Fuller Theological Seminary draws students, staff and professors from across the Christian landscape. The rich diversity of denominations and no denominations, of expressions of global Christianity keeps all of us humble, and saying no one has the final word on matters of faith. This diversity keeps us growing in the faith, and continually asking what the early Mission Friends Pietists said: “where is it written?”
Pietism is not bound by denominational walls. Donald Durnbaugh highlights one characteristic of Pietism: “the spacious, trans-territorial and trans-confessional character of Pietism which tended toward a religion of the heart rather than of the mind…. One constituent element of Pietism is its eclectic or . . . ecumenical stance which sought adherents and like-minded spirits across ecclesial , territorial, class, and economic boundaries . . . the self-understanding that true Christians can be found in many confessions” (in Olson, Roger E. Reclaiming Pietism).
Pietists and others speak of doctrine this way: In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things love. This stance towards beliefs and other believers makes some people nervous, but this is the right path. We need to approach all matters of the faith with humility, and a desire to discover in a community of learners, seeking through the Spirit, huddled around the Word. It is a convicted humility.
One of the affirmations of the Evangelical Covenant Church is the reality of freedom in Christ: United in Christ, we offer freedom to one another to differ on issues of belief or practice where the biblical and historical record seems to allow for a variety of interpretations of the will and purposes of God. We in the Covenant Church seek to focus on what unites us as followers of Christ, rather than on what divides us.
One early Covenanter said–“The doors of the church are wide enough to admit all who believe and narrow enough to exclude those who do not.” This type of faith doesn’t focus on who is in and who is out, but rather on how close might we stay to each other as we seek to follow the Lord and his ways.
This is a fresh way of following. It is a more difficult path. It requires discernment and even courage. This faith binds us together in love in Christ . It is freedom under the Word.