A consultation on “Ecumenical Faith Declarations” demonstrated a desire for continuing dialogue and action on issues that pertain to the role, purpose, and function of statements of faith, including creeds and confessions, in the context of the church’s life and witness.
The Feb. 2-4 consultation here arose after the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA) decided to adopt the Belhar Confession and designate it as a document in a new category called “Ecumenical Faith Declaration.”
The Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee of the CRCNA, in conjunction with the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), invited approximately 50 representatives from WCRC member churches to consider whether this new category could serve a broader purpose within the Reformed family.
“I am encouraged that this gathering here in this room today is itself a demonstration of faith entering heads and inspiring hearts and moving hands,” said Joel Boot, CRCNA executive director, in his opening meditation.
In the course of the discussions, it became evident that the majority of the participants did not embrace the concept of a new category entitled “Ecumenical Faith Declarations.” However, additional dialogue explored alternative ways to address the identified complexities, challenges, and opportunities regarding creeds, confessions, declarations, and other statements of faith.
Despite the shift in course, or perhaps because of it, participants expressed confidence that the present consultation fulfilled a significant role in highlighting the need to seek further clarity and creative engagement on confessional issues.
The consultation also identified a wide range of possibilities regarding next steps in the discussion of confessions and their role in the life of the churches in the WCRC. Participants hope the result of this consultation will be a stimulant for further work.
“I want to express our thankfulness for this consultation,” said Jerry Pillay, WCRC president, “and to the CRCNA who has started this conversation with such gracefulness.
“This is precisely what being in communion is all about,” Pillay continued. “The biggest event of the WCRC is not when it meets every seven years for its General Council. The moments and work for the WCRC are when it meets and what happens within those seven years. The strength lies in those conversations. And these are the kind of conversations we want to encourage.”
“I think in the gathering of this group, representing your various home churches, it is the best of what WCRC is about,” agreed Peter Borgdorff, CRCNA deputy executive secretary and member of the WCRC Executive Committee. “What binds us together is that we engage one another in what God has laid on our hearts.”
The document generated by the consultation will now be referred to the WCRC Executive Committee, as well as member churches, for further engagement and action.