Statement of Faith

I have been writing this week. For the past year, I’ve been engaged in a pursuit I fondly refer to as “Presbyquest.” Two years ago, I was ordained as a minister in the Christian Reformed Church in North America. For reasons that I’ll explain in a later post, I’ve been working on switching my credentials as a minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA). A brief way of explaining the difference between the two: the CRCNA are descended from the Dutch-Calvinist cousins of the Presbyterians and also a bit more conservative. Let’s just say it’s been a complicated and intricate task to navigate the switch; I have now spent several months engaged in ecumenical-Twister with a foot each in each denomination.

This past week, I received the very good news that I passed four of the required PC(USA) ordination exams. And suddenly, Presbyquest swung into swift action again—I had to write a “Statement of Faith” to present to a committee this coming Tuesday. Standing up and reciting the Apostles’ Creed, or even the longer Nicene wouldn’t do it. I needed my own statement.

Writing this page-long thing has been like pulling teeth. With my birthday approaching, I was struck by the fact that John Calvin, namesake of my seminary alma mater, wrote his Institutes of the Christian Religion (a very comprehensive, very good, very long statement of faith) when he was two years younger than me. Here I was struggling with a page.

This reminded me that (a) I am no John Calvin, and really don’t aspire to be, and (b) perhaps I should just get the page written and stop viewing it as my theological magnum opus.

Those illusions of grandeur put aside, I was free to deal with the more practical implications of the piece: whether or not my faith fits with the profile of an acceptable Presbyterian minister.

As a potential CRCNA minister, examinations of my faith tended to be more oral. In both cases, though, there are red flags. What you believe about the Bible, infant baptism, sin, and of course the biggies like the Trinity and Jesus.

But, there are differences. In the CRCNA, your examiners would make sure to ask what you thought about eschatology—the stuff coming at the end. If your car sports a bumper sticker that says “In case of rapture, this vehicle will be un-manned,” you’re in trouble. “In case of rapture, can I have your car?” might pass as long as your examiners have a sense of humor. I’m told the presbytery that examines me won’t care a bit if I leave the end times all together out of my statement, but I feel like I should at least put a little nod to it in there.

On the other hand, I have some colleagues in the CRCNA who would have trouble with the instructions to make sure that my PC(USA) statement uses inclusive language. In the CRCNA, inclusive language usually refers to humans—God loves humankind, rather than mankind. In what is a welcome change for me, inclusive language in the PC(USA) means God. They’ve already been through the inclusive language for people bit, and it’s old news. The goal now is to avoid pronouns and not call God “Father” to the exclusion of any other titles. I’ve been in some pretty heated CRCNA context debates about whether or not this is necessary, But, let’s just say that it has been a good thing for several months to say the Lord’s prayer frequently, talk about father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but not hear virtually every prayer addressed to “Father God.” There is such a good mix of images available!

I’ve been advised on changes by gracious friends among my Presbyterian cheer-leaders: Too much about the first person of the Trinity in draft 1. Don’t be afraid of using the word “sin”—although that advice led to a draft in which I overdid the sin part. Add the Holy Spirit to the sacraments. What about the mission of the church?

But, now I have a page and with a few revisions by Tuesday, I’ll meet with a committee, and we will sift through my statement together, and I hope to move a hand or a foot a little closer to the Presbyterian side of the Twister-mat.

One Response to “Statement of Faith”

  1. Rick Oppelt Says:

    Hi,

    Just came across your blog as I was doing some surfing regarding rapture bumper stickers, as I’m preaching on the lectionary text this week on Mt. 25.

    I’m a PCUSA pastor and I wish you well on your Presbyquest. Congrats for passing the ords!

    On my recent statement of faith in a new Presbytery, my take on the end times was to say I’m a “pan-millenialist” – it will all pan out in the end! One of the members of my new congregation took me to task, thinking it was a bit too flippant on such an important topic (which is not that important to me).

    Just finished a great book on the topic by a British writer – “Have a Nice Doomsday”. Very illuminating about what’s going on out there in the world of endtimes enthusiasts.

    Wish me luck as I work on my sermon!

    Peace,

    Rev. Rick Oppelt
    Flanders, NJ

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