God is renewing his church, calling it back to himself, emphasizing those characteristics he always intended for his people. The Alliance for Renewal Churches is part of that renewal movement and identifies the following distinctives as those to which its church bodies are committed.
Preface: Orthodox Christianity
We are part of the church catholic, and we stand with, not apart from, this church universal which today and throughout the ages is that body of believers founded upon Jesus Christ and his atonement for our sins. Because the church is his creation, its history reveals a common doctrine of orthodox faith and practice. This orthodoxy is reflected in the sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist, and in the church’s common credal confessions, which we also embrace, i.e., the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Chalcedonian Creed. Because these creeds reflect the clear teaching of Scripture, which is God’s only written revelation, they provide the clear benchmark for orthodoxy today.
As part of the church catholic, we remain open and cordial toward all who name the name of Christ and share with us this content as the basis for the Christian faith, whether or not we hold in common with them other concerns for the church in our age.
Our Common Concerns
The creeds are the foundation of our common agreement. But God has called us together as churches because we also share certain additional values and hopes in common. We do not wish to further the splintering of the church, which characterizes our age, but there are certain concerns which we deem important to the life and health of our churches that we have not always heard clearly voiced by other expressions of Christ’s body in our day. We believe that God has placed us together providentially at least in part in order that these concerns might be expressed.
We do not hold these concerns in such as way that by them we deliberately set ourselves above or apart from the rest of the church. We embrace them as parts of the true gospel of Jesus Christ which are often muted in our day and which need to be expressed anew.
As such, these common concerns are to a certain extent the basis of our relationships together as churches. These concerns provide an objective ground on which we stand together, and they provide practical direction for our relationships. These are the things to which be believe God has called us. These concerns form our lives together in a concrete and tangible way.
Our common concerns however, are not exclusionary and legal weapons in our hands. Thus, we emphasize their importance to our relationships as churches but we by no means view them as the sole determinant of those relationships. Our more basic commitment is to love each other as churches and persons in the name of Jesus Christ. We have done so in the past and we intend to continue to do so in the future. These concerns are the occasion of our coming together; they remain the visible sign of our commitment in love. As such we embrace them together with joy.
Central to the Christian life is the grace of God. God has shown his love for us in Christ, giving himself to us, forgiving our sins, and creating new life in us through Jesus Christ without regard for our works, whether good or evil. This means that grace and grace alone is the basis of our complete objective righteousness before God. It also means that this grace, which is experienced by faith and which produces good works forms the foundation for all our relationships as Christian people.
B. The Authority of Scripture
The Scriptures are our touchstone for truth in all matters regarding the Christian life. We whole-heartedly affirm the words of the Lausanne Covenant of 1974 in speaking of the place of Scripture in the Christian life, as it says:
We affirm the divine inspiration, truthfulness and authority of both Old and New Testament Scriptures in their entirety as the only written word of God, without error in all that it affirms, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice. We also affirm the power of God’s word to accomplish his purpose of salvation. The message of the Bible is addressed to all men and women. For God’s revelation in Christ and in Scripture is unchangeable. Through it the Holy Spirit still speaks today. He illumines the minds of God’s people in every culture to perceive its truth freshly through their own eyes and thus discloses to the whole Church ever more of the many-colored wisdom of God. (II Tim. 3:16; II Pet. 1:21; John 10:35; Isa. 55:11; 1 Cor. 1:21; Rom. 1:16, Matt. 5:17,18; Jude 3; Eph. 1:17,18; 3:10, 18)
This means that we place ourselves under the authority of the Scriptures and submit to that authority in exegesis, theology, and preaching, as well as in the living of our lives both individually and corporately
C. The Empowering of the Holy Spirit
God has given of himself to the church in the person of the Holy Spirit, and by the Spirit God himself indwells every believer. The Spirit applies God’s word to our hearts in power, produces in us new life and victory over sin, and gives gifts to God’s people both natural and supernatural for the up-building of the church.
This means that we must rely on the Holy Spirit in every aspect of our lives: in ministry, in struggle with sin, and in each area of responsibility to which we are called. We trust the Holy Spirit to lead us into truth, to apply that truth to our lives, and to gift us charismatically in many and varied ways for God’s service.
Acts 1:8; John 16:5-7?; Ephesians 1:17
D. Human Identity
Men and women are made in the image of God; therefore each human being is special and important, with individual integrity that must be respected. Each of us was created to find the fullness of our identity in personal fellowship with God, for whom we are made. The present human condition is fallen and abnormal, with the corruption of sin having affected all human activities. Nevertheless, substantial healing from this corruption comes through regeneration in Jesus Christ and obedience to him. Complete healing and full restoration will come to those who belong to Christ at the resurrection of the dead.
This means that we show honor and respect all men and women, young and old, whole and infirm, born and unborn. We honor and respect the dignity of human life from conception; we deplore abortion and euthanasia as common practiced and approved in our society today, just as we deplore repressive and abuse treatment of men and women in any sphere of human activity.
The oneness of the church is rooted in the fact that we share the same Spirit who has made us one body in Christ. This unity is created by God, apprehended by faith, and practiced in hope of its more complete realization in this age and the age to come.
This means that we place a preeminent value on unity, seeking to rise above sectarianism for the sake of our brotherhood. We affirm both the unity and diversity of the church, respecting diversity while working toward unity in love and service.
The chief end of men and women is communion with God, and the chief expression of that communion is worship. As a people and as individuals Christians are to live with the praises of God on their lips, whether in prosperity or in adversity.
This means that worship is preeminent in our lives before God as individuals and as churches. As the people of God we regularly gather to sing God’s praises and to recount to one another his glorious deeds. Because all believers are priests before God, active participation in worship is essential to the Christian life we share in common.
Community is inherent in the nature of the one God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is also the matrix and vital core of human life. Nowhere more than in the church are we called to live a life in community because we are members one of another having been given gifts with the express purpose of building one another up in Christ.
This means that we reject the practices of our individualistic culture which breed isolation and alienation. We seek to live in community and with one another in our churches in as many practical ways as possible, living with and near each other, and sharing both the joys and hardships that life brings to us.
The essence of our relationship with God and our relationships with one another is expressed in covenant. God has established a new covenant with us in Christ, and we enter into this covenant of faith through the work of the Holy Spirit. In a similar way, we express the commitment of our lives to one another by establishing covenants.
This means that just as God has promised our redemption in the form of a covenant, so we too externalize our life together in the form of covenant. In marriage and in the church we commit ourselves in covenants. We look to the Holy Spirit to empower and lead us that our covenants might increasingly reflect the faithfulness of our God who keeps covenant with us.
I. Authority and Order Under God
God has seen fit to delegate to certain human authorities a portion of the authority which belongs to him alone. God requires us to submit ourselves to human governments in the world, in the church and in the home. God holds those in authority accountable not to contradict by their actions the divine source and ground of their authority.
This means that we seek to be submissive rather than self-assertive people, living peaceably with one another in the spheres of human authority where God has placed us. It means that we honor and respect those who serve and lead us in our homes, our churches and in other human institutions. It also means that when we exercise authority we do so in a spirit of humility and service, being mindful of him who is head over all.
The gospel charges us to make disciples of all people, those who follow Jesus Christ in both thought and practice. Discipleship includes a growing, personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ; welcoming Christ’s lordship over our lives and our possessions; submitting to the doctrinal and ethical demands of his teaching in the Scripture; maturing in Christ character and godly disciplines; membering oneself in a local church body; and serving the Lord wholeheartedly in all that we do. The church is the primary vehicle which God has ordained for stimulating and forming discipleship.
This means that we can never be satisfied with a gospel that does not call and establish a life of obedience to God through Jesus Christ in all areas of life, whether personal, social or economic. It also means that discipleship flows from a heart warm toward God, so that obedience is not burdensome but is based on our response to the love of God in Jesus Christ.
The earth is the Lord’s as are all of its fruits. Men and women were created to rule the world under God, but sin has corrupted that rule, which has become a selfish acquisitiveness for wealth and an arrogant abuse of the goods of the creation. Our redemption carries with it a call for an attitude of stewardship toward our material possessions, and for a conscientious use of the resources of the earth.
This means that we hold our material possessions as stewards only, not as owners. We reject the materialism of our age which amounts to idolatry, and we seek instead to live simply and openly, sharing our possessions as need arises. We also reject the ungodly exploitation of the earth so prevalent in our day, and we seek instead to work toward a use of the earth’s goods which treats the good of the earth itself as a value.
God has given the church the message of reconciliation in Christ, and has committed to us the proclamation of the message to the whole world. The word of the gospel is good news, an announcement of God’s self-sacrificial redeeming love made visible in Christ, given for the forgiveness of our sins, and calling us to a redeemed life as God’s people.
This means that we embrace our responsibility to carry the good news to all men and women, seasoning all our words with grace, speaking clearly of our need for new life in Christ, and giving an account of our faith when necessary. Because we are but sojourners in this world, however, we refuse to bind the message of gospel to peculiar political, economic and cultural forms which will not endure.
M. Social Responsibility
Faith without works is dead, and among the works which God considers to be indicative of true faith are helping those in distress, feeding those who are hungry, and ministering to all those who are captives. God is the creator of all, and in the gospel he has declared his will to be the redemption of men and women from every kind of oppression, whether spiritual, social, economic, or political.
This means that we embrace our responsibility to embody God’s concern for justice in human society. We recognize that this involvement may take different forms, so we refuse to bind our concern to any one political, economic or social ideology. But we also refuse to excuse sloth or unwillingness to risk our own security on behalf of God’s justice.
Our Lord Jesus will return to bring the fullness of his kingdom. His kingdom is present now in foretaste, but only in foretaste, and though we see and work toward its advance in this present age, he alone will establish it fully at his coming.
This means that all our thought and practice are conditioned by patient expectation of the return of Christ. We reject the highly specific affirmations of things which the Father alone knows, but we seek to discern the signs of the times. We reject the identification of the kingdom with any human achievement or organization, but we believe in and work for its embodiment in the church and other human relationships under Christ. We reject any under-estimation of human sinfulness, but we nonetheless appropriate God’s reign and its increase personally, politically and socially.