“What does your church believe?”
Whenever someone asks me that question, I usually take a moment to ponder, “What does this person want to know?” Sometimes the question expresses curiosity. It comes out of a desire to know what makes this particular church unique or why I choose to be part of this church. At other times, though, the person is asking a very different question: What do I have to believe to be part of your church? What lets me in, or what keeps me out?
Although the creeds of the church helped to teach the faith, they have also been used as tests of fellowship. That is, the points of a creed or confession were the litmus test that determined whether a person could be part of the community of faith or could share in the Lord’s Supper.
When Disciples declare, “We have no creed but Christ,” we are recalling our origin as a protest movement, opposing divisions in the church that had been staked out on the basis of human-made creeds. The founders of the Restoration Movement weren’t as troubled by the creeds, though, as they were by the use of creeds to divide, separate, compete and exclude. As a result, we think of ourselves as opposed to creeds.
However, taking that position to its extreme can be just as troublesome: “But we’re Disciples, we don’t believe anything.” I do not think that reflects who we are.
So if, despite our aversion to creeds, we do believe something, what does my church believe?
“No creed but Christ” articulates our belief that the confession of faith in Jesus Christ is sufficient for fellowship in the church. That’s all that we require. No other test of fellowship is necessary. We practice weekly communion, and we believe the table is set at Christ’s invitation. We welcome all who share the simple confession of faith.
Because we are joined by our shared confession of faith, we believe that every Christian has both the freedom and the responsibility to follow their conscience in matters of faith, guided by scripture, study and prayer. We enjoy our liberty and extend that freedom to others, both as individuals and as congregations.
That freedom allows us to claim fully the priesthood of all believers, that all who follow Christ have gifts for use in ministry and in service to the church. Everyone who emerges from the water of baptism is called into ministry and service.
We have no creed but Christ. We extend the hand of Christian fellowship to all who confess faith in Jesus Christ, and that’s a huge part of why I choose to be part of this church.
May God continue to bless and keep you in your study, prayer, and fellowship.
You might also look at:
• Rick Spleth, regional minister for the Disciples of Christ in Indiana, expressed ten Basic Beliefs of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
• Identity statement of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
• Characteristic beliefs and practices of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) from the website of First Christian Church, Columbia, Mo.
• Disciples of Christ Beliefs and Practices from about.com.