This month John presents the proposed changes to the Alliance Statement of Faith that will be considered at Council 2023.View Transcript
– Our four-year conversation on Statement of Faith and Polity are reaching a conclusion that is called Council 2023. We’re excited about that. I’m proud of how The Christian and Missionary Alliance has handled these conversations. It’s not easy to bring up topics like the Statement of Faith and Polity regarding men and women in leadership, but we’ve entered into these four years well, and now we reach a point in time where we get to move forward at Council 2023. And I want this video blog and next month’s to fully prepare us for that. The Board of Directors has just met and has reached some conclusions about what exactly we are presenting to Council 2023. Today, I’m going to unpack the Statement of Faith proposals and then, Lord willing, in the April video blog, bring to you our polity regarding men and women in leadership. I don’t have time to do both of those in one video blog. You’ll remember that at Council 2021, we were able to go through a portion of our Statement of Faith—we didn’t get through all of it—and that launched us into two more years of conversation.
The Board of Directors addressed at numerous times in our meetings, Terry Smith in the July 2022 video blog went through all 11 statements, giving you an update that launched a 60-day period of feedback from the Alliance family. Well, we received dozens and dozens of pages of feedback from you as the Alliance family. We took those considerations into our discussion with the Board of Directors, and the Theological Issues Committee has addressed this numerous times to bring all of this material together. The Board of Directors, as I said, just met, and now I’m bringing to you today what you’ll actually be addressing, what we will be addressing, at Council 2023. At Council 2021, we adopted changes to seven articles of our Statement of Faith. I’m going to review those now in preparation for us to ratify them in Council 2023.
Once approved in Council 2023, then they would become an official part of our Statement of Faith. Section 1.1—we affirmed our conviction of the Trinitarian view of God and strengthened it with the simple statement, “Creator of all things.” Section 1.2—we affirmed our conviction and belief in who our Lord Jesus Christ is and strengthened it with a few editorial changes and the insertion of the statement that “He was sent by the Father.” “As a Father has sent Me, so send I you.” 1.3 is our statement about the Holy Spirit, which we’ve strengthened by inserting the words “gift” and “bear His fruit in every believer.” We’ve never been a cessationist movement in The Alliance, but our Statement of Faith didn’t give any reference to either the gifts of the Spirit nor the fruit of the Spirit. So, I believe this is a strengthened statement. 1.4—we retained our historic view about the inherency and verbal inspiration of Scriptures, and the only change made here was to clarify the gender reference regarding “our salvation,” rather than just the “salvation of men.”
I hope you’re encouraged that none of our historic beliefs are being questioned in these changes. It’s just the strengthening of the statement that we already have. 1.6 is our statement on salvation, strengthening it with a number of phrases: “justified by grace through faith”; “delivered from the dominion of darkness”; “transferred in the Kingdom of God’s Son”; “adopted as children of God.” Never before did we have in our Statement of Faith any reference to the realm of the demonic, the spiritual warfare. And so, this middle insertion gives us our only reference to the spirit world. 1.8 was also adopted at Council with the modification of the words “whole person” instead of “mortal body.” This is not taking away at all from our view of healing of the physical body but is acknowledging that the healing of God is often of a multi-dimensional healing.
And to take this off the page and just give a personal testimony of my own life, can I ask you to rejoice with me that you know that I had a health crisis in 2008. I had received an infusion treatment for more than a decade that followed. I tried to get off that infusion treatment numerous times, had relapses that didn’t go well, but in God’s kindness, in recent months, I have been free and clear of all medication, and I’m rejoicing and I’m strong. And so, I ask you to rejoice with me today.
So those seven sections that we just quickly ran through are the ones that were adopted at Council 2021, need to be ratified without any alteration at Council 2023, and then they will make their way into our permanent Statement of Faith. The next sections that I’m going to are the ones that either did not get approved at Council or didn’t make it to Council for lack of time in 2021. Section 1.10 is one of those—where in the past, 1.5 and 1.10 both had references to judgment, and so, we are combining that into one phrase, and here’s how it would read: “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 the unending joy of eternal life with God.”
We believe that this strengthens our Statement of Faith in that it brings in the idea of Christ as judge and His justice being perfect. Are you remembering with me that in Acts 10, Peter reveals for us what it is that Jesus told the disciples that they were supposed to preach post-Resurrection? We know that after Jesus rose from dead that He told us to preach that there’d be forgiveness of sins and salvation to all people and that would be available to all nations. We know the Great Commission, but we’ve forgotten that in Acts 10, Jesus commanded them to preach that He was the One that God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. It’s an under-preached truth among us at times, and this statement strengthens that. And then, yes, we have pulled out the word “torment.” Some wish that we had retained that, but instead, we have used the word “conscious anguish,” believing that that represents well the gnashing-of-teeth kind of statements that Jesus used, and the “Away from me, evildoer, I never knew you” kind of language gets picked up in the separation from God.
One of the struggles that we have in rewriting the Statement of Faith is that some of us would love for us to be able to include everything that the Bible teaches on every subject. That’s not the purpose or even the capacity of the Statement of Faith—to be all-inclusive. But we do want it to be succinct, clear, and create significant conversations for our licensing/ordination committee. So, we bring this to you as our statement for 1.10. Here’s how it would read. Coming back to 1.5 then, we present, “Man and woman, created in the image and likeness of God.” This lost at Council 2021 because it retained the word “originally” and debate arose over that. So, “Man and woman, created in the image and likeness of God, fell through disobedience, incurring both physical and spiritual death. Therefore, everyone is born with a sinful nature.” And on it goes, unchanged. So, our statement would read, as you see, with really quite modest changes.
Section 1.7 created all kinds of debate at Council 2021, as it should. We received that feedback, we wrestled it through some more, and here is what we’re now proposing to you: “It is the will of God that in Christ,” powerful, significant New Testament phrase, “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.” The major changes, “Positional sanctification occurs at conversion while experiential sanctification follows and involves both decisive points of complete surrender and a progressive experience through which Christ is formed in the life of the believer by the Spirit.” Here you see it in how it will be presented to you at Council. I’m sure this will create some fascinating debate, but we’re confident as a Board of Directors, and we’re presenting to you a very solid expression of what The Alliance believes and what the Bible teaches.
Section 1.9 is our statement on the church—very modest changes being recommended. This did not make it to Council 2021. So, we’ll be addressing this for the first time, strengthening the idea of making disciples of all nations and bringing love into our Statement of Faith, which we know the greatest of these is love, and for the Church to operate in this manner is essential. And finally, our statement on the return of Christ—Section 1.11. “The Second Coming of Jesus Christ our Lord and King,” I love the insertion of “Christ our King” in our statement, “is imminent, will be sudden, personal, and visible.” Notice the striking of “premillennial” and notice that there’s no asterisk. “This is the believers’ blessed hope and is a vital truth, which calls us to holy living, intentional witness, and faithful service.” Here’s how it would then read. I am aware that we’ve had numerous renditions of this over the last four years. Here’s where I and the Board of Directors have landed—that because as a denomination, we have a history of amillenialists among us and the current practice in many districts of allowing those who do not have a premillennial view to serve among us, it is our desire, as the Board of Directors, to not kick out those who are amillennialists.
It’s our desire to retain a full commitment to the Statement of Faith, every word of it as a denomination, and to not encumber it with a footnote, which has been bantered about back and forth over the last few years. This does not mean that we will no longer teach premillennialism. Many of us will, but it does mean that we will not make it a point of division among us. I’m sure that we’ll have a fascinating debate about this as well. But these are the proposals that will be presented to you at Council 2023. So, I’m looking forward to this conversation at Council. Yes, we will take the necessary time needed. We’re planning plenty of business time so we don’t run out of time again this year. But you know that there is a gravitas to this. I felt it deeply in my heart these last four years. This is the Statement of Faith that we inherited. I believe we’re making it more understandable to this generation and strengthening some weaknesses from the past. So, we’re passing on something stronger for our next generation of licensing, consecration, ordination, membership within the Christian and Missionary Alliance family. I believe this strengthens us. Come ready to have a united, prayerful, vigorous, but rich, conversation.