Big tents are often symbolic. As a child, I remember seeing a huge tent with throngs of people milling around it. I asked my father what it was and he responded, "Would you like to go find out?" My childish curiosity was pegging the meter, and off to the big tent we went. To my surprise, it was a church service. A Baptist preacher was conducting an evangelistic crusade under the huge canvas.
Fast forward to adulthood. When the plane I was a passenger in touched down in Denver, Colorado, the gleaming white roof of the airport terminal reminded me of a huge circus tent. And inside the terminal, it often feels like one! Political parties refer to big tents when they want to talk about their party's inclusiveness. As a metaphor, the big tent has plenty of room for opinions, ideas, and perspectives.
How big is our tent-the Church of the Nazarene? How much room is under its fabric, stretched now for nearly 100 years, from one end of the globe to the other? We do not have enough room for those who would question Christ's divinity, the necessity of His blood as the propitiation for our sins, and His unique role as the only mediator of salvation between God and humankind.
The tent doesn't have enough room for those who would diminish the authority of Scripture as both the revelation of the Salvation story, and the regulatory principle by which holiness is manifested in the world.There is room for difference of opinion in matters not strictly pertaining to salvation.
We do have room for Spirit-filled scholarship that reverently explores both the human journey and the divine disclosure. There is plenty of room to appreciate culture, ethnicity, and other distinctives that enrich the human family. It's still a beautiful tent!
David J. Felter, Editor in chief Holiness Today, September/October 2006