One of the most innovative and potentially helpful paradigms developed by the Charis International Steering Committee centers around the concept of ‘truth expressed in relationship on mission.’ While truth is frequently employed to build walls and emphasize differences, truth can also be employed to extend bridges and celebrate what we share in common. The Identity Initiative is creating a path forward where our doctrinal convictions will be expressed in ways that demonstrate unity within the context of a fractured and broken world.
Let’s begin on the broadest possible level, asking the most significant question of all time: What will you do with Jesus Christ? We believe the answer to that question will divide humanity for all of eternity. In the increasingly hostile environment in which many Christ-followers live, this is the defining question, and our answer is what distinguishes us from the Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Secular and Animist worlds.
In the globalized context of the Grace Brethren movement today, we propose that the most important affirmation we must make is a statement about our loyalty and submission to the Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible. And our answer to this question serves as a constant reminder that Christ already established bridges between us and anyone else who calls Him Lord and Savior.
The goal of the first Truth Cluster is to affirm to all persons everywhere our loyalty and submission to Jesus Christ.
On another level, we face a second set of significant questions. Where do we place ourselves with respect to historic orthodoxy and the global evangelical movement? Certainly no one among us believes that God’s plan for this age began in 1708, when our forefather Alexander Mack and seven others committed to start a church that would be faithful to the New Testament. And we accept the fact that most of the theology our spiritual ancestors taught was a theology they received. For the previous 17 centuries, many godly men and women had developed, tested, and propagated the basic tenets of our common faith. These include doctrines like the Trinity, the Virgin Birth of Christ, Substitutionary Atonement, the authority of Scripture, and many more.
Today we believe that the best of orthodox Christianity can be found within the global evangelical movement. This is not to say that other branches of Christianity are void of truth. And it is not to say that we are comfortable with everything we see in global evangelicalism. Instead, it is an affirmation that, out of multiple streams that trace their source back to the New Testament, we identify most with those who share the label of Evangelical Christian.
The goal of the Second Truth Cluster, the Evangelical Core, is to demonstrate to ourselves and others that we trace our roots back to the New Testament through the stream of historic Christian orthodoxy, and we share many of our most important convictions with the global evangelical movement.
On another level, we belong to a global spiritual tribe that traces its spiritual heritage back more than 300 years to a place in time. From those humble beginnings, and through moments of exciting growth and painful separations, we emerged as a fraternity of churches that share a common commitment to Biblical truth, Biblical relationships, and Biblical mission. We are not the only tribe in God’s great family. We certainly don’t claim to be the biggest, the wisest, or the best resourced. But we share common roots, we actually like each other (most days!) and we are proving that together we can accomplish far more that anyone could dream of doing on his or her own.
Think for a moment about your own family. Much of your DNA is the same as everyone else on planet earth. Yet there are strands of your DNA that make it clear you belong to one of the broad racial divisions that inhabit our world today: Hispanic, Caucasian, Asia, Native American, etc. And yet there are a few strands that would lead any researcher directly back to your immediate and extended family.
While the First Truth Cluster recognizes that Christ placed us in his global Body, and the Second Truth Cluster reminds us that we are a product of historic orthodox Christianity and member of the global evangelical movement, the Third Truth Cluster is far more personal. The goal of the Charis Core is to identify those characteristics that unite us as the global Grace Brethren movement. It seeks to answer the question, “What are those unique commitments to truth, relationship and mission that we consider the distinguishing marks of our family?”
Beginning in 2015, we will encourage the development of Fourth Truth Clusters, where each regional fraternity of Grace Brethren Churches will be encouraged to work out expressions of biblical truth in relationship to their surrounding culture. Examples might include truth statements about initiation rights in Africa, ancestor veneration in Asia, the role of the church as an advocate for the poor in Latin America, or a biblical position on immigration in North America.
These Fourth Truth Clusters recognize that our churches in different regions face different issues in their quest to speak God’s truth into the burning social issues of the day. In this model, space is created for churches from one global region to respect the right of churches in other regions by not requiring agreement on these matters.
Through the paradigm of Truth Clusters, the Charis International Steering Committee is providing tracks for us to develop fresh expressions of our core identity and doctrines. But before clicking here to to see their proposals, why not attempt the following exercise?
Take a blank sheet of paper, and write the following:
- What does our movement most need to say that would demonstrate to the world that we are loyal followers of Jesus Christ?
- What core doctrines does our movement hold in common with historic orthodoxy and the global evangelical movement?
- What are those family characteristics in the areas of truth, relationship and mission that mark us a part of the Grace Brethren movement?
- What are some of the burning social issues we face in our part of the world into which we need to speak God’s truth?
- The Message of the Brethren Ministry
- The Statement of Faith
- Charis Commitment to Common Mission
- Charis Declaration of Common Identity