Much recent dialog has taken place in the Evangelical Covenant Church regarding the nature and limits of Christian freedom. The upcoming double issue of the Covenant Quarterly seeks to both resource and further this conversation, offering historical context and theological application and inviting your responses.
Hauna Ondrey, assistant professor of church history at North Park Theological Seminary, offers introduction and annotation to Biblical Authority and Christian Freedom, a report adopted in 1963 by the Annual Meeting of the Covenant Church. The report is reprinted in full with updated language, preceded and followed by the Annual Meeting minutes detailing the report’s origin (1958) and adoption (1963).
“If we are to be true to this aspect of our heritage, we should sincerely and faithfully use this principle of freedom as a basic element in our existence as a Christian people in today’s world. To do so we must enter into the stream of present theological discussion and exercise our freedom creatively and helpfully with respect to the issues which now confront the Christian church. The theological concerns of the present moment differ in many respects from those of the past. Although many of the questions now being debated in the church were well known to our predecessors, others have arisen since their day and could not have been known to them. Thus, to say that we may differ only at those points where they permitted differences would be to deny to the present generation the freedom in Christ which prior generations enjoyed. In the basic and central affirmations of the Christian faith there must be unity, but in their expression and interpretation there is room for wholesome divergence. It is, therefore, our duty to approach the areas of theological tension with courage, fraternal understanding, and unfailing devotion to Christ and the Scriptures.”
From “Biblical Authority and Christian Freedom (1963): Full Report with Supporting Historical Documents”
Michelle A. Clifton-Soderstrom, professor of theology and ethics at North Park Theological Seminary, surveys the historical and theological understanding of Christian freedom within the Evangelical Covenant Church, linking it to other Covenant Affirmations and offering a theological account of, and criteria for, faithful dissent within Christian freedom.
“This is the heart of freedom, the commitment that distinguishes the Covenant Church in significant and life-giving ways. The Preamble to the Covenant Constitution celebrates freedom as essential: “Our common experience of God’s grace and love in Jesus Christ continues to sustain the Evangelical Covenant Church as an interdependent body of believers that recognizes but transcends our theological differences.” Growth is painful, and the renewing work of the Spirit is vulnerable. Yet these commitments lie behind the Covenant’s historical commitment to freedom in Christ.”
From “Covenant Freedom: Freedom for All or Free-for-All?”
Stay tuned for the full issue, which goes live this Monday.