Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Scot McKnight, 'You and Your Church's "Statement of Faith"'

I think the questions being asked are healthy, as I generally -- if not most of the time -- feel very uncomfortable in most churches unless I know where they stand. McKnight offers some great brain chowder. ;-)


If you attend a typical independent evangelical church, even one that is more pragmatic than doctrinaire, the church probably has a written “Statement of Faith,” which members are supposed to uphold.  As someone who participates in a community like Jesus Creed, you’ve probably thought through some of the issues reflected in your church’s Statement with some care — and there likely are points at which, at the very least, you’d want to interpret your church’s Statement in a way that almost certainly diverges from the intention of its original authors.  There may even be some points at which, if you’re honest, you’d have to say you really don’t agree with it.
Do you let the other stuff in the “Statement of Faith” slide, privately interpret it very broadly, hold your nose a little, sign up and then ignore it?  Do you initiate conversations with leadership to try and change things? Do you submit a statement of “reservations” as is permitted in some strongly confessional traditions?  To maintain your integrity, do you have to not seek or withdraw from membership and/or leadership?  Do you have to switch churches?  As a further twist, let’s say the senior leadership understands your reservations, doesn’t necessarily agree with all of them, but considers them secondary and is willing to tolerate them — but that the written Statement won’t or can’t be changed.  Is your subsequent ministry constrained by the Statement?
Just as one common example, many people eager to uphold the authority and integrity of scripture might nevertheless be very uncomfortable with language couched in terms of “verbal plenary inspiration” and “inerrant in the original autographs.” Some of you might even say you’re uncomfortable with such language precisely because you think it actually weakens the integrity of scripture (how would you even identify an “autograph” of a pseudepigraphical epistle, for example??) — but such language is very common in evangelical “Statements of Faith” (often because such Statements are recycled forms of things that have been around since the Bible Wars of the 1970′s).  And there are various other elements of the typical Statement of this sort that you might offer major or minor quibbles over — maybe it’s a reference to the rapture or the millennium, or overly specific language about Heaven and Hell, or something else.  The purpose isn’t to debate the merits of any of those things right now — just to identify some common ones that could be subject to question by a theologically informed person.

So what do you do, if you are or want to be an active “member” or leader in such a church?  Let’s say you’re fully happy to affirm a basic outline like the Nicene or Apostle’s Creed and to put them into a context of active piety, mission, and worship, and let’s also say that you genuinely want to participate faithfully in the body and your views of important ethical / moral issues are consistent with what the church expects.

Do you let the other stuff in the “Statement of Faith” slide, privately interpret it very broadly, hold your nose a little, sign up and then ignore it?  Do you initiate conversations with leadership to try and change things? Do you submit a statement of “reservations” as is permitted in some strongly confessional traditions?  To maintain your integrity, do you have to not seek or withdraw from membership and/or leadership?  Do you have to switch churches?  As a further twist, let’s say the senior leadership understands your reservations, doesn’t necessarily agree with all of them, but considers them secondary and is willing to tolerate them — but that the written Statement won’t or can’t be changed.  Is your subsequent ministry constrained by the Statement?


LINK and COMMENTS

--Nick

No comments:

Post a Comment