Who Are We As a Community of Faith?
Often we Disciples tend to describe ourselves in the negative, by what we are not: we’re not hierarchical, we don’t baptize infants, we don’t require acceptance of any formal creed for membership in the church and so on. The following material is an effort, in positive statements, to focus on who we are and on ways to convey that to those inside and outside our church.
Our Identity Statement
We are Disciples of Christ,
a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.
As part of the one body of Christ we welcome all to the Lord’s Table
as God has welcomed us.
Principles of Identity
prepared by the 21st century Vision Team to accompany the Disciples “Statement of Identity,” 2009
- We confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and proclaim him Lord and Savior of the world, requiring nothing more – and nothing less – as a basis of our life together.
- We hold the centrality of scripture, recognizing that each person has the freedom – and the responsibility – to study God’s Word within the community of the church.
- We practice the baptism of believers, which emphasizes that God’s grace demands a response of faith and discipleship, while also recognizing the baptism performed in other churches.
- We gather for the Lord’s Supper, as often as possible, experiencing at this table the gracious, forgiving presence of Jesus Christ.
- We structure our community around the biblical idea of covenant, emphasizing not obedience to human authority but accountability to one another because of our shared obedience to Christ.
- We participate in God’s mission for the world, working with partners to heal the brokenness of creation and bring justice and peace to the whole human family.
- We hear a special calling to make visible the unity of all Christians, proclaiming that in our diversity we belong to one another because we commonly belong to Christ.
- We witness to the Gospel of God’s saving love for the world in Jesus Christ, while continuing to struggle with how God’s love may be known to others in different ways.
- We affirm the priesthood of all believers, rejoicing in the gifts of the Holy Spirit – which include the gift of leadership – that God has given for the common good.
- We celebrate the diversity of our common life, affirming our different histories, styles of worship, and forms of service.
- We give thanks that each congregation, where Christ is present through faith, is truly the church, affirming as well that God’s church and God’s mission stretch from our doorsteps to the ends of the earth.
- We anticipate God’s coming reign, seeking to serve the God – Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer – whose loving dominion has no end.
What Does That Mean?
- We practice unity and inclusion at the Lord’s Table for the sake of mission and for the sake of the world as the one family of God. Most congregations do this by celebrating communion every Sunday. That’s why we use a chalice as our logo.
- We practice believer baptism – that a person makes the choice to follow God’s call rather than the choice being made for them as an infant. Baptism is the basis of membership in the Church and also a mark that every person is called to serve God – the idea of the “priesthood of all believers.”
- We honor our heritage as a movement for Christian unity by cooperating and partnering with other faith communities to work for bringing about wholeness – healing and justice – in the world. This is what it means to be “ecumenical.” One example is our cooperative work with the United Church of Christ in Global Ministries for the past 25 years and our newer effort to share staff in the area of family ministries.
- We are called to study and read scripture for ourselves. Rather than having tests of faith and creedal statements, we critically and thoughtfully study scripture, taking into account the history and background – the context – in which it was written.
- We also honor the heritage of Christian unity by staying together in covenant as a witness to the world that even when we disagree we can still make room, welcoming all to the table as Christ has welcomed us. Our spiritual ancestors were fond of saying, “unity, not uniformity.”
- We move to answer God’s call for justice particularly in the areas of care for the earth, the challenges for women and children, poverty and hunger and immigration. We seek to do this work in cooperation with other people of faith. Some say we “get dirty for Jesus” as a way of conveying the hands-on mission orientation of many of our faith communities.
These traits were summed up by former General Minister and President Dick Hamm when he identified the marks of a faithful church as true community, deep Christian spirituality and a passion for justice.