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Faith Lift: The Belhar Confession
The events of last weekend in Charlottesville have served as a wakeup call for many in our nation and for me. In reflecting on what went on there I was reminded of one of the confessions included in our Presbyterian Church USA Book of Confessions—The Belhar Confession.
The Belhar Confession is a Christian statement of belief written in Afrikaans in 1982. It was adopted (after a slight adjustment) as a confession of faith by the Dutch Reformed Mission Church (DRMC) in South Africa in 1986. The Evangelical Reformed Church in Africa in Namibia (ERCA) adopted the Belhar Confession in 1997 and in so doing became the first non-South African Church which adopted the Belhar Confession. The Belhar Confession was also adopted by the United Protestant Church in Belgium, The Reformed Church in America (RCA) and most recently in 2014 the Presbyterian Church (USA) has added the Belhar Confession to its Book of Confessions.
According to the Belhar Confession, unity is both a gift and an obligation for the church. This unity originally referred to non-segregation between Christians of different races, but after the formation of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA) in 1994, the word "unity" came to refer to administrative unity within the managerial structures of the denomination.
Another key theme of the Belhar Confession is the dichotomy of reconciliation and the justice of God. According to the confession, God is the God of the destitute, the poor, and the wronged, and for this reason the church should stand by people in any form of suffering. It claims that individual, racial and social segregation is sin, and that all forms of segregation always lead to enmity and hatred.
Here is a portion of the Confession:
“We affirm and believe that that this unity of the people of God must be manifested and be active in a variety of ways: in that we love one another; that we experience, practice and pursue community with one another; that we are obligated to give ourselves willingly and joyfully to be of benefit and blessing to one another; that we share one faith, have one calling, are of one soul and one mind; have one God and Father, are filled with one Spirit, are baptized with one baptism, eat of one bread and drink of one cup, confess one name, are obedient to one Lord, work for one cause, and share one hope; together come to know the height and the breadth and the depth of the love of Christ; together are built up to the stature of Christ, to the new humanity; together know and bear one another's burdens, thereby fulfilling the law of Christ that we need one another and upbuild one another, admonishing and comforting one another; that we suffer with one another for the sake of righteousness; pray together; together serve God in this world; and together fight against all which may threaten or hinder this unity.”
This Sunday I plan to use this Confession for our Affirmation of Faith. I hope you will make a special effort to gather with us and affirm this as a part of your commitment to obey what Jesus commanded us to do in John 15:12, “This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you.”
Rev. Dr. Jim Gill
Faith Presbyterian Church
3900 N. Main