When I saw the advisory committee report on the Belhar Confession late Monday night, I was quite concerned that the conversation and voting among the delegates would unfold the way it did. I am still processing last night’s decision and expect I will continue to do so for some time. It was not the outcome I had hoped for. As several delegates expressed last night, there is a bit of frustration in not being afforded an opportunity to vote on the Belhar as a Confession or at least as a Testimony. The non-binding nature of the Ecumenical Faith Declarations designation leaves the Belhar in an awkward place for us. How do we relate to a confession that does not bind us together? On the other hand, by providing some official status to the Belhar and approving it for use in discipleship and liturgical purposes, synod held open the door that the Belhar can be utilized in very beneficial ways within individual congregations.
My post yesterday morning (When Excellence is Not Enough) outlined my concerns with the advisory committee report. What I did not say in that post was that I was actually quite encouraged to see recommendation number 6 in the advisory committee’s report. This idea is extremely important in that it would allow us to explore one of the underlying issues that our denominational dialogue on the Belhar has exposed over the past three years: we have multiple operational definitions of what a confession is at work among us. The fact that a study committee on “what we mean by confession” was not approved by Synod was extremely disappointing. Perhaps, many of the delegates discerned that such a study committee would be all about the Belhar for another three years. Whatever the personal rationale, the communal decision left much to be desired. Continue reading