The Reformed Church in America (RCA) is a confessional church. This means that, as a denomination, we affirm specific statements of belief called creeds and confessions. These statements are biblically based and were written to respond to issues by explaining in detail what the church believes about those topics.
Creeds and Confessions
Four statements of belief, known in the RCA as Standards of Unity, express what the Reformed Church believes: the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dort, and the Confession of Belhar. In 1978, the RCA approved Our Song of Hope as a contemporary statement of faith.
What is a confession?
A confession is a written, formal statement that acknowledges, declares, and gives evidence of religious beliefs.
A confession speaks both internally and externally. It speaks internally to the church that makes the statement and communicates the vision and mission of the church. In turn, this reminds the church of its vision and mission.
A confession speaks externally to the world so loved by God—other churches, faiths, cultures, and societies both religious and secular, the “total community” in its various lifestyles and structures. A confession declares to the world the church’s beliefs regarding the call of God to a vision and mission.
What purpose does a confession serve?
To be clear, the Bible is the only rule of faith and practice in the RCA; the creeds and confessions simply explain the beliefs set forth in Scripture.
Confessions do the following:
- A confession declares that God is historical. The world (creation) is the theater of God’s action and God’s glory and the purpose of God’s action. God calls the church to be a community that arises out of the world and lives in the world, for the world.
- A confession declares that the church is gathered, not for its own purposes, but to be the manifestation of God’s healing, redeeming, repairing, and renewing of the world. Or, a thousand churches in a million ways doing one thing—following Christ in mission, in a lost and broken world so loved by God.
- A confession professes to the world in word and deed that the church’s business is God’s business and that God’s business is the world. It is a declaration to the world and a reminder to itself that the church is called to be radically attentive to the world, even as God is radically attentive to the world as creator, sustainer, and redeemer.
- A confession gives expression of faith, by and through the church, giving rise to action, mission, and an historical witness to the truth that God is living, active, expressive, and moving in events and time.
How does a confession come about?
A confession begins its formation at a time when an extremely serious situation and a very important issue or issues arise that are contrary to what the Bible says or questions the integrity of the Bible.