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
Like many of you who will read this post today, I have eagerly and perhaps somewhat curiously been waiting to see how the advisory committee responding to the overtures related to the Belhar Confession would present their recommendations to the CRC Synod (This is the annual leadership gathering for the denomination in which I am rooted). Admittedly, I was quite surprised to see a predominately unified report emerge. I had fully expected a set of majority-minority reports to be presented this year. For their efforts to present unity in the presence of an ongoing disagreement about the status of the Belhar Confession within our denomination, this advisory committee needs to be thanked.
However, for as much as I would like to see consensus emerge in our discernment surrounding the Belhar, I do not believe that the creation of a new category of Ecumenical Faith Declarations is the route we should take. I have three significant concerns related to the advisory committee’s recommendations and two comments in response to our reactions around the Belhar. Continue reading
One of the core values at First Hamilton CRC (the church I am currently serving) is anticipating change. Those who served here before me poured themselves into forming a vision that not only made room for change, but saw change as a fundamental part of our Christian identity. The reasoning for this core value flows out of a cluster of convictions: the Gospel of Jesus Christ transforms us personally and communally; as we change, the neighborhoods, work environments, leisure spaces, and places we call home are transformed; God’s mission includes the prophetic reassurance that Jesus Christ is at work making all things new. Change is woven throughout the story of God’s people. Rooted in the biblical narrative (Creation, Fall, Redemption, Renewed Creation), these convictions are expressions of the Lenten-Easter motif of dying and rising with Christ. The Christian life is one in which God’s people are consistently being called to lay down their own lives in order to receive the life of Christ more fully with each other. Rather than resisting change, we are called to embrace a way of life that is marked by ongoing transformation with others in Jesus Christ.
I’ve been thinking about this particular core value while listening to discussions in my denomination (CRCNA) about what it means to have a confessional identity. In a few weeks, delegates from across the CRCNA will gather for an annual synod. This June, delegates will discuss (along with a few other topics) a Form of Subscription (FoS). Continue reading