National BFL one step closer to finalizing recommendation to be voted on this summer
By Connie Faber
Taking into account feedback the USMB Board of Faith and Life (BFL) received on drafts to a new version of Article 13 of the Confession of Faith, BFL has drafted a preliminary recommendation for a new version of Article 13. The preliminary recommendation, “Love, Peacemaking and Reconciliation,” can be read online. The board’s third open letter to the USMB constituency and a document comparing the current version of Article 13 with the recommended version are posted with the preliminary recommendation.
“This is a preliminary recommendation primarily because we will have one more BFL meeting before we have to publish the formal recommendation,” says BFL chair Larry Nikkel, (pictured right) in an email interview. “We are reserving the right to ‘tinker’ a bit more before formalizing the recommendation. We are putting this out so people can know where we have landed on Article 13.”
Nikkel says that many people responded to the board’s invitation to offer responses and suggestions to earlier drafts of a new Article 13. While BFL is not asking people to again provide comments, Nikkel encourages anyone who has further comments to contact him or USMB executive director Ed Boschman.
These new comments “won’t be ignored,” says Nikkel. “But we also want to be clear that we have made a decision based substantially on the input we have already received. In other words, we won't continually go back and ask the constituency for more feedback.”
BFL is sending an online survey regarding the preliminary recommendation to those who participated in the January 2013 study conference that initiated the conversation about revising Article 13 as well as to USMB pastors, members of district BFLs and Bible faculty members at Tabor College, Fresno Pacific University and Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary.
“The purpose of the online survey is to ascertain the readiness of pastors and others to embrace the statement and their readiness to preach and teach it,” says Nikkel.
BFL will finalize a formal recommendation at their March 2014 meeting and will prepare a recommendation for action at Conection 2014, the USMB biennial convention to be held July 25-26 in Santa Clara, Calif. Nikkel anticipates that BFL will entertain discussion about the recommendation at the convention but that the board will hesitate to revise the final recommendation during the convention based on floor discussion. Nikkel says, “Because the nature of the issue—the careful wordsmithing done by BFL in consultation with the constituency over an 18-month period—I think we will welcome discussion but ask for a vote on the recommendation as presented.”
Revising Article 13 became a priority following the 2010 USMB convention when a survey revealed that Article 13 was the article in greatest need of review and possible revision.
“We have come to a place where the peace option has become so emotionally laden that it cannot even be discussed in a calm and rational manner,” says the recent open letter. “We had no beginning point for a conversation.”
The October open letter outlines BFL’s desire to create such a beginning point, the reasons for reviewing Article 13 and the process BFL has followed. The letter states: “From the first discussion within the BFL it has been clear that we want a strong statement in support of being a peace-loving, peace-making and peace-keeping people in keeping with our identity as one of the historic peace churches. It was also clear that we needed a clearly biblically based position around which we could be unified.”
The letter acknowledges that, “some have challenged the appropriateness of the goal of unity.” The letter says that Jesus’ plea for unity in the church prior to his arrest, torture and crucifixion is what compels BFL to search for unity regarding Article 13. The letter asks: “Is it more important to have a statement which people have not, and likely would not follow, or one around which we can agree, giving us a new opportunity to preach, teach and live as faithful followers of Jesus?”
The open letter concludes by saying that BFL hopes revising Article 13 will “ignite a new discussion within our church family; a discussion which begins with our agreement that the Prince of Peace has called us to a clear witness for seeking peace in every way possible.”
BFL states its commitment to working with districts in an effort to deepen the commitment to seeking peace in all things. “We understand that simply changing the wording to our Confession of Faith alone will yield minimal results in how we live. It is the BFL’s intention to work with our District Boards of Faith and Life to strengthen our understanding of and commitment to conflict resolution,” says the letter.