CBC Radio this morning included a commentary on advertising campaigns and approaches used by different churches, and included a comment that, as much as most young people support the positions of the United Church of Canada on issues such as homosexuality and the environment, most also perceived the United Church as having no clear beliefs. This provoked me to reflecting on what I thought could go in a belief statement by the United Church.
The United Church is a non-doctrinal church, meaning it does not require members to declare they believe a specific doctrine. However, we have an evolving creed we call A New Creed, even though it is close to 20 years old now in its current form.
We are not alone,
we live in God’s world.
We believe in God:
who has created and is creating,
who has come in Jesus,
the Word made flesh,
to reconcile and make new,
who works in us and others
by the Spirit.
We trust in God.
We are called to be the Church:
to celebrate God’s presence,
to live with respect in Creation,
to love and serve others,
to seek justice and resist evil,
to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,
our judge and our hope.
In life, in death, in life beyond death,
God is with us.
We are not alone.
Thanks be to God.
This creed is pretty close to the center of where most members of the United Church would stand. To clarify a little more, I offer my perceptions of where most United Church people fit.
We tend to put ethics ahead of arbitrary moral rules — doing what is right and wrong ahead of inherited or imposed rules about behaviour. This is challenging as it is easy to adopt particular moral codes such as women are to be subservient to men or our Canadian code that women and men are to be considered and treated as equals. Moral codes are designed to preserve the status quo of a society while ethics are designed to seek out what is right. The United Church, by choosing to go the ethical route, chooses the harder route of understanding the consequences of actions, and choosing the actions which do the most good or cause the least harm. Many situations are complex, and it can be very difficult to gain certainty about what is the most ethical route to go, and some controversial decisions by the United Church reflect this challenge.
We tend to believe our members have the ability to choose shades of belief that are most helpful to them in living good lives, and that God will love them no matter what shade they choose. We do not believe in an arbitrary God who turns faith decisions into a lottery, punishing those who make the mistake of picking the wrong doctrine, and rewarding those who make the right choice. We tend to believe in a God who has been revealed to humanity through the created world throughout our existence as well as through spiritual experiences and the accumulated experiences of people over thousands of years represented by the Bible.
We tend to believe that Jesus came to save the world, as stated in the Gospel of John, and not just selected individuals. This is why we tend to be strong social activists and environmentalists. If this is God’s world, we choose to treat it with respect as best as we can.
Now I invite you to add your own comments on what you believe or what you see as representative of belief in the United Church of Canada.