According to its website, The Church of the Nazarene is “a Protestant Christian church in the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition,” founded in 1908. There are almost 23,000 Nazarene churches globally with nearly 2 million members. Perhaps the most well-known member of the Church of the Nazarene is Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, an evangelical nonprofit, which routinely condemns LGBTQ persons and families.
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 2017 to 2021, also states, "the practice of same-sex sexual intimacy is contrary to God’s will for human sexuality." While acknowledging the complexities around sexual orientation, the Manual states, "the implication of this call to sexual purity is costly, we believe the grace of God is sufficient for such a calling."
There is no stated policy on transgender inclusion.
Official church policy states, “it is God’s intention for our sexuality to be lived out in the covenantal union between one woman and one man."
The Church of the Nazarene does not have an official policy on non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. In 2014, David Wilson, General Secretary of the Church of the Nazarene, sent a letter to President Obama asking that he remove a religious exemption from his upcoming executive order banning hiring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity among federal contractors.
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 LGBTQ people from employment.
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 LGBTQ candidates would be denied ordination, though celibacy might alter that decision. Women have been ordained in the church since its earliest days.
Church of the Nazarene
Global Ministry Center
17001 Prairie Star Parkway
Lenexa, KS, USA 66220
The Human Rights Campaign reports on news, events and resources of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation that are of interest to the general public and further our common mission to support the LGBTQ community.