Sunday, March 27, 2011

A time to speak-a time to confess

Noel Anderson has posted on his blog Anderspeak "TOWARD A NEW CONFESSION."

The Declaration, he has posted, was written in 1996 by a group of pastors including Anderson and my first Presbyterian pastor Darrell Johnson. When I saw it on Anderson's blog I was amazed at its relevance for the Church today. Because I believe Jesus is calling the Church to confess I am also placing it on my blog. I pray it will be received by many.


As forgiven sinners and disciples of Jesus Christ, we are troubled by the deep divide that is rending the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The division is rooted in two foundational questions:

1. Confusion over the identity of Jesus Christ, as well as the nature and extent of his redemptive work on the cross confirmed by his bodily resurrection;

2. Confusion over the place of Scripture and the extent to which it is the supreme and authoritative standard for our faith and moral behavior.

Among other places, this twofold confusion is manifesting itself in the painful debate over the combined questions of sexuality, standards of behavior, and ordination.

As men and women who have taken vows that we "receive and adopt the essential tenets of the Reformed faith as expressed in the confessions of our church as authentic and reliable expositions of what Scripture leads us to believe and do," while we "promise to further the peace, unity and purity of the church" (G-14.0207), we publicly declare the following:

1. "All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." (II Timothy 3:16).

The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments stand as the unique and authoritative witness to Jesus Christ while providing the supreme and decisive standard for faithful living in obedience to his gospel.

We affirm that the Scriptures have sufficient authority of themselves, not of men; for God spoke to the prophets, apostles, and still speaks to us through the Holy Scriptures. (Second Helvetic, BC 5.001).

We affirm that the historic confessions of the Presbyterian Church are authentic and reliable expositions of Scripture, articulating truthful descriptions of our Triune God, humankind, God's redemptive work through Jesus Christ, and both general and specific imperatives for faithful living in response to and cooperation with our redemption. We therefore submit all insights and experiences to the authority of Scripture.

We reject any and all statements and actions that deny the reliability and pertinence of the confessions as a standard to lead, guide and instruct us in what Scripture teaches us to believe and do.

2. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and lived among us." (John 1:1, 14) Jesus Christ is at once fully God and fully human; of the same substance with God, yet having two natures; "one who is a true and righteous man and yet more powerful than all creatures, that is, one who is at the same time true God." (Heidelberg Catechism --BC 4.015).

We affirm the witness of the Scripture and the historic declarations of the early church creeds, reaffirmed in the Reformation confessions, that Jesus Christ is both human and divine, the eternal Son of God, yet born of a virgin. He entered human life, was tempted as we are, suffered, was crucified, died and was buried, then rose from the grave. He ascended to heaven, exercises final authority over all creation, and is to be worshiped along with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
We reject any and all statements and actions that intentionally or unintentionally degrade, diminish or deny the witness of the Scripture and confessions regarding: the identity of Jesus Christ; his earthly life, ministry and significance; or his position and authority as exalted Lord.

3. "But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female.' 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two but one flesh." (Mark 10:6-8).

"We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation but we ourselves…while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies." (Romans 8:22-23).

We live in a rebellious and broken world. This includes our sexuality. We all are broken in our sexuality. There are no exceptions. God's intention from the beginning is that men and women, complementing each other as male and female, would reflect together the image of God in their humanity. "The relationship between man and woman exemplifies in a basic way God's ordering of the interpersonal life for which he created mankind. Anarchy in sexual relationships is a symptom of man's alienation from God, his neighbor and himself." (The Confession of 1967 - BC 9.47).

We affirm that our sexuality is faithfully expressed in many ways, in marriage and in singleness, in sexual love and in other acts of love. We affirm that sexual love is blessed by God, is one expression of our gender complementarity that fully reflects God's image, and is intended only for the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman.
We affirm that men and women may pursue fully satisfying and fulfilled lives outside of marriage, practicing chastity in obedience to Christ, while supported in the struggles and loneliness of life by the fellowship of the church.

We affirm that temptations and inappropriate desires are experienced by all people, but are not sin. Entertaining, nurturing, or acting on temptation and desire is sin. The honoring of sexual boundaries, in both thought and deed, as established in the Scriptures and re-iterated in the confessions, provides an environment within which life and relationships can flourish. This is God's intention for God's Kingdom.

We reject any and all statements and actions that intentionally or unintentionally bless human conditions and behaviors as either gifts from God or faithful responses to God which, nevertheless, stand in contradiction to God's revealed will for human relationships. We refuse to condone what God intends to redeem. Redefinitions of either marriage or sexual boundaries to accommodate culture, experience, political pressure, or even loved ones are further expressions of our brokenness and confusion. Such redefinitions and accommodations deny biblical notions of fidelity and integrity and further alienate us from God, each other and ourselves.

4. "Wretched one that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 7:24-25) "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (I Corinthians 1:18).

The Scriptures describe the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross in a variety of ways; it is "the sacrifice of a lamb, a shepherd's life given for his sheep, atonement by a priest…a ransom of a slave, payment of a debt, vicarious satisfaction of a legal penalty, and victory over the powers of evil." (Confession of 1967, BC - 9.09.) All of these images together, clearly articulated in the confessions of the church, while not exhausting the meaning of the cross, capture its essential significance which is applied by the Holy Spirit to all those who believe.

We affirm that the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross is the foundation of our hope. In Jesus Christ crucified we are delivered, body and soul, from darkness to light, from death into life, from bondage to obedience, in this life and the life to come.

We reject any and all statements and actions that intentionally or unintentionally degrade, diminish, or deny what the Scriptures testify to and the confessions articulate concerning the nature and function of the cross. We reject any and all statements and actions that reduce and limit the cross to an expression of devotion, a tragic and unanticipated event, a spiritually irrelevant piece of history, or view it as an act of abuse by a malevolent Father.

5. "And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." (Galatians 5:24). "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24).

When the completed work of Jesus Christ crucified is applied to our lives by the Holy Spirit, we begin the process of restoration in all aspects of our brokenness, including our sexuality. This is part of salvation. Our cooperation with that restoration requires on our part an act of the will empowered by the renewing work of the Holy Spirit. This is taking up the cross and following Jesus.
We affirm that in the cross of Jesus there is resurrection power that breaks the hold of canceled sin; heals the trauma of the past; sets us free from sinful behaviors, desires and addictions; and enables us to live faithfully in obedience to Scripture as interpreted by the confessions of the church.

We affirm that Jesus Christ crucified both requires and provides for a re-aligning of the human will in life-giving conformity to the will of God.

We affirm that confession and repentance are necessary for healing, transformation and the affirmation of the true self. We affirm that no matter what the condition or set of circumstances, the Holy Spirit gives many graces sufficient for the day.

We reject the claim that people cannot experience any change at the core of their being. We reject and denounce attempts to deny and even to silence those who testify of their own transformation and restoration in their sexuality.

6. "So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet." (John 13:14).

The church of Jesus Christ is a community marked by God's grace and mercy extended to us in Jesus Christ crucified. The church opens its arms to all, declaring and offering the forgiving love the church itself has experienced. At the same time, with mutual forbearance and self-giving service, the church steadily calls its members into holiness and wholeness in obedience to Christ as defined in the Scriptures and articulated in the confessions. The fellowship of the church is the primary vehicle by which the love and power of the Crucified One heals and restores. This is the love and justice of Jesus that does not condemn, yet calls each one out of brokenness, sin and confusion. This is true compassion.
We affirm that the church must be a safe place for each person to work out his or her own salvation in all areas of life, including one's sexuality. We affirm that when the church is faithful to the gospel, the church offers good news and hope for those struggling in their sexuality. We affirm that those who are faithfully wrestling with core issues of sexuality are a gift to the church, representing a prophetic witness within the community.

We reject quick condemnation by some Christians aimed at the specific sins of others while excluding their own. At the same time, we reject the assertion that an individual's internal struggles and lifestyle choices are private matters and no business of the fellowship of the church. We reject the undiscerning sanction of behaviors and lifestyles by the church that the Scriptures, clearly articulated in the confessions, have defined as sin. We reject false notions of love, justice, and compassion that deny the reality of our brokenness, the costly and effective sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, and the renewing power of the Holy Spirit.

We now call the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to engage in prayerful reflection upon and the faithful preaching of the cross. We call the church to develop and provide clear teaching and effective ministries that address the reality of our shared brokenness in our sexuality. We call on the church to recover its own, clear, biblical voice that declares the love, justice and resurrection power of Jesus Christ crucified to the church and to the world.

*This statement is also known as The Glendale Statement, drafted by a croup of pastors in 1996. Their names can be found HERE


Chris Enoch said...

As one of the original framers and signers (a side note - I was an elder then, not a pastor), I am delighted to read how well this document has held up. The issues have changed none since then - if anything they have exasperated by the continuing advance of the lethargy.

Maybe 1996 was too early for this confession - but it seems contemporary in 2011....

Viola Larson said...


I'm hoping and wishing (and praying) that a lot more people will pick this Declaration up and push it forward at least as a working model. It is up on ChurchandWorld today via Anderson's blog.

I know it is a long read for some but it is worth it.

Chris Enoch said...

The length of the document was one of the biggest criticisms at the time.....

Viola Larson said...

Well at least its not Westminster: )

Viola Larson said...

I think that most people who want to confess as this declaration does also are readers. So perhaps this is the time.

Christopher Drew said...

Perhaps someone can present this at some point in Minneapolis in the fall. Maybe?

Viola Larson said...

I truly hope so. I believe Christ is calling his church to confess.

Anonymous said...

You may want to also look at this confession that was prepared in 1994 by the Presbyterian Renewal Network. A study guide was also prepared to go with it. At the time this confession did not find much voice in the church, but perhaps it would now.

The special formatting will not copy over her properly. If you would like la copy with the original formatting, please write me at

Because of security concerns related to my present assignment, my first name cannot be used on any website. Thanks for your understanding.


G. K. Callison

A Declaration for Faith and Life


In every age the Church faces temptations to imitate the world rather than her Lord, and thereby to lose the distinctiveness of her calling. We believe that modern views about sexuality, one of the manifestations of the moral relativism of our age, have resulted in a serious threat to the integrity of the Church's life. In our time, the Christian foundations of moral life are challenged culturally and debate has arisen in the Church over whether Scripture is ultimately authoritative for moral practices, over whether the Scripture speaks clearly in these matters, and whether obedience in morality is essential to living the Christian life.

We believe the loss of a biblical standard for sexual morality to be a cause of great damage to the physical and spiritual lives of all people. The mounting demand by some Church members to accept sexual sin promotes infidelity, deters God's people from seeking protection from sin and its consequences, and gives the appearance that repentance, forgiveness and restoration are unnecessary. This is a denial of the plain meaning of Scripture and it places in jeopardy both those who teach wrongly, and those who hear and follow a false teaching of serious moral and spiritual consequence. This crisis calls for a clear and definitive response consistent with the biblical heritage of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Thus we affirm the following as a Declaration for Faith and Life necessary for our time. We make no attempt to defend all the doctrines of Christian faith or to discuss God's grace in bringing us to faith in Jesus Christ. We seek only to draw into the sharpest possible focus what is the necessary fruit of obedience to Jesus Christ in our sexuality. We speak from no wisdom inherent in ourselves. Rather, relying solely upon the grace of Almighty God, we ground our affirmations in His written Word, which is the only reliable guide for a life in accord with God's will.

- more to follow in the next comment

Anonymous said...



All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work (II Timothy 3:16-17 NRSV).

We affirm that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are our only authority for faith and practice. The written Word of Scripture mediates to us the living Word, Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Who always speaks and works in congruence with the written Word. Handed down to us by the communion of the saints, summarized in our confessions of faith, studied and opened to us by teachers and preachers in the community of the Church, the Scriptures are ever trustworthy as we daily live by their truth. All that is necessary for faith and for life is either explicitly stated in Scripture or may be deduced from it, and we affirm that it provides its own interpretation. Because it is God's revelation, it is not bound by culture or by time. The Bible is thus the authority we are called to obey in every circumstance.

Therefore, we reject the false doctrines:

• that the meaning of Scripture is solely a matter of individual interpretation, separated from its interpretation of its own words, its historical context, or apart from the apostolic faith and the confessions of the Church universal;
• that because of historical, cultural, and scientific distance from our time the biblical Word is no longer applicable;
• that the Holy Spirit of the Triune God speaks contrary to Jesus Christ as he is mediated to us through the Word written in the Bible;
• that human conscience, feeling, wisdom, scientific inquiry, or medical, psychological and sociological knowledge are sufficient in themselves, apart from — or even contrary to — the Bible, to discern the will of God.


Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body (I Corinthians 6:19-20 NRSV).

We affirm that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments teach that we belong – body and soul, in life and in death – not to ourselves but to God. God is the eternal Word by whom we were created. Jesus Christ is that Word made flesh, by whose sacrifice we are redeemed, and is the living Word who manifests the new humanity in His own life and ours. Though he was celibate, he lacked nothing necessary for full communion with God and with humanity. It is by the power of his Holy Spirit that we are enabled to follow him as obedient disciples, rejecting the passions of our sinful nature and choosing instead to live holy lives in our conduct. This triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is sovereign over all the circumstances of our lives, and only in communion with this God can we be made whole.

Therefore, we reject the false doctrines:

• that we can claim autonomy and dominion over our own bodies;
• that sexual intercourse is necessary for whole personhood or full communion between persons;
• that it is not possible to control and discipline the expression of our sexual desires;
• that we can be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ apart from His Spirit's transforming power that enables us to follow His pattern of obedience to God.

- more to follow in the next comment

Anonymous said...


[Jesus] answered, "Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate" (Matthew 19:4-6 NRSV).

We affirm that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments plainly tell us that God in His love for us created us male and female, and that He pronounced His creation "good." Scripture tells us that God intended from the beginning, as He intends today, in spite of our sin and the fall of the whole creation, that our sexual desires be fulfilled solely within the context of the marriage of one woman and one man in a faithful and joyful union of one flesh. Scripture tells us that the marriage of husband and wife is for the purpose of their mutual help, for the safe¬guarding, undergirding and development of their moral and spiritual character, and for the propagation of children and the rearing of them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Furthermore, God has expressly condemned sexual intercourse outside of the marriage covenant. This prohibition applies to married persons committing adultery, to sexual relationships between unmarried men and women, and, because God's order intends the sexual relationship to be between male and female, to homosexual practice, a perversion of God's created order.

Therefore, we reject the false doctrines:

• that the body, the sexual desires of male and female for one another, and the institutions of marriage and family are extraneous to God's created order; that they are matters of indifference in our new life in Jesus Christ; and that we are entitled to alter or redefine them arbitrarily as suits our social circumstances or personal desires;
• that sexual relationships only require mutual consent, without regard to the scriptural bonds of marriage;
• that God intends for persons to engage in adulterous or homosexual or other non-marital sexual intercourse, and that God pronounces such intercourse to be a "good gift;"
• that Christian compassion and justice require the Church to condone adulterous and homosexual and other non-marital sexual relationships among its members, and to regard those who engage in such practices as living a manner of life that demonstrates the Christian gospel and fits them for ordination as elders, deacons, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament.

- more to follow in the next comment

Anonymous said...


So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him [Jesus Christ]. For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil (II Corinthians 5:9-10 NRSV).

We affirm that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments testify that we are all made in the image of God, responsible to Him, that God is not mocked, and He holds all of us accountable to His will revealed to us in His Word. The Bible warns us that God brings His judgment, both present and future, upon those who defy Him, but Scripture also promises that God forgives and transforms all who turn to Him in repentance and trust.

Therefore, we reject the false doctrines:

• that persistent, unrepentant sexual activity that is forbidden by Scripture is acceptable to God and free from His present and future judgment;
• that some practices, though they be contrary to Scripture, are so rooted in personhood that their expressions are inevitable and cannot be changed by the power of God.

We invite all those who affirm the truths and reject the errors put forth in this declaration and who acknowledge these clear and consistent teachings of God's Word, to recall these teachings as they proclaim the Gospel and live out their relationships in community. Let our purpose be that God's people may be instructed, warned and corrected, that they may grow into maturity of faith, and that they may live holy and blameless lives before our Lord in love.
Thanks be to God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself up for us all, so that by grace, through the work of the Holy Spirit, we are saved by faith.

May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and He will do it (I Thessalonians 5:23-24 NIV).

Presbyterian Renewal Network, January 1994