It’s always a challenge to ‘list’ a set of beliefs. As a church, we are diverse collection of people with a wide range of history and experience. None of us think exactly alike and our personal relationship with God has its own unique shape because of that. Still, there are some fundamental truths that form the basis of our identity and provide the ‘doctrinal glue’ that defines us, and they are outlined below. The list is not exhaustive by any means, and what is written below probably can raise as many questions as it answers…but that is both the beauty and mystery of life lived in relationship with God.
We believe that we are finite created beings living in the spacious confines of a created universe, both of which were brought into being by an infinite, holy, glorious, mysterious, being we call “God” – who, in spite of being so wholly ‘other’ than us, chose to reveal himself in the radical garb of human flesh through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
That’s it in a nutshell, but below tells more of the story.
…All things begin and end with God.
Out of nothing but the essence of God’s own being, God created the universe and everything in it. God has no beginning and no end, eternally existing outside of space and time. All things originate from the power and creativity of God, are sustained by his eternal presence, and point to his unrivaled glory throughout the cosmos.
…God created us in his own image.
God exists in the mystery of being we call the Trinity: one God existing in a relationship of three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Fully satisfied within God's own self, and out of a desire to share his own love affair with himself, God created men and woman to enjoy and take care of his creation, live in loving relationships with God and one another, to the end that all things will reflect the glory of God.
…We chose our image over God’s.
Early on we rejected God’s purpose and authority for human life and live for ourselves. The word for that is ‘sin.’ The consequence of that departure from God’s intended purpose for us is death. Separated from our creator – the source and sustainer of life – we are destined to die, both in body and spirit, and forfeit forever our relationship with God.
…God, in spite of our rejection of him, still chooses us.
God, loving us still, chose a people out of all the peoples to reveal himself (Abraham and his descendants, i.e. Jews) and through whom to reveal himself to all the world. This plan culminated in God coming to us by being born in human flesh through his Son, who was called Jesus.
...Through Jesus Christ, God’s Son, we are reconciled to God.
This “becoming flesh” of the Son of God is a mystery of the co-mingling of a fully human – fully divine person. He lived a sinless human life and offered himself as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of all people by dying on a cross. He arose from the dead after three days to demonstrate his power over sin and death.
Through the acknowledgment of our sin (repentance), trust in the work that Jesus accomplished for us (faith), and choosing to live under his leadership in our lives (commitment) God gives us three gifts: Forgiveness of our sin, a restored relationship with God, and the promise of eternal life. There are several words and phrases that describe this, such as salvation (being "saved"), reconciled to God ("adoption"), and the new birth ("born again").
…Through the Holy Spirit, God lives and works in us.
Becoming a Christian is less an event and more of a process. To ‘become’ a Christian is to spend a lifetime allowing God to restore us – mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, relationally, socially – into the image of God in which we were created. The fancy term for this is “sanctification” and it happens through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit living inside of us: strengthening us to do what is right…allowing us to feel guilt when we do what is wrong, which leads us to repentance…guiding us into the truth God wants us to know…growing in us the character of Jesus…assuring us of God’s presence in all circumstances…producing in us all the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control).
…The Church is the Body of Christ.
The Church, for all its ‘institutional’ trappings, is not an organization; it is an organism. We are the ‘body’ of Christ because we are the flesh and blood continuation of his life and love on earth. As one song put it, "Christ has no body now on earth but yours." We are called to represent the power and presence of God on earth to others in all the ways that Jesus did: loving, serving, sacrificing, healing, teaching, suffering. The Church is called to be a community of people that gives the world a glimpse of how life is supposed to be lived. Since Christians don’t stop being sinners, we do this very imperfectly, to be sure…but we persevere in the effort.
…The Bible is the Word of God.
The Bible is the story of God’s relationship with the world he created. Through the Bible we don’t just learn about God (though learn we do!), God speaks to us in the here and now. Though composed over a span of time in excess of a thousand years and a long time ago, it continues to be relevant today. It was written by human authors, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and is the final authority in matters of faith and practice. No other revelation, spoken or written, may supersede or stand alongside of scripture. Because the Bible was written in the midst of human events, it is reflects some of the natural limitations of its cultural and historical contexts: language, thought forms, and literary fashions, as well as views of life, history and the cosmos which were then current. But it remains, through it all, the truth of God. And though the truth of God does not change, our understanding of some of the truth of God’s revelation may change over time.
…Death is not the end.
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead shows us what will happen to those in Christ when they die. Death is not the end. Like the seed in the ground that must shed its outer shell in order for the plant to shoot upward out of the dirt and into the sunlit sky, so we shed our earthly bodies that are destined to grow old and decay and are resurrected with a new and glorious body fit for eternal life.
…Jesus will come again.
Human history is not an endless cycle of recurring events, but has a direction and purpose which will culminate in the return of Jesus to earth and the completion of God’s plan to restore all of creation to its original goodness. Someday, death itself will be no more. That will be the final installment of Christ’s victory over death that was assured in his own resurrection. It is at this time that everyone will be judged according to the perfect knowledge, love and justice of God.
The Nicene Creed
The Nicene Creed, written in 325, is the first official creed written and adopted by the Church. We have included the Ecumenical Version here as it provides a beautiful summary of essential beliefs still affirmed today. Note that the small ‘c’ in the word “catholic” means ‘universal.’
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father, God from God,
Light from Light, true God from true God,
begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven,
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became truly human.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.