Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Church History in Fiction

A question for all you readers - help me out here: are there any *good* novels (whether a series, or individual works by individual authors) about the history of the Christian Church?

I'm not talking about "(Christian) historical fiction," a la Francine Rivers, but rather, something more along the lines of what Steven Pressfield does with ancient Greece in several of his novels (Tides of War, Gates of Fire, etc), or what Susan Howatch does with the recent history of the Church of England in her "Starbridge" series (Glittering Images, Mystical Paths, etc - six books in all), or even sort of what Umberto Eco does with medieval monastic life in The Name of the Rose - make the historical narrative come alive in Story in a way that scholarly texts never quite (and simply cannot) accomplish.

If there is a striking absence of such novels - rather than it just being my own ignorance - then as a student of literature, I have to ask, why? The history of Christianity is fascinating, full of all the things that make novels great - right? Intrigue, deception, corruption, sex,'s all there.

So. Do you know of any such books that fill the bill? I can think of several worthy examples of biblical historical fiction (Anita Diamant's The Red Tent; even Walter Wangerin's Jesus: A Novel isn't too bad), but what about church history? A novel set amidst the backdrop of the early church, or the councils of Nicea or Chalcedon, or the Iconoclastic controversies of the 8th and 9th centuries, or the Great Schism, or the Reformation - I mean, if it was well-researched and well-written, wouldn't that be fantastic? Those seem like worthy time periods for fictional treatment, and could potentially make the required reading for an undergrad church history course MUCH more exciting.

Finally, if you haven't read Steven Pressfield's The War of Art, DO. IT. RIGHT. NOW.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Naming the Seasons

All this talk about a Nazarene Book of Worship got me thinking about conversations I've had recently about the various names for the seasons, particularly the seasons that follow Christmastide and Eastertide. So I was wondering, what your church celebrates and why?

A) The Season of Epiphany/Pentecost
B) The Season after Epiphany/Pentecost
C) Ordinary Time
D) Other: _________________________
E) Nothing -- we don't do the season thing

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Book of Worship Ideas

The previous post was about general assembly generally. In the discussion, the main thing to arise was the possibility of a Book of Worship. I thought a separate thread for that would be helpful. Please continue the Book of Worship discussion here.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

General Assembly rundown...

Just thought I'd put together a quick post and paste in a few of the legislative items that pertain to the theological, liturgical and sacramental life of our church (and some that I simply find interesting). Discuss the relative merits of these actions in the comments; personally, I'm more encouraged than not, but I was disappointed by a few "non-action" actions...but hey, there's always next time.
  • The delegates voted to accept the report of the International Church Committee's report with a strong vote, authorized the creation of a global Manual that would be streamlined in comparison to recent Manuals. The global Manual would consist of the Foreward, and Parts I, II, and III of the current Manual. It would also includes parts of Manual sections 100, 200, and 300 that are global in scope, retaining the universally appropriate polity and principles. The other parts of the current Manual would be adapted by the different regions to fit specific cultural contexts and would function as a "regional Manual policy handbook." The change authorizes a Global Manual Advisory Council that would give final approval to changes made by the regions to the handbook portions.
  • Voted that gender inclusive language be used in church publications, including the Manual, and in other public language of the church, but that language changes must not be applied to scriptural quotations or references.
  • Added a new paragraph on Christian compassion to Manual section "A. The Christian Life." The new paragraph states in part that "throughout the Bible and in the life and example of Jesus, God identifies with and assists the poor, the oppressed, and those in society who cannot speak for themselves. In the same way, we, too, are called to identify with and enter into solidarity with the poor."
  • Adopted a new paragraph on "Creation Care" that will be added to the resolutions section of the Manual. It states in part that the church "accepts the individual and collective responsibilities" of Christians to "exhibit the stewardship qualities that help preserve [God's] work."
  • Voted to refer to the Nazarene Future Commission a resolution that would have resulted in one ordained order and eliminated the Deacon track.
  • Adopted a new paragraph on "Wellness" that will be added to the resolutions section of the Manual. It affirms health and exercise, makes a distinction between obesity and gluttony and discourages gluttony.
  • Voted to refer to the Board of General Superintendents the resolution that would have made the sacrament of Christian Baptism a requirement for membership.
  • Voted to refer to the Board of General Superintendents the Article of Faith on Holy Scripture.
  • Modified Article of Faith I, The Triune God, by describing God as creator, sustainer, and one who is holy, love, and light.
  • Modified Article of Faith XI, The Church, by defining the mission of the church as "making disciples through evangelism, education, showing compassion, working for justice, and bearing witness to the kingdom of God."
  • Voted to refer Article of Faith VI, Atonement, for a comprehensive study with particular attention being given to including, within the article, references to the love of God as a motivating faction in the atonement and broader references to other aspects of the atonement.
  • By a strong vote modified Article of Faith X, Entire Sanctification. Renamed the article "Christian Holiness and Entire Sanctification." Clarified the meaning of entire sanctification by describing it as a work of God which transforms believers into the likeness of Christ. Emphasized that transformation occurred through the Holy Spirit both instantaneously in initial sanctification, entire sanctification, and glorification and in a continuing perfecting work of the Holy Spirit.
  • Voted to amend Manual paragraph 413.11 to encourage pastors "to move toward a more frequent celebration of the Lord's Supper."
  • Adopted a new liturgy for the Organization of a Local Church, Manual paragraph 801.
  • Edited the liturgy on the Baptism of Infants or Young Children, Manual paragraph 800.2 by defining Christian baptism for the infant: "Christian baptism signifies for this young child God's acceptance within the community of Christian faith on the basis of prevenient grace. It anticipates his/her personal confession of faith in Jesus Christ . . . Baptism also signifies the acceptance of this child into the community of Christian faith."
Also: any general discussion about GAC2009 is welcome in the comments. I'm especially interested in what folks think about the GS elections. What a...uhm...I don't even know what to call it...mess?

MED524 (Frequecy of the Lord's Supper) Adopted!

According to, MED524 dealing with the frequency of the Lord's Supper was adopted today at General Assembly. The new statement will read:

"... Acknowledging John Wesley's advice that elders should "administer the Supper of the Lord on every Lord's day," and recognizing that a weekly celebration of the Lord's Supper was the New Testament and historic norm, we encourage pastors to see quarterly administration as a bare minimum. We further encourage them to move toward a more frequent celebration of this means of grace..."

Thanks to Br. Todd and the SW Indiana District, as well as JB and the Minnesota District for sponsoring this resolution and working toward a more sacramental alignment with the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Tradition to which we belong.