How would you summarize the core beliefs of U.S. Mennonite Brethren?
By Ed Boschman, USMB executive director
Reading through our then newly revised Confession of Faith at the last U.S. and Canadian binational convention in Wichita the summer of 1999 is a warm memory for me. The reminder that we are on a mission that will conclude when “all God’s children will be united with Christ…and reign with him in glory…and the redeemed will be gathered into the new heaven and new earth…and God will be all in all” was charged with the Spirit’s presence.
It was a rare, energizing and motivating experience to corporately think ahead to the grand finale at the culmination of the review of our common understanding of the faith. But here is the thing: The last page can only be fully satisfying when the rest of the story sets it up. Yes, the ending matters in a big way, but the journey is what takes us there. Every epic story is like that. Realities, truths, values and commitments must be clarified and battles must be waged before the culminating rescue. What’s more, the terms of reference for that saga are of high importance.
So it is with our Confession. The articles of belief preceding the denouement are critical to the story. But here is another thing: Most of us don’t have much of a clue what those other 17 articles of faith say. Very few of us would be able to list the topics, let alone know any content.
All 18 articles in our Confession matter, but we don’t know them. We have an abbreviated version and a sidewalk summary. But even the latter assumes too large a sidewalk. My contention is that we need a summative version of what we believe so that at the very least our pastors-teachers-leaders are able to pass a pop quiz on it.
How might we summarize our Evangelical-Anabaptist beliefs? Some months ago, I heard a story out of Colombia that is stimulating. All our Colombian MB brothers and sisters know their sidewalk version: “Jesus is the center of our faith.The community is the center of our life. Reconciliation is the center of our work.” What’s more, they actually recite it together. That is nothing short of fabulous. A church that actually knows in summary form what they believe. That means they can consciously aim to live their lives on clear mission. What if we all could do that?
USMB leaders have been interacting through social media to try to abbreviate what it is that USMB believes. Here is what we have come up with:
• We are Bible believers.
• We are Christ-centered and Spirit-led.
• We encourage a believe-obey relationship with Jesus in both word and action.
• We partner in believers church communities.
• We live and serve as agents of reconciliation in all relationships.
Now it’s your turn. How does this look, sound and feel to you? Is there something missing that must be added? Should it be further abbreviated?
Can we learn to say this together? Are you willing to carefully and prayerfully think this through? We’d love to hear from you. Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.