Let me tell you a story. Once, when I was in college, a friend of mine got asked out on a date. Panicked in the moment, she responded, “Well, that’s a thought,” and quickly dismissed herself from the situation. We had a good laugh after the fact but also felt a little bit sorry for this fellow who’d put his heart on the line only to receive this strange, cryptic response. We guessed he left that interaction sorely confused, not sure what had just happened but guessing that it probably wasn’t good.
All of this to wonder, along with the good people of Classis Pacific Northwest, whether we haven’t done something similar by creating a new category for the Belhar Confession. What is an “Ecumenical Faith Declaration”? What does it mean that we have accepted the Belhar Confession in this category? Did we just leave Synod 2012 sorely confused, not sure what just happened but guessing that it probably wasn’t good?
Overture 18 to Synod 2013 gives us a chance to find out exactly what kind of thought we’re meant to have about the Belhar Confession. To what degree is it authoritative to our lives and witness? To what extent does it inform or constrain our consciences? Surely the good work of our brothers and sisters in South Africa deserves more than my friends's blow-off response. “Well, that’s a thought.”
Personally, I believe this overture is a great way for us to keep the offer of relationship with our brothers and sisters on the table. I think it could be a great way, as point three of Pacific Northwest’s overtures states, to continue “ongoing, vital engagement of officebearers” with “current Reformed expressions of the Christian faith that forms and guides us in our present context.”