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Thomas Jay Oord

Open the Windows of the Church

October 8th, 2012 / 25 Comments
Fifty years ago this month, Pope John XXIII initiated the Second Vatican Council. He said it was time to throw
open the windows of the church and let the fresh air of the spirit blow through. Its time to throw open the
windows again!
The Roman Catholic Church has changed in dramatic ways in the last fifty years. Many people say theyd like to
have seen even more change, however. No matter what ones views, it seems clear that the Catholicism today is
significantly different thanks to the Second Vatican Council.
The task for renewal in the Church never stops, of course. But there are some
moments when the need for renewal seems more palpable, more urgent, more
real. We live today in such a moment.
Ive been thinking about the church globally, including its denominations,
groups, and movements. Some amazing things are occurring, as creatures
cooperate with the work of our Creator. But there are also reasons to seek change.

Change in the Church of the Nazarene

I want to step out on a limb in this short essay. I suggest ten ways the windows of the church might be thrown
open so that the wind of the Spirit might blow through.
Much of what I propose applies to the Church generally. But because I know my own denomination the
Church of the Nazarene much better, this essay is aimed at this collection of about 2.5 million Nazarenes
across the world.
Here, then, are ten ways the windows of the Church of the Nazarene might be thrown open to let the Spirit blow
through the church. I could probably write a book on each one, but Ive limited myself to a few sentences.
I list these in no particular order:
1. Engage contemporary theology. Theological scholars in the colleges and universities sponsored by the
Church of the Nazarene explore a variety of theological ideas. Theology in the denomination is significantly
different today than it was fifty years ago. And thats to be expected. Unfortunately, however, pursuing new
forms of Wesleyan-Holiness theology in dialogue with these contemporary theological ideas is not encouraged as
it should be. I believe the Spirit intends to do new things and guide the denomination in new ways theologically.
2. Embrace the wisdom of the wider Christian tradition. The Church of the Nazarene is but one small part of
a much larger Christian family. And that family has much to teach Nazarenes. Sometimes Nazarenes forget their
indebtedness to the wider Christian tradition. The result is impoverished liturgy, worship, theology, and practice.

The Church of the Nazarene can embrace the wisdom in other Christian traditions without losing its identity.
3. Reexamine what makes the Church of the Nazarene unique and affirm elements helpful for today. The
denominations own history offers a rich resource. Of course, there are also aspects in its history better left in the
past. I know of no one, for instance, who thinks we should return to the practice of forbidding members to attend
baseball games. But other elements in our history can help us live faithfully today. As a denomination, we must
do the hard work of gleaning wheat and leaving chaff.
4. Support the poor, powerless, and deprived. From its beginning, the Church of the Nazarene has felt
especially called to help those most in need. Such help can be financial, emotional, intellectual, etc. I find many
young Nazarenes wanting to affirm this history of helpfulness, although today these issues typically are called
matters of social justice. The wind of the Spirit in the Church seems to be calling us to renew our resolve to act
for the good of the least of these.
5. Embrace knowledge offered in the sciences, humanities, and arts. As important as the Bible is for
Nazarenes, we have never been a Bible only people. Leaders from the beginning understood, for instance, the
importance of liberal arts university education. Unfortunately, however, those who embrace the knowledge found
in the sciences, humanities, and arts are sometimes deemed as liberal or concerned with peripheral issues. The
windows of the Church are not opened wide for the Spirit if we ignore some portions of Gods truth.
6. Create space in positions of leadership for non-North Americans and minority voices. Were already
behind the curve when it comes to having good representation in leadership of non-white Nazarenes. The
denomination is growing fastest outside the U.S., and many more Nazarenes live outside North America than in
it. And yet our leadership at denominational headquarters top to bottom is by far dominated by white males.
Perhaps embracing diversity will require decentralization, but it at least involves diverse representation at the
leadership level.
7. Promote an evangelistic/missional strategy of love toward nonChristians. Unfortunately, some act as if
befriending those of different religious traditions without the relentless goal of converting them is unwise.
But we are called first to love, and that may or may not involve inviting others to embrace the Christian faith. In a
world of increasing religious diversity, we should affirm the universality of Gods prevenient grace toward all
peoples. And this affirmation need not lead to pluralism or extreme relativism.
8. Reestablish the power and number of women in leadership. Many members of the Church of the Nazarene
happily note that while the Roman Catholic church has not embraced the Spirits move to establish women in the
highest positions of leadership, Nazarenes have affirmed this throughout their history. And yet a very small
percentage of Nazarene pastors are women. And leadership in various denominational sectors is dominated by
men. Steps must be taken to encourage Nazarene members to promote women into positions of leadership.
9. Change the leadership General Superintendent structure. Since its early days, the Church of the Nazarene
has elected beginning with three and then six leaders to the highest position of leadership: General
Superintendent. When the denomination numbered a few hundred thousand, this was a sufficient number of
leaders to fulfill the tasks assigned the position. While the denomination has grown ten times bigger in the last
sixty years, the same number of general superintendents is called to govern. We either need a single bishop with
dozens of key leaders under her to fulfill the tasks of leadership, or we need 18-20 general superintendents
located in and representing various parts of the world. The denomination cannot function well in its current
leadership format.
10. Engage culture rather than simply condemn it. I recently read the Pew Research Center study of religion

among the American millennial generation. I was struck by how young people think about issues of religion
and culture. In particular, most younger Americans think differently than their parents about abortion, evolution,
the influence of Hollywood, homosexuality, and the proper size of government. This, of course, doesnt mean
that their views are better or should necessarily change the positions of the denomination. But it does mean that
the Church of the Nazarene must engage culture American and other cultures to discern what should be
embraced and what should be rejected. Besides, its quite clear that the denomination changed its views on many
issues e.g., dancing, wearing rings, movies, sports as cultures changed in the last century.

One of the theological presuppositions of Pope John XXIIIs statement about throwing open the windows of the
church is that what we do influences what the Spirit does. Thats a presupposition that fits well in Wesleyan
theology. And it rightly puts responsibility on our shoulders to cooperate with what God might want to do in our
world today.
I remain optimistic about the future of the church, in general, and the Church of the Nazarene, in particular. My
optimism is grounded in Gods grace. But I also believe we as a church and as individuals must heed the call for
a fresh anointing of the Spirit in our lifetime.
Add comment

Greg Crofford
October 8, 2012
11:43 am
Thank you, Dr. Oord, for an excellent essay.
As you know, there will be a report at the next Nazarene General Assembly from the Commission on the
Nazarene Future. It will be interesting to see what they recommend regarding the number of General
Superintendents. If they were willing to release the authority to ordain to the Regional Directors, this could ease
the tremendous travel burden the Generals currently bear.
I do see growing distance between the trajectory of North American culture on social issues (divorce and
homosexuality, to name two of the most obvious) and where most African nations currently are. It will be
interesting to see how that plays out in coming years, but if the experience of the UMC and the worldwide
Anglican community is any indication, African Nazarenes will likely be conservative ballast in the Nazarene
My two centsMay the LORD grant us great wisdom and mutual understanding in coming days.

October 8, 2012

1:07 pm
Im intrigued by a number of these points; particularly 9 and 10.
I would both broaden the reference to leadership, in general while giving specificity to a higher sense of
accountability of leadership at all levels. We have done well to establish a lot of structure both the local and
district levels, but very little attention is given to field and regional leaders let alone GSs.
Our leaders need strong systems of accountability for resources, strategy, personnel decisions, etc. Openness,
transparency, and vulnerability are not models that are encouraged currently.
Number 10 while the church has become increasingly global in participation, we havent noticed the identity of
the church reflecting that transnationalism. Still, many cultures as a whole that I encounter are increasingly
reflective of the depraved Hollywood culture.
The Church MUST engage culturenot to condemn what they discover, haphazardly, but to be salt and light in
the midst of a spiraling wave of sinfulness that is much too common in modern day, 21st century
culturesmodeling holy living within relationships with unsaved friends and family this is critical to the future
of the Church of the Nazarene.

Kathy Burns
October 8, 2012
1:39 pm
Thanks you so much for this essay, Tom! I am excited to see the church moving toward the gospel of helping the
poor, powerless and deprived. For years we as a denomination have been afraid of what has been called the
social gospel.
The ways the church might throw open the windows concerning governance in the church are all spot on.
After reading Half the Church, I am concerned about the lack of women who are kept from using their gifts to
lead in the church.
Also, moving from a denomination that seems to choose only leaders from North America with very few
exceptions. Moving out of this 100 year tradition is alarming and intimidating to many.
Friends of mine visited a Nazarene Church and described it as a Norman Rockwell Church because of the lack
of ethnic diversity. Along with opening windows to ethnic diversity, we need to revisit other kinds of diversity
and be willing to open our hearts in love to ALL people groups.
Thanks again!

Brian Ketchum
October 8, 2012
1:48 pm
Thank you Dr. Oord for your contributions for the edification of our shared faith community. Youre an

encouragement to me.

nathan roskam
October 8, 2012
4:23 pm
As always, I love to read your posts. Always helps me nap better. I kid!!
I very much agree with several points, especially point of change 3. Reexamine what makes the Church of the
Nazarene unique and affirm elements helpful for today.
In my work with Millennials, I am often reminded of the power of vision in the context of story as a means of
inspiring a movement of this generation. Telling the story of where we come from and have been as a
denomination (both the beauty and the ugliness) gives young people answers to their questions of why. Living
by the list which produces legalism is not inspiring or inviting, but story is!
In reading your cousins little book several years ago, All Things Necessary to our Salvation, I was reminded of
what I believe is a very important piece of our story. From the very beginning of our beloved denomination, the
focus was orphan and the widow, the poor, marginalized and oppressed. The denomination was led first by our
Agreed statement of belief which included a succinct vision of what united this body of believers and the
distinct call to be about the business of Christ in loving those the world rejected. Lodahl points out a shift in the
1915 Manual that moved the Articles of Faith in front of the Agreed statement of Belief, a move that seems
to be contrary to the initial vision of having no harmful or divisive difference).
It seems to me, that while theology is crucial in the Church universal, for us as a movement we ought to stop and
ask the question if it is to be as crucial as we at times make it. From the day the Articles were moved to the front
seat, it seems the shift in mission and vision happened. If we desire to lead desiring to increase theological
conversations, openness and dialogue, with that comes a decrease in being about the business of the Kingdom.
Im not saying its an either/or mentality here. But what I want to say, is that for an increase in
vision/perspective theologically, the best place may not be within the confines of a movement that was founded
on care for the poor not dialogue for the intellectually rich. Bresee hoped to avoid societal debates and simply
stand with those in they were called to serve.
I love these words from the 1898 Manual,
We seek the simplicity and the pentecostal power of the primitive New Testament Church. The field of labor to
which we feel especially called is in the neglected quarters of the cities and wherever else may be found waste
places and souls seeking pardon and cleansing from sin. This work we aim to do through the agency of city
missions, evangelistic services, house to house visitation, caring for the poor, comforting the dying. To this end
we strive personally to walk with God and to incite others so to do.
I will always hold to the reality that the Wesleyan-Arminian theological tent is large enough for all these
conversations. It seems that many are outside the tent, not as a result of a theology that is too fundamentalist or
too liberal, but from a praxis that is not found in the neglected quarters of the cities and wherever else may be
found waste places and souls seeking pardon and cleansing from sin.
Maybe the simple solution is reemphasizing the Nazarene Compassionate Ministry Centers. But, delegating the
work for the poor doesnt seem to be Nazarene. After all, Bresee left a church for that very reason.
Cant wait to keep talking although, since were in the same town we ought to finish this over coffee so
much better!

Doug Hardy
October 8, 2012
7:01 pm
Thank you for the challenge and for offering helpful directions. We could do worse than follow these trajectories.
It strikes me that to move in these directions with more intention will require significant courage and a deep trust
in God. Centrifugal movement (outward focused, expansive, inclusive), though a central Gospel dynamic, is
often limited by our fears. May God, by the Holy Spirit, fill us with love sufficient to cast out these fears.

Dennis Carreiro
October 9, 2012
5:43 am
Brilliant! Thanks for writing! And thanks to Mike Schutz for sharing it on facebook!

October 9, 2012
8:03 am
the tyranny of the means is always a threat to the living-spirit/inspiration of any endeavor, the tricky part is trying
to find the right alchemical approach to discernment such that the all-too-human prejudices of the day dont get
con-fused with, and than institutionalized as, theo-logoi

Sherri Walker
October 9, 2012
9:42 am
Thank you for this blog. I resonate very closely with these opportunities for growth as well. I believe many of
these things stem from one grand issue: The Church of the Nazarene has developed good systems for what it is
that we do, but in the meantime we have neglected to continue answering why it is that we do them. I believe
we are more unified behind why rather than what.

Jeannine Howard
October 9, 2012
11:17 am
As always, you have given me a lot to ponder upon. As for number 5embracing the knowledge found in

sciencethe church must be aware of science dictating theology. Spontaneous generation, according to
science was the truth for over a thousand yearsalas it was false. As Dr. Jay Wile,PhD-Nuclear Chemistry states
and the editor of Science Magazine confirms, In fact, it is impossible for science to prove anything, because
science is based on experiments and observations, both of which can be flawed. Often, those flaws dont become
apparent to the scientific community for quite some time. Flawed experiments and observations, of course, lead
to flawed conclusions, so even the most secure scientific statements have never been proven. There might be
gobs and gobs of evidence for them, but they have not been proven. As far as number 10perhaps the reason
views on issues such as abortion and homosexuality etc. differ in the younger generation is because they have
never been taught by the church why the church takes a particular stand on these issues. We had to take our four
kids to another church to learn the reasoning behind the church stand regarding abortion, stem cell research,
euthanasia, homosexuality etc. because it was never addressed at our church. Before we put these issues in the
same category as dancing, wearing rings etc. perhaps we should address why the church has the stand they do
regarding these issues. Again, thanks for the thought-provoking article.

October 9, 2012
12:35 pm
I wholeheartedly join you on you limb you are stepping out on! Thank you gor this blog entry

October 9, 2012
5:38 pm
On #8: Many members of the Church of the Nazarene happily note that while the Roman Catholic church has
not embraced the Spirits move to establish women in the highest positions of leadership, Nazarenes have
affirmed this throughout their history. Uh huh. Well, as one Naz pastor said, not too long ago: Oh, we have
wimmin pastors in our church; we just let them do much. The Naz seems to have more in common with the
Papists than they would care to admit. For a less snarky assessment, I would suggest Metcalf, Janine T., Ablaze
with Love: The Living Legacy of Our Nazarene Foremothers. A Video Documentary. Kansas City: Beacon Hill
Press, 2001 (NPH Product VA-2400)

October 9, 2012
6:08 pm
On changes in The One True Church there is presently a seething undercurrent of disenchantment with The

Robed Ones who are running that particular show. We take a brief look at it here:
and Carol DeChants open letter to His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan (a good Irish lad if ever there was one
we can only wonder what he thinks of the Boondock Saints ) is not to be missed:
Point 9 is interesting. Do you favor the commander-in-chief model, or the all pigs are equal but that one who
isnt model?
In any case, the Naz is in fact an international church, yet at least some policies of the church are driven by a
uniquely American actually, US perspective, and have no credibility or value outside a limited US audience.
Some of that, if not all of it, seems to me to be driven by the American Holiness component (I call it the
Chivington complex)and our attachment to the vestigial remnants of Manifest Destiny.

Kyle Lauf
October 10, 2012
4:22 am
I am confused by your statement to embrace the knowledge of humanities and artswhy must a denomination in
and of itself embrace literature and the arts, as opposed to individuals within the church feeling free to read
widely and participate in the artistic life of society.
And secondly, what do you mean by embrace? You are obviously using the word as a metaphor, but an embrace
signifies a very close connection. How intimate and how close must the church come to the humanities and/or
science in your view.
South Africa

Ken Ardrey
October 10, 2012
7:28 am
There is so much good in this article Care for the poor, dont be afraid of science, encourage minorities and
women in leadership, consider the uniqueness of the holiness perspective.
I am having a bit of trouble, however, identifying the dramatic changes in the Catholic Church in the last 50
years. I have read the contemporary catechisms and googled changing the Catholic Church, for what that is
I see little if any change in the Catholic Church on the institutional level and although there is change in the
opinion of North American Catholics regarding some social issues, living in a predominantly Catholic northeast
United States, I see little change in the constituent life style of the Catholic Church.

I am not anti-Catholic. I affirm their role in the family of God in spreading the gospel. Some of my best friends
are Catholic
But just as we need to affirm the value of the Wesleyan uniqueness, while still addressing our
weaknesses and failures: we need to recognize clearly, if not address, the very significant differences between the
Wesleyan and Catholic understanding of grace, atonement, hermeneutics, and sacraments. I really dont want to
be Concerned Nazarene-esque, but my observation, not happily made, is that the Catholic Church does not
have a great record.
I am sure there are other resources with which I am unfamiliar. Any guidance would be appreciated.

James Petticrew
October 10, 2012
8:42 am
I must admit that given the
AMEN ! . Havent you just put the cat among the concerned pigeons
predominance of one nation in our senior leadership positions our talk about being an international church to
those of us outside the states seems lip service

Stephen Borger
October 10, 2012
3:42 pm
I read your blog Monday night and early Tuesday morning as I was reading in The Sayings of the Desert
Fathers a quote caught my attention. It seems that Abba Arsenius said; I have often repented of having spoken,
but never of having been silent.

October 10, 2012
3:43 pm
@JanineH: I am curious. Why is it that you lump homosexuality in with abortion and euthanasia? Abortion is
arguably a form of murder. Euthanasia, depending on circumstances, may also be a form of murder. Am I to
understand that homosexuality is on the same plane as murder? The church has never managed to explain that
one to me, either. Perhaps you can succeed where the church has utterly failed? Does the etc include other sins,
such as the gluttony to be observed at church pot lucks? Or the vicious gossip to be heard at the back of the
Sunday school class, where parishioners unctuously assassinate character including their own? And this opens
the door to the old argument regarding degrees of sin. Are you implying that some sins are of more significance

than others? It seems that you are. Kind of like the Catholics and mortal and venial sin? And if that is so, what
say you to Tomas Aquinas arguments as to how a sin may be venial in one fact pattern, but mortal in another?

A question
October 11, 2012
2:38 am
I dont understand the idea of engaging contemporary theology (Point 1). Ill admit that I am a layman and
probably much more interested in essentials than nuance but I had thought that theology was the study of God
and how God relates to the world. If we can agree on that definition and we believe that Jesus Christ is the same
yesterday, today, and forever why would what we believe about him need to change?

Mark Stanford
October 11, 2012
4:28 am
I was just introduced to your name this morning and have read the blog, Open the Windows of the Church.
You are right that you could have written much more on each point of your essay as it came across more as
baiting than satisfying. Like Kyle from South Africa I am bewildered by this embracing. Frankly, it seems that
the embracing of new theologies is what has eroded the COTN for the past 50 years or more. Gone is the
preaching of repentance. Gone. Embracing is not the language of Jesus Christ. Repentance and being
completely different from the world is what He spoke of..I have much to learn about this trend called

Thomas Jay Oord

October 11, 2012
12:34 pm
Thanks for your great comments! I could write a long response on all of your thoughts, but I think Ill just
comment on the embrace worry a couple people mentioned.
By embrace I mean something like be open to learning from. I definitely dont mean accept everything.
Although I think Gods nature never changes, we have seen major changes across the ages in how we think about
God. Because we all see through a dark glass (Cor 13), our ongoing efforts to know something of God are
always in need of improvement. To put it another way, although Gods nature doesnt change, our theology does.
In addition, to embrace new theologies does not mean we forsake repentance. In fact, some recent theological
writing has emphasized repentance, including repenting for ways we have not cooperated with Gods working in
the world.
Thanks again to all for your comments!


October 24, 2012
10:53 am
I enjoyed reading this blog and many of the comments. I have recently read Square Peg: Why Wesleyans are not
Fundamentalist. I confess to not really knowing or understanding clearly the theological foundation of the
denomination I have been a part of for 20 plus years until reading and discussing this book with some friends of
mine (who are Nazarene pastors). In my opinion, (which is what we all have to offer our own opinion,
understanding and interpretation) you have brought up some excellent points. I especially appreciate your closing
line, we as a church and as individuals must heed the call for a fresh anointing of the Spirit in our lifetime.
Wesleyanism, and hence the Church of the Nazarene, is focused on holiness, which requires the Holy Spirit, and
allowing Him to work and move. I will be praying with you (and have been) for a fresh anointing, a powerful
move of the Spirit.
Thank you for being open to discussion and open to learn from (whether by deciding to agree or disagree with
what is shared) regarding matters of faith, life and where they intersect.

Dar Brasch
October 31, 2012
2:42 pm
I just discovered your blog and appreciate it more than you can know! Reading these 10 points and the
comments ALMOST makes up for not being there in the SS class. We have yet to find a church here in the
Gilbert/Phoenix area that has an open discussion adult SS class that would even come close to what you have
Needless to say, I loved your use of her in number 9. Thanks for your thoughts, vision, and caring of people
and our church.

Beverly Hines
November 8, 2012
10:15 am
Thank you for your essay, Tom. I said a loud Amen after reading it. I agree with all your points but I
particularly want to affirm point #1 about engaging contemporary theology. It seems to me once pastors leave
seminary they have the potential to get stuck in a time warp with whatever theological teachings were in vogue
when they went to school. I would love to see pastors regularly engage with our theologians (like every couple
of years or so) so that what we hear from the pulpit is similar to the understandings of our theologians. Hey!
Heres an ideaWhat if staff had annual CTE (Continuing Theological Education) requirements to maintain
their ministerial license? Like the CMEs [continuing medical education] annually required in the medical
I personally would also love to see more lay people keeping up with new developments in theology. Im grateful

for the opportunity to do so at the Wesley Conference each year at NNU.

I dont usually comment but I want you to know I love reading your blog.

Dan Smitley
December 4, 2012
7:11 am
Really enjoyed the post and if I were ever to renew my Nazarene membership I would want to see manay of
these areas already improving. What I am curious about is are you already seeing some movements on any of
these 10 fronts? If so when and where?
I would love to hear more about Nazarenes embracing contemporary theology and the poor more.


Thomas Jay Oord is a theologian, philosopher, and scholar of multi-disciplinary studies. He is the author or editor
of more than twenty books and professor at Northwest Nazarene University, Nampa, Idaho.

All content copyright 2014 Thomas Jay Oord.