All this week I will be blogging on the Presbyterian General Assembly.
The Theological Issues and Institutions Committee recommended that the Belhar Confession be studied for possible inclusion in the Book of Confessions. The Belhar Confession is one of the great anti-apartheid documents in South Africa. It should be read and studied by Reformed Christians.
But it does not belong in the Book of Confessions.
My concern is not with the specific substance of the confession. It makes as much sense to put Belhar in the compendium of great confessions as it does Barmen. They should be understood and honored.
The Book of Confessions is supposed to be the first part of the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). It is supposed to be the answer to the question "what do Presbyterians believe?" For ministers and elders, it is supposed to be the legal standard of belief in the church.
Instead, the Book of Confessions has become The Museum of Pretty Words That We Honor Whenever it is Convenient. We don't confess the confessions. We have literally turned them into banners. Their names function as symbols, but their contents are not in any way binding. Indeed, most officers of the church could not even name all the confessions -- go ahead, ask some.
Adding the Belhar Confession to the Book of Confessions will just add to the erosion of the confessions from working rule to wallpaper.