Pledging to remain in their denominations and work for renewal, participants at a first-ever “Confessing the Faith National Conference” in Indianapolis unanimously endorsed a letter from a new “Confessing Theologians Commission.”
In a written response to the theologians’ letter, the participants at the Oct. 25-27 meeting agreed: “We thank the Confessing Theologians Commission for their words of encouragement in noting that God has blessed our churches through the work of renewal movements.
“This influence includes fresh vitality in worship, [and] in preaching, new ventures in mission the renewal of personal piety, an increase in enthusiastic discipleship, and a more profound embrace of God’s concern for the poor.”
About 700 people from Canada, 35 states and the District of Columbia attended the conference, representing 14 mainline Protestant denominations. Several Lutherans, including WordAlone representatives, were present.
The theologians’ document, “Be Steadfast: A Letter to Confessing Christians,” is the product of a September preparatory meeting of theologians from mainline Protestant denominations. These included: the Presbyterian Church, the United Methodist Church, the Episcopalian Church, the United Church of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the American Baptist Church and the United Church of Canada.
The group tackled three questions.
To the first one, “Why should we remain in our churches?” they responded: “We are still here. The Holy Spirit has not abandoned our churches, neither will we.” And later, “Much work has been begun by the various renewal movements among our churches.”
“Why do our churches need faithful confessors?” asked the second question. The theologians responded that God’s call to be faithful within the churches requires not only truthful confession, but also long-term effort to reform the institutions. They wrote, “The work and witness of faithful confessors helps to reclaim and redirect these institutions toward their proper ends.”
They said they rejoiced that across the renewal movements in the various churches, there has been “recovery of sound doctrine” about such beliefs as the Trinity and the unique and saving significance of Christ’s person and work. “God has enabled many to recover their intellectual nerve.”
In the third question they turned their view outside the church to, “Why does our society need faithful Christian confessors?”
They responded firstly, “Faithful Christian witness humanizes society and heals the nations. . . .Confessing Christ requires the discipline of life, person and corporate, private and public.”
In the absence of faithful Christian witness, society established false idols, such as materialism, consumerism, individualism and hedonism, they noted. Christian witness, they added, reminds government of its accountability to God and empowers the faithful to fulfill their duties as citizens. The Gospel champions the sanctity of human life and teaches that the fruits of one’s labor are a gift from God to be used for the common good. Spiritual renewal produces a right ordering of sexuality and family life.
“Most importantly,” they wrote, “even in times of great social crisis, the Lordship of Christ inspires a hope that will not despair.”
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