Belhar a way to be inclusive without limiting our God

The Belhar confession is a beautiful document. It brilliantly states the obligation that we each have in Christ to love our neighbor not as somebody different from us but as our self. We are called to treat others with respect due to each and every human being. It pleas with us to practice and pursue community. It says that we need diversity in order to do the work of God in this world. It further states that unity can only be established in freedom and not under constraint; that we are to reject any doctrine that weakens the ministry and experience of reconciliation in Christ.
It is these final two statements that force me to stop and ask the question: how do we reconcile to another in freedom if we make stipulations on who can be included in the reconciliation? Too often our concern becomes orthodoxy and ignores the faith of the other. As we argue over what true Presbyterians believe we fail to consider orthopraxy is more concerned with faith that with right belief. It is a faith in a transcendent God that defies definition that Christ desires for us. It is a faith larger than our own understanding. Christ was not a savior of exclusion, rejection, elitism or condemnation. Christ was a savior of acceptance, of inclusion, of compassion, of love for all others.
When in our human understanding we begin to draw lines in the sand and require people to choose which side they are on we are limiting our ability to trust in an others’ faith. We inadvertently interpret God’s message into one of elitism and exclusivity into a religion that controls instead of a faith that frees. By adding yet another document to an already well defined box we again make a statement that is not ours to make. It puts the “burden” as Tillich calls it on religion and its perpetual temptation to imagine itself above mere creature hood and award itself the place of finality deciding once and for all who is saved and who is doomed.
I for one will strive to live up to the lofty goals set in the Confession of Belhar, to allow it to mold my life into one of inclusion, compassion, acceptance and above all of forgiveness for all my brothers and sister in humanity, but I cannot under good conscience vote to allow it to put constraints upon another in an attempt to establish freedom and unity through it.


2 thoughts on “Belhar a way to be inclusive without limiting our God”

  1. I think you make a valid point Chris, but I wanted to comment anyway.

    In the Book of Order we are told that “God alone is lord of our conscience” within the bounds of the Scriptures and the Confessions.

    I hear the Belhar as refuting the idea of “I’m ok, you’re ok”. I think we at times are too willing to let anything go and not stand firm. There are certainly things that, Christians I know, do that I believe fall far outside the tradition, theology and call of Jesus, some of those things I do believe “weaken the ministry and experience of reconciliation in Christ.”

    For me, I hear the Belhar standing against the idea that our goal in life is to be happy. In order to feel and live into the reconciliation of Christ I do believe that orthopraxy is probably more important that orthodoxy but at the same time just because it makes you feel good or because you like it doesn’t mean it strengthens the Body of Christ.

    For me, boundaries are important, especially the wide boundaries of the Presbyterian Church Constitution. It is also important for me to be able to move freely within those boundaries. I have learned more and more when I have found myself outside those boundaries and been called to return to the fold. My story of reconciliation began with a willingness to accept that there were boundaries, at least for me.

    I also recognize and celebrate that my boundaries aren’t your boundaries and as individuals it is up to us to find them but as the Body of Christ we are called to encourage, instruct and guide people through the murky waters of faith to lead them to find their boundaries.

    I will be voting Yes for the Belhar, and I love that you and I both have a voice.


    1. I really struggled to come to this decision and was VERY much in favor of it because we need to broaden our understanding of acceptance in the face of diversity. This is also why I ultimately decided to vote against it not so much because I don’t agree with it but because I hope to open a broader conversation about how we show acceptance and what our understanding of openness is.
      I am voting for the nFOG for the very same reason I think it makes us rely more on trusting each others faith than questioning each others beliefs.
      Thanks for the comment Greg! I sure wish we could have hung out more while I was in Cascades Presbytery.

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