World Reformed Fellowship Introduces their new Statement of Faith

International Director Samuel Logan posted the following preface notes to the release of new Statement:

When a project such as this Statement of Faith finally reaches completion, the natural (and fully Christian) response is rejoicing. us we do rejoice that theLord has brought this to completion. And it surely is He who has done so.

Just as surely, He has used many of His servants in the process. Most of those servants are mentioned below. But the one not mentioned below is the author of the “Introduction.” Andrew McGowan spent countless hours on this project, all the way from his original suggestion in the year 2000 that such a Statement be prepared to this final document. He took the initiative to see that the necessary work was done at all stages of the project and, because he did, the project has now been completed.

But it was not just in his taking the initiative that Andrew’s leadership was effective.

He managed the process with patience and wisdom, often bringing to bear on the discussions his own extraordinary (Reformed and evangelical) theological expertise.

Andrew did not always “prevail” in the many debates which characterized the work of the WRF Theology Commission. But he always made sure that the critically important issues were fully considered and he demonstrated the kind of grace the document celebrates when bringing the sometimes heated discussions to a careful, biblical, and thoroughly Reformed conclusion.

On behalf of the Board of Directors of the World Reformed Fellowship and on behalf of our entire membership, I say to Andrew McGowan, “thank you. Thank you for a job extremely well done!”

The following introduction to the Statement of Faith proper was written by Professor A.T.B. McGowan, Chairman of the WRF Theological Commission

At the inaugural General Assembly of the World Reformed Fellowship in Orlando, Florida in 2000, I proposed that the newly formed WRF could serve the Church by writing a new Confession of Faith for the 21st Century.

There were three reasons why I believed that this would be a useful project. The first reason was that the members of the WRF were drawn from many nations and from many denominations and were using a whole range of confessional statements.

This included the Scots Confession, the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Thirty Nine Articles, the Canons of the Synod of Dort, the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Savoy Declaration and others. At the same time, there was general agreement that we were all ‘Reformed’ in theology.

Since we were all Reformed, surely it should be possible to come up with a common confessional statement?

The second reason was the need for a confessional statement to address the issues the church is facing today. All of our Confessions were written in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and were largely designed to state the Reformed faith as over against medieval Roman Catholicism and, in the case of the later ones, Arminianism.

None of the Confessions deal with the major issues which have faced the Church throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, such as Liberalism, Pluralism and Postmodernism.

The third reason was that all of our Confessions were written in Western Europe, whereas the leadership in the global church has now moved to the southern hemisphere. I thought it would be interesting to see what would happen when scholars from Africa, Asia, Australasia and South America joined with theologians from Europe and North America to engage in such a task. European and American theologians have played a dominant role in the world church in recent centuries, it seemed right that we should now work together with theologians from the global south.

The first General Assembly gave permission for the project to go ahead. Unfortunately, the resources were not available to bring together scholars from all over the world in order to accomplish this. Finally, at the General Assembly in South Africa in 2006, the WRF appointed a Theological Commission and instructed the team of scholars thus appointed to set about the business of writing a new Statement of Faith. The members of the Theological Commission who have carried out this work are as follows (in alphabetical order): Dr Pierre Berthoud from France; Dr Gerald Bray from England; Dr Flip Buys from South Africa; Dr Leonardo de Chirico from Italy; Dr Wilson Chow from Hong Kong; Dr Victor Cole from Kenya; Dr Allan Harman from Australia; Dr Peter Jones from the USA; Dr In Whan Kim from South Korea; Dr Julius Kim from the USA; Dr Samuel Logan from the USA; Dr Augustus Nicodemus Lopes from Brazil; Dr Andrew McGowan from Scotland; Dr David McKay from Northern Ireland and Dr Steven Tong from Indonesia.

Two of these men deserve special comment. Allan Harman was the secretary of the Theological Commission throughout the project and has done a great deal of work. Gerald Bray served as editor, to ensure a common style. At this point we must also express the gratitude of the World Reformed Fellowship to Dr Robert den Dulk. It was Bob who made this project possible through his generous support. He was also a strong encouragement to us in the early days of the work. It is a great disappointment that he is no longer with us to see the finished work.

Our method of working was first, to identify topics to be dealt with; second, to allocate these topics to two or three members of the Commission; third, to discuss the proposed sections written by the small groups and then to send them away to edit accordingly; fourth, to review the sections again at the next meeting of the Commission. Most sections went through at least three iterations before the final text was reached.

When the Statement of Faith was completed, it was presented to the WRF General Assembly in Scotland in April 2010. An invitation was then issued to all members of the WRF to suggest any changes or additions to the text, on condition that these be submitted by October 2010. A considerable number of proposals were received and these were collated and circulated to the Theological Commission in January 2011.

In March 2011, the Theological Commission met in Fourth Presbyterian Church, Bethesda, Maryland. At that meeting, we went systematically through every proposal which had been received and the Statement was duly amended. Naturally, we did not accept every proposed change but each one was given careful consideration. This amended version was then presented to the WRF Board of Directors the following day. After some slight further modification, the Statement was approved by the Board. It is that Statement, as approved on 31st March 2011, which is presented here.

Having been written at the request of the WRF General Assembly and now having been approved by the WRF Board of Directors, the Statement of Faith will be presented in this final form to the next General Assembly of the WRF.

There are two important points to be made as we offer this Statement of Faith to the church.

First, the Statement of Faith is not intended to replace the confessional statements of the denominations which are in membership of the WRF. This is an additional Statement, which may be of use to individuals and churches as they reflect on the nature of Reformed Theology and its application to the theological and moral issues which confront the church in the 21st century.

Second, affirmation of the Statement is not intended as a requirement for membership in the WRF. The next General Assembly of the WRF may decide to add it to the current list of confessional statements, one of which intending members must affirm but that is a matter for the General Assembly.

All of us who have served on the Theological Commission have benefitted from the experience and have learned a great deal. The debates on points of doctrine were stimulating and sharpened our thinking. The fellowship we shared was greatly appreciated, even when we disagreed and friendships have been forged which will last a lifetime. Above all, there was the sense of commitment to a common purpose.

Personally speaking, I have realized more than ever before how much the
Enlightenment has conditioned the theology of the churches in Europe and North America and I have been challenged and humbled by my colleagues from global south, to whom I owe a great debt.

I believe that the work we have done will be of value and service to the Church, not least as a tool to promote the study of doctrinal issues and to educate people in the Reformed faith. Please use it and encourage others to do so.

To read the text of the new confession, go here

and then in the pdf format (we trust it when it comes up), enter page 4.