Statement of Principles

  • CONFESSING CHRIST is an invitation to joyous theological reflection and serious theological work throughout the United Church of Christ.
  • CONFESSING CHRIST affirms faithfulness to the one Word of the triune God, Jesus Christ, which we are to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death.
  • CONFESSING CHRIST is committed to listen for God's Word in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments and in our rich theological heritage. Central to the United Church of Christ, which baptizes in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is its faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This faith is grounded in the authority of Scripture and is expressed in the ecumenical creeds, in the confessions and covenants of our Reformation traditions, in the Preamble of its Constitution, and in the prayers, worship and public witness of the Church.
  • CONFESSING CHRIST embraces the responsibility of every generation in the Church to make this faith its own.
-The National Steering Committee    

   
Commentary by Dr. Gabriel Fackre

In the statement of purpose of Confessing Christ, we strive to be among the stewards of United Church of Christ's ecumenical heritage and theological identity, as set forth primarily in the Preamble of the Constitution of the UCC. This Preamble has functioned as a guiding principle of interpretation for our life together as a denomination within mainstream North American Protestantism. Its elements are:

  • Jesus Christ is the norm, the "sole head" of the Church. As Son of God he is the divine/human Person, and as "Savior," he does the work of atonement -- "conquering sin and death and reconciling the world" as the UCC Statement of Faith puts it.
  • We know who Christ is (the "Person" of Christ) and what Christ did (the "work" of Christ) by Scripture. The Barmen Declaration of the Confessing Church in Nazi Germany says that we listen to "the one Word, Jesus Christ, as attested by Scripture..." Thus, Scripture, is read christologically -- through the lens of the person and work of Jesus Christ.
  • We also listen for the one Word through the biblical source with the aid of the "tradition" of the church universal running from the ecumenical creeds of yesterday to the ecumenical conversations of today. This is accomplished from within the family of Reformation Churches, and thus with an "evangelical catholicity." As important as tradition is, however, it is "ministerial," while a christologically read Scripture is "magisterial."
  • The Preamble of the UCC Constitution reminds us that we must ever and again make "this faith [our] own in reality of worship, in honesty of thought and expression, and in purity of heart before God." Thus, the UCC has sought to interpret the historic faith in the settings of changing times and places, with the imperatives of justice and peace at the fore.
  • The UCC, by virtue of its founding principles, strives to be a "united and uniting" Church under Christ. Thus it must be ecumenical, catholic and inclusive. It must be wary of any reductionism that would collapse its ecumenical heritage into any one of its elements. Such reductionisms have historically been called "heresies" -- mistaking a partial truth for its fullness. Examples of such reductionisms are the various "isms", biblicism, traditionalism, experientialism and the like. Our ecumenical commitment also presents a challenge to a sectarianism that would cut the UCC off from the larger Christian community.
All this with a special attention to the irenic focus of the best of our heritage summarized in the well-known 17th century aphorism by Rupertus Meldinius (Peter Meiderlin) written during the bitter theological disputes of the Thirty Years' War: In essentials unity, In perspectives liberty, In all things charity.

   
A Brief History by Pastor Frederick R. Trost
In August of 1993, a Convening Committee for Confessing Christ was on the phone, composed of pastors and teachers of the Church and a graduate student in American Church history. Might there be a way of gathering others in the United Church of Christ who love the Church and are devoted to its ministry, to talk about our "life together" for the sake of our mission as Christians and our commitment to social justice, liturgy, and pastoral care?
From the beginning there was agreement on the necessity for solid, joyous, theological work in the Church, for Biblical study and conversation with our varied, rich, and living theological heritage in the United Church of Christ. We took as our theme the words of the First Article of the Barmen Declaration:
"Jesus Christ, as he is witnessed to us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we must hear and which we ought to trust and obey in life and in death."
From the beginning [that] summer and in our many conversations since, our purpose has been neither to "weep bitterly" over the Church (which would be theologically irresponsible) nor to pound upon others (which would be uncharitable), but to take our place alongside the publican to the temple, to acknowledge with those who have "confessed Christ" in every generation that we live, as the Reformers insisted, by grace alone, through faith, and that the prayer "Be merciful unto me, O Lord." is meant to be found on the lips of the whole church. In the struggle for theological re-formation, as in all else, "there is none that is righteous, no, not one!" (Romans 3:10) We've said the most important thing is to recommit ourselves to theological work that takes Scripture, ecumenical creeds, the confession and covenants upon which the United Church of Christ was founded (see the Preamble to the Constitution), with joyful seriousness,
  • not as a kind of hobby,
  • not with any desire to settle down in the sixteenth century
  • but to honor our baptism,
  • to see how dialogue with one another and with those who believed before we were born, can reform the life of the Church for the sake of its vocation in the world.
There are times when we have to face the fragile state of our life together. We believe this is one of those times. There are moments when the question "What is truth?" won't go away. This is one of those moments. There are hours when the ancient query "What think ye of Christ?" cannot be avoided. We believe this is one of those hours.