The National Faith and Life Team (NFLT) is tasked with providing resources related to the MB Confession of Faith. These resources are to clarify our Confession of Faith, but the larger goal is to encourage greater spiritual health and theology in our MB family. Without a shared understanding of our MB Confession of Faith—its vision and unifying purpose—local churches and leaders could easily move in directions further and further away from our MB missional DNA.
As part of that task, the NFLT have approved in principle a significantly revised introduction that replaces the existing “Nature and Function of the Confession of Faith” document. This new introduction responds to common questions that have emerged within our Canadian MB family that have not been addressed clearly elsewhere.
In the next few months, we will be including key sections of this new introduction here in the Herald with the hope that it will be read widely. (The full version is posted online here)
If you have feedback and/or questions related to this revised “Introduction to the MB Confession of Faith,” please send them to email@example.com
Thank you for your participation in this project.
CCMBC National Faith & Life Director
Canadian Mennonite Brethren believe that the Bible, from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22, is telling the Triune God’s grand and beautiful story of redemption, healing, and renewal for all creation. Canadian Mennonite Brethren are part of an international Mennonite Brethren family who together share the following biblical-theological vision for what the Triune God has done, is doing, and will do in our world. The following is Part 1 of the shared Confession from the International Community of Mennonite Brethren (ICOMB):
God, the sovereign Lord of all, created the heavens and the earth through his powerful word. God made humans, male and female, in the image of God to live in fellowship and to be stewards of creation. Humans abused their freedom by rebelling against God in disobedience, which resulted in alienation and death. In the rebellion against God’s rule, the evil powers of Satan, sin and death claimed control of the world.
God, the Deliverer, acted to establish a covenant people, beginning with Israel. God purposed to form the covenant community to live in relationship with God, to experience God’s blessing, and to serve as a light to all nations. Through the prophets God communicated his law and purposes, expressing that God is forever faithful, just, righteous, with a father’s tender mercies, and a mother’s compassion. God promised the hope of a new creation.
God the Father sent the Son, Jesus Christ, to the world born of the virgin Mary. Jesus inaugurated the reign of God, proclaiming repentance from sin, announcing the release of the oppressed and good news to the poor, and calling disciples to follow his way as a new community. Jesus responded to the violent evil powers by taking the cross in order to die for the sins of the world and reconcile creation to God. Jesus gained victory over sin, death, and Satan as God vindicated Jesus by raising him from the dead and exalting him to God’s right hand where he intercedes for the saints and rules forever.
At Pentecost, God sent the Holy Spirit, who had acted in creation, in empowering the prophets, and in inspiring the Scriptures. Through the Spirit, God established the church, the body of Christ, to proclaim God’s reign and to give witness to the new creation. The Spirit is poured out on all who receive Christ, baptizing them and sealing them for redemption as God’s children. All who believe and confess Jesus as Lord are born anew into Christ. Believers are baptized by water into the new covenant community in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. By grace they are saved through faith to live out God’s peace and love in the face of opposing circumstances.
The church is God’s new creation, agent of transformation, called to model God’s design for humanity. The people of God call everyone to repentance and conversion, seek to promote righteousness, are faithful in suffering, share generously with those in need. They act as agents of reconciliation to reverse the alienation brought on by sin. In the Lord’s Supper the church proclaims the Lord’s death and celebrates the new covenant.
The new creation will be completed when Christ returns. All who belong to Christ will rise with a new body while Satan and those who have rejected Christ will face eternal condemnation. The new heaven and new earth will live under God’s rule in everlasting peace and joy.1
The Canadian MB Confession of Faith with its 18 articles needs to be understood with God’s love expressed through his Kingdom story of redemption and restoration constantly in the background. This is God’s Kingdom story that reaches its peak with Jesus’ incarnation, life, death, bodily resurrection, ascension, and final return (Acts 20:25; cf. 1 Corinthians 15). First, we proclaim that Jesus has broken the chains of death, sin, and Satan and is now the rightful King over the world (Matthew 28:18; Philippians 2:6-11). Second, we proclaim that every human on earth needs reconciliation with God through Jesus whose substitutionary death and victorious resurrection are the path to grace, forgiveness, new life, and welcome into God’s family (Acts 20:24; Romans 4:25). Finally, we also proclaim that in Jesus’ incarnation, life, teaching, death, and resurrection, we have been given a model for how to live in the way that God intended for humanity (Matthew 5-7) and to participate in a community that lives out God’s reconciliation and justice in the world (Luke 4:18-19; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21). God’s Kingdom story includes all three aspects of what Jesus has done for us and for all creation.
Each of the 18 MB Confession articles is declaring part of God’s amazing Kingdom story which makes all the articles inextricably linked with each other. The 18 articles describe the loving, righteous, and holy character of the Triune God revealed to us through both Scripture and creation (Articles 1-3); God’s actions of forgiveness, salvation, and restoration through Jesus (Articles 4-5); the important role of the people of God in that Kingdom story (Articles 6-9); discipleship living in the way of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit (Articles 10-16); and God’s future purposes for redeemed humanity and creation (Articles 17-18).
We have articulated our theological and ethical convictions in our MB Confession because we believe that they are an accurate picture and a faithful road map for us about what it means to follow Jesus and be the kind of people of God we believe Jesus is calling us to be. Often Mennonite Brethren are characterized as being “evangelical Anabaptists”2 which describes our family as firstly and unashamedly “good news people” or “gospel people” which is the root meaning of “evangelical.” The good news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection offers us grace, forgiveness, hope, adoption into God’s family, life eternal, and bodily resurrection into God’s new creation. We invite people from all nations to respond in repentance and faith to this divine invitation. We believe that being good news people is central to our faithfulness to Jesus’ teaching (cf. Matthew 28:19-20) and foundational to our identity as an MB family (see Article 7).
We are also unashamedly Anabaptist, which identifies us with a long tradition of churches centred on and seeking to live daily into greater obedience to Jesus. By means of the filling of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18; Galatians 5:22-23) and the power and character that the Holy Spirit produces, we seek to be the kind of faithful community demonstrating sacrificial discipleship that we find in the book of Acts. There are at least two significant implications of this Anabaptist heritage. The first is that we value practical and costly discipleship in the way of Jesus. Articles 10-16 describe this day-to-day path of discipleship, and these articles are not an afterthought or an appendix to our Confession of Faith. The second is that we understand discipleship as necessarily lived in the context of a Jesus-worshipping church community. Discipleship is not a solitary walk with Jesus. The church community does not gather merely to assist individual disciples in their spiritual growth, but it gathers to be the signpost of God’s Kingdom on earth drawing people to Jesus until he returns. Articles 6-9 speak about the nature, mission, and ordinances of the church. We believe that being committed to practical and costly discipleship in the context of healthy Jesus-centred and Kingdom-focused church communities is essential for being good news people and part of our fundamental identity as an MB family.
Our identity as evangelical Anabaptists has implications for how we read and understand the Bible. The entire Bible records God’s big Kingdom redemption story. We affirm that the Triune God speaks with authority to us in both the Old and New Testaments, which means that both provide theological and ethical guidance for us today.3 The Old and New Testaments are “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16), that is “inspired by God through the Holy Spirit” (cf. 2 Peter 1:21; Article 2). However, we affirm that “God revealed Himself supremely in Jesus Christ” who brings “continuity and clarity to both the Old and New Testaments” (Article 2). Our MB Confession of Faith points to Jesus, his call to make disciples who follow him with their entire being, and his transformative and hope-filled vision for the world that culminates with Jesus’ return.
We hold our theological and ethical convictions because of the great love that God has lavished upon us through Jesus (cf. 1 John 3:1) who invites each of us to be part of his Kingdom story (Luke 6:20; Hebrews 12:28; James 2:5). Behind every article is God’s reconciling love for the world and how we are called to respond to that love by loving God faithfully and loving our neighbours as ourselves (cf. Mark 12:30-31). As we explore the 18 articles of the MB Confession of Faith, let us keep Jesus in focus and God’s grand and beautiful redemption story in sight. This vision provides the context and the motivation for understanding and living out our convictions.
For further insights into the meaning of “evangelical Anabaptist,” see Bruce L. Guenther, “Reflections on Mennonite Brethren Evangelical Anabaptist Identity” in Renewing Identity and Mission: Mennonite Brethren Reflections After 150 Years (Winnipeg: Kindred Productions, 2011), 47-82.
MB Confession of Faith: Article 2 notes that “We accept the Bible as the infallible Word of God and the authoritative guide for faith and practice.”