In my last post, I suggested the ELCA, and I would argue, other denominations as well, have gotten away from core identity issues and have been plagued by people exiting out the doors never to return. I have been working diligently on a statement of identity from a Lutheran perspective. Many of the ideas are not necessarily new (I don't believe there is really anything new under the sun when it comes to our lives of faith), but I am seeking to articulate an identity deeply rooted in orthodox, Christian and Lutheran teaching which encapsulates how we are called to operate in this day and age.
Since I wrote much of it yesterday, on the anniversary of Martin Luther's birthday, I actually had the audacity to title it: The Cat Spring Confession. Mind you, this is a rough draft at this point subject to change as I begin visiting with folks about it:
The Cat Spring Confession
Article 1: Christianity
We confess that we are a Christian church adhering to the three ecumenical creeds–the Apostles’ Creed, Nicene Creed, and Athanasian Creed. We confess the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments–to be the written Word of God, our source and norm for faith and life.
Article 2: Lutheran
We confess that we are a part of the Lutheran Church. We adhere to the Augsburg Confession.
Article 3: The Authority of Scripture
As articulated in the Lutheran Confessions, scripture is the source and norm for our understanding of God, His interaction with humanity, and His call for how we are called to live as His children. As such, we believe the Bible is the infallible Word of God in the understanding that it does not lead a person into error in faith and doctrine. There are, however, errors in translation and interpretation and direct contradictions within the pages of Scripture. We do not believe this lessens the Bible’s authority in matters of faith and doctrine.
Article 4: Interpretation of Scripture
While we believe biblical scholars serve an important role in the life of the church, we believe the plain reading in the native language of the people carries the most authority when it comes to the interpretation of scripture. We do not believe a person needs a degree in theology or biblical interpretation to be able to interpret and understand God’s Word. Biblical scholars often contradict each other, and they cannot be relied upon to be the sole source of interpretation.
Article 5: Canon within the Canon
We believe that scripture is best interpreted by scripture, and as Lutherans, we believe all scripture should be judged through the law/gospel dynamic summed up in the following statement: we are saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus and not by works of the law.
Article 6: Law, Gospel, and Response
We believe we stand condemned by God’s law since all have fallen short of it’s glory. However, we also believe the Gospel proclamation that Christ died in our stead to save us. Therefore, we believe we are now called to respond to what Christ has done by living a life that seeks to serve God and follow His commands–not in an attempt to appease God, but in joyful obedience; not because we have to, but because we want to.
Article 7: God’s Will
We believe God’s will for humanity can best be found in the pages of Scripture as we read the law, prophets, teachings of Jesus and the epistles. We recognize that some laws have been made null and void, and we recognize that some laws are more important than others–Jesus makes this clear in His teachings. When conflicting laws and teachings come before us, we judge which is greater by our canon within the canon.
Article 8: Justice and Compassion
We believe part of our response to God’s grace is the drive to make a difference in the world around us–to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, visit the sick and imprisoned, care for the orphan, widow, and our neighbor in need. We believe we need to speak out against oppression and strive to make this world a better place for all people. We believe we have been blessed to be a blessing.
Article 9: Outreach
We believe we are called to respond to God’s grace by spreading the news that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. We believe we are called to make disciples of all nations that all might experience the joy of a relationship with Jesus Christ, and we intentionally seek to invite others to join us in mission.
Article 10: Morality
We believe we are called to respond to God’s grace by holding to a high standard of morality. We believe we should strive to be upright and blameless in our living; however, we also believe we are called to live in this manner with humility bestowing the same kind of grace to others that Our Heavenly Father bestows upon us. We do not believe high morals should lead to self-righteousness.
Article 11: The Church
We believe the church should be a place for all people to encounter the grace, love, and mercy of God. It should willingly and truly welcome the rich, poor, and all in-between. It should willingly and truly welcome conservatives, liberals, and all in-between. It should willingly and truly welcome saint, sinner, and all who realize they are both at the same time.
Article 12: The Role of the Church
We believe the church should preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments, but it should never impose its will upon any individual, community, or nation. It must confront sin, but it must give people freedom as God gives us freedom.
Article 13: The Freedom of a Christian
We believe a member of Christ’s church is free to respond to God’s grace as he or she is led by the Spirit of God. We believe no one should be forced to give time, talent, or treasure under any circumstances. The response to the Gospel is motivated only by love not by fear, guilt, or coercion.
Article 14: Engaging Culture
We believe the church, as individuals and as a whole, is called to be "salt and light" within its cultural context. The church is not called to rule the surrounding culture or to allow the surrounding culture to rule it. Rather, the church is called to be in that culture spicing it up with an alternate world-view and shining the light of good into the dark places. We believe the church should not seek any sort of political or earthly power, but must remain independent as it seeks to serve God and confront the principalities and powers leading people astray.