On Doctrinal Statements…
As I’ve been struggling with the idea and manifestations of church in our world, or at least in my context, I’ve done a ton of reading, listening, questioning and processing. This isn’t to suggest by any means that I’m claiming any sort of expertise on the church. This is just part of my process of being honest with where I’m at.
One criticism that I receive, as do many within Christianity or faith communities that may be done with church but still holding on to the faith part of things, is that we just are critical and don’t offer solutions on how to fix things. This blog, as well as the others I hope will follow, aren’t concrete, nor even always doable solutions, but rather me trying to have conversations where perhaps we can all work together to find better ways to do and be church. I no longer accept the answer “because it’s how we’ve always done things” or “change is slow”.
I also agree, and feel it deeply in my sometimes cynical soul that deconstruction can’t be a full time, life long journey without some form of construction or reconstruction. That looks very different for many people, and so my words are more dreams and ideas than what I think is for everyone.
The piece of church that I struggle with deeply and feel is often more harmful and divisive than good is Doctrinal statements.
I get that many see them as unifying and making sure people have the same general values and beliefs, but in my experience, that’s rarely the outcome. I want to share openly how I’ve run into doctrinal statements that have helped push me away from church.
One of the more recent churches I was part of had their list of (10?) doctrinal statements. The one that most bothered me was along these lines:
-We at ______ church believe in God’s creation of two genders and God’s blessing of the sacred marriage covenant between one man and one woman.
If this was about being loyal or about loving who you are with, cool! Instead it targets and excludes. For one, if someone doesn’t fit the male or female stereotypes, they aren’t welcome.
*by welcome I don’t mean welcome to show up, get hugged and feel free to tithe. By welcome I mean become fully part of the community. Able to teach, preach, serve, lead in any capacity that any cishet individual can. That’s being welcome.
Not only that, as I am a straight man, but for me, I either have to sign this contract to agree that my LGBTQ2S+ friends have something wrong with them, or choose not to sign (which is what I did), meaning I can’t fully participate in the church. This isn’t to conflate the damage done to my LGBTQ2S+ friends with the inconvenience it brings to me.
This is one of the reasons why I refuse to sign doctrinal statements. At the very least, I haven’t seen one worth signing.
The other part of doctrinal statements that I find foolish, is that it suggests that once you are “in”, your mind can’t be changed. What if someone is questioning a doctrine? Signing the statement makes it seem like you are agreeing that it is a primary view of one’s faith, and any form of questioning or doubting isn’t allowed, or at the very least isn’t encouraged.
So my solution? Get rid of doctrinal statements.
Another possible solution?
Have doctrinal statements like this:
-I believe in the inherent goodness in every human. I believe that each and every person is made in the Image of God.
-All are welcome… welcome to come, be, doubt, struggle, doubt, and seek healing.
-The Table is open. It isn’t our table, but it belongs to Jesus and Jesus emphatically invites all to humbly receive.
I suppose it’s the same general issue with the “Sinner’s prayer”. Once you say the magical phrase, you are in? Then what? What if we are all in, and then are free to question, doubt, adapt, grow and change?
I found this especially relevant when listening to our new friend Mitchell Anderson talk about some of the key beliefs within the United Church. It’s assumed and acknowledged that mistakes have happened and will happen, and that we must be all open to change personally, and as a church. Here is a link to the conversation: https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/shipwreck-over-safety/id1440693402?i=1000492345219
As per usual, this isn’t a doctrinal statement itself, but rather an attempt at opening conversation. I’ve shared my opinion, and now I’d love to hear your thoughts!