This year I am going to Synod as one of the Ministerial Delegates. As I'm going through the agenda I'm noticing that there are at least a few things besides the Doctrine of Christian Discovery Task Force Report (DOCD) and the Pastoral Advice Regarding Same-Sex Marriage Reports (PARSM) that are worth paying attention to—at least in my opinion. One of these reports is from the Liturgical Forms Committee (Appendix H of the Board of Trustees Report, including the subsection "Introduction to the Public Profession of Faith of Baptized Youth." In it the Liturgical Forms Committee folks (who seem to me to have done a great job to me, btw) quote quite reasonably the apostle Paul in Romans 10:9-10:
“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved”
This is true. However, I can't help but recognize that Paul does NOT (nor does the Bible indicate in any other place either that I am aware of) say that publicly professing your faith in Jesus equals saying that you believe in Jesus in a formalized, ceremonial manner in a church facility.
Don't get me wrong: I love the Public Profession of Faith ceremony that we celebrate, as the committee says, as a "[mark of] passage into mature and fully participating membership."
However there are at least 3 ways in which public profession of faith are being viewed implicitly and sometimes explicitly within our denomination, and, I believe that 1 of them does not necessarily logically fit with what Jesus taught or how he behaved. We tend to view "Public Profession of Faith" as a:
- Ceremony that marks a "right of passage"
- "Qualification" for service and "rights, privileges and responsibilities"
- Mark of "belonging"
To me it makes absolute sense that the "Public Profession of Faith" ceremony would be a celebratory way-point on the journey of a believer within the body of Christ. During the ceremony we get to celebrate the particular believer's willing and publicly expressed desire to go deeper in relationship with Jesus and with the body of believers. Jesus, in effect, celebrated similar "rights of passage" when he invited disciples to go preaching the gospel without him in groups of two, when he invited three of his followers up on to the "mountain of transfiguration" and when he celebrated the Last Supper with them.
It also makes sense that public profession of faith would at least be part of the "qualifications" for participating and/or leading certain aspects of church life. Our society is structured in such a way as to make that a necessity in corporate/institutional church. Not only that, but Jesus too seemed to acknowledge that, as (and insofar as) his disciples chose to walk in deeper relationship with him, they were given more responsibilities and privileges. It was not everyone who traveled with Jesus everywhere he went during his earthly ministry. Nor was it everyone who was permitted to come up the mountain with him, nor did everyone get sent out with the 72, nor did everyone go with him into the Garden of Gethsemane
However, as far as I can tell, Jesus did not ever endorse the idea that believing or behaving in certain ways would be the key to "belonging" to/with him. I believe that Jesus treated everyone as if they belonged to him and he belonged to them insofar as they would allow themselves to belong with/to him. Assuredly, he sometimes spoke quite strongly to various people, but we shouldn't mistake disagreement with not belonging. Even those with whom he disagreed most (the pharisees and saducees), he chastised them as a family member might chastise their brother or sister.
I've attached below a slideshow I've made where I talk about this whole concept of belonging and membership, and my question is this:
If what I am thinking and saying here is true, how might our churches and our denomination move towards "belonging" for all people (in the sense that Jesus expressed) while still maintaining the importance of Public Profession of Faith?