Seems like most churches that have websites include a page where they post a list of what they believe. Setting aside the problematic nature of claiming that everyone at the church does and should believe the same, I feel called to offer a “belief statement” page for readers old and new so they can get their bearings before diving in. This is especially important since I have taken on the task of writing a blog post every week as I journey though the Revised Common Lectionary. Lord help me.
A little theological background: I am part of American Christian culture. I was raised in the south by deeply religious parents. I was baptized, full submersion at around 13, at Confederate Ave. Baptist Church in downtown Atlanta. I have an undergraduate degree in religious studies with a focus on Eastern religion. I minored in fine art photography. I earned a Master of Divinity from Candler School of theology and completed a full unit of Clinical Pastoral Education while serving at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. The Phoenix Affirmations are a fantastic outline of beautifully articulated progressive Christian beliefs that have contributed significantly to my own walk with God.
The Greatest Commandment is the scaffolding with which I’ve built much of my understanding.
Matthew 22:36-40New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
My belief statement is incomplete and always in progress, but here it is.
I believe in a Creative Force that is beyond our mortal comprehension. This creative force is known by many people by many names; I prefer to speak of this Force as God. I believe that God is neither male nor female and is both male and female. I will often refer to God as Father God or Mother God. The familiarity of these terms is a way of connecting us to God in a way that makes sense to our minds that are bound by space and time and understand ourselves largely in terms of relationship.
I believe that Jesus is an incarnation of God. I believe that Jesus is the pioneer and perfecter of The Way many call Christian. His teaching and acts are critical to understanding the nature of God. I believe the narratives about Jesus’ execution at the hands of the religious elite in collusion with the state have much to teach us about the nature of humanity. I believe narratives about his resurrection have much to teach us about the nature God.
I believe that the Bible is a collection of writings recorded, collected and canonized by spiritually inspired humans living in specific cultures, in specific times, responding to specific circumstances and built with he utmost faith in God and their own limited understandings of the world. Through many forms of literature, people recorded their attempt to understand their relationship to God and other humans. The overarching narrative of the Bible speaks of a God who desires justice, love and mercy for all of creation. I believe the Bible holds significant truths that transcend time and place. I do not believe in the Bible as literal/factual/inerrant word of God. I believe we are called to examine the Bible with rigor, wisdom and patience.
I work to read Hebrew Scripture (the “old testament”) through the lens of the community that produced these texts and for whom these scriptures are still sacred.
I work to read “the new testament” through the lens of the Gospel and weighing the subsequent texts on the scales of love, justice and grace.
I am heavily influenced by liberation/feminist/process theology and social gospel teaching.
I believe humanity is good. I believe with free will humanity makes bad choices that harm themselves and others. I believe each of us are created in the image of God. I believe we carry the divine spark within us. I believe we are the hands and feet of God.
I believe that sin is a state of separation from self, others and God. Salvation is reconcile with self, others and God.
I believe the church is called to be active in the world on behalf of God. I believe church is a place to deepen our spirituality and serve others.
I believe sacraments of the church are rites that offer us ways to connect more deeply with God and other Christians. Baptism is a rite of reconciliation with God and community. The Eucharist is a rite of remembrance and connection.
I encourage you to work through a similar list for yourself. Don’t worry if you are not sure what you believe, or that you may change your mind at some point in the future. Those are both great things because that means you are open to still learning and growing in your own faith journey. And that is the key word, eh? Faith. Faith is not about a firm set of beliefs, ideas where we plant our flags once and for all. Faith is about way more and is yet far simpler than belief. Believing and knowing do not create faith while doubt and questions are the fertile soil in which faith takes root, thrives and bears rich fruit.