Over the last few months the United Church of Canada has spent some good amount of time on doctrine. Now, contrary to what the title of this post may imply, I do believe talking about doctrine (what we believe) to be an important thing.
But we’re doing it wrong.
The denomination has asked the local churches and presbyteries to consider whether or not we want to take 2 recognized and nationally accepted statements of faith, and our “New Creed” and make them official doctrine on par with our Articles of Faith which are the foundation upon which the United Church of Canada came into being in 1925. We are also voting on the three items separately as to whether they should be considered doctrine.
Now that we are nearing the end of the voting cycle, here are my reflections on the whole thing. I have spoken out against this action on a number of occasions, but feel I need to flesh this out some more. To put some more meat onto the bones of my argument. I realize this is late in the process and most of the church that is going to vote probably already has. But it’s my blog and I’ll say what I want, when I want! (sarcasm implied)
The current and only role the Articles of Faith seem to play in our current church is when we ask our potential ministry personnel if they are in “essential agreement” with the content of this document. This means that we can’t dictate what our future leaders and preachers believe, but we ask if they are able to live with the basic understandings upon which the church was built. It seems as though we are now having problems finding some people who are willing to step up in leadership who are able to “live with” these statements as we now have clergy in our church who do not believe in Jesus Christ, or even God. I’ve also heard through the grapevine that some of our theological schools are offering assistance to students who are having an ethical crisis by coaching them through the essential agreement question so that they don’t feel like they are lying.
Our church doesn’t know what it believes any more.
So we think that if we add some more words it will help.
We’re doing it wrong.
Our denomination, according to who you talk to, is on the brink of a huge crisis of existence, or is already there. Our local congregations are struggling and crying out for help and direction, and we want to debate adding more words. Words that will have no impact on the ministry of the local congregations. We’re putting a band aid on a tumour.
The other question I have is why are we voting on all three separately? Is the 1940 Statement of Faith greater than the 2006 Song of Faith? Is the New Creed better? If we vote to include one, shouldn’t they all be included? What are we saying to the generation that drafted the document?
“Thanks, but we like this one better, you must have been wrong.”
The United Church is facing a crisis of its own existence. Things must improve in the near future or we collapse in upon our own structures and something might emerge from the ashes. Although, I must admit, that in the Easter season, maybe resurrection is not a bad thing!
The church needs to strengthen its local congregations, for whatever comes in the near and far future. It means helping them define their identity in Jesus Christ because he is the one who built the church. He is the reason for its existence. He is our hope, our guide, our Saviour.
We must stand up for what we believe and say it loudly and passionately.
Adding more words won’t help.
God bless us all, and God bless the United Church of Canada.