Monday, June 8, 2009

What WE Believe.

No need to use some lame metaphor for this occasion.

The Reformed Church in America has just adopted the Belhar Confession as a fourth standard of unity for our church. I have to admit that I was more moved by the affirming response than I had imagined. At first I thought it was because I had invest so much time and energy over the past few days in the conversation and proposal (realizing it pales in comparison to those who have been working for decades on this). However, I think it was more that I feel that the RCA affirmed that they believe what I believe.

To give you a small window in to the process of offering advice, we had difficulty in crafting advice that clearly reflected the the advice of the whole synod. We had to wrestle with words that often seem so insignificant in other writings; words like "some" or "others" or "many." We had to decide if it really was accurate to say that "so many people said..." Often times we couldn't be so emphatic with certainty and would simply have to say "some." However, in one regard we felt confident that we could write "so many." And that is "so many people told us that they were ready to live out their faith."

I think this is what resonated with me the most and what makes this moment such a special one. It seems that the voice of the people revealed the prompting, the urging, the pulling, of the Spirit of God. There was a hunger in "so many" people to enter into ministries of reconciliation and justice and unity. Some of them just needed the permission as one pastor said when he considered preaching on issues of justice and privilege. Others needed the courage and, still others, needed the assurance that all of this talk of unity and justice and reconciliation was faithful to God's Word and to the calling on God's church. So many people now know that the RCA now believes what they believe.

For those who are still uncertain about the need for a new confession I'll offer once more my thoughts on that. Each of our previous three confessions arose out of conflict that was physically violent at times. It's difficult for us to imagine that such conflict over theological disputes around the Lord's Supper or the depravity of man should result in violence, but it did. The church responded with confessions to take a stand on the issues at hand and in hopes that the church could find unity. Since that time, the conflicts and violence have not ceased. However, the reasons for violence have changed. Since that time violence has erupted around issues of gender, of race, of class, of tribe. Out of the violence, cries arose, "God help us." Too often the church stared, perhaps with tears, but did nothing in response; their silence implying that God does not care about such "political" or "social" struggles and forgetting that God's children were dying.

Finally, finally, finally, finally, the church has answered those cries, belatedly for the past, but just in time for the future. We acknowledge their pain. We acknowledge worth. We acknowledge with them that God does care about their suffering. We have now said that we believe what they believe. In adopting the Belhar Confession as a standard of our faith we have taken a stand to say that God is a God of justice as much as God is three-in-one, that Jesus is much a reconciler of races as he is God incarnate, that the Spirit moves for unity as much as for morality. Having adopted the Belhar as a Standard of Unity, no one ever again can say otherwise. And to those who try the RCA now says, "We DO NOT believe what you believe."

I am proud of the Reformed Church in America and I say "Thank you."


  1. I rejoice with you. Yet, remember 2/3 of the Classies still need to approve this. I needed all the discussion, but more than that, I needed the 2 hours of discussion on the floor to get me to a point where I could vote in favor, not because I disagreed with what the Belhar states, but because I had concerns

  2. Absolutely.

    I hope that the members of classis are afforded the same opportunities for discussion that we were. It is not a decision to be made lightly or ignorantly. Our classes should be given sufficient time to have all of their concerns and questions addressed.

  3. Amen Pete! I'm glad you were able to witness and be a part of such a beautiful moment in the history of our denomination! I've been thinking about the 30th anniversary of women and how amazing it is to think that I would not be where I am today had those people not taken on that fight 30 years ago. Just think what people will be able to say about their lives thanks to Synod 2009!

  4. I don't know about other Classis, but Ontario had already decided that if it is passes we would have at least a half day discussion on Belhar preceeding our next Classis meeting.


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