Boundaries and Freedom

Where the EMC Statement of Faith gives freedom, pastors are unwise to require or expect members to adopt a particular position.

Credit: IStock

by Terry M. Smith

The EMC’s Statement of Faith sometimes lacks a position. That’s good. This lack is a position itself, one of freedom.

For instance, the EMC’s current statement (1996) says, “We believe in the personal, visible, bodily return of Jesus Christ.” It goes into other matters related to the Second Coming, but doesn’t mention a secret rapture prior to the Great Tribulation or a thousand year reign of Christ on earth.

The EMC is clear on the Lord’s return, but it has no official position on pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib, a-mill or pre-mill. Pastors and members have personal views and they can present them. Members can listen, study, and affirm what best matches Scripture.

Where the EMC Statement of Faith gives freedom, though, pastors and Sunday School teachers are unwise to require or expect members to adopt a particular position. Pastors and members have personal positions; the conference has a joint position. These are not to be confused.

On a national level, the EMC is intentional in giving a position of freedom on some secondary matters to uphold unity and community. On a local level, providing options can be a wise pastoral response to individuals pondering various matters.

The danger in mentioning freedom is that this editorial might be misread as approving options in areas beyond the Statement of Faith—for instance, on some current matters of social ethics. This would be a misreading of this editorial’s intention.

Pastors and ministers are to be approved for service both by a local church and through our national boards and bodies. We are accountable locally and nationally. Being accountable, we do well to respect our conference’s confession both in its boundaries and freedom.

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