Talking and walking our Confession of Faith
by Ed Boschman, USMB executive director
Do we live what we believe? Do we even believe what we say we believe? Should we review and adjust what we say we believe if we are not living up to it?
These questions were behind the decision to ask the conferees at Conection 2010, the July 2010 national convention in Vancouver, BC, to declare their thoughts about whether we live what we say we believe. Among other responsibilities, our national Board of Faith and Life (BFL) is mandated to “provide spiritual oversight and serve as the guardian of the Confession of Faith.” Out of its own desire to be honorable and because of various interactions within our national constituency, it seemed good to ask July convention participants to give their feedback about this important issue.
Larry Nikkel, BFL board chair, walked delegates and guests through an abbreviated form of all 18 articles of our confession and provided an opportunity to answer two questions regarding each: Do we walk the talk on this article? Should we review and possibly revise this article?
While we are aware that this survey is likely not an accurate indicator of our entire national constituency, we are convinced that it offers some clear messages.
The survey provides strong affirmation (over 80 percent) that we walk the talk on all but two articles. Thirty-one percent of the participants indicated that we are struggling for authenticity in living as honorable disciples of Jesus (Article 10: Discpleship). Thirty-four percent suggested that we are not living faithfully in the area of love and nonresistance (Article 13: Love and Nonresistance).
While only 16 percent suggested that the discipleship article needs to be reviewed, 57 percent indicated that the article on love and nonresistance should be reviewed. It is as the BFL had thought: We have wide variation in our understanding and practice of what it means to be authentic followers of Jesus as makers of peace.
We agree that Jesus calls us to be peacemakers and to avoid violence. At the same time, it is clear that some of us believe that participation in war is wrong, while others have not reached this conclusion. Some among us those have enlisted as combatants and others as noncombatants and still others have chosen alternate service. Additionally, some of us believe it would be right to use force as the lesser of two evils and some do not.
We will need to deal with this together, and the BFL is developing a process by which we will do so. Clearly, any approach will need to be centered in a return to the Scriptures. We have always been a people of the Book. What does the Bible say? is the right first question. We have also always been a people who pursue theological conclusions together as a discerning community. With these two road markers to help us find our way, we will move toward understanding and committing to the call of Jesus on our lives.
We are open to your counsel in the formation of the process. We will be asking for your participation in the conversation. We have no interest in doing battle about being peacemakers, but we are deeply committed to pursuing clarity about Jesus’ call and living authentically as his followers.