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The Confessing Movement's Initial Newsletter - 11/95

"We Confess"

From the Editor

Welcome to the first issue of We Confess, the newsletter of the Confessing Movement in The United Methodist Church. Since the release of our Confessional Statement in April 1995, there have been numerous requests for more information, questions about our purpose and intentions, and pleas for advice about what concrete action we recommend. The Steering Committee of the Confessing Movement, therefore, has asked me to edit this newsletter. Our hope is to create a network of information, support, and reflection for those who are hearing the call to a renewed confession of Jesus Christ as Son, Savior, and Lord.

This first issue reprints (in slightly altered form) a quarter-page ad that the Confessing Movement recently placed in The United Methodist Reporter. It is our attempt to reply to our critics in a non-defensive manner and to ask them to confess the ground of their hope.

In future issues of the newsletter we will keep you informed of how the Confessing Movement is being received in the church at large. We will introduce you to the contributions being made by those who are at the forefront of this movement for doctrinal reinvigoration in our church. And we will offer practical suggestions and resources for action and study at the local level. If you have questions or information pertinent to this newsletter write:

We Confess
7995 East 21st Street
Indianapolis, IN 46219

The Confessing Movement and Its Critics

On April 29, 1995, the Confessing Movement released its Confessional Statement to The United Methodist Church at large. On June 2, The United Methodist Reporter announced that "the document merits discussion" and that "now is the time for United Methodists everywhere to join this conversation, will come to wholesome discourse during General Conference."

While many clergy, laity, and congregations have expressed strong support for the Statement, some voices have risen in protest against our confession of Christ. "Beware of a Self-Proclaiming Confessing Movement" warns an article in Christian Social Action (Sep./95). The author claims the Confessing Movement is "Demonstrably anti-ecumenical" and then challenges us to demonstrate that we are " not also anti-women, anti-poor and anti-gay." Trinity United Methodist Church in Atlanta began circulating a "response" to the Confessing Movement two weeks before its April 1995 meeting. Their document accuses us of seeking "to impose a narrowly defined orthodoxy on the church" and of attempting "to silence theological explorations by women and people of color."

We are not afraid to repeat these charges against us because they are untrue. We invite all United Methodists to judge for themselves the claims of our Confessional Statement and to test the spirits of the current voices in the church. To advance this process of testing, we ask: Have our critics responded to us with the love for diversity and dialogue they claim to prize so highly? Have our challengers corrected us on the basis of Scripture? Have they redescribed our Confessional Statement for their own purposes?

Our critics say that we are imposing a narrow doctrinal agenda upon the church. We ask: Which is the more narrow agenda? That which reduces doctrine to the personal experiences of individuals? Or, that which regards doctrine as an attempt to define the boundaries which mark authentic Christian belief from substitutes or counterfeits?

Our critics say we are trying to silence the voices of women, people of color, and those who are engaged in theological exploration. We ask: Why do our critics falsely equate a criticism of radical feminism with a wholesale condemnation of women? Why do our opponents speak as if people of color cannot evaluate the Confessional Statement from their own rich perspective? Why is the Confessing Movement accused of silencing others when we are calling for a vigorous theological conversation about essentials among all the voices in the church?

Our critics say that we are dividing the church by making fundamentalist, intolerant, doctrinaire demands. We ask: Which theology is more unifying to the church? That which claims to be inclusive and pluralistic while launching intolerant attacks on those, who are committed to the classical faith of the Church? Or that which confesses that Jesus Christ is the center around whom all our doctrinal, theological, and moral claims are oriented and shaped?

We hold with Wesley and the Doctrinal Standards of our church that Scripture is the primary authority for faith and practice. On that basis we have confessed the Church's faith in Jesus Christ as Son, Savior and Lord. Now we ask: Why has it become suspect to do this? Does our great breadth as a church depend on an uncritical defense of any and all opinions, or on our confidence that in confessing Jesus Christ the church will be unified and renewed? In a church which has aimed to base its faith on its agreement with Peter's confession, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God," we ask our critics: Who do you say that Jesus Is?

What Can You Do?

Getting Involved in the Confessing Movement

People have asked what, if anything, they can do to help the cause of doctrinal renewal in United Methodism. Here are some suggestions to get you directly involved at the local level. Let us hear what you are doing.

  1. READ... the Confessing Statement. Copies can be obtained from the return address on this newsletter. Read the Apostles and Nicene Creeds found in your UM Hymnal. Read the Articles of Religion and the Confession of Faith found in the UM Book of Discipline. Look up the words "confess" and "confession" in your concordance and bible dictionaries.
  2. DISCUSS... Do you know what the Doctrinal Standards of our church are? Has your local church, Administrative Board, Bible study class or small group ever examined itself in light of these Standards? Are they taught to your children, youth and new members? Is there clear teaching in your local church about the difference between private opinions and the Church's consensus about the faith?
  3. ORGANIZE... Ask your Administrative Board to consider supporting the Confessing Statement. Ask your pastor to lead a class which explores the Doctrinal Standards. Ask your Adult Church School classes to study the documents listed above. Order the cassette tapes of the Confessing Conference speeches by Dr. Mark Horst and Dr. William Abraham to use as an introduction to the issues.
  4. PRAY... Pray for the Church, for our leaders, for all our people. Pray for God to send the "Spirit of truth" who will guide us into "all truth" (John 16:13).

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