Mennonite Confession of Faith
Statements of what Mennonites believe have been among us from earliest beginnings. A group of Anabaptists, forerunners of Mennonites, wrote the Schleitheim Articles in 1527. Since then, Mennonite groups have produced numerous statements of faith. This Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective takes its place in this rich confessional history. The historic creeds of the early Christian church, which were assumed as foundational for Mennonite confessions from the beginning, are basic to this confession as well.
This confession is the work of two Mennonite groups in North America, the Mennonite Church (MC) and the General Conference Mennonite Church (GC).
The Mennonite Church had its beginnings during the sixteenth century in the Swiss-South German part of Europe, where the Schleitheim Articles were adopted. The Mennonite Church still recognizes these articles. In time, this group accepted additional confessions: the Dordrecht Confession (Holland, 1632), the Christian Fundamentals (1921), and the Mennonite Confession of Faith (1963).
The General Conference Mennonite Church was organized when some groups that had roots in the Mennonite Church, joined in 1860 with Swiss and German Mennonite groups who had more recently immigrated from Europe. Later, the General Conference added congregations of Dutch and Prussian descent in both the U.S. and Canada. The lengthy Ris Confession (Holland, 1776) has been widely used in General Conference circles. In 1896 the General Conference adopted the Common Confession. The General Conference triennial session in 1941 also approved a Statement of Faith for its new seminary.
How do Mennonite confessions of faith serve the church? First, they provide guidelines for the interpretation of Scripture. At the same time, the confession itself is subject to the authority of the Bible. Second, confessions of faith provide guidance for belief and practice. In this connection, a written statement should support but not replace the lived witness of faith. Third, confessions build a foundation for unity within and among churches. Fourth, confessions offer an outline for instructing new church members and for sharing information with inquirers. Fifth, confessions give an updated interpretation of belief and practice in the midst of changing times. And sixth, confessions help in discussing Mennonite belief and practice with other Christians and people of other faiths.
In its format, this confession follows some traditional patterns, but also introduces new elements in line with our Anabaptist heritage. As in the past, the confession is arranged as a series of articles. The Articles appear in four sets. The first eight Articles (1-8) deal with themes common to the faith of the wider Christian church. The second set (Articles 9-16) deals with the church and its practices, and the third set (Articles 17-23) with discipleship. The final article (24) is on the reign of God. Each article makes an important contribution to this confession of faith, regardless of its order here. In this confession, each article begins with a summary paragraph and is followed by a commentary. In addition, the topics of most articles are found in former confessions. But there are some new titles, such as “Christian Spirituality.” Finally, as in former confessions, the articles are based on biblical texts. Scripture references are to the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
The Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective was adopted at the delegate sessions of the General Conference Mennonite Church and the Mennonite Church, meeting at Wichita, Kansas, July 25-30, 1995. The twenty-four articles and summary statement were accepted by both groups as their statement of faith for teaching and nurture in the life of the church. The commentary sections were endorsed as helpful clarification and illustrative application of the articles of the confession. The accompanying unison readings for use in worship are samples of the ways in which this confession can be used widely in the church.
This confession guides the faith and life of the Mennonite Church and the General Conference Mennonite Church. Further, the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective is commended to all Christian churches and to those of other faiths or no faith, that they may seriously consider the claims of the gospel of Jesus Christ from this perspective. May these articles of faith encourage us to hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for the One who has promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23). Praise and thanksgiving be to our God!