggle with any of our stances on ethical matters, I say that we should keep holding up the picture of who we want to be. We should keep that picture in front of all of us. Then we should keep asking those who struggle, “Do you agree with this picture?” If the answer is “yes” then let’s patiently help our struggling members get there (even when it takes a while). If the answer is “no” then let’s dig into the fears or reservations of what striving for that picture might be. That seems more Christlike to me than just of tossing people who stuggle out to the curb.

  20. Angie Whitsett says:

    So thankful that Dr. Boone is willing to speak out on this. I was watching live-stream from home as resolution CA-710 came to the floor. My husband wrote and submitted this resolution via our district (Nebraska), so I was absolutely interested in hearing ALL discussions, both for & against the alcohol issue. Of course, it was disappointing when the resolution was so quickly referred. I appreciated Rick Power’s suggestion to still have the conversation, but sadly, as stated above, it got no traction. I’m not sure how this will play out over the next 4 years. I’m wondering… Does this issue differ greatly from culture to culture, from country to country?? If so, can we accept the fact that our GLOBAL Nazarene family may never FULLY agree on all the specifics concerning this issue? And… maybe that’s okay.

  21. Being a Millennial, and one who grew up in the Nazarene church, this article made me cringe a little bit. The fact that such a long winded description of the importance of abstinence from alcohol needs to be written is part of the reason that the church is “clunky.” I grew up with the doctrine of abstinence from alcohol and never understood it. The disciples drank wine, and even Jesus drank wine. It’s about being in the world but not of the world. Not everyone is called to abstinence. Making abstinence a doctrine of the body of a whole congregation takes itself away from so many non-believers. At the end of the day, the function of the church is to create community that welcomes others in to serve them, connect with them, and show them Jesus. Is preaching abstinence from a substance that is biblical in practice holding back possible relationships that could lead to discipling? The Nazarene church is always 5 years behind the world and this would be a great example of why. Let’s get outside of the 4 walls of the church and begin to consider the Great Commission as it is written. The Pharisees focused on their written rules more than the commands of Jesus and we all know how that worked out.

  22. Steve P says:

    I am not a Nazarene, but I do 1). Share many of the same beliefs and values which prevail in the Nazarene church; and, 2) Have many family members both past and present who are members and who have served in teaching and preaching positions in the Nazarene church. One of the reasons I chose (as a young man, nearly 40 years ago) to follow a different denominational path had to do with the legalistic way in which the basic “requirements” for church membership were presented. It is refreshing to read that there is at least conversation taking place to change that. Christ does not expect, nor require, perfect adherence to His teachings in order for us to belong to Him or to be part of His Body on earth (the Church). Neither should the Church require perfect adherence to manmade rules before an individual is allowed to serve and enjoy the privileges of church membership. In 2 Corinthians 4:16 we read, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” Admittedly, this is only possible through Christ, and not in our own power. To me, this scripture and others remind us and encourage us to keep our eyes and hearts fixed on the Author and Finisher of our faith, and daily strive to be more like Him and become the person He wants us to be.

  23. You express exactly how I feel!

  24. Berardo Jurado says:

    Matters of drinking moderate amounts of alcohol ahould be left to the individual, whether in public or in private, fot is is clearly not a sin, otherwise Christ was another sinner. The big elephant in the room is matters of helping the poor and social justice toward the least of these.

  25. Jonell Shelby says:

    Thank you for these wise and thoughtful comments. The Church of the Nazarene is very blessed to have you as part of its leadership.

  26. Derek Elkins says:

    Great thoughts that are much needed as the CotN begins to stretch and mature (She’s still an infant in the world of denominations). For the most part I agree with this post. Oddly, people destroy marriages all the time, but the church doesn’t stop marriage.

  27. Mark Tipton says:

    Thanks for allowing and posting divergent views on this subject. I think we are selfishly missing the point Paul and John made as they wrote about issues of holy living as holy love.
    1 John 2:10 NLT
    Anyone who loves a fellow believer is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble. Alcohol charges a horrendous price on those who stumble and to those who associate with them. Do we really love our brother or merely (and selfishly) want to be acceptable to people whose chioces we would like to emulate without regard to the destruction and human carnage that appears all around us due to alcohol? Shame on me if I forget the invisible, those grossly wounded by alcohol for my own pleasure or ease…If I in my attempt to be culturally relavent forget those too broken to even enter such a discussion without a flood of tears.

  28. Michael Garza says:

    As a “millennial” I think that this is just another example of bringing the colors down to the men rather than the men up to the colors. We continue to lower the bar and compromise for the sake of members or on the basis of proposed “legalism” rather than calling people to a genuine and Biblical Holiness and sticking to our guns. I fear our want to rewrite everything that God so blessed us with and raised us up in is going to put us somewhere we should not be. It constantly baffles me how crucial things are “wanting” to be rewritten yet we are beneficiaries denominationally of these things in which God so blessed, we would not even be here as a church. It’s just an attempt to appease and conform and until we are willing to stand firm we will never settle any of these so called difficult conversations. If our preachers are not willing to hold to this they should preach elsewhere, if our God given doctrine, ethics and Christian conduct isn’t suiting I am sure there is someone else who will tolerate it. We were Holiness people and I fear one could come into our churches and never know the difference between us and any old church down the road, that’s the burden off my heart. Certainly there are new issues that arise but this is no new issue and regardless to concede moral ground is contrary to God’s message

    • I think the gospel needs to be heard as good news within a culture of death. If our tone is so strident that we come across as hating the world, I don’t think people will want to know our Jesus. When I read the NT, I don’t hear Jesus bashing the world but offering to converse with it…then calling people to follow.

  29. Rev. Bobby Norris says:

    I would have to say being in the Military for over 30 years I have seen it all. I chose to be the best I could be and make it to the Top and I did just that with the help of God ✝ I say this because I was not always a Christian and even though I knew right from wrong I Never wanted to drink ✝ smoke ✝ or do any of the things that would harm my body and make me feel bad ✝ I’ve seen what problems drinking causes and the results of family issues and the list goes on and on ✝ But I stand firm on one thing God Wants Us To Take Care Of His Temple and what He has given us is a body to worship Him and serve Him ✝ So here it is plain and simple ✝ The Old Saying “What Would Jesus Do” ✝ People try to hide a lot of things, but as you know God Knows & Sees All ✝✝✝ God Bless ✝✝✝

  30. Jessica Zottneck says:

    Referring to this post by Brian Farmer: I believe a major portion of the controversy here is that the Manual statements deal largely, if not entirely, with social drinking, while a major portion of the Nazarene population in America, at least, applies the arguments to *all* consumption of alcohol, social or private. Defining and separating the two would help, I think. We do, however, have a great deal of legalism to which we should confess on this and several other fronts.

    Can you describe, in another blog maybe, what the difference is between social and private drinking? At least as far as the Church of the Nazarene is concerned? I had never thought to ask that question, and for many it may seem like splitting hairs, but for some it would be valuable information. It also causes me to think that social drinking is often destructive, but not nearly as a lot the drinking done behind closed doors in homes everywhere, where no accountability for behavior resulting from private drinking is ever addressed or mentioned. It definitely is a complicated topic for Christians to wrestle with, not just Nazarenes.

  31. Esther Diamond says:

    I was a Nazarene for more than 30years, probably still would be if there was one locally, and it seems to me that instead of abstinence we would be better preaching, and emphasizing, the ‘everything in moderation’ stand. At least this could be justified biblically! I am not unaware of the dangers of alcohol abuse, I was married to an alcoholic for 22years, however I sincerely believe if we taught moderation we would be more open and honest with ourselves (Nazarenes). It seems we have almost demonised alcohol which is probably more likely to prevent new Christians from coming on board.

  32. Honestly here,
    I’m a social drinker and don’t have a conviction about it. Drunkenness is a sin but I honestly think a glass of wine every so often is not.
    I’ve been a member of the Nazarene church for 12 years. The only “guilt” I sense is the countless times I’ve heard others in my church brag about how they’ve never taken a drop of alcohol because they are sanctified and holy. As well as anytime I volunteer in a leadership role I think I need to stop drinking all together or step down from volunteering. It’s a constant battle of what’s legalism and what’s truth?
    If I stop I want it to be because I’m growing so much in the Lord and the Holy Spirit says to stop. And if He does and I do, it will be because He has empowered me to do so to be a better witness for others and not of my own strength so that I may boast or act as if I’m better than those who do drink.

  33. Dan, I greatly appreciate your wisdom. In my experience, I looked at my family tree and observed multi-generational addiction & codependency. I watched family members self destruct. My decision to not drink alcohol was based on the “sins of the fathers going to the third & fourth generation”, which is biblical.

    • Judy Jackson says:

      Ditto. I grew up in the home of an alcoholic father and a co-dependent mother. Their marriage ended in divorce. I made the decision to not drink alcoholic beverages before I became a Christian. I also made the choice to not marry someone who drank alcoholic beverages. That decision became easier after I became a Christian, because I chose to marry a wonderful Christian man. I have seen and lived the destruction of individual lives and a marriage caused, in large part, alcoholic beverages and addiction to the same. I know of Christian people who do drink. However, it is my opinion they are playing with fire, and potentially having a negative witness for the Lord they endeavor to serve.

    • Dan Boone says:

      Mike and Judy, this is exactly why we need to retain our deep conviction about the destruction of people via alcohol. I could add several pastoral stories of destruction that landed at the doorstep of the church where the primary contributor was alcohol abuse. No backing up from love of the neighbor and the salvation from generational sins.

  34. Thank you for your thoughtful writing on this subject and hope that the Nazarene church deals directly with this. I grew up Nazarene, attended a Nazarene college, and was a church member until settling in a city where attending a Nazarene church wasn’t possible. I have always been grateful for the church’s stand on holiness. However, over the recent years I have had to look at the evils of legalism and, as you mentioned so honestly, the badge of honor worn for our (my) narrow and legalistic conduct. I never went to dances because of “my” beliefs, but now the church allows it. Should the church ban drinking alcohol because of the evils caused by its abuse? Would we ban sexual activity within marriage because of its abuse by abusive married people? It seems that the Nazarene church has a history of extreme reaction to things or behaviors that might look “unholy.” The church has also been afraid of allowing people to make conscience-led decisions because they might be different than the leaders would like. I’m sorry, but this feels like control. We don’t trust people enough to allow them the grace to live in their own spirit-led consciences. Because…unless their behavior matches our own–according to our manual–they aren’t truly sanctified or maybe not even saved? I will always love the Nazarene church and value the structure it provided me as I grew up, but our difference in the world needs to be more about our love for others and our inner peace than our better-than behavior. Please allow members to make these decisions for themselves and let the Spirit convict them where and when He chooses.

    • Beckie, your words ring true in so many ways. I think there is still a responsibility to speak truth and call people to the most Christ-like ways…but not as the kind of religious game-playing that you referenced. Thank you!

  35. James Fleming says:

    I hate to say this but the way the leadership in the Church acts is no different than our political system and he behooves all to set back and see what young folks see in us today.leadership in any organization should be held to the highest standards possible. Especially when we claim to speak for God and the constituents.

  36. Dr. Steve Nestor says:

    While smart to avoid things that will distract from obedience to God, we must remember that it’s God who has the final say. Personally, I have known drunks more kind, charitable and involved in their communities than some good ole’ non drinking church members.

  37. David Williams says:

    Love you Dan. Thank you for the gift of words to help us think and talk lovingly and honestly. May the Lord continue to season our speech with salt and grace over issues that threaten to harm our witness as followers of Jesus. Bless you buddy.

  38. Rick Power says:

    These are such good thoughts from Dan. They will help to advance constructive dialog in the time between General Assemblies. The discussion at the committee level was enlightening to me. We heard opposing views, passionately expressed, but with a high level of civility and mutual respect. In the end, the committee of 120 delegates from all regions of the world, voted by over a two-thirds majority to send the amended resolution to the full assembly. The recommended changes would have provided compelling new rationale for abstinence, though removing the requirement of abstinence for church membership. Even though the vote was to study the matter for the next four years, the dialog in the committee and on social media has signaled to me a denominational sea change in thinking & attitudes on alcohol.

    When/if we let go of a rule we’ve held for so long, it can’t help but feel as though we’re lowering our standards. But, viewed through the lens of spiritual development or discipleship, as Dan rightly frames it, we would actually be raising our standard by teaching our people principled behavior, guided by the Holy Spirit. This is always more life-giving than simple adherence to a rule. I can’t predict which course we’ll take. The rich diversity of our global family makes these matters complex and challenging–we need to welcome all voices to the table for contextualized reflection and careful listening. But, coming out of the hugely encouraging experience of this General Assembly, my sense is that we have nothing to be afraid of.

    • Thanks Rick. I was amused with your email that you got a “waiting for moderation” reply. The Trevecca marketing team manages the account for me and that is apparently the message for posts that are waiting. How appropriate!
      Your post is right where I hope to go – a more serious calling in the discipleship process as we mature persons in likeness to Christ.

  39. Ken Willard says:

    Thank you, Dan, for a great summary of the issue. I felt the resolution given to us by the BGS was very well done, and I was hopeful that it would be approved in my first General Assembly, and disappointed that it was referred with so little debate.

    It seems to me, a layman, that our failure to adopt a reasonable and scriptural position on this issue is rooted in fear of offending some our senior population rather than in love for our neighbors. Our church has moved on this issue, but too many of our leaders are leading from behind.

  40. Alan Schubert says:

    Dan,
    My friend Eunice posted your commentary on her FB page….I replied with a story from my past.

    Eunice I did a quick read through this. I heard the voice of reason and evidence cited that stood on solid ground. Thought provoking for sure….I will read again. But I can’t help to think of a time in my life when I was the director of a “Middle School Age” Baptist church coed Sunday School class of about 60 students. The curriculum for this particular week was along the same lines. In my opening group session prior to breaking into boy / girl classes….I made the following presentation.

    I brought the class to order made a couple announcements and then pulled from my paper sack a couple of small containers of Bluebell “Chocolate” Ice-cream and asked for two volunteers. That was easy. I had 60 hands go up. Then I pulled from the sack a clear plastic Baggie with a sample of dark matter donated from my grandmothers cat… (AkaPoop). I removed the lid from only ONE of the chocolate treats…I scooped the smallest, tiniest minuscule of samples donated by the cat and placed it into the ice cream. Put the lids back on and placed them back into the sack. I gave each of my previously willing boy girl volunteers a plastic spoon and asked them to reach into the sack and eat away. Although there was much pleading and ooooing and ahhhhhhing from the audience….they both elected to pass.

    I pleaded with the students that it was only a litt’l poop. That my grandmother meant no harm, that she fed the cat quality cat chow. This went on and on….it was probably the most fun the Holy Spirit had coaching me ever 🙂

    I told the students that you are selling the same line of crap to your parents,….Mom. dad…..it’s only PG13…. There’s just a little cursing….a little sex…..a little whatever….

    Somehow this very real story for me… seams to resonate in Boone’s plea to assist Christians that happen to be Nazarene come to some conclusion.

    Sincerely , Alan Schubert
    Ps: MowMow as he was known…loved Blue Bell.

  41. L. Alan Thompson says:

    Dan,
    Thanks for your thoughts and courage to address fairly tough issues. Based on what you say, and this is a question not a challenge, what would you suggest might be the essentials for membership in the Church of the Nazarene? From this writing it seems that you would include faith in Jesus Christ and being baptized. Would you include the Articles of Faith as essential but make the Code of Christian Conduct a matter of discipleship?

    • Dan Boone says:

      This is exactly the question I’d like to open up in the denomination. What does membership mean? As basics I think a testimony of conversion, baptism as belonging to the people of God, basic Christian convictions – Apostles Creed or our agreed statement of belief, and a commitment to pursue a holy life. The Covenant becomes the way we define what we mean by the holy life and we build ongoing maturity and discipleship around it. I think it takes a long time for a person to be discipled into the practices of the Christian faith. I’d like to see a more robust, full-orbed Covenant.

  42. Randy Saturday says:

    It appears that we are losing our identity as a holiness denomination. This same argument can be made to other issues of the church such as the LGBT issue. It seems that our stance is about 10-20 years behind other mainstream denomination views. It alarms me to think that our holiness tradition is heading in that direction. Would Dr. Bresee turn over in his grave?

  43. And not a one scripture was found that calls drinking a sin.

  44. I would love to be a part of this discussion. My dad was an alcoholic and I have struggled with this issue for me personally. I am the only non drinker in my family of origin. Absinence is the only answer for me.

    All 4 of my children have attended Nazarene schools where they knew administrators, coaches, classmates, and professors who drank socially. I feel this issue has a direct affect on our childten leaving the church which started with the baby boomers.

    My oldest son, who had an alcohol problem, knew where the athletes partied, what coaches they lived with, and how it was overlooked. My second daughter’s first thanksgiving away from home was invited to her pastors house where wine was served with the meal and there was a college administrator there as well. What does a parent do when we send our kids to Nazarene schools thinking they will be taught the same values they have in their home and as Freshman are seeing the inconsistencies in those who lead.

    Let’s talk about what it means to be holy and let the holy spirit do his work on this issue in each heart as he does on so many other issues. I have spent so much time in our home talking about this issue AND HAVING SOME BIG FIGHTS OVER IT instead of what it means to be a christlike disciple.

    We have had wonderful Holy people not even want to enter our church necause of our stance on this issue. In today”s society people are dealing with it daily in their social and work place lives. Let’s talk about being gracious and holy instead. What it means to be a Christlike disciple.
    This is an issue we will never have full agreement on and keeps us from modeling Christlike behavior.

    • Yes. You are asking for a level of honesty around the issue that we have not yet achieved. I am hoping for a better conversation in the future.

      • Richard Kinzler says:

        In the late 60’s when Dr. Ted Martin was pastor of Nashville First Church I happened to be at the parsonage for Sunday dinner when the Martins were also entertaining the guest speaker from the morning service. I don’t recall who the guest was but he asked to look at the Sunday paper. Dr. Martin responded that he didn’t look at the paper until Monday. When asked why not he responded that it was against the rules of the church and when he joined the church he agreed to abide by all the rules. Dr. Martin was not a perfect man but he was a man of extremely high integrity.
        Most organizations have some level of conduct they expect from people who chose to join them. When I was 18 I worked at the Sears distribution center in North Kansas City. I had a 45 minute drive to work and one morning traffic was particularly heavy. I was 2 minutes late clocking in. It wasn’t long before I was called into the bosses office. I was informed in no uncertain terms that the traffic was not his problem and if I wanted to continue my employment I would not clock in late again. As an 18 year old I thought that was a little unreasonable but I promise you I was never late again! It never crossed my mind to start a campaign to change company policy to accommodate my needs.
        Rev. Bob Pickle tells about the first time he attempted to attend church after getting out of prison. It was some other denomination. He road in on his hog, got off and headed for the front door. Half way to the door he was met by 3 men who told him they didn’t need his kind around there, he could just get back on his bike and leave, which he did. Undeterred, he just rode and as he did he happened by a little Nazarene church. Something told him to turn in, so he did. Those hard nosed, legalistic, unloving Nazarenes welcomed him with open arms and he found his church. The rest is history. He received his call to preach and became a Nazarene evangelist.
        I think sometimes we label people legalistic when we don’t hear what we want to hear. I have no doubt there were times when my boys were growing up that they thought I was pretty legalistic. Young Americans are being recruited into ISIS today and I don’t think it’s because of their loving, do what you want to do philosophy.
        If you join any organization , civic or otherwise, there will be rules and typically fees you are expected to agree to abide by. If you can’t in good conscience follow the rules I would think you would be honor bound to disassociate yourself from that organization. If you are in leadership, specifically in the church, Jesus talked about the consequences of causing
        “one of the least of these” to stumble. Jesus was pretty hard nosed at times:
        ” If you don’t forgive, you won’t be forgiven”. It would probably be time well spent for all of us to take a good hard look at ourselves and see how we measure up to the standards of Christ.

        • You support a high view of membership. Total compliance rather than affiliation with the mission. It would require that we rethink membership. Example, all members must tithe or dis-join the church. I’m not disagreeing with you. I take membership seriously as you do. But total compliance is not even close to the current standard in most of our churches and to demand it would feel legalistic. I’m trying to figure out whether abstinence should be a calling or a requirement for membership.

          • Richard Kinzler says:

            We both understand that the problems in our church have developed over decades and in that regard our church is not unique in the US. Most denominations who have softened or liberalized their positions have not seen that improve their growth rate. Honestly, at this point in my life ‘membership’ is really not that big a deal to me. If my pastor called and said my membership was being pulled I would not be crushed. We also know that probably all denominations in the US are shrinking. Lax standards have not turned anything around for anyone. Perhaps we should talk to our missionaries on fields with double digit growth and try doing what they are doing. We also know that rules don’t get anyone saved. If they did Jesus would not have had to die on the cross. As Chic Shaffer and Bernie Slingerland have said, Holiness is taking self off the throne of our heart and allowing Jesus to take up residence as Lord and King of our life. At that point we have started our journey of allowing the Holy Spirit to mold us into the image of Christ. A process that is consummated in Heaven.
            I taught my mother-in-law’s Sunday school class one time many years ago and there was a new Christian there. He said everyone was telling him he had to quit smoking, what did I say? I told him to honestly pray about it, truly seeking God’s will, and He would show him what to do. If God says it’s ok, you go ahead and smoke. The problem is, too many people pray trying to get the answer they want rather than what God may want. Evangelist Bond tells about a preacher friend who said he was going to divorce his wife, marry his lover and then pray for forgiveness. I think that’s treading on dangerous ground. The individual who is consumed by the Holy Spirit is so dripping with love people cannot help being attracted. All these petty little issues just fall away. My goal is to be that man.

  45. Pamela Johnson says:

    Our principals should be in essentials, unity in non-essentials, liberty in everthing, love.

  46. I was Born and raised in the Nazarene Church and raising my children in the same church today. So thankful that the legalism has been addressed in this article. I fully believe that it is a personal matter between God and you. If God has called you to remain without alcoholic beverages, it is important to not drink. ❤️

  47. William Hunter says:

    I am a retired elder. I was raised in an alcoholic home where dad was came from a long line of alcoholics. An alcoholic learns that there is a short list of options for handling life’s problems. One is alcohol and seems to be gone to in quickly. I have had to council so many people over the years where we have to, like peeling an onion we have to remove layer after layer before we can get to the real problem. Alcoholism is one of the thicker layers and often the most difficult to peel back. Given this fact and so many other negative issues concerning alcohol, I believe abstinence should be a requirement for both membership and decipleship.

    • Thanks for your vote. I think “both” will be the answer for a lot of people. For me, it would necessitate a rethinking of the meaning of membership.

      • Richard Kinzler says:

        Are we suggesting that our position be “we don’t take a definitive position on drinking, but if you chose to drink and it becomes a problem we will have a rehab program for you.” Seems kind of silly doesn’t it?

  48. Nita Fitzpatrick says:

    Thank you, for being clear and concise in your statements. I have been giving this issue a lot of thought lately because of a number of Christians I know who believe it is okay to drink alcohol occasionally. I know the Bible states that we should not ” be drunk” and that is the argument most Christians who drink use. However, we know that any alcohol can cloud our judgement and cause us to say things we shouldn’t or make mistakes while driving, etc. A young woman I know was discussing marital problems she and her husband were having and stated that part of it came about because they both said hurtful things after they had been drinking. This makes it clear to me that we must remain firm in our stand against alcohol. We still may lovingly accept fellow Christians who do not abstain but as a church body stay true to the wisdom of our founders.

  49. Ken Holmes says:

    One of the things that has always bothered me is we wink at divorce and should I dare say coddle the divorced in our church. When I became a pastor divorce was a sin. Today we have come to expect divorce as much or more than the culture around us.
    As much as I respect the work you do Dr. Boone the human sexuality change does the same thing or rather will do the same thing onthe LGBTQ issue. We as Nazarene’s are so Psychologically soaked that we cannot or I sometimes wonder will not, differentiate between, temptation, sin and the Devil. The social drinking issue pales in comparison with either of these sins. They are not issues they are Wilful Transgressions of the Law. Unfortunately we as Nazarene’s are drunk with the Social Kool-Aid of the culture.

    • Balancing truth and grace are always a challenge. Staying mean to attack the culture doesn’t seem to be working to draw people to Jesus. I’m aiming for a gracious truth. Jesus seemed to reserve his harshest words for religious folk, not cultural proponents.

  50. Carolyn Sanner says:

    While I, a fourth generation Nazarene, favor abstinence, yet continuing to politely ignore the alcohol consumption among our church bodies is not the answer. Rather, it makes us look foolish. Our denomination’s stance on abstinence from smoking has at long last been validated by the medical community. However, now we’re told that a daily glass of wine is good for our hearts! Those same articles do advise not beginning to drink if you don’t already…interesting. Thank you, Dr. Boone, for your well-written, straightforward piece. I appreciate that you are bringing to light an issue that is difficult. God bless you for your honest probing.

  51. Aimee Patrick says:

    When I joined the church of the Nazarene I didn’t ask, “why can’t I drink’ but rather I asked myself, “why do I need to drink.” I figured out that I really don’t need it and it has been a huge witness to my children who although we don’t judge others who do indulge, our children have seen that it is an unnecessary vice. Maybe we should ask, how does drinking harm or enhance our witness as a follower of Christ. It shouldn’t be a legalistic requirement, of any church member, but a calling for all believers to a higher level of surrender to Christ.

  52. Sue Borchert says:

    Substance abuse as a whole, not just alcohol, is the issue. Over indulgence, glutany, is an issue. Having a glass of wine with dinner is not an issue. Having a drink and or making it available to a person struggling with adiction is a sin. As eould be “supplying” or making anything available to someone struggling with addiction. I believe. We as a disciple of Christ need to be and live as an example of holiness, but we also need to help those struggling with addiction af any kind by example and support that the struggle is not easy. But the Church is a means of positive support and help to help them with their struggle out of sin. How? Providing Christian councilors to head programs leading them on the journey to sobriety and help them stay there. I have heard addicts say, the Church is not for me because I’m an addict or because I drink, or I smoke, or I use drugs. I think we need to change that message somehow to embrace those who struggle as a place of help and sanctuary, a place that will accept them as they are, a sinner just as all of us who are sinners. Why should their sin be addressed any differently in the way to membership than mine or your sin?

  53. Rick Murgittroyd says:

    I understand that if I don’t believe as the Nazarene church, I can go elsewhere. True enough. But, are there overweight Nazarenes?(I would argue a far more encompassing problem.) Is there prejudice? Are there liars or homosexuals in the Nazarene Church? Many Christians disagree with women pastors. And what of the Christians that are offended because they believe a drink isn’t a problem but feel as if Nazarenes are judgmental? How destructive can any one of those situations be to another Christian or unbeliever, depending on their views? I could go on and on, pro and con, as most of you could. Please understand that I’m not trying to raise anyone’s ire, just a realistic approach to this situation. Jesus said there is nothing evil of itself, including alcohol and food. We may have more important issues to dress as a body of Chris. I believe we’d be better off concentrating on Loving God with all of our being and our neighbors the same way, then see where that takes us then isolating a particular behavior…and, for the record, I grew up in a home with a horrendously mean drunk for a father, but don’t agree with the Nazarene’s stance. To each there own, but if addressing a problem like social drinking is fair game, then we should begin with one of most pressing social issue of our faith, overweight Christians. I wonder how well that would go over if it were preached against with equal fervor.
    In Christ
    Rick

    • It is interesting how often gluttony or being overweight comes up in the alcohol conversation. We tried to pass a statement on gluttony at the previous General Assembly and couldn’t get it done. I do think there are some parallel issues here. Shame is not the best way to deal with either of these issues because it pushes people to the outside in judgment rather than inviting them inside for help. However, there at people who appear overweight and they eat like a bird. Appearance may be impacted by disease, medicine, genetics, metabolic dysfunctions, etc. I’d want to be careful not to make an assumption based on appearance. And, in agreement with you, I wish we said something more strongly about physical health and habits.

  54. Mr. Boone,

    I enjoyed your article. This was an issue for me personally. I attended two wonderful Nazarene Churches. I loved the people and the messages. When I found out that Nazarenes are not allowed to drink I was surprised. Christ turned water into wine. We are told to eat unleavened bread(Christs body) and drink wine(Christ’s blood) in remembrance of him and his sacrifice. I had several Nazarene friends that drank socially but didn’t want their Nazarene friends to know. I also don’t like the thought of having to become a “member”, ones salvation and relationship with God is not based on a Church membership. Ones Salvation is not earned by him or her – that price has been paid if you believe and accept Christ as your savior. I have since moved on to another Church due to these issues, but I still have many Nazarene friends, and enjoyed the Nazarene Church.

    BC

    • BC, your reply is a good case for my concern over how we are dealing with the issue. Good people who love our mission and our people are leaving over an issue that should not be essential to belonging. Important as a calling, yes. A litmus test for belonging, no. Thanks for your kindness.

  55. Richard Kinzler says:

    I have never forgotten the words of Chuck Colson when he said the problems of our nation lie directly at the feet of the church. When the church began allowing the culture to influence it instead of the church influencing the culture we started a journey that does not have a happy ending.

  56. Dan, I appreciate your voice of reason. Your willingness to address issues with compassion and understanding is nothing short of a spiritual gift.

    I have two thoughts on this. First of all, in stating that we are abstaining out of solidarity, are we simply making an excuse to maintain our legalistic attitude?

    Second, how does abstaining stand in solidarity? If I do not struggle with alcoholism, am I actually helping anyone by choosing not to drink at all? Is there any research that actually proves this point?

    • Paul, great questions. I hope the social justice position does not rise out of legalism. Legalism tends to have its roots in self-righteous behavior. But we have often done the right thing for the wrong reason. Your second question is why I suggested that there are ways other than abstinence to stand in solidarity with those affected by alcohol – leading AA groups, being a sponsor for someone in recovery, advocating against abuse, etc. I think it is important that we be honest in saying that abstinence is not the only means by which someone can take a loving stance…but it is one of the ways we are called to do so.

  57. Hi Dan. Indeed, a good article. I never thought this will be a part of their membership. But it was great to know.

  58. Jon Carnes says:

    I cannot add pictures here so let me challenge anyone who says social drinking does no harm. Dr. Daniel Amen of the Amen clinics studies the brain and the effects different uses of substances, including over eating, does to the function of the brain. Drinking only 2 glasses of wine has a great effect on all regions of the brain. It effects the higher reasoning and the grasping reality regions by making these areas have a impressive loss of function. A sanctified life is one totally given unto God and that included how our minds work. If reasoning and reality are lessened then how can discipleship and maturity happen at its highest level as God-centered people. The science of drinking tells us it is a drug and the most misused in our society. Some of the chemicals it leaves in the brain never go away as long as a person lives. The damage it does is the result, the fruit our compassion acknowledges, coming from the loss of reasoning and reality any level of drinking brings. Bitter fruit comes from bitter roots in nature and in life. The science is in and it cannot be denied, the proof is not conjecture but in real pictures of brain function. Take a look at Amen Clinic Brain Scans and view the 2 drink a day person and tell me if that honors God. We hold to loving God more than family, or anything in this world, we speak of dying out daily as we consider the greatest drug addiction our world knows. More people will die from alcohol related deaths than all the other drugs combined. I do not believe we stand with people because of their misery due to drinking, that is a lifestyle choice. We stand with abstinence because alcohol is the most preventable cause of death and destruction in our society only surpassed by Abortion. More die every year from alcohol than the 25 years combined that we were in Viet Nam, 20 times more than have been killed in our middle east conflict, and the list could go on and on. We hate war but discuss coming to peace with one of the greatest killers of them all. The devil comes to steal, destroy and kill…, sounds just like the end result of alcohol use (since this is the subject we are on) one of his more useful tools he uses in our culture. We (our mission statement says – a holiness people) cannot leave the brain out of the sanctified list and say we give God everything. Isn’t that where our spiritual consciousness really lives? The science would say it is detrimental to the holiness ethic and standard of a theology which has sanctification at its heart.

    • Jon, no argument here. The position we are calling people to is abstinence. The question is whether this is a requirement for membership or a part of our process of discipleship. Either way, we still call our people to a life of abstinence.

  59. Lowell T. Clyburn says:

    Sadly, I did not grow up in a Nazarene church or home–while my father started out as a preacher, he succumbed to the pull of lust, producing unfaithullness, adultery, all forms of abuse, even sexual. We lived in a small town in Florida, where there was much legalism at every level, but sadly, divisions arose and carnality showed its ugliness in the lives of so many. I left home at age 16, much due to the situation at home–I was a rebel, a sinner, filled with much hate, even to the point of planning to commit murder. 800 miles from home I found a holiness boarding high school in the KY mountains–the very first Sunday God found me, saved me, and called me to preach. Went back to Florida for Christmas and found a little home mission Nazarene church on a sandy street–the love of the people, the testimonies of some I had known all my life, the preaching of the truth, convinced me to join as a charter member–no regrets, now almost 78 and soon to be 62 years since I preached my initial sermon, TNU grad; Nazarene wife of 55 years, honored to pastor 4 churches, serve in many district offices, and 14 years as a DS. I would do it all over again. Like the 10 commandments which God gave in love, I found as a young Christian that the commands of God and the rules of the church were designed to safeguard my life and witness. Never ever preached a harsh, judgmental, legalistic message–spent many hours in teaching and guiding those who sought to be members–making sure there would be no surprises for them. My love for God and the church also brought loyalty and commitment. I do not see that legalism is our problem, but liberalism, the attitude that anything goes, that there are no moral absolutes, that ‘if it feels good, do it’–which opens the door to univeralism that teaches: ‘Ultimately, all go to heaven, for God is love!” I recall a fine man who wanted to join the church in Alabama and as we read the Manual together, we came to the matter of belonging to a secret society. He shared that he was a member of such, and sadly I told him that I could not accept him into membership. Satan told me that I would not see him again, but he was in every service, paid his tithe and helped me in the building of a new parsonage. A few weeks later he came smiling into the study and said: “Pastor, I want to be a Nazarene and I have cancelled my membership in the secret society. I did not know that there was a church that cared what I did after I left on Sunday.” He became one of the finest Sunday School superintendents I have known! I believe if we make an exception in one area, we will continue to make exceptions and make void the truth of a holy life. By the way, I rejoice that my father, my step-mother, my mother, my sister, my brother all came to faith and lived and most have gone to heaven as good Nazarenes. Lowell T. Clyburn.

  60. “Either way, we still call our people to a life of abstinence.” Oh, may this be made known and embraced!
    Alcohol changes the culture of a church family. I will be open here, and state that I have been on staff at a church where social drinking was not hidden…all the time. I do not think we are prepared – even those who advocate non-abstinence – for the changes. Based on personal experience, I’ll ask some questions for reflection. Would you want to see wine coolers at a church SS class party? Have your teenage daughter baby-sit in homes where the frig is stocked with six-packs? Hear the conversation of dads at the church soft ball game comparing the coolest locally brewed beers? Watch your 10 year-old son as he watches his friend’s mom’s (and SS teacher) demeanor change after a few glasses of wine as families share Sunday dinner? As a gesture of hospitality by a board member, be offered a glass from an expensive bottle of wine when you’re invited over,. How do you handle church members with wine refrigerators, some are pricey built-ins? Beer, wine and whisky signage and decorative objects like beer stein collections enhance homes (and bodies). I’ve seen them all. And then there is new territory. Can the pastor be your drinking buddy? Is it okay for the youth pastor to drink? Alcohol changes our behaviors, our conversations, our homes, our kids.
    I can count on two hands now, the twenty-something adults who were in my flock as children’s pastor who are in or have been in rehab for alcohol. Tragic. I do not think any of us, lay or clergy, family or friend, member or non-member would want to be the person who encouraged them by making it “okay” to take that the first drink.
    I support Aimee Patrick’s statement, “It shouldn’t be a legalistic requirement, of any church member, but a calling for all believers to a higher level of surrender to Christ.”

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