Stances of Faiths on LGBT Issues: Church of the Nazarene
The Church of the Nazarene is the largest denomination in the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition, which emerged from the teachings of John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church. The Holiness tradition is built upon the theological foundation of “entire sanctification,” an act of God’s grace that cleanses the believer of original sin. Through careful observance and renunciation of temptation, the believer can then lead a sin-free life.
Founded in the United States in the late 19th Century, the church takes the Great Commission as its inspiration, following Christ’s command to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). It now numbers more than 2.3 million members worldwide, with 650,000 members in North America.
The global Church of the Nazarene is overseen by a Board of General Superintendents made up of six elected representatives charged with interpreting the Manual of the Church of the Nazarene, which dictates policy. A General Assembly of elected representatives meet every four years to revise the Manual, to elect the Board of General Superintendents, and to elect members of the General Board of the Church of the Nazarene, which serves as the denomination’s administrative branch.
The denomination’s official website states that, “The Church of the Nazarene believes that every man or woman should be treated with dignity, grace, and holy love, whatever their sexual orientation.” However, the current Manual of the Church of the Nazarene, which dictates policy from 2013 to 2017, also states, “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 deplore any action or statement that would seem to imply compatibility between Christian morality and the practice of homosexuality.”
There is no stated policy on transgender inclusion.
On Marriage Equality
Official church policy states, “We stand firmly on the belief that the biblical concept of marriage, always between one man and one woman in a committed, lifelong relationship, is the only relationship within which the gift of sexual intimacy is properly expressed."
While there is no stated policy, ordination requires that the candidate demonstrate “purity.” Since sex outside of a heterosexual marriage is considered “impure,” it appears that openly LGBT candidates would be denied ordination, though celibacy might alter that decision. Women have been ordained in the church since its earliest days.
The Church of the Nazarene has made no official statement regarding the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Its own employment guidelines note that, “We are a faith-based organization. Acceptance of our Christian Code of Conduct is required and membership in the Church of the Nazarene is required for certain positions.” Under this standard, some Nazarene institutions, including universities, could bar LGBT people from employment.
The Church of the Nazarene currently grounds its attitudes on human sexuality in an interpretation of scripture that makes it difficult to advocate for a more inclusive stance. However, over time, the church has revised its stances on other matters of conduct. The policy-setting Manual of the Church is revisited every four years, with the current publication due for renewal in 2017. LGBT members and their allies thus have the opportunity to encourage further strides toward inclusion.
It is important to note that there are LGBT persons and allies working for change in the Church of the Nazarene, and a welcoming stance can be found in some congregations. For more information on finding your place as an LGBT congregant, or on finding your voice as a straight ally committed to creating an inclusive church community, download the HRC resource Coming Home: To Faith, To Spirit, to Self.
Resources for LGBT Nazarenes
Coming Out for Christians, a website that facilitates a gracious and Godly atmosphere for those who are coming out as gay or lesbian to their families, friends, and/or church.
Nazarene Ally, a non-profit organization promoting the welcoming of LGBT people into the Church of the Nazarene.
Church of the Nazarene
Global Ministry Center
17001 Prairie Star Parkway
Lenexa, KS, USA 66220