A phrase which holds a great deal of power in the life of the United Church of Canada.
You see, when the UCCan came together – in 1925 – it was formed through the union of the Congregational Churches in Canada, the Methodist Churches in Canada, and about 70-ish% of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, as well as congregations called “Local Union Churches” that had been using draft versions of the terms of union as a way to come together.
Why did they come together? For many reasons, I’m sure, but the Basis of Union states, “It shall be the policy of the United Church to foster the spirit of unity in the hope that this sentiment of unity may in due time, so far as Canada is concerned, take shape in a Church which may fittingly be describes as national.” (Basis of Union, sec. 1.2)
Each of the groups brought their own special flavour of Christianity to the table. One of the things that was brought by the Congregationalists was the desire that membership not be connected to a specific creedal statement except… perhaps… “Jesus Christ is Lord”. The Presbyterians and Methodists, however, were more creedal-ly connected.
Part of the process of union was hammering out a doctrinal statement. So, section 2.o states,
“We, the representatives of the Prebyterian, Methodist, and Congreational branches of the Church of Christ in Canada, do hereby set forth the substance of the Christian faith, as commonly held among us. In doing so, we build upon the foundation laid y the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone. We affirm our belief in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the primary source and ultimate standard of Christian faith and life. We scknowledge the teaching of the great creeds of the ancient Church. We further maintain our allegiance to the evangelical doctrines of the Reformation, as set forth in common in the doctrinal standards adopted by the The Presbyterian Church in Canada, by The Congregational Union of Ontario and Quebec, and by The Methodist Church. We present the accompanying statement as a brief summary of our common faith and commend it to the studious attention of the members and adherents of the negotiating Churches, as in substance agreeable to the teaching of the Holy Scriptures.” (Basis of Union, 2.0)
Quite a statement, eh?
So, why am I blogging about a statement written 80 years ago? Why is it interesting me today?
Well… part of our polity states, “Each Candidate recommended to be commissioned or ordained shall be examined on the statement of doctrine of the United Church, and shall, before commissioning or ordination, satisfy the Conference Education and Students Committee that they are in essential agreement therewith, and that as a member of the Order of Ministry of the United Church they will accept the statement as being in substance agreeableto the teaching of the Holy Scriptures.” (The Manual sec. 26.d)
Between twelve and thirteen years ago, I must have showed the Conference Education and Students Committee that I was “in essential agreement therewith”… ’cause they agreed to put my name forward for approval for ordination.
Twelve years is a long time. (Ok… its a long time in one individual’s life – a tick on a blip in the universal scheme of things!) Lots of experiences can be packed into twelve years. Lots of change.
What I’m wondering is, could I still say that I’m in essential agreement with the doctrines as laid out in the Basis of Union?
The only way to answer that question is to take them apart. Section by section. Line by line.
Think about them.
And, hey, what better place to do that exploration than right here? I mean, this is a place where other UCCan-types, friends of other Christian connection, and friends of other faith world-views come. This is a place where people love to drop comments. *grin*
So, over the next while, I’m going to do some thinking and writing about the Doctrinal statement in the 1925 Basis of Union of The United Church of Canada… as it relates to me and my faith.
As a good friend would say, “WooHoo!”
Many thanks to Nick for making me think again, about this part of my journey.