GRACE COMMUNITY CHURCH OF THE NAZARENE
100 BULL RUN ROAD
PENNINGTON, NEW JERSEY 08534-5303
Greetings in the Name of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ!
We anticipate holding our next Covenant Service on Covenant Sunday, January 4, 2015. Several years ago, this Church established this valued tradition on an annual basis. It helps us to remember at the very beginning of the New Year what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and to recommit our hearts and lives to Him and to His Church. Over the years, the Covenant Service has brought clarity and commitment to Christ and to His Church, giving welcome and opportunity to each person.
God is a Covenant-making God– we see that throughout Scripture. God invited Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and David, as well as all of His chosen people into Covenant relationship. In the New Testament, Our Lord Jesus Christ brought the New Covenant through Himself to be available to every person– Praise God! Through Jesus Christ, salvation is available to every person. Covenant affirms God’s relationship with each person who is willing to accept God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. The Bible also shows how through covenant Christ’s disciples serve Him and are in loving service to one another.
Covenant joins God’s people together to fulfill God’s will through a local church. Over the years, church membership may lose common understanding and purpose. Annual Covenant review and reflection aids in bringing our minds again to what it means to be truly Christian in this world and within Christian community. Therefore, we invite you to reflect on your relationship with Jesus Christ, the Church’s core beliefs and practices and to respond to God’s call.
There is a place in this Church for everyone. We seek to be a Church where the sinner is welcome and finds Christ and grace. We also seek to be a Church of continuous intentional discipleship, where every person who is committed to Jesus Christ is equipped to grow in knowledge and the image of Jesus Christ. We seek also to be a Church that has a clear identity, knowing that we belong to Christ and that it is He who binds us together. Therefore we seek to be a church that celebrates our common biblical beliefs and practices as we progress in Christian growth.
With that in mind, we ask you to devote some of your time before January 4, 2015 to reading the accompanying documents and praying about how God would have your respond. Among the attached pages, please read Articles of Faith, the Covenant of Christian Character, and the Covenant of Christian Conduct and the one-page Personal Covenant. These documents simply and clearly provide in a biblical way what it means to be a Christian, to be in right relationship with God and to live the Christian faith victoriously in the 21st century. Also, in these documents are the guidelines of what it means to be a member of this Church.
I would ask you to give particular thought to the one-page Personal Covenant and to fill it out prayerfully. On Sunday, January 4, 2015, we are planning on having the Covenantal Celebration where we all can join together in fresh renewal to God, His Church and this local church community. Each person is encouraged to bring their own Personal Covenant to the Morning Service and to celebrate what it means to be part of Christ’s Community through this local Church. Following the Covenant Service, we will be having a Church dinner together to which every person is invited. If you are unable to attend on that day, you are welcome to mail your Personal Covenant to the Church so we can update our membership records
Each year, this is a wonderful way to begin—focused on God and His will for us. Please prayerfully examine your life and God’s call to you in these days.
If I may be of any assistance to you, please don’t hesitate to let me know. Our priority is glorify God and to see His Church fulfill the mission of reaching the lost and building Christlike disciples May it always be so!
Partnering for God’s Kingdom,
Pastor R. Wesley Tink
ARTICLES OF FAITH
I. The Triune God
We believe in one eternally existent, infinite God, Sovereign of the universe; that He only is God, creative and administrative, holy in nature, attributes, and purpose; that He, as God, is Triune in essential being, revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
II. Jesus Christ
We believe in Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Triune Godhead; that He was eternally one with the Father; that He became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and was born of the Virgin Mary, so that two whole and perfect natures, that is to say the Godhead and manhood, are thus united in one Person very God and very man, the God-man. We believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins, and that He truly arose from the dead and took again His body, together with all things appertaining to the perfection of man’s nature, wherewith He ascended into heaven and is there engaged in intercession for us.
III. The Holy Spirit
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Triune Godhead, that He is ever present and efficiently active in and with the Church of Christ, convincing the world of sin, regenerating those who repent and believe, sanctifying believers, and guiding into all truth as it is in Jesus.
IV. The Holy Scriptures
We believe in the plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, by which we understand the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, given by divine inspiration, inerrantly revealing the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation, so that whatever is not contained therein is not to be enjoined as an article of faith.
V. Sin, Original and Personal
We believe that sin came into the world through the disobedience of our first parents, and death by sin. We believe that sin is of two kinds: original sin or depravity, and actual or personal sin. We believe that original sin, or depravity, is that corruption of the nature of all the offspring of Adam by reason of which everyone is very far gone from original righteousness or the pure state of our first parents at the time of their creation, is averse to God, is without spiritual life, and inclined to evil, and that continually. We further believe that original sin continues to exist with the new life of the regenerate, until eradicated by the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
We believe that original sin differs from actual sin in that it constitutes an inherited propensity to actual sin for which no one is accountable until its divinely provided remedy is neglected or rejected.
We believe that actual or personal sin is a voluntary violation of a known law of God by a morally responsible person. It is therefore not to be confused with involuntary and inescapable shortcomings, infirmities, faults, mistakes, failures, or other deviations from a standard of perfect conduct that are the residual effects of the Fall. However, such innocent effects do not include attitudes or responses contrary to the spirit of Christ, which may properly be called sins of the spirit. We believe that personal sin is primarily and essentially a violation of the law of love; and that in relation to Christ sin may be defined as unbelief.
We believe that Jesus Christ, by His sufferings, by the shedding of His own blood, and by His meritorious death on the Cross, made a full atonement for all human sin, and that this Atonement is the only ground of salvation, and that it is sufficient for every individual of Adam’s race. The Atonement is graciously efficacious for the salvation of the irresponsible and for the children in innocency but is efficacious for the salvation of those who reach the age of responsibility only when they repent and believe.
VII. Free Agency
We believe that the human race’s creation in Godlikeness included ability to choose between right and wrong, and that thus human beings were made morally responsible; that through the fall of Adam they became depraved so that they cannot now turn and prepare themselves by their own natural strength and works to faith and calling upon God. But we also believe that the grace of God through Jesus Christ is freely bestowed upon all people, enabling all who will to turn from sin to righteousness, believe on Jesus Christ for pardon and cleansing from sin, and follow good works pleasing and acceptable in His sight. We believe that all persons, though in the possession of the experience of regeneration and entire sanctification, may fall from grace and apostatize and, unless they repent of their sins, be hopelessly and eternally lost.
We believe that repentance, which is a sincere and thorough change of the mind in regard to sin, involving a sense of personal guilt and a voluntary turning away from sin, is demanded of all who have by act or purpose become sinners against God. The Spirit of God gives to all who will repent the gracious help of penitence of heart and hope of mercy, that they may believe unto pardon and spiritual life.
IX. Justification, Regeneration, and Adoption
We believe that justification is the gracious and judicial act of God by which He grants full pardon of all guilt and complete release from the penalty of sins committed, and acceptance as righteous, to all who believe on Jesus Christ and receive Him as Lord and Savior.
We believe that regeneration, or the new birth, is that gracious work of God whereby the moral nature of the repentant believer is spiritually quickened and given a distinctively spiritual life, capable of faith, love, and obedience.
We believe that adoption is that gracious act of God by which the justified and regenerated believer is constituted a son of God.
We believe that justification, regeneration, and adoption are simultaneous in the experience of seekers after God and are obtained upon the condition of faith, preceded by repentance; and that to this work and state of grace the Holy Spirit bears witness.
X. Entire Sanctification
We believe that entire sanctification is that act of God, subsequent to regeneration, by which believers are made free from original sin, or depravity, and brought into a state of entire devotement to God, and the holy obedience of love made perfect.
It is wrought by the baptism with the Holy Spirit, and comprehends in one experience the cleansing of the heart from sin and the abiding, indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, empowering the believer for life and service.
Entire sanctification is provided by the blood of Jesus, is wrought instantaneously by faith, preceded by entire consecration; and to this work and state of grace the Holy Spirit bears witness.
This experience is also known by various terms representing its different phases, such as “Christian perfection,” “perfect love”, “heart purity”, “the baptism with the Holy Spirit,” “the fullness of the blessing,” and “Christian holiness.”
We believe that there is a marked distinction between a pure heart and a mature character. The former is obtained in an instant, the result of entire sanctification; the latter is the result of growth in grace.
We believe that the grace of entire sanctification includes the impulse to grow in grace. However, this impulse must be consciously nurtured, and careful attention given to the requisites and processes of spiritual development and improvement in Christlikeness of character and personality. Without such purposeful endeavor one’s witness may be impaired and the grace itself frustrated and ultimately lost.
XI. The Church
We believe in the Church, the community that confesses Jesus Christ as Lord, the covenant people of God made new in Christ, the Body of Christ called together by the Holy Spirit through the Word. God calls the Church to express its life in the unity and fellowship of the Spirit; in worship through the preaching of the Word, observance of the sacraments, and ministry in His name; by obedience to Christ and mutual accountability.
The mission of the Church in the world is to continue the redemptive work of Christ in the power of the Spirit through holy living, evangelism, discipleship, and service.
The Church is a historical reality, which organizes itself in culturally conditioned forms; exists both as local congregations and as a universal body; sets apart persons called of God for specific ministries. God calls the Church to live under His rule in anticipation of the consummation at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We believe that Christian baptism, commanded by our Lord, is a sacrament signifying acceptance of the benefits of the atonement of Jesus Christ, to be administered to believers and declarative of their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior, and full purpose of obedience in holiness and righteousness.
Baptism being a symbol of the new covenant, young children may be baptized, upon request of parents or guardians who shall give assurance for them of necessary Christian training. Baptism may be administered by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion, according to the choice of the applicant.
XIII. The Lord’s Supper
We believe that the Memorial and Communion Supper instituted by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is essentially a New Testament sacrament, declarative of His sacrificial death, through the merits of which believers have life and salvation and promise of all spiritual blessings in Christ. It is distinctively for those who are prepared for reverent appreciation of its significance, and by it they show forth the Lord’s death till He come again. It being the Communion feast, only those who have faith in Christ and love for the saints should be called to participate therein.
XIV. Divine Healing
We believe in the Bible doctrine of divine healing and urge our people to seek to offer the prayer of faith for the healing of the sick. We also believe God heals through the means of medical science.
XV. Second Coming of Christ
We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ will come again; that we who are alive at His coming shall not precede them that are asleep in Christ Jesus; but that, if we are abiding in Him, we shall be caught up with the risen saints to meet the Lord in the air, so that we shall ever be with the Lord.
XVI. Resurrection, Judgment, and Destiny
We believe in the resurrection of the dead, that the bodies both of the just and of the unjust shall be raised to life and united with their spirits :they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”
We believe in future judgment in which every person shall appear before God to be judged according to his or her deeds in this life.
We believe that glorious and everlasting life is assured to all who savingly believe in, and obediently follow, Jesus Christ our Lord; and that the finally impenitent shall suffer eternally in hell.
The Covenant of Christian Character
27. To be identified with the visible Church is the blessed privilege and sacred duty of all who are saved from their sins and are seeking completeness in Christ Jesus. It is required of all who desire to unite with the Church of the Nazarene, and thus to walk in fellowship with us, that they shall show evidence of salvation from their sins by a godly walk and vital piety; and that they shall be, or earnestly desire to be, cleansed from all indwelling sin. They shall evidence their commitment to GodC
27.1. FIRST. By doing that which is enjoined in the Word of God, which is our rule of both faith and practice, including:
(1) Loving God with all the heart, soul, mind, and strength, and one’s neighbor as oneself (Exodus 20:3‑6; Leviticus 19:17‑18; Deuteronomy 5:7‑10; 6:4‑5; Mark 12:28‑31; Romans 13:8‑10).
(2) Pressing upon the attention of the unsaved the claims of the gospel, inviting them to the house of the Lord, and trying to compass their salvation (Matthew 28:19‑20; Acts 1:8; Romans 1:14‑16; 2 Corinthians 5:1820).
(3) Being courteous to all men (Ephesians 4:32; Titus 3:2; 1 Peter 2:17; 1 John 3:18).
(4) Being helpful to those who are also of the faith, in love forbearing one another (Romans 12:13; Galatians 6:2, 10; Colossians 3:12‑14).
(5) Seeking to do good to the bodies and souls of men; feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and ministering to the needy, as opportunity and ability are given (Matthew 25:35‑36; 2 Corinthians 9:8‑10; Galatians 2:10; James 2:15‑16; 1 John 3:1718).
(6) Contributing to the support of the ministry and the church and its work in tithes and offerings (Malachi 3:10; Luke 6:38; 1 Corinthians 9:14; 16:2; 2 Corinthians 9:6‑10; Philippians 4:15‑19).
(7) Attending faithfully all the ordinances of God, and the means of grace, including the public worship of God (Hebrews 10:25), the ministry of the Word (Acts 2:42), the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23‑30); searching the Scriptures and meditating thereon (Acts 17:11; 2 Timothy 2:15; 3:14‑16); family and private devotions (Deuteronomy 6:6‑7; Matthew 6:6).
27.2. SECOND. By avoiding evil of every kind, including:
(1) Taking the name of God in vain (Exodus 20:7; Leviticus 19:12; James 5:12).
(2) Profaning of the Lord’s Day by participation in unnecessary secular activities, thereby indulging in practices that deny its sanctity (Exodus 20:8‑11; Isaiah 58:13‑14; Mark 2:27‑28; Acts 20:7; Revelation 1:10).
(3) Sexual immorality, such as premarital or extramarital relations, perversion in any form, or looseness and impropriety of conduct (Exodus 20:14; Matthew 5:27‑32; 1 Corinthians 6:9‑11; Galatians 5:19; 1 Thessalonians 4:3‑7).
(4) Habits or practices known to be destructive of physical and mental well‑being. Christians are to regard themselves as temples of the Holy Spirit (Proverbs 20:1; 23:1‑3; 1 Corinthians 6:17‑20; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 5:18).
(5) Quarreling, returning evil for evil, gossiping, slandering, spreading surmises injurious to the good names of others (2 Corinthians 12:20; Galatians 5:15; Ephesians 4:30‑32; James 3:5‑18; 1 Peter 3:9‑10).
(6) Dishonesty, taking advantage in buying and selling, bearing false witness, and like works of darkness (Leviticus 19:10‑11; Romans 12:17; 1 Corinthians 6:7‑10).
(7) The indulging of pride in dress or behavior. Our people are to dress with the Christian simplicity and modesty that become holiness (Proverbs 29:23; 1 Timothy 2:8‑10; James 4:6; 1 Peter 3:3‑4; 1 John 2:15‑17).
(8) Music, literature, and entertainments that dishonor God (1 Corinthians 10:31; 2 Corinthians 6:14‑17; James 4:4).
27.3. THIRD. By abiding in hearty fellowship with the church, not inveighing against but wholly committed to its doctrines and usages and actively involved in its continuing witness and outreach (Ephesians 2:18‑22; 4:1‑3, 11‑16; Philippians 2:1‑8; 1 Peter 2:9‑10). Nazarene Manual 2005‑2009
The Covenant of Christian Conduct
A. The Christian Life
33. The church joyfully proclaims the good news that we may be delivered from all sin to a new life in Christ. By the grace of God we Christians are “to put off the old self” the old patterns of conduct as well as the old carnal mind and are to “put on the new self” a new and holy way of life as well as the mind of Christ. (Ephesians 4:17‑24)
33.1. The Church of the Nazarene purposes to relate timeless biblical principles to contemporary society in such a way that the doctrines and covenants of the church may be known and understood in many lands and within a variety of cultures. We hold that the Ten Commandments, as reaffirmed in the New Testament, constitute the basic Christian ethic and ought to be obeyed in all particulars.
33.2. It is further recognized that there is validity in the concept of the collective Christian conscience as illuminated and guided by the Holy Spirit. The Church of the Nazarene, as an international expression of the Body of Christ, acknowledges its responsibility to seek ways to particularize the Christian life so as to lead to a holiness ethic. The historic ethical standards of the church are expressed in part in the following items. They should be followed carefully and conscientiously as guides and helps to holy living. Those who violate the conscience of the church do so at their own peril and to the hurt of the witness of the church. Culturally conditioned adaptations shall be referred to and approved by the Board of General Superintendents.
33.3. In listing practices to be avoided we recognize that no catalog, however inclusive, can hope to encompass all forms of evil throughout the world. Therefore it is imperative that our people earnestly seek the aid of the Spirit in cultivating a sensitivity to evil that transcends the mere letter of the law; remembering the admonition: “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21‑22)
33.4. Our leaders and pastors are expected to give strong emphasis in our periodicals and from our pulpits to such fundamental biblical truths as will develop the faculty of discrimination between the evil and the good.
33.5. Education is of the utmost importance for the social and spiritual well‑being of society. Public schools have a mandate to educate all. They are limited, however, as to their scope and, in fact, are prohibited by court rulings from teaching the basic tenets of Christianity. Nazarene educational organizations and institutions, such as Sunday Schools, schools (birth through secondary), child care centers, adult care centers, colleges, and seminaries, are expected to teach children, youth, and adults biblical principles and ethical standards in such a way that our doctrines may be known. This practice may be instead of or in addition to public schools, which often teach secular humanism and fall short of teaching principles of holy living. The education from public sources should be complemented by holiness teaching in the home. Christians should also be encouraged to work in and with public institutions to witness to and influence these institutions for God’s kingdom. (Matthew 5:13‑14)
34. We hold specifically that the following practices should be avoided:
34.1. Entertainments that are subversive of the Christian ethic. Our people, both as Christian individuals and in Christian family units, should govern themselves by three principles. One is the Christian stewardship of leisure time. A second principle is the recognition of the Christian obligation to apply the highest moral standards of Christian living. Because we are living in a day of great moral confusion in which we face the potential encroachment of the evils of the day into the sacred precincts of our homes through various avenues such as current literature, radio, television, personal computers, and the Internet, it is essential that the most rigid safeguards be observed to keep our homes from becoming secularized and worldly. However, we hold that entertainment that endorses and encourages holy living and affirms scriptural values should be affirmed and encouraged. We especially encourage our young people to use their gifts in media and the arts to influence positively this pervasive part of culture. The third principle is the obligation to witness against whatever trivializes or blasphemes God, as well as such social evils as violence, sensuality, pornography, profanity, and the occult, as portrayed by and through the commercial entertainment industry in its many forms and to endeavor to bring about the demise of enterprises known to be the purveyors of this kind of entertainment. This would include the avoidance of all types of entertainment ventures and media productions that produce, promote, or feature the violent, the sensual, the pornographic, the profane, or the occultic, or which feature or glamorize the world’s philosophy of secularism, sensualism, and materialism and undermine God’s standard of holiness of heart and life.
This necessitates the teaching and preaching of these moral standards of Christian living, and that our people be taught to use prayerful discernment in continually choosing the Ahigh road@ of holy living. We therefore call upon our leaders and pastors to give strong emphasis in our periodicals and from our pulpits to such fundamental truths as will develop the principle of discrimination between the evil and good to be found in these media.
We suggest that the standard given to John Wesley by his mother, namely, Awhatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off the relish of spiritual things, whatever increases the authority of your body over mind, that thing for you is sin,@ form the basis for this teaching of discrimination. (33.2‑33.4, 903.12‑3.14)
(Romans 14:7‑13; 1 Corinthians 10:31‑33; Ephesians 5:1‑18; Philippians 4:8‑9; 1 Peter 1:13‑17; 2 Peter 1:3‑11)
34.2. Lotteries and other forms of gambling, whether legal or illegal. The church holds that the final result of these practices is detrimental both to the individual and society. (Matthew 6:24‑34; 2 Thessalonians 3:6‑13; 1 Timothy 6:6‑11; Hebrews 13:5‑6; 1 John 2:15‑17)
34.3. Membership in oath‑bound secret orders or societies. The quasi‑religious nature of such organizations dilutes the Christian’s commitment, and their secrecy contravenes the Christian’s open witness. (1 Corinthians 1:26‑31; 2 Corinthians 6:14C7:1; Ephesians 5:11‑16; James 4:4; 1 John 2:15‑17)
34.4. All forms of dancing that detract from spiritual growth and break down proper moral inhibitions and reserve. (Matthew 22:36‑39; Romans 12:1‑2; 1 Corinthians 10:31‑33; Philippians 1:9‑11; Colossians 3:1‑17)
34.5. The use of intoxicating liquors as a beverage, or trafficking therein; giving influence to, or voting for, the licensing of places for the sale of the same; using illicit drugs or trafficking therein; using of tobacco in any of its forms, or trafficking therein.
In light of the Holy Scriptures and human experience concerning the ruinous consequences of the use of alcohol as a beverage, and in light of the findings of medical science regarding the detrimental effect of both alcohol and tobacco to the body and mind, as a community of faith committed to the pursuit of a holy life, our position and practice is abstinence rather than moderation. Holy Scripture teaches that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. With loving regard for ourselves and others, we call our people to total abstinence from all intoxicants.
Furthermore, our Christian social responsibility calls us to use any legitimate and legal means to minimize the availability of both beverage alcohol and tobacco to others. The widespread incidence of alcohol abuse in our world demands that we embody a position that stands as a witness to others. (903.12‑3.14)
(Proverbs 20:1; 23:29C24:2; Hosea 4:10‑11; Habakkuk 2:5; Romans 13:8; 14:15‑21; 15:1‑2; 1 Corinthians 3:16‑17; 6:9‑12, 19‑20; 10:31‑33; Galatians 5:13‑14, 21; Ephesians 5:18) (Only unfermented wine should be used in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.) (413.11, 427.7, 428.2, 429.1, 802)
34.6. The unprescribed use of hallucinogenics, stimulants, and depressants, and the misuse and abuse of regularly prescribed medicines. Only on competent medical advice and under medical supervision should such drugs be used.
(Matthew 22:37‑39; 27:34; Romans 12:1‑2; 1 Corinthians 6:19‑20; 9:2427)
B. Marriage and Divorce and/or Dissolution of Marriage
35. The Christian family, knit together in a common bond through Jesus Christ, is a circle of love, fellowship, and worship to be earnestly cultivated in a society in which family ties are easily dissolved. We urge upon the ministry and congregations of our church such teachings and practices as will strengthen and develop family ties. In particular, we urge upon the ministry the importance of teaching and preaching clearly the biblical plan of the permanence of marriage.
The institution of marriage was ordained by God in the time of man’s innocence, and is, according to apostolic authority, “honourable in all;” it is the mutual union of one man and one woman for fellowship, helpfulness, and the propagation of the race. Our people should cherish this sacred estate as becomes Christians, and should enter it only after earnest prayer for divine direction, and when assured that the contemplated union is in accordance with scriptural requirements.
They should seek earnestly the blessings that God has ordained in connection with the wedded state, namely, holy companionship, parenthood, and mutual loveCthe elements of home building. The marriage covenant is morally binding so long as both shall live, and breaking of it is a breach of the divine plan of the permanence of marriage. (Genesis 1:26‑28, 31; 2:21‑24; Malachi 2:13‑16; Matthew 19:3‑9; John 2:1‑11; Ephesians 5:21C6:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:3‑8; Hebrews 13:4)
35.1. In biblical teaching, marriage is the commitment of male and female to each other for life, reflecting Christ’s sacrificial love for the Church. As such, marriage is intended to be permanent, and divorce an infraction of the clear teaching of Christ. Such infractions, however, are not beyond the forgiving grace of God when this is sought with repentance, faith and humility. It is recognized that some have divorce thrust upon them against their will or are compelled to resort to it for legal or physical protection. (Genesis 2:21‑24; Mark 10:2‑12; Luke 7:36‑50, 16:18; John 7:53C8:11; 1 Corinthians 6:9‑11; 7:10‑16; Ephesians 5:25‑33)
35.2. Ministers of the Church of the Nazarene are instructed to give due care to matters relating to solemnizing marriages. They shall seek, in every manner possible, to convey to their congregations the sacredness of Christian marriage. They shall provide premarital counseling in every instance possible before performing a marriage ceremony including proper spiritual guidance for those who have experienced divorce. They shall only solemnize marriages of persons having the biblical basis for marriage. (107‑7.1)
35.3. Members of the Church of the Nazarene are to seek prayerfully a redemptive course of action when involved in marital unhappiness, in full harmony with their vows and the clear teachings of the Scripture, their aim being to save the home and safeguard the good name of both Christ and His Church. Couples having serious marital problems are urged to seek counsel and guidance of their pastor and/or any other appropriate spiritual leaders. Failure to comply with this procedure in good faith and with sincere endeavor to seek a Christian solution, and subsequent obtainment of divorce and remarriage, makes one or both parties subject to possible discipline as prescribed in 504‑4.2 and 505‑5.12.
35.4. Through ignorance, sin, and human frailties, many in our society fall short of the divine plan. We believe that Christ can redeem these persons even as He did the woman at Samaria’s well, and that sin against God’s design for marriage does not place one beyond the forgiving grace of the gospel. Where a marriage has been dissolved and remarriage has followed, the marriage partners are enjoined to seek the grace of God and His redemptive help in their marriage relation. Such persons may be received into the membership of the church at such time as they have given evidence of their regeneration and an awareness of their understanding of the sanctity of Christian marriage. (27, 107.1)
C. Sanctity of Human Life
36. The Church of the Nazarene believes in the sanctity of human life and strives to protect against abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, and the withholding of reasonable medical care to handicapped or elderly.
Induced Abortion. The Church of the Nazarene affirms the sanctity of human life as established by God the Creator and believes that such sanctity extends to the child not yet born. Life is a gift from God. All human life, including life developing in the womb, is created by God in His image and is, therefore, to be nurtured, supported, and protected. From the moment of conception, a child is a human being with all of the developing characteristics of human life, and this life is dependent on the mother for its continued development. Therefore, we believe that human life must be respected and protected from the moment of conception. We oppose induced abortion by any means, when used for either personal convenience or population control. We oppose laws that allow abortion. Realizing that there are rare, but real medical conditions wherein the mother or the unborn child, or both, could not survive the pregnancy, termination of the pregnancy should only be made after sound medical and Christian counseling.
Responsible opposition to abortion requires our commitment to the initiation and support of programs designed to provide care for mothers and children. The crisis of an unwanted pregnancy calls for the community of believers (represented only by those for whom knowledge of the crisis is appropriate) to provide a context of love, prayer, and counsel. In such instances, support can take the form of counseling centers, homes for expectant mothers, and the creation or utilization of Christian adoption services.
The Church of the Nazarene recognizes that consideration of abortion as a means of ending an unwanted pregnancy often occurs because Christian standards of sexual responsibility have been ignored. Therefore the church calls for persons to practice the ethic of the New Testament as it bears upon human sexuality and to deal with the issue of abortion by placing it within the larger framework of biblical principles that provide guidance for moral decision making. (Genesis 2:7, 9:6; Exodus 20:13; 21:12‑16, 22‑25; Leviticus 18:21; Job 31:15; Psalms 22:9; 139:3‑16; Isaiah 44:2, 24; 49:5; Jeremiah 1:5; Luke 1:15, 23‑25, 36‑45; Acts 17:25; Romans 12:1‑2; 1 Corinthians 6:16; 7:1ff.; 1 Thessalonians 4:3‑6)
The Church of the Nazarene also recognizes that many have been affected by the tragedy of abortion. Each local congregation and individual believer is urged to offer the message of forgiveness by God for each person who has experienced abortion. Our local congregations are to be communities of redemption and hope to all who suffer physical, emotional, and spiritual pain as a result of the willful termination of a pregnancy. (Romans 3:22‑24; Galatians 6:1)
Genetic Engineering and Gene Therapy. The Church of the Nazarene supports the use of genetic engineering to achieve gene therapy. We recognize that gene therapy can lead to preventing and curing disease, and preventing and curing anatomical and mental disorders. We oppose any use of genetic engineering that promotes social injustice, disregards the dignity of persons, or that attempts to achieve racial, intellectual, or social superiority over others (Eugenics). We oppose initiation of DNA studies whose results might encourage or support human abortion as an alternative to term live birth. In all cases, humility, a respect for the inviolable dignity of human life, human equality before God, and a commitment to mercy and justice should govern genetic engineering and gene therapy. (Micah 6:8)
Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research and Other Medical/Scientific Endeavors that Destroy Human Life after Conception. The Church of the Nazarene strongly encourages the scientific community to aggressively pursue advances in stem cell technology obtained from sources such as adult human tissues, placenta, umbilical cord blood, animal sources, and other nonhuman embryonic sources. This has the righteous end of attempting to bring healing to many, without violating the sanctity of human life. Our stand on human embryonic stem cell research flows from our affirmation that the human embryo is a person made in the image of God. Therefore, we oppose the use of stem cells produced from human embryos for research, therapeutic interventions, or any other purpose.
As future scientific advances make new technologies available, we strongly support this research when it does not violate the sanctity of human life or other moral, biblical laws. However, we oppose the destruction of human embryos for any purpose and any type of research that takes the life of a human after conception. Consistent with this view, we oppose the use, for any purpose, of tissue derived from aborted human fetuses.
Human Cloning. We oppose the cloning of an individual human being. Humankind is valued by God, who created us in His image, and the cloning of an individual human being treats that being as an object, thus denying the personal dignity and worth bestowed on us by our Creator. (Genesis 1:27)
Euthanasia (Including Physician Assisted Suicide). We believe that euthanasia (intentionally ending the life of a terminally ill person, or one who has a debilitating and incurable disease that is not immediately life‑threatening, for the purpose of ending suffering) is incompatible with the Christian faith. This applies when euthanasia is requested or consented to by the terminally ill person (voluntary euthanasia) and when the terminally ill person is not mentally competent to give consent (involuntary euthanasia). We believe that the historic rejection of euthanasia by the Christian church is confirmed by Christian convictions that derive from the Bible and that are central to the Church’s confession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. Euthanasia violates Christian confidence in God as the sovereign Lord of life by claiming sovereignty for oneself; it violates our role as stewards before God; it contributes to an erosion of the value the Bible places on human life and community; it attaches too much importance to the cessation of suffering; and it reflects a human arrogance before a graciously sovereign God. We urge our people to oppose all efforts to legalize euthanasia.
Allowing to Die. When human death is imminent, we believe that either withdrawing or not originating artificial life‑support systems is permissible within the range of Christian faith and practice. This position applies to persons who are in a persistent vegetative state and to those for whom the application of extraordinary means for prolonging life provide no reasonable hope for a return to health. We believe that when death is imminent, nothing in the Christian faith requires that the process of dying be artificially postponed. As Christians we trust in God’s faithfulness and have the hope of eternal life. This makes it possible for Christians to accept death as an expression of faith in Christ who overcame death on our behalf and robbed it of its victory.
D. Human Sexuality
37. The Church of the Nazarene views human sexuality as one expression of the holiness and beauty that God the Creator intended for His creation. It is one of the ways by which the covenant between a husband and a wife is sealed and expressed. Christians are to understand that in marriage human sexuality can and ought to be sanctified by God. Human sexuality achieves fulfillment only as a sign of comprehensive love and loyalty. Christian husbands and wives should view sexuality as a part of their much larger commitment to one another and to Christ from whom the meaning of life is drawn.
The Christian home should serve as a setting for teaching children the sacred character of human sexuality and for showing them how its meaning is fulfilled in the context of love, fidelity, and patience.
Our ministers and Christian educators should state clearly the Christian understanding of human sexuality, urging Christians to celebrate its rightful excellence, and rigorously to guard against its betrayal and distortion.
Sexuality misses its purpose when treated as an end in itself or when cheapened by using another person to satisfy pornographic and perverted sexual interests. We view all forms of sexual intimacy that occur outside the covenant of heterosexual marriage as sinful distortions of the holiness and beauty God intended for it.
Homosexuality is one means by which human sexuality is perverted. We recognize the depth of the perversion that leads to homosexual acts but affirm the biblical position that such acts are sinful and subject to the wrath of God. We believe the grace of God sufficient to overcome the practice of homosexuality (1 Corinthians 6:9‑11). We deplore any action or statement that would seem to imply compatibility between Christian morality and the practice of homosexuality. We urge clear preaching and teaching concerning Bible standards of sexual morality. (Genesis 1:27; 19:1‑25; Leviticus 20:13; Romans 1:26‑27; 1 Corinthians 6:9‑11; 1 Timothy 1:8‑10)
E. Christian Stewardship
38. Meaning of Stewardship. The Scriptures teach that God is the Owner of all persons and all things. We, therefore, are His stewards of both life and possessions. God’s ownership and our stewardship ought to be acknowledged, for we shall be held personally accountable to God for the exercise of our stewardship. God, as a God of system and order in all of His ways, has established a system of giving that acknowledges His ownership over all human resources and relationships. To this end all His children should faithfully tithe and present offerings for the support of the gospel. (140) (Malachi 3:8‑12; Matthew 6:24‑34; 25:31‑46; Mark 10:17‑31; Luke 12:13‑24; 19:11‑27; John 15:1‑17; Romans 12:1‑13; 1 Corinthians 9:7‑14; 2 Corinthians 8:1‑15; 9:6‑15; 1 Timothy 6:6‑19; Hebrews 7:8; James 1:27; 1John 3:16‑18)
38.1. Storehouse Tithing. Storehouse tithing is a scriptural and practical performance of faithfully and regularly placing the tithe into that church to which the member belongs. Therefore, the financing of the church shall be based on the plan of storehouse tithing, and the local Church of the Nazarene shall be regarded by all of its people as the storehouse. All who are a part of the Church of the Nazarene are urged to contribute faithfully one‑tenth of all their increase as a minimum financial obligation to the Lord and freewill offerings in addition as God has prospered them for the support of the whole church, local, district, educational, and general. The tithe, provided to the local Church of the Nazarene, shall be considered a priority over all other giving opportunities which God may lay upon the hearts of His faithful stewards, in support of the whole church.
38.2. Fund‑raising and Distribution. In the light of the scriptural teaching concerning the giving of tithes and offerings for the support of the gospel, and for the erection of church buildings, no Nazarene church should engage in any method of fund‑raising that would detract from these principles, hinder the gospel message, sully the name of the church, discriminate against the poor, or misdirect the people’s energies from promoting the gospel.
In disbursing to meet the requirements of the local, district, educational, and general programs of the Church of the Nazarene, local churches are urged to adopt and practice a financial apportionment plan, and to pay general, educational, and district apportionments monthly. (130, 154, 155‑55.2, 413.21)
38.3. Support of the Ministry. “In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14). The church is obligated to support its ministers, who have been called of God, and who, under the direction of the church, have given themselves wholly to the work of the ministry. We urge therefore that the members of the church voluntarily commit themselves to the task of supporting the ministry by gathering money weekly for this holy business and that the pastor’s salary be paid regularly every week. (115.4)
38.4. Life Income Gifts, Planned and Deferred Giving. It is essential in the exercise of Christian stewardship that careful thought be given as to what shall be done with one’s income and possessions over which the Lord makes the Christian a steward during this life. The Church of the Nazarene, recognizing the need for faithful stewardship in this life and the God‑given vision to leave a legacy for the future, has established the Church of the Nazarene Foundation to enhance Christian stewardship through planned and deferred giving. Civil laws often do not provide for the distribution of an estate in such a way as to glorify God. Each Christian should give attention to the preparation of a last will and testament in a careful and legal manner, and the Church of the Nazarene through its various ministries of missions, evangelism, education, and benevolences–local, district, educational, and general–is recommended for consideration.
F. Church Officers
39. We direct our local churches to elect as church officers only persons who profess the experience of entire sanctification and whose lives bear public witness to the grace of God that calls us to a holy life; who are in harmony with the doctrines, polity, and practices of the Church of the Nazarene; and who support the local church faithfully in attendance and with tithes and offerings. (113.9‑13.10, 127, 145, 146)
COVENANTAL OPTIONS FOR MEMBERSHIP
Grace Community Church of the Nazarene, Pennington, NJ
CONGREGATIONAL MEMBER: A “Congregational Member” is a person who has some form of meaningful contact and informal participation with this local church They may or may not have clear testimony of salvation by Jesus Christ and who may or may not have current experience of God’s saving grace. They have no desire to participate in a Covenantal Relationship with this local Church. They may or may not have some roles of ministry and/or service in this Church based upon their spiritual state as well as further factors, for example, including gifts and fruit of the Holy Spirit, call, talents and interests. Congregational Members shall not be eligible to vote in annual or special church meetings or hold elected office.
FULL MEMBERS: A “Full Member” is a person who has experienced salvation in Jesus Christ and has a current experience of God’s saving grace. They have read, understood and agreed with the spirit and practice of this local Church in relation to the Articles of Faith and the Covenants of Christian Character and Conduct. They are willing to begin or continue a Covenantal Relationship with this local Church in relation to these beliefs and practices. Their goal is to live their lives in such a way as to glorify God, by a humble walk, godly conversation, and holy service; by devotedly giving of their resources; by faithful attendance upon the means of grace; and, abstaining from all evil, and seek earnestly to perfect holiness of heart and life in the fear of the Lord. They are willing to grow in Christ in relation to spiritual gifts and fruit and through personal ministry and service. If they have reached their 15th birthday, they are eligible to vote in church meetings and to hold elected office.
ASSOCIATE MEMBERS: An “Associate Member” is a person who has experienced salvation in Jesus Christ and has a current experience of God’s saving grace. They have read, understood and are in substantial agreement with the spirit and practice of this local Church in relation to the Articles of Faith and the Covenants of Christian Character and Conduct. They are willing to begin a Covenantal Relationship with this local Church in relation to these beliefs and practices. However, there may be an area of belief or practice, not essential to the faith, where they differ from full agreement. Their goal is to live their lives in such a way as to glorify God, by a humble walk, godly conversation, and holy service; by devotedly giving of their resources; by faithful attendance upon the means of grace; and, abstaining from all evil, and seek earnestly to perfect holiness of heart and life in the fear of the Lord. Associate Members may have many avenues of participation and ministry open to them through this Church, based upon the gifts and fruit of the Holy Spirit operating in their lives as well as their call, talent and interests. They shall not be eligible to vote in annual or special church meetings or hold elected office.
MEMBERSHIP CANDIDATE: Is a person who has a clear testimony of salvation by Jesus Christ and a current experience of God’s saving grace. They are considering entering into a Covenantal Relationship with this local Church but would like to know more about what it means. They are open and willing to develop the gifts that God has given to them.
Grace Community Church of the Nazarene, Pennington, New Jersey
A Covenant Community of Jesus Christ
January 6, 2013
After carefully and prayerfully reading the basic Vows and Covenants of the Church of the Nazarene, including the Articles of Faith, the Covenant of Christian Character and the Covenant of Christian Conduct, I elect the following form of membership and the accountability which membership involves (Please select one):
_______ I have experienced salvation in Jesus Christ and have current experience of God’s saving grace. By God’s help, I pledge myself in spirit and in practice to Articles of Faith, Vows and the Covenants of the Church. I will endeavor in every way to glorify God, by a humble walk, godly conversation, and holy service; by devotedly giving of my means; by faithful attendance upon the means of grace; and, abstaining from all evil, and seek earnestly to perfect holiness of heart and life in the fear of the Lord. I wish to become or continue as a Full Member in Grace Community Church of the Nazarene.
_______I have experienced salvation in Jesus Christ and have current experience of God’s saving grace. I am in substantial agreement with the Articles of Faith, Vows and Covenants of the Church and seek to live in a spirit of accordance. However, at this time I wish to be considered as an Associate Member of the Church of the Nazarene.
_______I have experienced salvation in Jesus Christ and have current experience of God’s saving grace. At this time, I may or may not be a member of another church. I am part of this congregation and am interested in proceeding forward in exploring membership in Grace Community Church of the Nazarene. I wish to speak with the Pastor about becoming a Member Candidate.
______I have experienced salvation in Jesus Christ and have current experience of God’s saving grace. At this time, I am a not a member of any church and I appreciate my connection with Grace Community Church of the Nazarene, however I do not wish to have any formal membership at this time.
_______I have not experienced salvation in Jesus Christ, but would like to speak with the Pastor regarding salvation and/or membership in this Church.
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Name Printed Date Signature
Pastor or Church Board Secretary Date