Basis of Union Expanded with Four Faith Statements
There’s a lot more to believe in the United Church.
The 41st General Council has decided to expand the document that expresses the beliefs of the founding denominations of the United Church to include the 1940 Statement of Faith, the 1968 A New Creed, and the 2006 A Song of Faith.
They will join the 20 articles of faith in the Basis of Union that were approved at the founding of the church in 1925.
The proposal arose out of the 40th General Council in 2009 and was forwarded to congregations and presbyteries. There, it was the subject of often lively theological debate earlier this year, said Arlyce Schiebout, Chair of the Theology and Inter-Church Inter-Faith Committee.
General Secretary Nora Sanders said the United Church will continue to recognize the primary authority of the scriptures, and people will be able to situate themselves spiritually within the various statements of belief.
British Columbia commissioner Gerald Hobbs said that including more modern statements of faith is a step forward for the church. “Our understanding of the faith and our expression of it is not frozen in time… rather it is a living and growing process,” he said.
Greg Smith-Young of Hamilton Conference questioned how the addition of the statements of faith would make a difference to congregations. He noted that there are differences in the statements of faith.
“I’m comfortable with that kind of tension--kind of. It depends how we live it out,” he said.
Schiebout said that the addition of the statements of faith does not change the open approach of the United Church to doctrine. She added that the process indicates that doctrine and theology matter deeply to the United Church.
“It is our identity and we need to celebrate it,” she said.
The move will also open the way for other faith statements as the church continues to evolve. The most immediate impact will be that candidates for ordination will now be asked if they are in essential agreement with the four faith statements. Prior to this they were asked to express essential agreement with the 20 articles in the 1925 Basis of Union.