This is what we believe

Censorship (Ben Heine) by Ben Heine.

Denominational systems often do the hard work of articulating theological statements for their member congregations. Any congregation that falls under the leadership of a Bishop is likely provided with a clear cut statement titled, “This is What We Believe”. We can read these belief statements and know that long labored hours went into the careful articulation of how we understand our relationship with God.  (See UMC, ELCA, PCA)

I’m working with a congregation that has adopted a new strategic priority aimed at claiming a clearer and deeper articulation of the congregation’s belief system, along with a more public proclamation of that faith identity. (They operate with a congregational polity and are part of a denominational system that invites them to work out their own theological identity.)

The leaders of this congregation are engaged in productive and healthy conversation about who has the right to “approve” the final document on behalf of the congregation.  Is this clergy work, committee work, board work, congregational work or denominational work? The senior minister clearly believes that this is his work to do and he does not want to be censored by lay leadership, but lay leadership wants a voice. Doesn’t the congregation belong to them and shouldn’t they have a say? How should this all come together? At the end of the day, who has the right to declare, “This is what we believe?”

Photo Credit: From Ben Heine at


One Response to “This is what we believe”

  1. Heber Brown, III Says:

    This is an important issue that our independent Baptist Church is exploring as well. We started by analyzing the Baptist Church Covenant. After decades of reading it prior to taking communion, I made the pastoral decision to stop reading it so that we could consider it together. (a not so popular decision for the new pastor to make!) My sense was that people were reading and reciting it out of tradition without deep reflection on its message. I caught some heat for this decision, but once the shock simmered down, members of our congregation began the hard work of reflecting on the covenant statement. We’re having a congregation-wide discussion. In our Sunday School, Bible Study classes, and even ministry meetings, we’re pulling out different paragraphs for discussion and prayer. As pastor, I actually didn’t want to bear the weight of this process alone. It was important to me that we have a covenant that truly reflects OUR beliefs and not just the Pastor’s beliefs. So far we’ve just begun updating some of the outdated language in the Church Covenant, but we’re about to begin tackling the issues raised in it as well.

    For those unfamiliar with the Baptist Church Covenant, here is a link to the version of the one we have:

    This has been a great experience so far and I’m looking forward to continued prayer and deep reflection about what we truly believe.

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