This month, John presents the newly revised Alliance Statement of Faith, which was recently approved by the C&MA Board of Directors and will be presented at Council 2021 in Nashville this May/June.View Transcript
– Hello, Alliance family. I’m eager to present to you today the version of the Statement of Faith that the Board of Directors has now approved, which will be brought to us at Council. At Council 2019, you’ll remember that I introduced the National Conversation, where we would take two years to talk about polity regarding men and women and leadership. We’ll come back to that, Lord willing, in next month’s blog. But we’ll also talk about the Statement of Faith. So let me unpack this, reminding us that this is of great gravitas–the fundamental doctrine, the foundational statement of who we are as the Alliance family. 3,000 Alliance family members have spoken into this … the Theological Issues Committee, the Board of Directors, and over and over between Terry Smith and myself. So, we’re bringing to you now what will be presented at Council. And the black that you see is the original; the red or strike through are the changes. And we’re suggesting very little change on our statement about God, inserting the concept of the Creator. And this is then how it would read. I’m going to move quickly for the sake of this blog, but you can pause if you want to read any of these statements yourself. Our statement 1.2 is on Jesus. And I am delighted to say that in all these conversations there were no recommendations that we change any of the fundamentals of who our Christ is: virgin born, His substitutionary death, His Resurrection. We have no conflict in The Alliance on the fundamentals. We have inserted the idea of “sent by the Father.” There were very few references to the Father in our Statement of Faith, only one in fact. And so this reference is a significant statement of our Christ and gives us a Trinitarian approach to 1.2. The other changes are primarily editorial. 1.2 would then read in this manner. And note that the last sentence says, “He will come again to establish His Kingdom of righteousness and peace.” I want to pull that out. Because when we get down to our 1.11 statement on His Second Coming, remember that this is already in our statement– that He comes again “to establish His Kingdom of righteousness and peace.” 1.3 is our statement about the Holy Spirit: “… sent to indwell, guide, teach …” And we found it strange that as strong as we are as a movement, believing that the spiritual gifts are for today, that that was not inserted in our Statement of Faith. So that has been inserted. Some of you saw other editions of that, but this is the manner in which we’re bringing it to you at Council. And then the beautiful fact that the Holy Spirit bears His fruit in us. What a delightful concept that He can live his life through us. And the insertion of the personal pronoun … because we’re very tired of Christians referring to the Holy Spirit as “it.” He “convicts”–feeling it to be a stronger word than “convince.” Convince kind of intellectual assent; convict being a deeper heart experience. This is how it would then read, “The Holy Spirit is a divine person, sent to indwell, guide, teach, gift, empower, and bear His fruits in every believer.” One Alliance pastor pointed out, “I’m so tired of people saying that the Holy Spirit is for somebody else and not for me.” So he asked that we strike the word “the” and insert the word “every” from Acts chapter 2:… “This is for you and for your children, and for all those who are far off.” This inclusive nature of the Holy Spirit– One who indwells and empowers every believer. 1.4 is our statement on the Scriptures. I’m delighted to say that we had no debates throughout the months on the core fundamentals of this statement. We are asking that we can change the language regarding male-only pronouns that we have used through the decades. It worked fine back in the ’60s when this was first written, no doubt, but today it does not serve us well. And so then, in the four places where we had male language, we are inserting different efforts to make this “male and female” just very obvious. So, “His will for our salvation” rather than just “the salvation of men.” But again, no other changes on our statement on the Scriptures. 1.5 is our statement on our fallenness. And we said, “man was originally created.” Well, man and woman were originally created. We kept it in the singular as a nod toward Adam and Eve. So “man and woman were originally created in the image and likeness of God, yet fell through disobedience…” Editorial change here and unnecessary word. And it’s not just an “all men” were born with a sinful nature; everyone is. And so, hence, those are the core changes in that statement. You’ll note the striking of the last sentence. Many of us found it odd that we had two statements on eternal judgment separated in our Statement of Faith, 1.5 and 1.10. And so, we’re striking it here to include it in 1.10. So we’ll come back to that in a few moments. Here is how it would then read. 1.6 is our statement on salvation. It’s been a beautiful statement, but we’ve had many, many comments that it needed to be strengthened. And so one change, the last change of the masculine-only language. And so instead of just “provided through Jesus Christ for all men,” for “all people.” “Those who repent and believe in Him”… justification by grace through faith feels so fundamental to the Protestant evangelical expression of Christianity that it should be in our Statement of Faith: …”born again of the Holy Spirit.” And there are those that have argued that we had no reference to spiritual warfare, the demonic, to the idea, we’re not just good people getting better, but we’ve been rescued from one kingdom and placed into another. So using language from Colossians chapter 1, we are stating “delivered from the dominion of darkness, transferred into the Kingdom of God’s Son”… and then to keep the sentence consistent with the “are”– are justified, are born again, are delivered, are transferred, are granted the gift of eternal life and are “adopted as the children of God.” So this is how it would read. Many have asked for this adoption language to be included that you find in Romans and Galatians. So we’re happy to get to insert that as well. Feeling like these things strengthen the conversations we get to have in membership classes, strengthen the discussions we have in our licensing and consecration ordination interviews. 1.7 has been our most debated statement. Speaking of those interviews and membership classes, here’s where many of us as pastors and those on the committees have run into some snags, particularly with words such as “crisis” and “wrought.” So we’re coming with a major revision here. We’ve also been concerned that “Christ our Sanctifier” has not been in The Christian and Missionary Alliance Statement of Faith on sanctification, so He will be now if this is approved at Council. “It is the will of God that through the indwelling Christ, each believer be sanctified wholly, being separated from sin, fully dedicated to God, and filled with the Holy Spirit, thereby receiving power for holy living and effective service.” Some might wonder about the striking of the words “and the world.” The simple answer is we felt like the word “sin” is sufficient, that it encompasses whether that is in the world, the flesh, or the devil–that sin is sin, and God wants us separated from it. “This is both a decisive point of complete surrender…” We wrestled with a dozen different ways of expressing this, and a local church pastor out East suggested this one day, and it resonated. We’ve now run this through the Theological Issues Committee, Board of Directors, the district superintendents, licensing, ordination, consecration committees, and this has been landing as our best statement: “A decisive point of complete surrender and a progressive experience”–this ongoing experience of the work of the Spirit of God in our lives– “through which Christ is formed …” Galatians 4, until Christ is formed in you… “in the life of the believer by the Spirit”–not by your hard work or human effort–“following conversion.” So, this is how the statement would then read. 1.8 is our statement on healing. Aren’t you glad that we are a movement that believes in divine healing? Yes, for the mortal body, but not just for the physical body. Isaiah 53 and elsewhere would indicate this, that He’s concerned about our whole person. 1.9 is our statement on the Church– the two-paragraph statement. And here we’re inserting the concept of “making disciples of all peoples.” Disciplemaking, Matthew 28, core to the Church. And “nations” in the past had been confused for geopolitical boundaries. “Peoples” is a great New Testament and great Alliance word. To be “a loving body of believers” is the highest expression of the Church. “They’ll know you’re my disciples by your love for one another”… and that our gospel proclamation be verbal and lived, be explained and demonstrated, to speak it and show it “through word and deed.” 1:10 is our statement on eternal judgment. This has been worked over and over prayerfully… wrestled with … because it has such profound ramification. And we can’t be comprehensive in a Statement of Faith, but we must be clear, concise, biblical, and in a manner that touches something within us– again, bringing Jesus in for the first time. “There will be a bodily resurrection of all people. Our Lord Jesus Christ will judge with perfect justice as the unrepentant and unbelieving are raised to the conscious anguish of eternal separation from God, and repentant believers are raised to unending joy of eternal life in the presence of God.” Some of you saw a different version, right here, “eternal judgment, eternal death.” In the end, through all the discussions, we felt like the strongest statement about eternal destiny is to be separated, to be cast off, to be outside of the presence of God. Yes, He is omnipresent in that sense, but there’s many, many references that refer to “away from me, I never knew you” and to be cast out of His presence. And so this is, for us, the expression that creates emotion and stays consistent with Scripture. It’s before you and will be before you for Council. And then, lastly, “The Second Coming of our Lord Jesus… our Lord and King”–bringing Christ our King into this–“is imminent” … could happen at any moment and will be “sudden.” It’ll happen in a moment; “personal” … Christ Himself is returning. And every eye will see Him. It will be a “visible” experience. “This is the believer’s blessed hope and is a vital truth which calls us.” “Incentive” felt like kind of sales language, but “calling” is biblical language: “… calls us to holy living, intentional witness, and faithful service.” Yes, we’re recommending the striking of “premillennial.” Let me explain why. I have a dilemma. As the president of The Christian and Missionary Alliance, I’m happy to say to you, “I’m premillennial.” But we have included those throughout our history who are not, going all the way back to Dr. Simpson’s day. And for many licensing, consecration, ordination, committees since then, we have done so. So we have three options. One, we can revoke the licenses of those who are not premillennial. Two, we can do what we’ve done for a long time– turn a blind eye to one word in our Statement of Faith. Three, we can remove it from our Statement of Faith. Why would I present option three as the best option? Because I believe those serving among us who are not premillennial are serving well, and it is not a fundamental enough doctrine in the Christian faith for which is to divide fellowship. And we can write a white paper, and we can in other ways promote the fact that historically we have been premillennial but not divide fellowship over it. Option two I firmly resist. I cannot in good conscience present to the next generation a form of the Statement of Faith which we knowingly are not adhering to one word. What word will they choose in the next generation? So I resist option number two. Option number three, again, I believe is the best option because while we have differences on pre-trib, post-trib, and Arminianism, Calvinism, we can have differences on premillennialism. We already do. Let’s just acknowledge it and move on as the Alliance family. So all of this is being brought to you at Council. I’m excited for those of you who are already registered, whether online or in-person, and we will discuss this at Council with great joy and passion I’m sure. We’ll see you there.