Statement of Faith (National Council of Congregational Churches of the United States, 1913)   3 comments

Statement of Faith 1913

Above:  The Statement of Faith, from a Copy of The Pilgrim Hymnal (1912)

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Book from the Library of Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Thus says God, the LORD,

who created the heavens and stretched them out,

who spread forth the earth and what comes from it,

who gives breath to the people upon it

and spirit to those who walk in it:

“I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness,

I have taken you by the hand and kept you;

I have given you as a covenant to the people,

a light to the nations,

to open eyes that are blind,

to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,

from the prison those who sit in darkness….”

–Isaiah 42:5-7, Revised Standard Version–Catholic Edition (1965)

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Among the hymnals in my collection is The Pilgrim Hymnal (1912), of the National Council of Congregational Churches of the United States (1871-1931), whose legacy resides mostly within the United Church of Christ (1957-).  Opposite the first page of the Responsive Readings section in my copy (obviously not from the first printing) is a sheet of a different color and thickness than those around it.  On this sheet is the Statement of Faith which the National Council adopted in 1913.  The text follows:

We believe in God the Father, infinite in wisdom, goodness, and love; and in Jesus Christ, his Son, our Lord and Saviour, who for us and our salvation lived and died and rose again and liveth evermore; and in the Holy Spirit, who taketh of the things of Christ and revealeth them to us, renewing, comforting, and inspiring the souls of men.

We are united in striving to know the will of God as taught in the Holy Scriptures, and in our purpose to walk in the ways of the Lord, made known or to be made known to us.

We hold it to be the mission of the Church of Christ to proclaim the gospel to all mankind, exalting the worship of the one true God, and laboring for the progress of knowledge, the promotion of justice, the reign of peace, and the realization of human brotherhood.

Depending, as did our fathers, upon the continued guidance of the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth, we work and pray for the transformation of the world into the kingdom of God; and we look with faith for the triumph of righteousness and the life everlasting.

I notice two main characteristics of the Statement of Faith:

  1. This is a creedal, not a confessional, document.  It leaves many doctrinal jots and tittles unmentioned and not required.  Major issues–monotheism; the Trinity; Christ’s incarnation, death, and resurrection; Scripture; foreign and domestic missions; and social responsibility–are explicit, however.
  2. This is an optimistic text, one which bears the imprint of the Social Gospel.  Unfortunately, World War I (1914-1918) contributed greatly to the demise of such optimism, which had characterized La Belle Époque (1870/1871-1914), when human progress seemed inevitable and hopes were high, at least in some quarters.  Out of postwar disillusionment came the literary Lost Generation, political upheavals which led to World War II, and the theology of Neo-Orthodoxy.  The latter, more somber in mood than the Social Gospel, does preserve the best of that theology–its sense of mutuality and the moral imperative of positive social action.

Reading the 1913 Congregationalist Statement of Faith is something of a wistful experience for me, for the document is like an item from a recovered time capsule.  Yes, La Belle Époque was not nearly as belle as many people remembered it after the fact.  Social injustices were rife, abuses of imperialism were rampant, and small wars paved the way for World War I.  But it was more orderly than what replaced it.    And the optimism of La Belle Époque does have some appeal to me despite the fact that I know it to have been excessive.

Nevertheless, much in the 1913 Statement of Faith remains laudable.  The document challenges us to believe that we are responsible to and for each other and that we can make a positive difference.  The message that the world can transform into the kingdom of God affirms the potential of that world, which we ought to regard not as the enemy camp but instead as our neighborhood, for which we are responsible.  And the affirmation of human brotherhood as a goal is timeless.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 11, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF OCTAVIUS HADFIELD, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WELLINGTON

3 responses to “Statement of Faith (National Council of Congregational Churches of the United States, 1913)

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  1. Pingback: The Little Gate to God | BLOGA THEOLOGICA

  2. Pingback: Guide to Posts About the National Council of Congregational Churches of the United States | BLOGA THEOLOGICA

  3. Pingback: Guide to Posts About the United Church of Christ | BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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