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Confessing Christ

This is a menu of the topics on this page (click on any): The Confessing Church in History    This Present Age    Which Jesus Do We Confess?    A Local Branch of the Confessing Church   .

August 12, 2008, The Church of the Saviour, Confessing Christ, by Gordon Cosby and Kayla McClurg.

(Preliminary Draft)

Increasingly convicted by the cries of our global family and the tendency toward silence within the Church, some of us are longing anew for the light of Christ's reconciliation to break through this current darkness. We can no longer evade the hunger growing within us and the awareness that we ourselves must become more fully who we are created to be — God's radical expressions of Love.

We come from various life paths and belong to various churches and communities, but we share a common desire to give ourselves more boldly and transparently to the needs of our time. We want to explore more courageously how to lay down our nets and follow Jesus of Nazareth into the pain of the world. We want to discover — in our lives, in our time — what it means to confess Christ.

The Confessing Church in History

We are inspired by the movement in Germany called the Confessing Church. In 1934, amidst increasing nationalism in the German church, Karl Barth and others wrote a declaration of faith, arguing that the Church's allegiance to the God of Jesus Christ should give it the impetus and the resources to resist the influence of other "lords." Called the Theological Declaration of Barmen (http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/barmen.htm), it inspired a mighty remnant of Christians to take seriously their baptismal confession that "Jesus Christ is Lord." This declaration helped to unify a Christian resistance against Hitler's Third Reich, a resistance which included such disciples as Fr. Alfred Delp, Franz Jägerstätter, Martin Niemöller and Dietrich Bonhoeffer . Each uniquely responded to the urgencies of their time, and through them the Confessing Church of Jesus Christ found expression.

This Present Age

Are not the urgencies of our present time equally compelling? Our nation's rush into unnecessary war and the reckless use of other violent measures, an escalating prison population, the poverty and isolation of the poorest among us, the tenuous well-being of the earth itself — all cry out for response.

In the midst of such complexities, what does it mean to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord?

In and through Jesus, the eternal Word who dwelt among us, full of grace and truth, God initiated a new creation, rooted in love and forgiveness, healing and reconciliation. The light of this life shines in the darkness, "and the darkness can never extinguish it" (John 1:5). If we believe this to be true, then to confess Christ is to reflect the light of Christ onto the darkness of war and poverty and despair. It is to move from timidity to boldness, from passivity to power — the power of God's vulnerable, self-sacrificing love. It is to make hope real.

Which Jesus Do We Confess?

Conflicting ideas abound as to who Jesus Christ was and is, and what it means to confess him as Lord and to be his disciple. Discovering the nature of Jesus is a life-long journey. How is this human-divine nature to be lived among us? We have found helpful the following essay, shared with us by Dr. George Hunsinger, Professor of Systematic Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, a Karl Barth scholar, and founder of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture:

Confessing Christ in a World of Violence
By George Hunsinger, Jim Wallis, Glen Stassen, Paul Borgman

Our world is wracked with violence and war. But Jesus said: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God" (Matt. 5:9). Innocent people, at home and abroad, are increasingly threatened by terrorist attacks. But Jesus said: "Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you" (Matt. 5:44). These words, which have never been easy, seem all the more difficult today.

Nevertheless, a time comes when silence is betrayal. Where is the serious debate about what it means to confess Christ in a world of violence? Does Christian "realism" mean resigning ourselves to an endless future of "pre-emptive wars"? Does it mean turning a blind eye to torture and massive civilian casualties? Does it mean acting out of fear and resentment rather than intelligence and restraint?

Faithfully confessing Christ is the church's task, and never more so than when its confession is co-opted by militarism and nationalism. A "theology of war," emanating from the highest circles of American government, is seeping into our churches as well. The language of "righteous empire" is employed with growing frequency. The roles of God, church, and nation are confused by talk of an American "mission" and "divine appointment" to "rid the world of evil."

The security issues before our nation allow no easy solutions. No one has a monopoly on the truth. But a policy that rejects the wisdom of international consultation should not be baptized by religiosity. The danger today is political idolatry exacerbated by the politics of fear.

In this time of crisis, we need a new confession of Christ.
  1. Jesus Christ, as attested in Holy Scripture, knows no national boundaries. Those who confess his name are found throughout the earth. Our allegiance to Christ takes priority over national identity. Whenever Christianity compromises with empire, the gospel of Christ is discredited. We reject the false teaching that any nation-state can ever be described with the words, "the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it." These words, used in scripture, apply only to Christ. No political or religious leader has the right to twist them in the service of war. [Ed. Note — In a speech on September 11, 2002, President Bush said: "Be confident. Our country is strong. And our cause is even larger than our country. Ours is the cause of human dignity; freedom guided by conscience and guarded by peace. This ideal of America is the hope of all mankind. That hope drew millions to this harbor. That hope still lights our way. And the light shines in the darkness. And the darkness will not overcome it."
  2. Christ commits Christians to a strong presumption against war. The wanton destructiveness of modern warfare strengthens this obligation. Standing in the shadow of the Cross, Christians have a responsibility to count the cost, speak out for the victims, and explore every alternative before a nation goes to war. We are committed to international cooperation rather than unilateral policies. We reject the false teaching that a war on terrorism takes precedence over ethical and legal norms. Some things ought never be done — torture, the deliberate bombing of civilians, the use of indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction — regardless of the consequences.
  3. Christ commands us to see not only the splinter in our adversary's eye, but also the beam in our own. The distinction between good and evil does not run between one nation and another, or one group and another. It runs straight through every human heart. We reject the false teaching that America is a "Christian nation," representing only virtue, while its adversaries are nothing but vicious. We reject the belief that America has nothing to repent of, even as we reject that it represents most of the world's evil. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).
  4. Christ shows us that enemy-love is the heart of the gospel. While we were yet enemies, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8, 10). We are to show love to our enemies even as we believe God in Christ has shown love to us and the whole world. Enemy-love does not mean capitulating to hostile agendas or domination. It does mean refusing to demonize any human being created in God's image. We reject the false teaching that any human being can be defined as outside the law's protection. We reject the demonization of perceived enemies, which only paves the way to abuse; and we reject the mistreatment of prisoners, regardless of supposed benefits to their captors.
  5. Christ teaches us that humility is the virtue befitting forgiven sinners. It tempers all political disagreements, and it allows that our own political perceptions, in a complex world, may be wrong. We reject the false teaching that those who are not for the U.S. politically are against it or that those who fundamentally question American policies must be with the "evil-doers." Such crude distinctions, especially when used by Christians, are expressions of the Manichaean heresy, in which the world is divided into forces of absolute good and absolute evil.

The Lord Jesus Christ is either authoritative for Christians, or he is not. His Lordship cannot be set aside by any earthly power. His words may not be distorted for propagandistic purposes. No nation-state may usurp the place of God. We believe that acknowledging these truths is indispensable for followers of Christ. We urge them to remember these principles in making their decisions as citizens. Peacemaking is central to our vocation in a troubled world where Christ is Lord. §

A Local Branch of the Confessing Church

Some of us are ready to respond locally out of our belonging to the universal "confessing church" of Jesus Christ. By confessing that Jesus is Lord, and the present culture is not, we want to cooperate in the coming of God's Realm among us. When we pray, "Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven," we want God to show us our small (or large) part to play. We want to imagine what our towns and neighborhoods will look like when the small streams of our lives begin to merge more fully with God's mighty river of justice.

In addition to our commitments to churches and other faith communities, some of us want to go deeper into the mystery and challenge of what it means to be in Christ and not the culture. We want to pray for and encourage each other as we listen for how God's will might be done on earth, today, through us.

This desire leads us, through the initiative and creativity of God's Holy Spirit, to make the following promise:

  1. I will seek daily to embody Jesus Christ, the Word of God, becoming a unique expression of Christ in the world. I will be a channel for releasing into my local neighborhood, town or state the fruit of love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I will listen inwardly to know the particular tasks that I am to do, and together with others I will step out to offer my gifts boldly wherever I am called.
  2. I will move from a core identity of "private individual" to that of sister/brother in a global family. No longer enslaved by selfishness, I am freed to be one with all people regardless of race, ethnicity, politics, religious creed or any other perceived barrier. Seeking the reconciliation of all, I will speak truth to power, publicly exposing unjust policies and structures that divide, while planting seeds of justice and hope. I will endure the consequences of my actions, in a spirit of love.
  3. I will nurture my belonging to the body of Jesus Christ through active participation in a local spiritual community, immersion in Scripture, continual prayer, and regular times of silence and study. I will be transparent about those areas which are obstacles to my fullest becoming, or which substitute for my deepening confession of Jesus Christ as Lord. I will seek freedom from the lure of money, possessions, prestige, busyness, anxiety, discouragement, and previously unrecognized ego needs.
  4. I will live at a healthy pace that supports my unique physical/emotional well-being rather than being driven by the tyranny of the urgent and the trivial. I will cooperate with God's providential care for all creation and seek to live in harmony with nature's rhythms and needs.
  5. I will commit annually to these intentions in the presence of at least one other person.

If you would like to make this commitment with us and interpret for yourself and others what it means to live this confession publicly, be in touch. We are not suggesting that this be an organization or a church but simply a movement of our spirits and God's Spirit. It is a way to identify ourselves as persons wanting God's realm to find fuller expression on earth and, we hope, an opening for new degrees of faithfulness in the Body of Christ. Each of us will be responsible for discovering our unique callings, learning about the applicable issues and sharing with others what it means to confess, here and now, that Jesus is Lord.

If you return to us the following information, we will add you to our list. Feel free to email or copy this leaflet to share with others. (Occasionally we will revise the content.)

In the peace and disturbance of Jesus of Nazareth,
Gordon Cosby, Kayla McClurg, Ray McGovern
for
TELL THE WORD
1640 Columbia Road NW
Washington, DC 20009
202-387-1617
office@surfglobal.net

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