Holding True to What We Believe – John Stumbo Video Blog No. 123

This month John invites Gary Friesen, vice president and C&MA corporate counsel, to offer clarity and encouragement about who we are and what we stand for as stated in six of our core statements and perspectives.

– Alliance family, we all know that we live at a moment in time when key truths are being challenged by our culture. Today we want to address some of the ways that the Alliance family is upholding the truth of God’s Word. Before we launch into today’s topic, I want to give a shout-out to our conference coming up in January in Columbus called Converge. This is our annual event, which is growing in its size and impact where missionally minded leaders from Alliance churches all across the country, both pastoral staff and lay leaders, come together for a few days to engage in, “How do we better mobilize the Alliance family in our world impact?” This year, Ted Esler, president of Missio Nexus, is our keynote speaker.

The theme is innovate, and I invite you to make it a priority. If you have a passion to help your own congregation be more missionally engaged, this is the conference for you. Today, I’ve invited Dr. Gary Friesen, a vice president and our legal counsel for The Christian and Missionary Alliance, a lawyer and a trusted brother, to address issues of current significance. We’ve gone through a process in recent years, not only of working on our Statement of Faith, but other statements that are core to explaining who The Alliance is, what we stand for. Gary approaches this from a biblical, legal, and academic side but also approaches this having listened to Alliance pastors and leaders from across the country for years. And so, with the team that the Board of Directors has assembled, The Alliance now has refreshed statements that Gary is going to give us an overview of and I believe will be very helpful for us as the Alliance family to take a step back and just look at who we are, what we believe, and what we stand for. I introduce to you, my brother, friend, coworker, Gary Friesen.

– Over the last several years, our church family has been about the business of bringing greater clarity to what we believe. From the beginning, we’ve held strongly to core doctrines about God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, Scripture, missions, and the Church. But recent cultural shifts have given us a reason not to change what we believe but to bring what we believe into sharper focus. We’ve done that by revisiting some of our core theological statements. Why is this important? When I was growing up, my family was involved in the building trade.

One summer day, I was tasked to insulate the floor of a newly constructed home by inserting pieces of insulation between the floor joists. A coworker and I crawled underneath the house. When we started at one end, there was three to four feet between the ground and the floor, but the ground sloped up as we worked our way to the other end, so the space got tighter and tighter. As we squeezed our way, my coworker said, “I don’t know why they didn’t make this floor level.” From his perspective, the ground was level and the floor was not. His perspective fundamentally changed everything. Builders take excruciating care to ensure that the foundation of a house is perfectly level. Everything about the house depends on the accuracy of a level foundation. But like my coworker, the world around us increasingly bases its view of reality on the ever-changing slope of culture rather than the level foundation of God’s Truth. Our core theological statements provide our level foundation.

That’s why this is important. I’m going to share truths that we’ve affirmed from each of the six different statements that we’ve addressed in recent years. The Statement of Faith, the Statement on Sexuality, the Statement on the Sanctity of Human Life, the Statement on Singleness and Marriage, the Statement on Racial Justice, and our position on gender. First, our Statement of Faith. For the first time since it was written in the 1960s, we’ve reexamined the wording, not the meaning, of these most fundamental expressions of our beliefs. Here we need to go no further than section 1.1.

This initial belief is unpacked through the rest of the Statement of Faith and finds its way into every one of our other theological declarations. “There is one God, Creator of all things, who is infinitely perfect, existing eternally in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” To quote A. W. Tozer, “What we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

From that beginning point, let’s look at our Statement of Sexuality. In a world with unbounded beliefs about everything related to human sexuality, we affirm the following, and I quote, “Sexuality is created by God and is good. We are created and embodied as male and female. Our created sex and sexuality are gifts from the Creator to be embraced with gratitude and worship.” Now, we’re painfully aware that the brokenness of our sinful nature introduces desires and actions that turn our perspective from the level foundation of God’s Truth to the slope embraced by our culture. But here, our statement makes this strong declaration: “God loves us in our brokenness with the love so boundless that He sent Jesus to redeem what sin has distorted.” Even Christians who had previously embraced many sexual sins are now described in this way. And here I quote 1 Corinthians 6:11: “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the spirit of our God.”

Next, let’s look at our Statement on the Sanctity of Human Life. This statement starts with these words: “Human life is created by God and is good. Since we are uniquely created in the image of God and formed by God, we hold to the sanctity of all human life.” A little further it adds, “God gives life and breath to everyone, calling us to value equally the dignity of every individual life in its entirety, which compels us to love and have compassion for all peoples of the world.” With regard to abortion, euthanasia, and other means to take someone’s life, it says, “We affirm the value of every person from the womb to the end of earthly life, without exception. Therefore, the gift of life should be cherished and not taken prematurely.”

Now for our Statement on Singleness and Marriage. As we clarified our beliefs about marriage, we also drew out our theological commitment to those who are single so that this statement addresses the two places of God’s design: singleness, which all of us experience, and marriage, which is experienced by many. The statement starts off by declaring that “Singleness is a good gift from God as seen in the life of Jesus.” And then goes on, in a world where the understanding of marriage is increasingly under attack, The Alliance affirms the following: “Marriage is also a good gift from God for companionship, sexual intimacy, and procreation where one man and one woman are joined together in a lifelong and exclusive holy covenant before God.” It’s also noted, “Whether we are single or married, Jesus empowers us by His grace to live fulfilled lives and relational intimacy with God and others.” We acknowledge there can be brokenness in marriage leading to the pain of damaged relationships and divorce. Here the statement affirms the following: “Ultimately, marriage foreshadows the glory of heaven where there is but one Bride, the Church, and one groom, the Lord Jesus. Until then, we are led by God’s Word, forgiven by God’s Son, and empowered by God’s Spirit as we reflect His image together in community.”

Our only new statement is the Statement on Racial Justice. As we know, our Alliance family is composed of people representing many nations, tribes, peoples, and languages. The Board of Directors believe that this statement was important to clarify what we believe in relationship to that diversity. The statement begins with these words: “God intends for all people to flourish together in harmonious unity. God says, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness.'” Notice the “us” and the “our” references to the Triune God referred to earlier in section 1.1 of our Statement of Faith. The statement goes on to affirm this: “The Triune God does not create alone but in community, and in community, humanity reflects the image of God. The image of God in community is expressed in our diversity.”

Finally, we recently drafted a perspective or a position on gender. While statements are adopted by our Board of Directors and are a formal expression of our theological belief, perspectives are prepared by appointed National Office staff to provide practical guidance on particular topics. In this case, issues surrounding gender identity have created new ministry challenges for our local churches and ministries. So, we began this statement with what we believe: “We believe that God created people as male and female and that we bear His image.” “We believe that our created body is an essential part of who we are and is good.” “We believe that we are to honor God with our body. As such, we believe that God’s design is that our created biological sex determines whether we are male or female.” Now, we’re called to engage people with the grace and truth of Jesus Christ. Some of us find it easier to embrace truth, others grace. But God calls us to fully embrace both. So, we offer the following guidance: “We believe that the gospel compels us to accept and welcome everyone with respect and warm hospitality regardless of their gender identification. However, we believe that acceptance is not the same as affirmation. Acceptance recognizes and cares for others as created image bearers while affirmation of their gender choices may lead us to honor something not honored by God.”

These statements, the Statement of Faith, the Statement on Sexuality, the Statement on the Sanctity of Human Life, the Statement on Singleness and Marriage, the Statement on Racial Justice, and our position on gender, express beliefs that are not new to The Alliance. They state what we believe but may not have clearly articulated. So, unlike my coworker that I told you about earlier, we’re called to base our understanding of and engagement with culture based on the level foundation of God’s Truth, not the ever-changing slope of our culture. So, I end where we began: “There is one God, Creator of all things, who is infinitely perfect, existing eternally in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

– Gary, thank you. That was exceedingly helpful, well-spoken. These resources are all available for us online at cmalliance.org. Thank you, Alliance family, for continuing to uphold the truths of God’s Word together.