Nazarene General Assembly - Day 1

Every four years Nazarenes from around the world - 159 nations to meet in one place to celebrate, to learn, to worship, and to govern the church (through elections and policy decisions).  This is General Assembly.  I'll be here for 8 days, and I'll be blogging every day.
Registration of delegates began yesterday (Tuesday, June 18).  Today was the first official day of business, seminars, and meetings.  General Assembly always begins with the meetings of the auxiliary institutions (Nazarene Youth International, Sunday School & Discipleship Ministries, and Nazarene Missions International).
These first days are a mixture of dozens of workshops, regional caucuses, and legislative meetings.  Today's menu included:
  • Loads of Youth Ministry Workshops (e.g. Intergenerational Youth Ministry, Building God-centered Self-Esteem, Vision Casting, and Engaging Youth in Compassion, Sexual Purity)
  • Committee meetings for NMI delegates
  • International Board of Education Nominations
  • Global Consortium for Graduate Theological Schools
  • Regional Caucuses for NYI delegates

Also, a little known but very important element of General Assembly is side meetings.  Simply having a huge number of decision makers in one place at the same time is a huge strategic opportunity.  Under normal circumstances, the only options for good group discussion are confusing email chains, phone or video conferencing (fraught with technical and schedule based difficulties), or extremely expensive and time-consuming travel.  It's hard to get important things accomplished like this.

Today, I was privileged to sit in on a very important meeting regarding the future of education for the Church of the Nazarene in South Asia.  When my former church (KNU International English Church in South Korea) entered a partnership with Nazarenes in Bangladesh, we began exploring how Korea Nazarene University could assist Bangladesh Nazarenes in their mission.  Our Bengali brothers and sisters said their greatest need was higher education for their mentoring pastors (who would then become more effective mentors).  That started us on a long journey of discussion and exploration to help make that happen.
Because of Korean law, KNU is unable to offer degrees outside of Korea.  On the other hand, Asia-Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary in the Philippines has a thriving extension program but not enough financial resources or faculty to expand to Bangladesh.  In addition, Nazarene Theological College (Manchester, England) is just finishing up an extended experiment providing Masters degrees to Nazarene leaders in India.  
Some time in 2011, we started working on this idea, but we were making progress at a snail's pace, bit by bit, as people happened to be in the same place and were able to have face to face discussions.  Email just isn't good enough for this kind of in depth commitment, which is predicated on relationship and mutual understanding.  
However, General Assembly provided the opportunity to put almost all the major players in the same room at the same time.  We had people from, working in, or representing at least 10 countries (Bangladesh, Germany, Switzerland, England, Singapore, the Philippines, Guatemala, South Korea, New Zealand, and the USA).  Today, we were able to set some basic goals, establish some protocol, identify a key driving leader, and affirm the commitment of three educational institutions and two Nazarene regions to make this unique and complex partnership happen.  The goal is that by spring next year, leaders in Bangladesh will be taking classes to become better qualified trainers of pastors in the fastest growing corner of the Nazarene world.  

Meetings like this are happening quietly all along the fringes of General Assembly.  At the risk of sounding cheesy, this profoundly effective little side meeting is one more reason I'm thrilled to be a Nazarene.