I am part of a small evangelical denomination called the Missionary Church. Yesterday, an important vote took place at the General Conference concerning a document that would function as the Missionary Church’s Core Affirmations.
The document called “Our Partnership in the Gospel” began with a preamble that stated every Missionary Church pastor would be expected to “embrace without reservation” the entire document which the committee believed to be central to the gospel.
That feeling evidently wasn’t widely shared. After the first discussion of the document, among other changes, “embrace without reservation” became “willingly upheld”. However, that softening wasn’t enough to save it. Consequently it has been summarily dismissed. Though not by a significant majority…a mere five people switching sides would have led to an entirely different conclusion. Which leads to another question…do we really want a core affirmations document to be passed by a simple majority?
Personally, I am encouraged that the affirmations were not passed. While the bolded points were indeed central, the additional clarifying information most often were not. Moreover, there was a clear agenda to both include and exclude people that was different from the original intention of the Articles of Faith and Practice (the official doctrinal statement of the Missionary Church).
Previously in “What do you believe forms the core of Christianity?” I looked at various core affirmations ending with the Junaluska Affirmation which I’ve liked ever since I saw it. I still think that it is a great example of the kind of core affirmations that a denomination should focus on. However, even though it would be an improvement over “Our Partnership in the Gospel” I have an even better suggestion. A suggestion not just for the Missionary Church, but for all denominations…take a look at the Cape Town Commitment and consider it as your core affirmations document.
Here are five good reasons why:
- The Commitment follows God’s heart and is framed by love…”The mission of God flows from the love of God. The mission of God’s people flows from our love for God and for all that God loves.” Love is central to God’s dealings with us and with our responsibilities to Him and to each other…this document makes that exceedingly clear.
- While other affirmations claim to focus on “core truths”…the Commitment actually does it. There are no lines specifically written to exclude any branch of Christianity.
- There is broad worldwide support for the document. 4200 leaders from 198 countries approved it and it is backed by the World Evangelical Alliance.
- Like Paul’s letters it is a mixture of belief and action and not simply doctrinal assent. Within the Great Commission is the call to teach to obey, not merely teach to know. This commitment demonstrates that unlike many denominational statements.
- Lastly…if many denominations took this commitment up as their core affirmation and actually live out its implications…then Jesus’ prayer that “the world would know us by our love” would be answered.
I truly hope that this commitment will become a “united statement from evangelicals globally” and that it will “shape agendas in Christian ministry.”