And as we listen to those who have gone before us, we may even discover that we are able to listen more openly to those who are with us now.
In addition to the resources on Heidelberg that Gary mentions, also look into the excellent book (with accompanying video presentations) Body and Soul by Craig Barnes.
The 220th General Assembly (2012) voted to send a new translation of the Heidelberg Catechism to the presbyteries for their vote. Should it be approved, this new translation will replace the translation in the current Book of Confessions. Gary Neal Hansen teaches church history at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary and served on the Special Committee on the Heidelberg Catechism. In this 23 minute video, Dr. Hansen explores the hows and whys of the new translation, how it compares to the earlier translation and the original German and Latin, and the catechism can build the faith of individuals and congregations.
The conflicts among us — both the big and the little ones — are evidence of our struggle to define the character of Christian community. What will we say “Yes” to and what will we say “No” to? What is essential if community is to be Christian? What is important if Christian community is to be identifiably Reformed? What is a matter of pastoral and ecclesial discretion? We don’t agree about these things, of course. But we are not the first people to ask the questions. We do not have to bear the weight of these problems alone.
The confessions may be particularly important at times when the church faces pressures from the culture, raising questions of identity distinct from the culture, or when the church faces conflict within, raising questions about the shape of evangelical identity, for these are precisely the situations that gave rise to most of our confessional standards. Since we are challenged by the same issues that challenged the confessions’ framers, we can listen and learn from the ways they understood the crises, and the ways they responded. And as we listen to those who have gone before us, we may even discover that we are able to listen more openly to those who are with us now.
The 216th General Assembly (2004):
- Commends the Belhar Confession to the church for reflection, study, and response, as a means of deepening the commitment of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to dealing with racism and a means of strengthening its unity;
- Requests the General Assembly Mission Council, Office of Theology and Worship, to prepare materials to facilitate churchwide reflection and study;
- Urges each presbytery and all congregations to undertake a study of the Belhar Confession before the 218th General Assembly (2008);
- Directs the Office of the General Assembly and the General Assembly Mission Council, Office of Theology and Worship, to receive responses, prepare a summary, and report results to the 218th General Assembly (2008), together with possible recommendations for further engagement with the Belhar Confession.
Toward that end, the text of the Belhar Confession can be downloaded here.
The Belhar Confession
Belhar Confession study guide