Here’s a Statement of Faith I put together in the 1980s. I’m leaving it mostly unamended, although perhaps here and there a word or phrase might be expressed differently. I substantially agree with this still, in 2013. Â (See notes at the bottom).
STATEMENT OF FAITH AND PRACTICE
1. There is one God, in three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God created all things, sustains all of life, is Father of all humankind, is our Redeemer and our Judge.
2. Jesus Christ is ‘God with us’, fully divine and fully human. He was the ‘human face of God’, teaching us by his words and works what God is like; dying for us to demonstrate his love for us, to defeat the power of death over us, and to atone for our sins; and now prays for us.
3. The Holy Spirit is ‘God in us’, empowering us to live in the church and in the world, in the same way Jesus related to those inside and outside the covenant community. He gives spiritual gifts to all Christians to enable us to glorify Christ and serve one another. All the spiritual gifts mentioned in the NT are available to the whole church until the parousia, (‘when the perfect comes’ 1 Corinthians 13:10). Christians are to defer to one another, (allowing only those with proven giftedness to exercise public ministries).
4. Love, the ‘greatest force in the world’, must motivate all we do. Laws and constitutions are necessary because we are human and sinners, but legalism and institutionalism sow seeds of death in a community of love. We must constantly be committed to ‘truthing in love’ with one another, working hard to promote unity and harmony within the church, and from the church to the world. Humans are created in the image of God, and although this image is tarnished by our sinning, our ‘God-likeness’ is reclaimed and restored through love and forgiveness.
5. The Bible is God’s written revelation of his will for us. Like Jesus, the living Word of God, the documents comprising our Â ‘Scriptures’ are both divine and human. The Bible is the final authority for all our beliefs and practices. But we interpret the Bible humbly, not dogmatically, because ‘the Lord has yet more light and truth to break forth from his holy Word.’ Heresies arise from our adding to Scripture by ‘clarifying’ it, so we will not allow such issues as creation/evolution, inerrancy, Calvinism/Arminianism, spiritual gifts, ‘eternal security’, marriage equality, millennialism etc. to divide us. What unites us is far greater than these divisive issues.
6. Worship is everything we do for the glory of God: together in ‘worship services’ or in our homes, jobs, school, leisure activities etc. Jesus is to be Lord of everything we do. Worship services ought to acknowledge three biblical modes: they are liturgical and sacramental, Word-centred, and ‘charismatic’. Until we can maturely worship in all these ways it is probably best to develop different kinds of services for different preferences. In any case, all we do ought to ‘pursue excellence’. Because we want to honour God the second best won’t do, and in any case won’t be attractive to ‘seekers’, particularly in a dynamic television age.
7. Community is the meeting of spiritual gifts and human needs. The aim of all ministry is to encourage the church to ‘minister to itself’. Pastor-teachers empower the church to mature in these ways, acknowledging that ministry belongs to all who are ‘ordained’, that is, every Christian (Colossians 1:28-29; Ephesians 4:11-16). The whole church is pastoral, priestly, prophetic. (So, in principle, ‘pastoral visitation’ is done by all to all; ‘spiritual sacrifices’ are offered to God by the whole church; we are all to speak for God to the world).
8. Spiritual formation is the dynamic process whereby the Word of God is applied by the Spirit of God to the heart and mind of the child of God so that she or he becomes more like the Son of God. Every Christian should be encouraged to belong to a small group to nurture their formation, and mature Christians should be mentoring younger Christians. And each of us ought to talk to a ‘Spiritual Director’ regularly.Â
9. We are to love the whole church – all the family of believers (1 Peter 2:17). We are Christians first and whatever-our-denomination-is second. We follow Christ who urged that acceptance of others takes precedence over the practice of divine ordinances. So we ought unreservedly to accept into full fellowship and church membership all whom God has accepted (Romans 15:7). There is every reason to cooperate fully with all other individuals and churches who ‘acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the Scriptures’.
10. Our mission is to do in our world what Jesus did in his: works of justice (serving the powerless and rebuking oppressors), mercy (ministering to others at the point of their felt needs) and evangelism (calling people to faith, and to walk humbly before their God). John 20:21, Matthew 23:23, Luke 11:42, Micah 6:8.
11. Because NT churches had three modes of government, so ought we. Apostolic and pastoral leaders had episcopal authority (they had disciplinary powers and personally chose their ministry associates); churches were ruled by a group of elders; but the whole congregation ‘owned’ the church’s vision and mission. Deacons, deaconesses, ‘widows’ etc. also have special servant-roles.
13. In Christ unjust divisions between races, social groups and the sexes are abolished (Galatians 3:28). The Mediterranean cultures in the early years of the church put limits on the abolition of some forms of discrimination (eg. slavery, sexism), and the apostles rightly avoided scandalizing those cultures. But in our times we are creating a scandal by not allowing women to fully exercise any ministry for which God has gifted them. Â God is not a legalist: he allows Deborah to lead his whole covenant community, and in the NT 12 women are named as deacon, apostle, ‘fellow-worker in the gospel’ etc.
1. God as ‘Father’ / ‘Son’: I relate to God (as Jesus did) especially as Father, because God has provided many evidences of love and guidance which my biological father didn’t. But I’m OK with others who’d prefer God as ‘parent’, and who eschew masculine pronouns for Deity etc.
2. Re the Lord having ‘more light and truth to break forth from His Word‘ (#5), seeÂ http://www.jmm.org.au/articles/24616.htmÂ which summarizes my own journey through ‘paradigm shifts’.
3. Ministry as Empowerment (#7) – SeeÂ http://www.jmm.org.au/articles/8109.htm