When I was in college, my pro-life student group decided to volunteer for a local pregnancy clinic. We met with the clinic manager of the closest clinic (about 45 minutes away by car- but that’s a different discussion). Unfortunately, we didn’t end up volunteering there because about half of us couldn’t sign the statement of faith. Our group was comprised of Christians from various denominations, and the Catholics (including myself) were unable to sign the evangelical statement that conflicted with our faith on a couple of issues.
I have since learned that this has been an ongoing issue for some clinics, both Protestant and Catholic, who have lost or missed out on donors, volunteers, partners or grants due to their denomination-specific statements of faith. I think this is truly a shame. With all that our clinics have gone through and all that they have achieved, why do we continue to divide ourselves and our communities?
There are so many areas of the country where we Christians are spread thin enough as it is- I live in the Seattle area, and we have so few Christians (and even fewer that are pro-life), that I cannot imagine excluding half of that number for any pro-life endeavor. Especially for those clinics with a faith-based ministry model*, whose purpose is to shine God’s light through service to women considering abortion, a divisive statement of faith seems to hinder the mission. As long as we are united in our faith and reliance upon God, issues like sola scriptura or apostolic succession should not be getting in the way. Although I have less experience with the evangelical ministry model, I doubt that these deeper theological issues are often brought up when first introducing clients to Jesus and the Gospel.
I propose the Apostle’s creed as an alternative to denomination-specific statements of faith, as it is a very early creed written to describe the entire Christian Church, and now regularly used by many denominations. However, I am sure there are many other statements that could encompass the various denominations of the Christian faith.
I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
Under Pontius Pilate, He was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic** Church,
The communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and lift everlasting. Amen.
Some organizations have worked around the statement of faith issue by granting exceptions or adding amendments for people of certain denominations, and that may be the only solution available for some clinics. However, I think this seems inconsistent and even unwelcoming. If possible, find one statement that the board can agree on and all Christians can sign.
In the past, our clinics have been divided by our denominations and our statements of faith, but I see a growing sentiment of unity within our movement. More clinics are moving toward an ecumenical model, with Christians of all denominations serving as board members, staff, volunteers and donors. We have accomplished so much even while divided- imagine what we could do when united together in our Christian faith!
**Catholic means universal, and the creed is meant to encompass the entire Christian Church. Perhaps consider substituting ‘universal’ for catholic if this is an issue for your community.