50,000 Expected at Services in Anaheim

Times Religion Writer

The first congregation to be called the Church of the Nazarene was started in Los Angeles in 1895, but only now is the international Protestant denomination of that name holding its first convention in California.

Nazarenes expect about 50,000 churchgoers to attend services Sunday in Anaheim Stadium to kick off a week of General Assembly business at the Anaheim Convention Center.

The 750,000-member Church of the Nazarene, headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., officially counts its beginnings from mergers completed in 1908. Its conservative evangelical perspective is said to be closest to the early doctrines of Methodism.

Indeed, a Nazarene pioneer, the Rev. Phineas F. Bresee, pastored the Los Angeles and Pasadena First Methodist churches before a doctrinal disagreement with the local bishop caused him to leave the Methodists and organize a new church.


Bresee began services on Oct. 6, 1895, in a building on Main Street in Los Angeles with a ministry oriented toward the poor. A close friend, J.P. Widney, previously dean of the medical college at the University of Southern California and later USC’s president, became co-founder of the new church and gave it the name “Church of the Nazarene” in order to link Jesus of Nazareth with “the toiling . . . sorrowing heart of the world.”

By 1906, Nazarene congregations spread along the Western seaboard and reached as far east as Illinois. an 1908, groups from the East, South and West met in Pilot Point, Tex., to create a national body, the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene. But the word “Pentecostal” was dropped from the title in 1919 because of the term’s association with groups that espoused glossolalia, or “speaking in tongues.”

The denomination’s 21st quadrennial General Assembly in Anaheim begins with a Communion service 10 a.m. Sunday at the baseball stadium. A world evangelization service is also scheduled there at 5 p.m.

Business sessions at the Anaheim Convention Center begin Monday with elections of six general superintendents. Four incumbents are thought likely to be reelected, but interest has focused on two vacancies. The church has 8,000 churches around the world, and no eligible church elder outside North America has ever been elected to the six-man Board of General Superintendents. Business will conclude Friday.


Former United Methodist Bishop James Armstrong, after an absence of nearly two years from positions in organized religion, will join the faculty of Iliff School of Theology in Denver this fall as visiting professor of preaching for the 1985-86 academic year.

Armstrong resigned unexpectedly as a Methodist bishop and as president of the National Council of Churches in November, 1983, citing undisclosed personal reasons and overwork. Last May he became vice president for public issues of Pagan International, an international public affairs and issues management firm in Washington. Officials said he would continue there on a part-time basis.

Donald E. Messer, president of Iliff, a United Methodist seminary, praised Armstrong’s “extraordinary gifts of both preaching and teaching” in announcing the appointment.

Pope John Paul II has appointed Msgr. Justin F. Rigali, a priest of the Los Angeles Roman Catholic Archdiocese, as head of the Vatican’s diplomatic school and raised him to the rank of archbishop, it was announced recently.


Rigali, who has been in the Vatican diplomatic service since 1964, has been chief of the English section of the Vatican Secretariat of State and now becomes president of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy.

Rigali, 50, was born in Los Angeles and was ordained a priest at St. Vibiana’s Cathedral in 1961. He served briefly in two parishes before going to Rome to study canon law.

He is believed to be the first U.S. citizen to head the Vatican school, which trains men who will serve in the church’s diplomatic corps.

The Christian Broadcasting Network announced this week that it has committed $1 million in seed money to launch a six-week “Heads Up” project to teach reading and writing to youngsters with learning difficulties.


M. G. (Pat) Robertson, the network president, said the project, initially directed at inner city youth, will use a system of recorded songs, games, storybooks, workbooks and prizes to combat illiteracy.

During a news conference at Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, Robertson said the six-week pilot programs will be held here and in New York City, Detroit and Houston.

Special services: Antiochian Orthodox churches in Southern California were asked to close this Sunday in order that church members could attend a special liturgy in honor of visiting Patriarch Ignatius IV of Antioch being held 10:30 a.m. Sunday at St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral in Los Angeles. . . . Final services will held Sunday at Los Angeles’ Church of the Open Door, the fundamentalist church with the “Jesus Saves” neon signs now slated for destruction to make way for a new downtown skyscraper. The Rev. J. Vernon McGee, pastor from 1949 to 1970, will preach at the 10:30 a.m. service and the Rev. G. Michael Cocoris, current pastor of the church, which has relocated in Glendora, will close the 70-year-old church with a Communion service at 6 p.m.