The 1997 Declaration of Reformed Faith

January 12, 1997


The following 1997 Declaration of Reformed Faith was written and signed the weekend of January 10-12 in Rochester, New York. If you wish to concur with this Declaration, you are invited to add your name as an individual, governing body, or organization. A form at the end of this document can be used.

 

PREAMBLE

 

We, faithful members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), are gathered around our concern for our church in this difficult time, to share in faith and hope. We have set our feet firmly on the foundation of the Reformed Tradition as rooted in the Scriptures and encouraged by the Holy Spirit. Upon this foundation and within this communion, we seek to give witness to the convictions that sustain us as we seek to follow our living Lord.

We affirm that we are children of God and servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, who has redeemed us by His grace and abides with us in the Holy Spirit. In the providence of our loving God, we find ourselves to be different from one another in our natures while joined in the Body of Christ through faith; at the same time, we find ourselves called to faith and life in this church in this time. We are grieved by our church's efforts to exclude some of us from full participation in the church's life, worship, and service, and we hold this to be a wrongful discernment of the Body of Christ. We believe such actions to be a distortion of God's image, a repudiation of God's providence, and a misunderstanding of God's grace in Christ. We stand against this rejection of historic Trinitarian and Reformed theology on which our communion rests.

 

I SIN

 

"For there is no distinction since all have sinned and are short of the glory of God..."

Romans 3:23

 

We affirm the biblical faith that knows sin to be a condition of our very being,

to which all are subject

and from which Christ redeems us;

no human act is pure or without sin,

and so we must rely on the generous grace of God for our redemption.

 

We therefore reject the false doctrine

that sin is a category of human behaviors,

to be identified by a catalog of acts;

that to obtain moral purity,

we are required only to do certain acts

and to refrain from others.

 

II SCRIPTURE

 

"When controversy arises about the right understanding of any passage or sentence of Scripture, or for the reformation of any abuse within the Kirk of God, we ought not so much to ask what [those] have said or done before us, as what the Holy Ghost uniformly speaks within the body of Scriptures and what Christ Jesus himself did and commanded... We dare not receive or admit any interpretation which is contrary to any principal point of our faith, or to any other plain text of Scripture, or to the rule of love."

The Scots Confession, Chapter XVIII

 

We affirm the reformed principle

that the only interpreter of Scripture

is Scripture itself,

and that the Holy Spirit guides us in application

of biblical truth to daily life.

 

We therefore reject the false doctrine

that seeks certainty in a literal interpretation of Scripture;

that uncritically lifts up certain passages

for the purpose of damnation,

while ignoring others of equal power and relevance.

 

III GRACE ALONE

 

"What then are we to say? Gentiles, who did not strive for righteousness have attained it, that is, righteousness through faith; but Israel, who did strive for righteousness that is based on law, did not succeed in fulfilling that law. Why not? Because they did not strive for it on the basis of faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone..."

Romans 9:30-32

 

We affirm

that we are given new life

solely by the grace of God,

and that we receive this new life

by means of faith and faith alone.

 

We therefore reject the false doctrine

that causes us to stumble

along the pathway of works-righteousness,

and leased us to believe

that we may obtain salvation

through our own acts or merit.

 

IV CONFESSIONS

 

"The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) states its faith and bears witness to God's grace in Jesus Christ in the creeds and confessions in the Book of Confessions... These confessional statements are subordinate standards in the church, subject to the authority of Jesus Christ, the Word of God, as the Scriptures bear witness to him... Yet the church, in obedience to Jesus Christ, is open to the reform of its standards as well as of governance. The church affirms Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda [the Church reformed, always being reformed]...according to the Word of God and the call of the Spirit."

Book of Order, Form of Government, Chapter 2 ­ G-2.0100-.0200

 

We affirm that the Confessions of our church

express the essential tenets of the reformed faith

as authentic and reliable expositions of

what Scripture leads us to believe and do;

that ordained officers are to be instructed

and led by these Confessions; and

that our creeds and confessions

are the beginning and not the end of our pilgrimage,

for we stand always in need

of God's reforming hand and transforming power.

 

We therefore reject the false doctrine

that the Confessions express settled truths

equal to or greater than

the written or living Word of God;

that they may be used as a catechistic tool

for the measurement of all acts and

standards by which all shall be judged.

 

V BODY OF CHRIST

 

"But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus."

Galatians 3:25-28

 

We affirm that the Church of Jesus Christ

is marked by baptism,

and all other distinctions lose their power;

that the church is therefore called

to display the grace of openness

and to affirm itself as a community of diversity

including women and men of all ages, races,

and human conditions who are elect of Christ.

 

We therefore reject the false doctrine

that the church can establish itself

as a community marked by classes

or levels of membership.

 

VI PRIESTHOOD OF ALL BELIEVERS

 

"All ministry in the Church is a gift from Jesus Christ. Members and officers alike serve mutually under the mandate of Christ who is the chief minister of all. His ministry is the basis of all ministries; the standard for all offices in the pattern of the one who came 'not to be served by to serve.' (Matt 20:28)"

Book of Order, Form of Government, Chapter VI ­ G6.0100

 

We affirm that all believers are united

in a common ministry

by the call of Christ to discipleship,

who, responding in trust and obedience

to God's grace in Jesus Christ,

shall demonstrate in their lives the character of Christ

and the fullness of the Gospel.

 

We therefore reject the false doctrine

that would establish a hierarchy of officers and ministers

who possess moral, ethical, or spiritual virtues

distinguishing them from the common lot of all persons

before God.

 

VII OFFICERS OF THE CHURCH

 

"[O]fficers...are ordained to fulfill particular functions. The existence of these offices in no way diminishes the importance of the commitment of all members to the total ministry of the church. These ordained officers differ from other members in function only."

Book of Order, Form of Government, Chapter VI ­ G-6.0102.

 

We affirm that the church calls people

to perform certain functions

in order that the fullness of the church's mission

may be accomplished;

that men and women are ordained

to govern the church,

to serve the children of God,

and to proclaim the Gospel in sermon and sacrament,

so that the church may serve as the Body of Christ in the world.

 

We therefore reject the false doctrine

that ordination confers special status before God

or rests upon spiritual superiority

in the communion of the faithful.

 

VIII POLITY OF THE CHURCH

 

"[N]o Church governing body ought to pretend to make laws to bind the conscience in virtue of their own authority; ...all their decisions should be founded upon the revealed will of God."

Book of Order, Form of Government, Chapter VI ­ G-6.0307.

 

We affirm that the polity and processes of our tradition

are means of expressing our faith

and assuring our openness to the Holy Spirit,

which speaks to and through the governing bodies of the church;

we also acknowledge the frailty

inherent in the church as a human institution.

 

We therefore reject the false doctrine

that acts of church governance are immutable

and human decisions may bind

the consciences of believers.

 

IX THE GIFT OF SEXUALITY

 

"Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God."

Ruth 1:16

 

We affirm that we are created by God

to be in relationship with one another;

that these relationships should be characterized

by mutuality, commitment, respect, and love;

that human sexuality

is one of God's many good gifts;

and that while all have fallen short

in the expression of this gift,

nevertheless we each have the ability

to exercise responsibility

in our sexual relationships,

whatever their nature and form.

 

We therefore reject the false doctrine

that the gender of the partners

in a sexual relationship

is a sign by which its inherent worth

and acceptability before God

can be judged.

 

X COMMITMENT

 

"The church of Jesus Christ is the provisional demonstration of what God intends for all of humanity."

Book of Order, Form of Government, Chapter 3 ­ G-3.0200.

 

We state these affirmations and reject these false doctrines as a visible

sign of our assurance that all God's children are worthy; our conviction

that each may receive the call of God to special service in the church; and

our commitment that we shall become truly a provisional demonstration of

what God intends for all humanity.


This Declaration was formatted after the Barmen Declaration of 1934.

 

THE 1997 DECLARATION OF REFORMED FAITH

Written and Signed this 12th Day of January 1997

Downtown United Presbyterian Church

Rochester, New York

 

 Donald Wilson Stake  Mary Charlotte McCall
 Joan A. Wolfarth  Bear Ride Scott
 Rosemarie Wallace  Leslie H. Ellison
 Ruth M. Pringle  John A. Matta
 C.F. Van Gorder  Margaret S. Wentz
 Gail A. Ricciuti  Joanne Whitt
 Anthony J. Ricciuti  Virginia West Davidson
 David C. Stimson  Betsy Massie
 Peter Oddliefson  William P. Thompson
 Stewart A. Pollock  Charles P. Forbes
 Jane Adams Spahr  James L. Vesper
 W. Clark Chamberlain  Frances H. Hollis
 Luis Antonio De La Rosa  

 


(I) (We) concur with the 1997 Declaration of Reformed Faith.

 

Name (please print): ______________________________

 

Signature: ______________________________

 

Signing as: (Individual) (Governing Body) (Organization Representative)

 

Address: _____________________________

 

City/State/Zip: _____________________________

 

Phone: _____________________________

 


Please send to:

Clark Chamberlain

PO Box 96369

Houston, TX 77213

 

This document may be duplicated and distributed.


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