On Wednesday the General Assembly approved the addition of a new confession to our Book of Confessions, The Belhar Confession. When you get a chance, you can read the confession at http://www.pcusa.org/belhar
“The Confession of Belhar is a powerful confession of Christian faith that emerged in South Africa during the years of Apartheid. It is named for the city in South Africa where it was first adopted. It is a statement that focuses on three themes, Unity, Reconciliation, and Justice, in a church environment where racial separation made it impossible for brothers and sisters in Christ to worship together or come to the Lord’s Table together. Churches around the globe have recognized the power and theological insight of Belhar as an expression of Scriptural truth for their own contexts.”
Historically, the confessions have been written in response to particular situations. For example, the Westminster Confession spoke specifically to the role of the monarchy and the sovereignty of God. The Barmen Declaration addressed the sin of idolatry during the rise of national socialism in Germany in the 1930’s.
In these cases, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has made the judgment that these confessions written in particular situations articulate for the PC(USA) who we are, what we believe, and what we resolve to do. Only two of our eleven confessional statements were written by the Presbyterian Church. Each of the others has been adopted as our confession.
“The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is again facing a critical time in its history. We are rent apart by division and schism, we have yet to directly confront and confess the racism that has been a significant force in our own history, and we have shown a failure of resolve to make courageous stands for justice. We believe that the Confession of Belhar, a profound statement on unity, reconciliation, and justice in the church, comes to us as a word from God for this particular time and place for the PC(USA).” The Special Committee on the Confession of Belhar
On Monday, I wrote about an overture that recommended Teaching Elders (Pastors) “to assume the moral responsibility of participating in the administrative costs of this church by paying per capita each year, as other church members do”. My objection to this overture had to do with the language of ‘moral responsibility’ (see my blog from Monday “Per Capita” for more explanation). The overture was passed in our committee, which meant it would go to the whole General Assembly for a vote. Today the overture came before the whole General Assembly and it was voted down (which should prove to all of you how very wise your pastor is – sorry, it’s getting very late :).