The following is an abridgement and adaption of “The Faith We Affirm Together (1994)” a document written to outline the shared faith of the Cooperating Churches.
The Faith of the church
God is a God of revelation. God has revealed himself in creation and history. Above all God is revealed and has spoken in Jesus Christ.
The Bible is the unique, inspired record of what God has revealed for our salvation, faith, and life. God’s act of self-disclosure and sacrifice in Jesus Christ was anticipated in the Hebrew Scriptures and fulfilled in the New Testament.
The authority of the Bible is from God and the Holy Spirit verifies its witness within the church to each generation. It is the responsibility of the believing community, the church, to faithfully interpret the Bible.
From biblical times the church has confessed its faith in its hymns, prayers, theological systems, confessions and creeds. The Apostles’ and Nicene creeds are recognised as safeguarding that faith which is continuously confirmed by the Holy Spirit in the experience of the church. Uniting the church today with the faith of Christians of all ages, and in every place, they are accepted as having an authority above that of later statements of faith.
The Westminster Confession of Faith and the Thirty Nine Articles are held in honour as embodying a tradition both Catholic and Reformed now merged in our church’s understanding of its faith and mission. These remain as a witness to the Christian faith for the instruction of its people and the guiding and the ordering of its life.
There is one living and true God.
God is love and is known as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – One God – the Trinity.
God, the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe has made all things for God’s glory, and has sent Jesus Christ into the world to reconcile the world to God, having prepared the way through the people of Israel.
Jesus Christ, the eternal and only-begotten Son of God, born in the fullness of time of the Virgin Mary, is the mystery of the incarnation, truly God yet truly human.
Christ’s life and teaching reveals God’s nature, will, creative love and saving purpose. Though sinless Jesus died on the cross as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Raised from death to triumph over sin, Christ is exalted as our advocate and intercessor. He will come again in glory as Saviour and Renewer of all, bringing to completion all that God has planned.
God the Holy Spirit is at work in the world leading people to repentance and to faith in Christ as Saviour. The Holy Spirit brings unity, and produces Christ-like character. The Holy Spirit guides and empowers the church in the continued mission of God to humankind.
God Father, Son and Holy Spirit has made all things, has redeemed humanity and sanctifies the church.
God has created humankind in his image, endowed them with freedom and responsibility, with reason and moral judgement, with power to love, and the need to be loved. Humankind is made for unity with God as children of God and unity with each other as members of God’s family. Humanity, however, has fallen away in pride and disobedience from this divine intention in their lives. Because of sin we are alienated from God. The result is disorder, frustration, conflict and spiritual death. All people are responsible before God and to God’s divine judgement.
New Life in Christ
God first revealed his redemptive purpose to restore sinful people through the election of Israel. Through the gospel of Jesus Christ God extends his love for the world and shows a
desire that all people should be saved. Jesus Christ has revealed humanity’s true life and reconciles us to God. People are unable by their own actions to reconcile themselves to God, or in their own strength to fulfil the divine purpose for which they were created. But God’s grace calls, justifies, reconciles and sanctifies those who respond to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith. This new birth is the work of the Holy Spirit, who initiates and sustains the new life in the communion of the church by enabling all people to believe and share in the victory of Christ.
The church is the people of God, the body of Christ, the community of the Holy Spirit through which God continues reconciling work in the world. The church is called to unity because it is one family under one God whose purpose is to unite all people in Jesus Christ. The church is enabled by the Holy Spirit to be God’s holy people in the world. The church is called catholic because it is for all people, and for all times, holding the Christian faith in its fullness. The church is called to be apostolic because it is sent to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and preach the Gospel in the entire world.
The church is the community in which believers in Christ are nourished in the Christian life. Our life together is sustained by the proclamation of the Gospel, Baptism, participation together in Communion, common prayer and other ordinances of the church. In the Holy Spirit, members of the church share in the communion of saints.
Sacraments of the Gospel
The sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion were appointed by Jesus Christ. In the power of the Holy Spirit they are visible signs and effective means of grace. Holy Communion is a sign and seal of the covenant of redemption. It is the thanksgiving in which the church remembers with joy Christ’s birth, life on earth, suffering, death and resurrection and presence. In this meal the church proclaims his death until he comes, acknowledges his sacrifice and proclaims his victory over evil. Through Communion we share with Christ and one another our life in God’s Presence. In response to grace we renew our covenant and relationship with God and also with all those who have gathered in faith at the table, and with all God’s company in heaven and earth. Christ meets those who are alienated, restores and assures them of God’s steadfast and continuing love, drawing them closer to God and the church.
The church’s ministry comes from Jesus Christ, who is the head of the church. Christ’s ministry is prophetic and priestly. The Holy Spirit continues Christ’s ministry through the church which is sent among people to serve creation. As members in the church, all God’s people are called and commissioned to share in Christ’s ministry to the world. The church is called to a life of service in which every member shares.
God calls and sets aside people to minister in various and special ways. Some are ordained and sent, as were the Apostles, to build up the church and to equip all members for their task. This particular ministry involves pastoral care, proclamation, service and oversight and is expressed in a form including elements that are episcopal, presbyterial and diaconal (see 1 Timothy 3:1-13; 5:17-22).
“The community which lives in the power of the Spirit will be characterized by a variety of charisms.” The Holy Spirit is the giver of diverse gifts which enrich the life of the community and are to be encouraged and nurtured.
The World and the Church
The world was created for the glory of God and is the object of the Creator’s love. The world is the sphere of the church’s mission. God calls all people to use their gifts in accordance with God’s creative purpose.
The church welcomes the light that science can throw on the universe and its working. Human society, however, gives clear evidence of its alienation from God in its divisions and abuse of God’s good gifts. Nevertheless Jesus Christ is concerned with all of life, individual, social, national and international. The church is Christ’s serving people called to declare the Gospel and to share in Christ’s ministry of reconciliation to a divided and estranged world . Its vocation in the world is to witness to Jesus Christ so that all may come to fullness of life.
The Christian Hope
Humanity is created to glorify God and to share in the divine life. The fulfilment of this purpose is assured by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. For those in Christ eternal life begins on earth and continues forever in the presence of God and in the company of God’s people. At the time appointed, God will bring to fulfilment all that has begun. Christ will be revealed, and God in Christ will renew all people in the light of God’s knowledge, judgement, holiness and love.