Posted by: Rodney Shaw | February 22, 2012

Simplify the Articles of Faith

The 2011 General Conference of the United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI) passed a resolution to add an article of faith on the Atonement and another resolution that revises the existing article of faith on Conscientious Scruples. For these resolutions to take effect, they must be passed by two-thirds of the District Conferences by a two-thirds majority. The article on the Atonement is a needed addition. The proposed article on Conscientious Scruples, however, is unhelpful, and what it proposes actually disqualifies it from serving as an article of faith of the UPCI. It should thus be defeated in our District Conferences.

Dilemma #1 or #2?

The reason the proposed article is unhelpful is that, instead of resolving or clarifying our theology, it merely replaces one dilemma with another dilemma. Instead of removing the potential conflict, it merely shifts the conflict to the other position.

The dilemma involves ministerial applications. It does not, however, involve affirmation statements as the Preamble of the proposed article misleadingly states: “Whereas, In signing ministerial applications and affirmation statements, many ministers are not in agreement with our stand on Conscientious Objector Status and are consequently endangering their personal integrity.” The affirmation statement only applies to two articles: Fundamental Doctrine and Holiness. The applications for ministerial license say, “Have you read the Articles of Faith and do you agree with them?” (Local) and “Do you continue to believe in the Articles of Faith and ministerial obligations?” (General and Ordination).

Currently, those who believe it is permissible to take human life in military service—indeed, who may feel an obligation to take human life—are now unable to sign an application in good conscience. However, should the proposed article be passed, the opposite would then be true: those who are against the taking of life in military service could not sign an application in good conscience because they could not, of course, embrace an article of faith that permits the taking of life in military service. The more restrictive position cannot endorse the more inclusive position. Accordingly, the conflict has not gone away; it has only shifted. For one who is opposed to taking human life in military service, the proposed change would be analogous to having one who is against abortion affirm an article of faith that states abortions should be left up to personal discretion. To force brethren into such a position ought to strike us as repugnant and unconscionable.

The Purpose of Our Articles of Faith

Moreover, the content of proposed article itself disqualifies it from serving as an article of faith of the UPCI. To see this, we need to revisit the purpose of our Articles of Faith. Let’s begin with definitions: “Articles of faith are sets of beliefs . . . which attempt to more or less define the fundamental theology of a given religion” (http://www.wikipedia.com). An article of faith is “a very basic belief not to be doubted” (http://www.thefreedictionary.com). In other words, articles of faith express what a particular group considers to be timeless, unchanging truths that must be embraced. The purpose, then, of the Articles of Faith of the UPCI is to set forth in clear, concise statements only those core doctrines that we regard as fundamental and emphatically true and, therefore, not open to opposing views.

The proposed article of faith fails to fulfill this purpose. Rather than stating a specific position, it presents a choice between two mutually exclusive positions and allows the constituency to choose which they affirm. This is entirely unlike the rest of our Articles of Faith, which do not allow “individual choice” (Preamble to proposed article) with regard to other moral or holiness matters. The proposed article is rather a statement of inclusiveness about a moral issue about which we have differing opinions. Since it does not state a position that all must embrace, it is actually a non-position and therefore, by definition, can neither be part of our fundamental theology nor “a very basic belief not to be doubted.”

Agreeing to Disagree

People tend to feel deeply about the matter of Christians bearing arms in military service, but the fact we are considering this revised article at all is evidence that we seem to be comfortable with allowing diversity of opinion on this issue.

If this is truly where we are as a movement, and if the current article of faith on Conscientious Scruples does not “accurately represent our corporate identity” (Preamble to proposed article), then the primary question in this whole matter is not how can we draft an article that everyone can affirm, but why do we need an article of faith on bearing arms in military service at all?

Matters over which we have opposing and mutually exclusive views should not be contained in the Articles of Faith. If we have agreed that no particular position is required on a matter, this nullifies the possibility of formulating an article of faith about it. By approving the proposed resolution, we are saying it does not matter what one believes in regard to taking human life in military service, and whatever position one holds will not be an obstacle to belonging to the UPCI. If this truly is the way we believe, there is no need for an article of faith to say we do not have a position. The Articles of Faith are the core doctrines around which we gather for fellowship and mission. Following the example of Acts 15, these articles should be few in number, but once decided, should be strictly enforced. The Articles of Faith are what unite us, and strict adherence should be required. Whatever we need to say about bearing arms in military service can more appropriately be said in a position paper.

We have no articles of faith regarding other matters concerning life, including abortion, euthanasia, medical ethics, taking life in self-defense, taking life while serving as a peace officer, etc., but have chosen to express our views on some of these issues in position papers. Why have we singled out bearing arms in military service as an article of faith? Although we do endorse military chaplains, this does not require an article of faith on bearing arms in military service. In short, there are other ways to state our positions in our Manual that do not create the conflict for ministerial applicants that the current and proposed articles now create. Such a position paper on bearing arms in military service would be naturally situated among other position papers such as the existing ones on “Abortion” and “Church and State Relations.”

A Recommendation

Whether the proposed article passes in our District Conferences is really moot. We still have an Article of Faith on taking human life in military service, a matter about which we are now willing to allow mutually exclusive views. Since the proposed article is thus disqualified from serving as a corporate article of faith, it should, therefore, be defeated, and then a resolution should be passed at the next General Conference to delete the current article of faith and add a position paper on this matter in the Manual.

© Rodney Shaw and rodneyshaw.wordpress.com 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Rodney Shaw and rodneyshaw.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Advertisements

Responses

  1. Rodney, you make a good point about this being put into a position paper. I do have some questions though. I believe that pacifism is not taught by Jesus and the other Bible writers. I believe it is impossible to support our first amendment right without the second ammendment available to us. Have you presented a Biblical case for Pacifism? I would enjoy reading or listening but I always find it ironic when, especially, North Americans argue for pacifism. Their right to free speech flourishes because of men and women willing to “taking human life” in military service while, apparently, other men and women felt no “obligation” to do so.

    You noted above:

    “By approving the proposed resolution, we are saying it does not matter what one believes in regard to taking human life in military service, and whatever position one holds will not be an obstacle to belonging to the UPCI.”

    How does it follow that approving the proposed resolution also means “it does not matter” about “taking human life”? I do not think this premise was supported in this blog article. Besides being a non-sequitur it may be simply emotive language.

    For example, you also wrote “who may feel an obligation to take human life”. How does this follow? Does it follow that since the Bible does not teach pacifism that one now has an “obligation” to take human life? These points are unclear to me. Perhaps, I’ve misunderstood but even if Jesus affirms a form of capital punishment it does not seem to follow that one now is obligated to take human life. A solider does not go to war under an obligation to take human life. Among the possible reasons perhaps some are to defend country, life or to preserve certain values to maintain a Christian worldview. Taking human life is not the principal focus of military scenarios or service. It is a possible but not necessary reality.

    It would seem to follow that if an armed person, totally foreign to myself or my family, and for nefarious reasons, entered my home there is a clear danger of life and property. Thus a reaction to preserve the life of my family, property and myself could be thought of as an obligation. However, I don’t think you would argue against this type of response.

    JNA

  2. Well spoken m’friend…excellent presentation. I am in agreement.

  3. I have heard a minister in North America say: “The leader of the Coalition of the Willing is The Lord God!” His son added: “We need to go in there and blow their gutts up!” Many pastors I met in America boasted about their handguns to me. I just smiled, knowing that once I bore AK47 against their soulders in a wartime (though the Prince of Peace spared me of the actual combat). Back then many years ago, I was a new convert attending an UPCI church somewhere overseas, I didn’t know better than to defend my country from the Muslims and their allies. Now that I am an ordained minister and have some mileage behind me I am disgusted by some people’s love of the guns which are made for nothing else but to kill. Killing an unsaved person is bad enough, but two Apostolic Pentecostals killing each other over bad inteligence is even worse.

  4. It’s likely that the issue of Conscientious Scruples was placed in the Articles because the founders considered the idea to be central to the Faith! It’s only necessary to read the Article with it’s associated Scripture references to realize that the idea of Christians taking human life was absolutely repulsive to the founders of our Church.

    As for shunting this issue to the realm of position papers; this approach fails to recognize or address the drastic devolution Resolution 6 represents in our movement, or why we fail to recognize the immorality of taking human life. There are other, far more insignificant items in our Articles of Faith that would be best stated as positions. Of course there’s always the possibility that in spite of the weak reasoning presented with Resolution 6, that it was presented with the idea of releasing a torrent of alterations to our Articles of Faith.

    I have been truly puzzled by the lack of a strong Biblical and historical statement in support of Resolution 6. Perhaps that’s because one can’t truly support it in light of the New Covenant or Early Church history. The only arguments I’ve heard in favor of Resolution 6 have been little more than patriotic and political rhetoric that ignore the spiritual reality of our New Kingdom citizenship.

    How one can profess to believe that the New Birth message as understood by the United Pentecostal Church International is essential to salvation, and believe the associated implication that without experiencing the New Birth one is condemned to eternity in hell, and still insist that it is moral and righteous for Christians to take human lives is completely beyond my comprehension.

  5. It is really a position statement and would be more properly categorized as such rather than an article of faith.

  6. Bro Shaw,

    I really appreciated this post. I have been concerned about the issue after finding out about it at the Oneness Theological Symposium this past fall. It is encouraging to see this level of reason in the discussion.

    While I am not a member of the UPC proper or attending a member church I still find myself concerned about the state of the organization, probably due to my family’s rich heritage in the UPC.

    I am finishing a degree in Theological and Historical Studies at Oral Roberts University. Over the past few years I have found myself returning to the original Pentecostal position of pacifism.

    I find it fascinating that this issue has come up now in our context, whereas other pentecostal organizations confronted and deleted/altered their sections on conscientious scruples long ago.

    Is it a very controversial issue or is it widely desired to alter the statement? More directly I am wondering how big the community is within the UPC that wants to keep the section.

    Regardless, I find it exhilarating that this controversy has sparked a discussion about these issues.

  7. The intent of the latter statement in our basic statement of faith that no brother shall contend for his personal point of view to the disunity of the bretheren was intended to be somewhat of a general absolution statement for those who don’t agree w/details, and to generae inclusiveness for the sake of pragmatism. The spirit of the merger should cover any individual integrity concerns. As a Military Chaplain who does not even own a gun – I encourage soldiers to do their lethal duty when necessary – and I want my Chaplain Asst to qualify as a sharp shooter – as they are my body guard.

  8. This is one of the best proposition’s I have heard about dealing with these kind of issues in the Articles of Faith! I 100% agree with what is wrote here, and can see that not only this, but several other Articles of Faith that should be re-looked at in this same light. Paul wrote a great deal about Christian Liberty, and seeing and the UPCI is a fellowship of ministers with varying beliefs and viewpoints, I do believe many ministers sign their affirmation, still believing our core doctrines, but perhaps not adhering to several of the Articles of Faith, simply because they do not consider some of the Articles as “Bible Doctrines,” and should be left up to the individual church Pastors and individual ministers to make that decision.

  9. This is why religion feels burdensome at times. I understand this is ministerial and leadership issues and I understand the relationship of vision and unity to the integrity of the body but it seems to get out of hand. When personal opinions eek their way in it is no longer about the Word but about power, control and manipulation. Whether or not one believs in or particpates in bearing arms is not going to keep them out of heaven nor solidify their position there so why is it a part of the Articles of Faith? From the outside looking in it is kind of silly actually and seems like a waste of valuable and precious time. But as always, I am a big fan of you and Sis. Shaw!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: