A DECLARATION OF FAITH (1977)
CHAPTER SEVEN -- THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH
1 (1) The church is founded on Jesus Christ.
2 Gathered around the Word and sacraments,
3 those who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior,
4 together with their children,
5 have formed a corporate, visible body
6 in pilgrimage with God across the centuries.
7 The church has sought to order its life and ministry
8 in obedience to the teaching of the first apostles.
9 It has attempted to carry out Christ's commission
10 in various institutional forms and structures
11 that demonstrate both continuity and change.
12 We acknowledge that Christ
chooses to be known in the world
13 through this community of ordinary people,
14 therefore we dare not despise or abandon the church.
15 Christ is the head of the church,
16 therefore we are responsible to Christ
17 when we make policy and decisions in the church.
18 Christ is the foundation of the church,
19 therefore it will not fall despite our weakness.
20 We are confident that the Lord of the church
21 will judge and defeat our sinful intentions and actions,
22 help us in our weakness and blindness,
23 and use the church to accomplish his purposes.
24 (2) The church is marked by the Holy Spirit.
25 Across the centuries since the church was founded,
26 the Spirit has formed and identified it.
27 We recognize the true church of Jesus Christ
28 wherever the work of Spirit is evident:
29 in preaching and sacraments,
30 in the new life and continuous growth of believers,
31 in the sharing of spiritual gifts and material things,
32 in mission and service to the world.
33 The boundaries of the church are not clearly known to us,
34 but God knows those who are his.
35 (3) The Christian church arose within Israel.
36 The followers of Jesus
37 remained at first within the people of Israel.
38 As persons from all nations joined them,
39 they were separated from the Jewish community.
40 Yet they continued to accept Israel's story as their own
41 and to consider themselves part of the people of God.
42 We can never lay exclusive claim
to being God's people,
43 as though we replaced those
44 to whom the covenant, the law, and the promises belong.
45 We affirm that God has not rejected his people the Jews.
46 The Lord does not take back his promises.
47 We Christians have often rejected Jews throughout our history
48 with shameful prejudice and cruelty.
49 God calls us to dialogue and cooperation
50 that do not ignore our real disagreements,
51 yet proceed in mutual respect and love.
52 We are bound together with them in the single story
53 of those chosen to serve and proclaim the living God.
54 (4) The church encounters other faiths.
55 The church has often lived and worked
56 among those who do not share the Christian faith.
57 It has been sometimes corrupted and sometimes helped
58 by other religions, and by secular faiths and ideologies.
59 In turn it has affected them for good or ill.
60 We do not fully comprehend God's
way with other faiths.
61 We need to listen to them with openness and respect,
62 testing their words to us by God's Word.
63 We should be loving and unafraid in our dealings with them.
64 We know God calls us to share the gift of Christ
65 with all who will receive it.
66 We are confident God judges all faiths, including our own.
67 (5) The church exists within political
68 Throughout its history the church has struggled
69 to be faithful to God in political situations:
70 under persecution,
71 or as an established arm of the state,
72 or in separation from it.
73 God rules over both political and religious institutions.
74 We must confuse neither with the kingdom of God.
75 We must not equate the Christian faith
76 with any nation's way of life
77 or with opposition to the ideologies of other nations.
78 We hold Christians are to be law-abiding citizens
79 unless the state commands them to disobey God,
80 or claims authority that belongs only to God.
81 We must not allow governments
82 to impose Christian faith by legislation,
83 nor should we demand undue advantages for the church.
84 The church must be free to speak to civil authorities,
85 neither claiming expert knowledge it does not have,
86 nor remaining silent when God's Word is clear.
87 (6) The church has its ongoing story with God.
88 The church's story with God did not end
89 with the latest events recorded in Scripture.
90 Across the centuries the company of believers
91 has continued its pilgrimage with the Lord of history.
92 It is a record of faith and faithlessness, glory and shame.
93 The church has been persecuted by hostile societies,
94 but it has also known times of privilege and power
95 when it joined forces with dominant cultures.
96 It has sought holiness
97 through separation from society,
98 as well as through involvement in the world's affairs.
99 It has experienced life-giving reformations.
100 It has known missionary expansion through the world,
101 but also periods of dwindling resources and influence.
102 It has divided into rival orders, sects and denominations,
103 but it has also labored for cooperation and union.
104 We confess we are heirs of this
105 We are charged to remember our past,
106 to be warned and encouraged by it,
107 but not to live it again.
108 Now is the time of our testing
109 as God's story with the church moves forward through us.
110 We are called to live now as God's servants
111 in the service of people everywhere.