Dr. Charles Wiley and the Office of Theology and Worship have provided a public forum for discussing the Confession of Belhar, almost continuously since the 219th General Assembly. The discussions have been extremely interesting and helpful. One part of the discussion I read offered by Pastor Edward W. Eissabake of St. John's Assyrian PCUSA, struck me as an excellent and convincing argument against adopting Belhar. It is his experiment and its results should be shared. I asked if I might print his remarks on my blog and he graciously has allowed me to post them.
After thanking Dr. Wiley for allowing all of us to share our views Pastor Eissabake wrote:
“Besides standing on all my theological and confessional views on Belhar in this forum, I did something different and practical. I read the Belhar over and over and read it to the people who did not know the background and reason for composing Belhar.
I read it to the following people: 1) a friend of mine who is an African American and Executive Director of a company in field of human and social services; 2) a Cambodian student with Master degree in Sociology; 3) to a Mexican lady and Office Manager of a foster care company; 4) to a Caucasian with doctorate degree in English literature; 5) to a Kenyan Director of Development in an multicultural business. I did not tell them ABOUT the Belhar. I simply read it to them and asked them what they concluded from the message of Belhar. None of them mentioned anything about racism and racial conflicts!!! They all stated that the message of Belhar is about unity.
This was an eye opening action that the matter of racism has been mentioned in Belhar only in two TINY references under 11.3 paragraphs 3 and 5. I realized that we all are focusing on notes ABOUT Belhar rather than Belhar by itself. The whole Belhar is talking about unity in an inclusive form, not racism.
Please try it. Do not read ABOUT Belhar or its background. Simply read it, and you will find me true. I conclude my notes on Belhar in this forum by repeating my two fundamental questions: B) WHY do we need Belhar as a confession while the matter of racism has been considered in a stronger way in C67 and even A Brief Statement of Faith? Why do we need it while we have a mechanism that is functioning very well in handling racism in our denomination? B) HOW does Belhar examine the false doctrines? The simple and general/inclusive language of Belhar lacks the message of racism and lacks the theological standards to determine and reject a false doctrine. Thank you again."
I encourage all to try this; here is a copy of the confession, The Belhar Confession