A Fresh Look at our Fundamental Document – John Stumbo Video Blog No. 80

March 12, 2020

12:42

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This month, John gives an update on significant conversations taking place in The Alliance, specifically discussion surrounding proposed changes to the Statement of Faith.

Transcript

Alliance family, you know that we’re in conversations of significance. I want to update us today, specifically on the conversation of our fundamental document, the Statement of Faith. That will be my singular topic for the next 12 minutes. Thanks for joining me.

Terry Smith and I are 10 conversations deep into this 2020 National Conversations tour. Over 500 people have participated already. The tone has been wonderful. The participation has been great. We have 50 more of these conversations lined up.

Today, I want to give you an update on the pre-millennial, gender language, and sanctification statement—the things you already know about. And I want to tell you some developments that have come as we’re taking a look at the whole of the Statement of Faith. Seeing as we’ve been in discussion, we’ve realized if this is a once-in-a-lifetime conversation, then let’s make sure that we’re not missing something. Know that I’m feeling the gravitas of this—that if we never look at our Statement of Faith, that feels like neglect, but if we look at it too often, that feels careless. So we’re, in my mind, in a once-in-a generation-or-two conversation about our Statement of Faith.

So, let me get into updates and new developments. Our statement reads about who God is. That He “is infinitely perfect, existing eternally, in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” No recommended changes on that core theology—same for 1.2, our statement about Jesus [the] Christ, fundamental statements about the virgin birth, and these anchoring statements about substitutionary sacrifice. No recommendations for changes.

[In] 1.3, however, we are saying: Is there an omission in our current statement? Does it surprise anybody that in The Christian and Missionary Alliance family statement on the Holy Spirit there is no reference to the gifting of the Spirit?

You know that we find ourselves in this unique place between the Cessationists and the Pentecostals, and we’re not the only ones in that space. But should our statement be more clear that the Holy Spirit has been “sent to convince the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment”? Now, that’s just a chronological moving for a flow of thought that already exists.

But here’s where the new word gets inserted. The Holy Spirit has been sent “to indwell, guide, teach, gift, and empower the believer,” and then a new sentence—”the Spirit continues to make all the gifts present in the New Testament Church active today.” Would that strengthen our statement for The Christian [and] Missionary Alliance?

None of this is settled. None of this is decided. All of this will go to the theological issues committee. All of this will go to our next round of conversations. This will go to the Board of Directors. This will keep coming to us in video blogs. This will ultimately end up in some form at Council May 2021—where we actually make the decisions. But these are the things under discussion. You’re the first to hear of it.

1.4, our statement on the Scriptures. Our only recommended change here is where we begin to institute the male-only language change, and so rather than for the salvation of men, salvation of “all people.” We may not stay with that exact phrase, but here’s where that change actually works its way into our statement.

Same thing in section 1.5. No changes recommended other than “man and woman were” created in the image of God. “‘Everyone is’ born with a sinful nature.” Only 11 percent of the polling respondents up to this point have been opposed to the gender change of language, and after I clarified the confusion that I was creating, regarding the nature of God and Jesus Christ—no, no, no, we’re not talking about changing anything about God the Father or Christ the Son, we’re only talking about people when we’re talking about this kind of language change—then the negative response rate fell to under 5 percent. So, it feels like this is moving forward with a large sense of support in the family.

You’ll notice if you’re watching closely, the striking through of this last sentence about the eternal judgment. We’re not asking to remove the concept. We’re asking to replace its position in our Statement of Faith from 1.5 to 1.10, where we talk about judgment. So, you’ll see this show up again in a few minutes.

1.6, our statement on salvation. Would it strengthen us if, again, the language changed on the gender issue from all men to “all people”? But would it strengthen, again, a move of flow of thought—“become the children of God”? “Those who repent and believe in Him are born again of the Holy Spirit, ‘become the children of God,’” and then an insertion of some possible new words: “are transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of light. . . .” The idea is it comes right out of Colossians chapter 1.

There are many more things we could say about salvation. It’s such a complex and beautiful conversation. But there are some who feel like we were not only lost before our gift of salvation, but we were part of a different kingdom. We were opposed to the ways of God and now we have entered into the Kingdom of light, the Kingdom of His Son, and we are actively engaged in the advancement of His Kingdom. So that is before us for discussion.

You know that we’ve been talking about our statement on sanctification. I have no recommendations to bring to you today, other than to say we’ve received 15 alternate statements for our statement on sanctification, and we’re receiving very little support to continue the use of the word “crisis.” Much support, to be very clear, on positional and progressive sanctification. Much support for yielding to the Spirit of God . . . acknowledging the Lordship of Christ in our lives—having that deep work of the Spirit among us. But how we phrase it, do we need to continue to use the word “crisis”? Now that’s being questioned among us.

Our statement on healing. No recommended change there. Our statement on the Church is our two-paragraph statement, which you can pause and read if I’m moving too fast. Here’s where we would like to go with this, at least as the conversations have been unfolding. Editorial change: . . . “believe ‘in’ the Lord Jesus Christ, are redeemed through His blood, born again [of] the Holy Spirit. Christ is the ‘Head of the Church, His Body’.” This is just a change of order arising from Ephesians 1 and Ephesians 5. This mirrors the biblical text more clearly.

“. . . which has been commissioned by Him to go into all the world making disciples.” Should discipleship be clearly stated in our Statement of Faith—and then, instead of all nations, “all peoples”? Nations can carry a geopolitical connotation to it, and “peoples,” while not everybody understands what we mean by that, it at least gives us a better opportunity to have the conversation about Revelation 5 and elsewhere—that there will be representatives in heaven for every tribe and tongue and language and people.

And so, those are suggestions for how the section 1.9, paragraph A, might be strengthened and the second paragraph “. . . the local church, the body of believers in Christ, who are joined together.” Please, can we insert the word “love”? The most notable characteristic of the Church according to Jesus in the entire New Testament is that we are to love one another. So, I would like The Christian [and] Missionary Alliance statement to include some reference. Doesn’t have to be exactly there, but it feels like love must be included.

. . . Elevating the priority of prayer higher in the statement. So, “we gather together in ‘love’ for the worship of God, ‘prayer,’ edification through the word of God, fellowship, the proclamation of the gospel.” And would we consider the insertion of the words “through word and deed” for this reason? Should we make it clear that as the gospel is given to the world that words must be spoken and lives must be lived—that we have the beautiful opportunity to not only speak the gospel but show the gospel? And, for many, that would be an important insertion into our statement. It’s before you.

Section 1.10. I need to let you know before I show you the suggested change that this has been the most sacred moment of conversation in various leadership gatherings that I’ve had when this conversation comes up. The weightiness of what we’re talking about and the beauty of what Christ has, is . . . just comes together in this rich conversation that we want to handle well. Again, bringing 1.5 back into it, the portion that we have deleted and bring it together as one statement.

Consider this. Would this strengthen our Statement of Faith? “There ‘will’ be a bodily resurrection and judgment of all people. Our Lord will act in perfect justice as the unrepentant and unbelieving are raised to the conscious anguish of eternal separation from God, and as the repentant believers are raised to the joy of eternal communion with God.”

We can continue to try to nuance the language. But I pray that any conversation we have about this would be held in the manner in which it has been held up to this point. We’re just sensing that we can’t just blow by this as some words on a piece of paper. We’re talking about souls, eternity, the final outcome for people we love.

And then you know in section 1.11 that we’re talking about the Second Coming of Christ and in this as we debate whether pre-millennialism should remain in our Statement of Faith. Here’s where the conversation has led. Here’s the current addition that will be brought to the next National Conversations . . . that the return of Christ “is imminent and will be sudden (not gradual), bodily”—there’s some who feel like that’s a stronger word than personal—“and visible. This is the believer’s blessed hope and is a vital truth, which is an incentive for holy living, ‘intentional witness,’ and faithful service.”

Friends, I realize what I have done. I have taken on 8 of the 11 sections of our Statement of Faith. I’ve ripped through that very quickly in this video blog. Know that we’re going to continue the conversation. Know that more video blogs will be coming out as more developments arise.

I hope that you’re in agreement that we’re just trying to uphold the fundamentals of our faith, take seriously how we articulate what we believe, and do so in a manner that helps forward our mission together. Please, prayerfully wrestle through these things with us and continue to engage in this conversation.

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