Redefining Districts: Fulfilling a New Model for Administrative Boundaries in the Church of the Nazarene

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Peer Reviewed


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Scholarship Domain(s)

Scholarship of Discovery, Scholarship of Interdisciplinary Integration, Scholarship of Community Application, Scholarship of Faith Integration


As a global Wesleyan-Holiness denomination coming of age in the twentieth century, the Church of the Nazarene has both dramatically confronted and yet largely complied with the emerging hegemony of both federated and nation states, particularly across North America. For all the introspection scholars and church leaders have done leading up to the denominational centenary and following, we have yet to address how the Church of the Nazarene has come to organize itself administratively, especially in declaring district boundaries. Moreover, we have yet to account for how such geo-logistical decisions support or otherwise hinder the church’s local mission. In this paper, we analyze the paradigm shift from organizing districts creatively around urban centers to more arbitrarily dividing districts along geopolitical lines, especially state/provincial lines within the USA and Canada. The former practice was directly aligned with the mission, as P. F. Bresee put it, to “evangelistic and city mission work.” The latter development, however, demonstrates the extent to which the denomination lost sight of that initial, proximal impetus. Instead, the Church of the Nazarene succumbed to a subversive, even if unintended, Manifest Destiny of its own—a colonial, imperialistic agenda in service to “spreading of the doctrine and experience of Christian holiness” divorced from the cities where it took root. Therefore, we suggest new ways the Church of the Nazarene may exercise a prophetic imagination in revising the organization of districts, zones, fields, regions, and other geographically realized administrative areas. That is, as an act of confronting hegemonic structures with which the church has been so complicit and, in turn, recapturing the original vision for a church organized around people rather than in service to political powers.


Expanded from the version presented as “Dissident Districts: Developing a New Model for Administrative Boundaries in the Church of the Nazarene” at the 55th annual meeting of the Wesleyan Theological Society, Nazarene Theological Seminary, Kansas City, MO, March 6, 2020.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License.