CHMs fork in the road

Most of my readers don’t even know what the CHM is, but I’ve always been interested in it. The Conservative Holiness Movement is a connection of independent holiness churches and mini-denominations of about a 100,000 people. In a week or so several thousand CHM pastors will gather in Dayton, Ohio for their annual convention. I like these conservative people, though most of my contemporaries reject them as “narrow-minded legalists.” I think this movement is facing a fork in the road. As with most entities with multiple names (e.g. United Nations) the monikers vie with each other. I think the CHM is deciding which name will have first place—conservative or holiness. The simple answer of course is “we’ll be both/and” but seldom is that how things turn out. I predict that in ten years this movement will be either the Conservative holiness movement or the Conservative Holiness movement. Either fork has risk. 1. The CHM might become the Conservative Holiness Movement If conservative wins over holiness the primary issues in the movement will be about women’s hair, TV, movies, dress and worldly amusements. The movement’s niche will be to serve as a example of a conservative lifestyle that resists modernity and worldliness while living a holdout life. This is an inward-focused “remnant option.” There are several risks associated with this fork. When you make a conservative lifestyle your primary issue you always find somebody more conservative than you. If you install a soda machine at your conservative Bible school someone is sure to circulate a newsletter calling you a liberal and a compromiser. Nobody wins the conservative race. Someone can always out-conservative your conservatism. So a conservative movement’s destiny to is spawn “splits from splits.” A second risk of self-defining as conservative is letting others define your movement. After all “conservative” is a comparative word.. As those I’m comparing myself to shift their lifestyle they provide space for conservatives to liberalize and still call themselves conservatives, so conservatives delegate the definition of worldliness to the liberals they compare themselves with. When the liberals start attending movies the conservatives get TVs, and so forth. A third risk of self-defining as a conservative movement is finding you have more in common with other conservatives, no matter their theology, since conservative defines you more than your theology. A primarily conservative CHM would find greater common ground with fundamentalist Baptists, Mennonites and the Amish than other followers of John Wesley, because a conservative lifestyle reigns, not John Wesley’s theology. 2. Or, the CHM might become the Conservative Holiness Movement If holiness wins over conservative the primary issues in the CHM would be about the Holy Spirit filling and cleansing Christians so that they become “radical” in their commitment to Christ. In this case, the movement’s niche would be to serve all of Christendom as a source of clear writing and powerful preaching on entire sanctification—“the place to go” if you are interested in radical commitment to Christ and His mission. This fork would mean the movement would try to get the host of casual Christians in America fully full of the Spirit and entirely sanctified. This fork is mostly outward-focused and militant. But there are risks here too. As with the 19th century holiness revival, your own church doesn’t always reap the benefits—often those renewed go home to their own denomination to revitalize your “competition.” But the biggest risk of choosing holiness over conservative is this fork requires the Holy Spirit. One can be conservative by personal discipline, and without the Holy Spirit. After all, the prizewinners for a conservative lifestyle are not in the CHM—they are in Islam. But to have a holiness revival would take the Holy Spirit’s action, and there’s a risk He won’t act or won’t use the CHM… or you and me. For the CHM to become a holiness movement is a bigger risk, though Christianity might get a bigger gain from this fork. So, what do you think? I am interested in what CHM folk think, and those who don’t even know what I’m talking about think too. For instance, if you know nothing about the CHM what about your own denomination? What fork do you think your denomination is facing? If you know the CHM—which fork do you think they’ll take? So, what do you think? The discussion of this column is on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/profile.php?id=161502633 Keith Drury April 12, 2011 www.TuesdayColumn.com

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