Nazarene student leaders request change in dancing policy

By Morgan Daniels

More than a year has past since Nazarene student leaders asked the administration of the Nazarene Church to establish specific rules and guidelines on the issue of dancing.

Student leaders make the case that many types of dances such as swing or ballroom dancing should be deemed suitable, but the Nazarene Manual is unclear on whether or not these dances are allowed.

Matt Taylor, the 2008-2009 co-chair of the Nazarene Student Leadership Association (NSLA) Steering Committee, wrote a letter representing the NSLA in February 2009 to the Nazarene General Superintendents requesting a broader interpretation of the Manual statement (34.4) which would allow certain types of dance.

“If they can help us better understand what the interpretation of the social dancing policy in the manual really means, then we would be satisfied,” Taylor said.

The current statement, which says to avoid “all forms of dancing that detract from spiritual growth and break down proper moral inhibitions and reserve,” was last modified at the 1993 General Assembly, approving practices such as aerobics and cultural dancing.

Taylor held the position as NSLA Steering Committee co-chair, or the title of president of the student body presidents, for two years. He said that throughout his involvement and leadership positions in student government, social dancing has always been an issue of concern.

“This is an issue that our college students wanted to address at the general church level—technically, a lot of us aren’t living to the standards as set forth in the Nazarene manual if we in fact do certain types of dance,” Taylor said, “We want to live within the guidelines that we have agreed to with our membership.”

Taylor argued in the letter that the policy seems to be “out of step” with most Nazarene students at the universities. He said this clarification of policy is important in order to keep all generations of Nazarenes on the same page of understanding.

But change takes time.

The Board of General Superintendents responded to the NSLA letter in December 2009—nearly 10 months later.  But the response was far from final. The board said that conversation on dancing would continue with other leaders in the Nazarene church, such as university presidents.

“The Board of General Superintendents will continue to facilitate dialogue with representation from Nazarene schools of higher education on this subject,” the Board’s response letter said.

“It really is waiting game—something has been done, but at this point, there is nothing more we can do,” Jared Usrey, Trevecca’s current student body president, said.

Change in the Nazarene manual only takes place at General Assembly, which won’t happen again until 2013.

But Lacey Smith, current co-chair of the NSLA, said that the bill was tabled at first because the letter was submitted in 2009, the year of the last General Assembly and the turnover of three out of the six positions of the General Superintendents Board.

Smith said the General Superintendents will probably review the bill at the next meeting.

Trevecca’s University President Dan Boone, and Dean of Students Steve Harris both said that Trevecca’s policy on the matter of dancing should always be a reflection of the Nazarene manual, but also centers around the idea of atmosphere that students place themselves in.

“The kinds of dance where there is inappropriate dress or is sexually suggestive—the church is trying to say those are the types of moral atmospheres we don’t want to be in,” Boone said.

Click here to view the NSLA letter to the Nazarene General Superintendents.

Click here to view the General Superintendent’s response letter.

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