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The Faith of the Church and our commitment as the Uniting Church.
Rev. Dr. Davis McCaughey, first President of the Assembly of the UCA (1978) points out that our commitment in the Uniting Church is sevenfold: and each depends upon us learning the Christian language and increasing our awareness of it, if our faith is to be deepened.
1. WE HAVE A COMMITMENT TO PREACH
The Christian church was brought into being, and is sustained in being by the preached message. The conviction which underlies this is that what God had said and done among his people, in Israel and in Jesus Christ, has import for every person, and is to be proclaimed to every person.
When we ask, ‘What is the authority for such a message?’ the answer must be the holy Scriptures of the Old Testament and New Testament. That is where it is to be found, and the centre of our message is Jesus Christ. The rediscovery of the language of preaching depends upon a continuing reading, understanding and interpretation of the Bible – wherein is to be found God’s Word, that is Jesus Christ.
2. WE HAVE A COMMITMENT TO THE SACRAMENTS OF BAPTISM AND THE LORD’S SUPPER
These, with the preaching are the means whereby God in Christ draws and binds all people to himself. This commitment involves us in a rediscovery of the language of worship. Again and again we have to discover not only how to speak to one another (say, in preaching), but also how we should speak to God. Without that speech we cease to be Christians.
3. WE HAVE A COMMITMENT TO THE CREEDS OF THE ANCIENT CHURCH
The Apostles and Nicene creeds are given to us so that we may rediscover the language of allegiance. Through their use we express that we belong with the Church throughout the ages, because we belong to God the holy Trinity. The creeds tell us with whom and to whom we belong.
4. WE HAVE A COMMITMENT TO THE REFORMATION CONFESSION AND EVANGELICAL WITNESS
The confessions of the Reformation call us to rediscover the language of systematic thought, of doctrine. There is ‘a scheme of salvation’. The faith holds together. It can be explained, the parts in relation to the whole, the whole understood in the light of its parts. In a day when irrationalism is taken as a mark of religious fervour we stand for a considered and reasoned understanding of the faith.
It should be said at this stage that the Basis of Union commits us (para. 11) to find fresh words and deeds in which to set forth the faith once delivered to the saints. This is not something different from what we have been talking about. This is simply to say how the great tradition of scriptural witness, sacramental worship, creedal affirmation, confessional understanding, evangelical preaching, is to be received. It has to be received by men and women in their own day and place; but what we say is not an invention, it is a tradition received which enables us to affirm our faith with confidence and look into the future with hope.
5. WE HAVE A MINISTERIAL COMMITMENT
We acknowledge that there is no man or woman in the church who does not have his or her distinctive service to perform; and that it is part of the function of the church to perceive the gifts in her members which lead to the performance of those services. The Uniting Church gladly acknowledges that God has never failed to raise up among his people some to whom is committed the ministry of Word and Sacrament: to them is given the task of preserving that Church’s verbal tradition in a state of fluidity, so that it may be understood and received by believing men and women. They are constantly to remind us of Christ, and of his pastoral concern. Here we seek nothing less than a rediscovery of the language of obedience: each man or woman in the church living in obedience to the call of God as he or she has received it.
6. WE HAVE A COMMITMENT TO THE LIFE OF THE CONGREGATION
Here is the place where men and women hear God’s Word, receive Christ in the sacraments and are bound together in a fellowship of love by the Holy Spirit. The catholic church is present in its fullness when the local congregation meets for sacramental worship. How we speak to one another, how we live and worship together, how we serve the world; these are the great questions which should be the permanent elements of the agenda of the congregation.
7. WE HAVE A COMMITMENT TO TAKE COUNSEL
We have a commitment to take counsel together for the well-being of the church and for her mission in the world. This is given expression in part through our council of elders, presbyteries, synods, assembly. Each of these has its own task to perform, to set Christians free to serve God in the world. The Uniting Church should always be unhappy if she thinks of her councils as expressing the full life of the church. That is already expressed in the life of the congregation, gathered around the Word, in the sacraments and in the fellowship; but that fellowship does not see as its boundary the membership of the local church, or of the Uniting Church. That fellowship is one of God’s people everywhere. We belong with the ‘ecumene’, the world wide fellowship of Christians, who in many languages worship the one God in Jesus Christ through the power of the Spirit. What they have to say is of moment to us. We dare not say of another Christian: “I have no need of you”.
In all these ways we have to rediscover our Christian language.
The first report of the Joint Commission on Church Union (1959) Introduction by J. D. McCaughey (1978) President of the Assembly of the UCA.