So, confession time (pun intended): I’m a bit of a church “stalker”. Don’t get me wrong – I love my local assembly of believers dearly, but discovering other churches and finding out what they believe and how they are structured is a hobby of mine, vastly enabled by the internet. Each church has a story and a unique flavor distilled by the saints who make up it. Knowing how encouraging it is for my church to realize we are prayed for throughout the globe, I try to seek out and discover like-minded assemblies that we may pray for in turn.
When searching out churches, many times I look at their statement of faith. Since this blog is for “women of a 1689 persuasion”, it should be no surprise that I look to see if a church mentions the Confession, how they mention it, and whether it is the church’s adopted statement of faith. I have noticed churches falling into various categories regarding this issue:
1. We Hold To The Confession!
These churches state plainly that the Second London Baptist Confession of 1689 is their statement of faith. They will include a link to said Confession, and if they provide a copy of their constitution and by-laws they state within that the 1689 is the church’s statement of faith. It may be their background screen. It may be their header. It is taught to the children, and talked of when the church sits down in their house and when they walk by the way and when they lie down and when they rise up…
2. We Hold To The Confession! (Except When We Don’t)
These churches also pledge allegiance to the 1689 LBCF. However, these types of churches can approach the Confession in two ways. They may make mention that they disagree with parts of it, tell you which sections they disagree with, and reference you to a paper presenting their beliefs on the subject.
They list the Confession as their statement of faith, with a heading at the top of their copy stating:
Edited and Abridged by ______ ________ Church
Since there are no links to what these modifications are, you are left to either assume that they are inconsequential and not worth worrying about, or you must scroll through the whole confession while comparing each part to your handy-dandy copy to find what has been changed. As a result of doing this, you discover a whole chapter missing and several paragraphs of another deleted.
3. The Confession as “Inner Knowledge”
These churches do not hold to the Confession as a church-wide statement of faith, but state that the elders do in order to hold the position of elder. While you understand this attempt at “compromise”, you are unable to discover if any female Sunday School teachers are required to hold the Confession as well.
4. Confession as Bait
Churches in this category will say, either on their home page or “Doctrine” page, something like the following:
“We hold to the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith as a solid and trustworthy standard for doctrine.”
There may even be a link to the 1689 from another website. “Great!” you think. “Another 1689 church!” Whoa there, horses! Examine the constitution. While there is a statement of faith, there is nothing about the 1689 being held to as a church. Which makes you look at that statement again: “we hold to the…Confession…as a solid and trustworthy standard for doctrine.” Which makes you think they threw reference to the 1689 on their website to snag passing Calvinists.
5. Confession is GREAT! -And So Is That One, And That One, And That One, And That…
These churches seem to fish for Calvinists as well, but have spread their nets broadly to appeal to a great number. They may say things like
“The London Confession of Faith is of historical importance.”
and that they uphold the great historical creeds, such as the 2nd LBCF (1689), the WCF, the Philadelphia Confession, the New Hampshire Confession, the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the band Creed. (Just kidding about that last one. I have not come across that yet.) Oddly enough,the Savoy Declaration never seems to be referenced.
While this list is tongue-in-cheek, I hope it can be a reminder to be clear and direct in our beliefs and how we communicate them. When going on vacation, looking for a place to move to, or just seeing if like-minded folk are out there, those who want to find a church often look to the internet. A doctrinally sound church should be the first priority in one’s search, and holding to the 1689 should tell one somewhat familiar with the confession where a church stands doctrinally. Navigating the world of all who claim the name “Reformed Baptist” can be a confusing endeavor. Let us as churches strive to present ourselves as honestly and clearly as possible.
Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. -Ephesians 4:25 (NASB)