Larry Nikkel, National Board of Faith and Life chair, and Ed Boschman, USMB executive director, coauthored this column on behalf of the NBFL.
In a previous Conference Call on behalf of our National Board of Faith and Life (BFL), we shared our intention to address an apparent gap between what we say we believe in our Confession of Faith, (our talk) and our apparent actual belief (our walk).
While we believe that our national family is unified around our mission statement which declares that “we partner as one family, serving one Lord, on one mission, for the transformation of individuals, families and communities,” we also believe that we need integrity in our statements of belief. That is why our Board of Faith and Life, the leadership team entrusted with responsibility for the theological oversight of our Confession of Faith, wishes to engage the constituency on subjects pertinent to what it means to be authentic kingdom citizens in today’s world.
It is noteworthy to observe the subject of Jesus’ last passionate conversation with his Father prior to his suffering and death. He prays that all his disciples would live in unity and “be one” just like he and his Father are one. That oneness would verify that Jesus was really sent by God and provide the power of authenticity to the church. If we are not unified in our faith and in our lives, our witness loses credibility.
Some believe that seeking unity, especially on the issue of how Christians relate to the state and respond to the government’s military engagements, is a goal beyond our reach. If our approach is to make immediate judgments about those whose views represent a position other than our own on these matters, then that is likely correct, for that would mean that we have only winners and losers. But because we believe that unity in the church is possible, our approach must be to engage in a biblical and Spirit-directed process that will lead to unity on those things upon which we will agree.
Our short-term goal is to engage all levels of our constituency in a process that promotes the safe expression of opinions and attitudes on what we believe Jesus and the Scriptures teach us on how we live in our world as faithful followers of Jesus. That initiative will likely begin with a significant and reliable survey to gather broad-based information about beliefs and practices and will be followed by significant processes of leading and listening.
We will model resistance to the temptation of prematurely staking out our positions and working to win support for those positions and are asking that everyone do the same. We will pray and live expectantly of ways in which the Holy Spirit will guide and direct to strengthen our conference and in ways that will confirm that we are all serious followers of Jesus.
We are committed to reaching conclusions around which we can be unified and which will guide us in our preaching, teaching and living. Our ultimate goal is a commitment to the pursuit of peace in all times and in all situations, for that is what we believe the Prince of Peace desires—peace with God, peace with ourselves, peace in our families, peace in our churches, peace in our work places, peace in our communities, peace in our country and peace in the world.