The preamble to Faith Talk II includes
|-||We are not replacing the Basis of Union. It will remain the constitution of The United Church of Canada. Any new statement of faith approved by the General Council will be used side by side with existing United Church faith statements in Christian education and in decision-making about church doctrine and policy. [p. 6]|
As differentiated from restating its faith in contemporary language, the test of doctrine requires
|-||8.6.2 (1) to legislate on matters respecting the doctrine, worship, membership, and government of the Church, subject to the following conditions: First, that before any rule or law relative to these matters can become a permanent law, it must receive the approval of a majority of the Presbyteries, and, if advisable, Pastoral Charges also...|
I express concern that the church will misrepresent the new statement
of faith as doctrine or standard without the required remit, as it still
the Statement of Faith (1940) as doctrine;
the Statement of Faith (1940) and "A New Creed" (1968) as standards;
and has used these in the decision making process; see [corrected 13/06/05]
|-||Three words are helpful in clarifying the place of doctrinal standards
in The United Church -- continuity, context and diversity.
The doctrine of The United Church of Canada is set forth in two basic documents, the Basis of Union (1925) and the Statement of Faith (1940). As well, "A New Creed" (1968) is an affirmation of faith used widely in our worship. These standards are authorized by General Councils and belong uniquely to the unfolding life of the United Church. Yet we do not seek to stand alone. As members of one body of Christ, we acknowledge our Reformation heritage and the teaching of the creeds of the ancient church (particularly the Apostles'* and Nicene* Creeds). Our membership in the World Council of Churches* today links us to a fellowship of churches "which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the Scriptures". Above all, we trace our continuity in faith to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, whose witness is the ultimate standard for Christian faith and life.
The Statement of Faith of 1940 reminds us that "the Church's faith is the unchanging Gospel of God's holy, redeeming love in Jesus Christ". It also declares that each new generation is called to state this gospel afresh, "in terms of the thought of their own age and with the emphasis their age needs". The call to renew our confession has led us not only to the Statement of 1940, but also to "A New Creed" and to other statements such as "The Lordship of Jesus" (1978) and "The Authority and Interpretation of Scripture"(1992). No single statement or creed can capture all that may be required of the church to make the good confession in a new context. Our claim that "Jesus is Lord" must be a timely one. The journey of a pilgrim people goes on.
Based on the understanding that the Bible is the ultimate standard for our faith, the creeds and confessions formulated by the church can only possess a "subordinate authority". Thus, membership in the church is based on a profession of faith and not on a credal subscription or test. New members are asked to profess their faith in the triune God and to commit themselves to faithful conduct in church and world. What is required additionally of those being ordained or commissioned in the United Church is "essential agreement" with the doctrinal articles of the Basis of Union.
We have doctrinal standards and attempt to set them forth in continuity with the Biblical faith. But our grasp on the truth of God is finite and fallible, and we do not believe that faithfulness consists in assenting to particular statements. Rarely, if ever, do we use doctrinal standards to exclude anyone from the circle of belonging. Rather we lift up Jesus Christ and his way, saying to all who seek God's grace and service, "Come and see."