Concerning Resolution #6

Posted: October 13, 2011 in Resolution #6
Tags: , , , , ,

I’m Apostolic. And by that I mean ‘apostolic’ in the pre-charismatic sense, before the term was hijacked by weirdos professing to be ‘prophets’ and such like. It’s a good, old, solid adjective descriptive of a belief system grounded in the teachings of Christ and His Apostles. I like it. In fact, I love it. I love it not only because it describes what I believe doctrinally, but because it’s anchored to the birth of our movement. While I’m a minister with the United Pentecostal Church International, the term ‘apostolic’ predates that affiliation; there were apostolics long before the UPCI existed. I love the history of the word, love that it was being used by holiness people before the Topeka outpouring, and I love what it has stood for…what it has represented.

There is a rich heritage of faith and ideas in the old Apostolic movement. While never recognized as a haven for intellectuals and progressives, there was nonetheless in the old Apostolic movement a development of thought…apparently Spirit led…that was in many ways ahead of its time. Racial integration, women in ministry, compassionate ministry to the poor; it wasn’t all about healing, signs, wonders, and miracles, you know. What an amazing work the Holy Spirit began among us! Amazing that just as the world plunged headlong into a devastating, bloody ‘War to End All Wars’, there arose a peoples movement of faith that would eventually sweep the world.

Movements are products of their times. Or perhaps they are necessary for their times. Maybe both. In any case, there was yet another somewhat progressive distinctive of the old Apostolic movement…something that set it apart as much as tongues, racial integration, women in ministry, and inner city missions did. And that something was that the Apostolic movement was firmly on the side of life. Born and bred in a time of cataclysmic war, there was a strong tradition of peace among early Apostolics. It’s a fine tradition…one that I value and honour as much as any other fine old tradition of the fine old Apostolic movement.

That fine, old Apostolic prejudice for life is reflected in the United Pentecostal Church International’s current Articles of Faith. That should be no surprise. After all, many of our founders were themselves first generation children of that fine, old Apostolic movement…so it’s no wonder that the UPCI’s Articles of Faith would reflect that foundation. A bias for life was natural to people born of the Spirit of Life, and it was so naturally supported in the New Testament…how could it be otherwise? When our elders wrote the current Article concerning conscientious scruples, they saw to it that it was so chock-a-block full of Scripture as to be indisputable. And it was clear, easy to understand, and consistent…that “Christians shall not shed blood nor take human life.” I love that Apostolic distinctive. It’s as original, foundational, and Scripturally supported as Spirit baptism evidenced by speaking in other tongues and water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ.

My colleagues are no doubt aware that lately the leaders of our fellowship have been issuing strident warnings about leaving the ‘old paths’, about compromising holiness, about watering down worship, challenging us to continue to be distinctively Apostolic. But it seems that for all of these warnings, the paths they are a changin’. (Apologies to Bob Dylan) At our 2011 General Conference…still underway as of this writing…a resolution has been accepted that has the real potential of significantly altering our fine, old Apostolic tradition of having a bias for life. Armed (pardon the pun) with a handful of miscellaneous Old Testament verses that are used to demonstrate that the “taking of human life is complicated with a wide variety of complexities” (ummmm…come again?) someone has presented our body with a tepid and certainly not Apostolic modification of our Articles of Faith. And the assembled body of ministers went for it. Now our clear, consistent, heavily New Testament, fine, old, Apostolic view that Christians shall not shed blood nor take human life, is in danger of being overturned.

And for what reasons? For a handful of ‘wheras’-es that could all be reduced to two sentences; ‘We don’t want our members who serve in combatant roles to feel bad. And when they ask us as their spiritual leaders what they should do, we don’t want to have to deal with it.’ And with no better support than that, ignoring the weight of the New Testament, ignoring our history, ignoring the vaunted ‘old paths’, the assembled ministers passed Resolution #6.

I wouldn’t be as disturbed if our brethren had commissioned a serious study of Christian ethics regarding war and the taking of human life in combat. I wouldn’t be as disturbed if such a study had returned a well balanced, clearly reasoned view that opposes mine. At least such an effort would have demonstrated a serious desire to understand the said “complicated…variety of complexities.” But no. We’ve passed a paragraph…a paragraph…a lackadaisical, weakly reasoned, paragraph…that eliminates our general body’s long-time stand on conscientious scruples, and leaves such a weighty decision to the discretion of the individual. ‘If your conscience will allow you to kill, then kill. If it won’t, then don’t. It’s all up to you.’

So much for the “old paths”.

I’ve an idea! Why don’t we place a proviso on all of the Articles of Faith that the individual’s conscience is the ultimate arbiter of their behaviour? Smoking? Drinking? Television? Worldly entertainments? Secret societies? Holiness? Godhead? Water baptism? Hey, let’s leave it all to the discretion of the individual’s conscience! After all, if taking human life can be left to the discretion of one’s conscience, doesn’t everything else become discretionary by default?  Can owning a television or smoking somehow be more significant than taking a human life?  Is attending a football game morally reprehensible, while taking a human life is not?

Resolution #6 will now be returned to the District Conferences of the United Pentecostal Church International, where it must receive the support of 2/3rds of said districts in order for the Articles to be altered. If Resolution #6 passes this test, then it will demonstrate just how far off the rails we are. It will say something about us…about our values…about our priorities…if we would split our fellowship over such an issue as advertising on television, but calmly vote away such a fundamentally Apostolic principle as “Christians shall not shed blood nor take human life”.

At least, that’s what I think.

More to come…

  1. Bro. A. Brewer says:

    Bro. Munn,

    I wasn’t at Conference this year, so i’m less informed than many. But I will say, that to me, life is a sacred trust. Would I defend my wife, and if necessary, to insure her safety cause injury to an attacker? Yes, I would. Would I bear arms and kiill? Definitely not. In the liight of Matthew 5:21-22, the taking of life is not an option for a Christian.

    I appreciate your comments.

    • Dennis Munn says:

      Elder, I truly appreciate you taking the time to post your comments here. It seems obvious to me, too…so obvious that I’m at a loss how it could be seen otherwise. Thanks for reading!

  2. Bro Munn,

    Great post! I have been doing a lot of research about pentecostal pacifism lately. Especially the historical roots of pacifism in the pentecostal context. I wrote my senior paper about it for my undergraduate degree and am currently expanding that for my master’s thesis. Here is one example of some of the work I have been doing. This is an article on Frank Bartleman who was an early Pentecostal evangelist who was part of the Azusa st revival.

    P.s. My mom is Canadian. She lives in Nova Scotia. Where do you pastor?

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