Church of God in Christ, Mennonite, Articles of Confession (1896)
General Conference convened at the Lone Tree Church, Moundridge, Kansas, November 23-26, 1896 Moderator: John Holdeman.
May God's blessings rest upon this our labor.
The articles of confession are:
1. The Godhead
We believe in God and confess with our Martyr brethren's confession which they composed at Amsterdam, October 7, 1630, (See Funk's edition of Martyr's Mirror on page 32) which is as follows: "We believe with the heart, and confess with the mouth, that there is one only, eternal, incomprehensible, spiritual being, which in Scripture is called God: to whom alone is ascribed omnipotence, mercy, righteousness, perfection, wisdom, all goodness, and omniscience, and who is called a fountain of life, and the source of all good, the creator of all things, and the preserver of the same: who in the Old Testament bears various appellations--the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God Schadai, the God Jehovah, the God of Israel, I am that I am, the Alpha and Omega, etc.; but who in the New Testament is called by three distinct names--God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, whom we confess to differ thus far, namely: that the Father, as far as he is Father, is another than the Son; and the Son, as far as he is Son, is another than the Father, and the Holy Ghost, as far as he is a true Holy Ghost, is another than the Father and the Son, and that they, although differing in name, are nevertheless in their divine nature and attributes, one only, undivided God, according to the testimony of the apostle, 'For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three axe one.' 1 John 5:7."
We confess, that God the Father is the head of Christ his Son, and that the Father through Him created all things; the heaven and the earth, the angels in heaven and man on earth, and placed each in their position and calling.
2. The Fall of Angels
A portion of angels have fallen and have become dark spirits. Satan also deceived man, Adam and Eve, bringing them to the fall. Through their disobedience and fall came sin, and through sin came death over the human race Genesis 3; Romans 5:19; 2 Peter 2:4 3. Fall of Man God, who is love, would not that man should be lost and forever be separated from Him; therefore He did promise to send His Son to be the Redeemer and Savior of the world; who in due time was born, and according to the promise, the seed of the woman bruised the serpent's head and through His death, fallen man is again restored. Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 53.
We believe in a true conversion, justification and new birth. In a true conversion there is a sincere sorrow of sin and transgression, and condemnation thereof. The justification is obtained through conversion when believing upon the wrought-righteousness of Christ, becoming liberated from the debt of sin and judgment, whereby we are "born again" and renewed unto the image and nature of God through the renewing of the Holy Ghost. Luke 24:27; John 1:29; 3:3; Acts 20:28; Romans 1:17; 5:1; Galatians 3:26.
We confess that baptism is an ordinance commanded of God, and that all converted, new born, justified sinners are to be baptized with water in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. We believe that the water is an emblem of faith in the triune God through whom the convert received remission of sins when he was "born again."
So we believe that the baptized convert not alone becomes united with the Father the head of Christ, but also with the Son and the Holy Ghost; consequently are baptized through one spirit into one body, so that all power which flows from the Father, and all ministries ordained through the Son, and all gifts which are imparted through the Holy Ghost are made partakers of this body. Since God has entrusted the baptizing through His Son unto His ministers who are united in one covenant with His Church, believing in their signification as visible emblems of forgiveness of sins, and with a good conscience joined unto His Church as the inward life of the same, therefore we believe, when a person unites to an organization outside the Church of God, receiving this emblem of water, that it does not signify the truth, although being baptized upon forgiveness of sins.
We believe all baptisms unevangelical which are not officiated by the true ministers of the gospel upon faith in God and His Church.
We also consider it wrong to take members away from a church of God. As long as such scattered children of God believe that they have been baptized to a true organized church of God, we refer them back; for the Church of God is to be in unity, and where this unity cannot be found, from which they wish to remain separated, which justifies the decision that their teaching is unevangelical therefore the doctrines as well as the baptism officiated by such organizations should also be so considered. Those who wish to join God's Church, should unite with the ordinances of God taught in His Word. Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:16; 1 Corinthians 12:12, 13; Ephesians 4:4.
6. Lords' Supper
Concerning the Lord's Supper we believe that true believers, who through one Spirit are baptized into one body, should be partakers of it after a thorough self-examination. When under certain conditions, impure and irreconcilable members take too much time in becoming worthy of the Lord's supper, which should not hinder the Church to observe the Lord's supper, such members should wait until they become reconciled, or have let themselves become reconciled. However, the Church should spare no effort in trying to restore peace with all members as far as possible, so that all may have the opportunity to observe the Lord's Supper at the same time. Luke 22:12-20; 1 Corinthians 19:16, 17; 11:23,32.
7. Feet Washing
We believe in the washing of the feet of the saints as we read in John 13 and 1 Timothy 5:10. See "Mirror of Truth."
8. Calling of Ministers
We believe in the mediate and immediate calling of the ministers. We believe that Moses and the prophets were called directly, and believe that Christ Himself chose the apostles, sending them out to preach the gospel and organize churches. We believe that God called Paul directly without the instrumentality of man into his office, as we see in Galatians 1. We do not consider the laying on of hands on Paul in Acts 13, an ordination into his office, but an imploration of blessing for the special calling. We hold and believe that the Lord chose the apostle immediate when the Church was in good standing, and so much the more would He do so when the Church is in a darkened condition to confirm His Promise, "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (the Church), which had already in the past been established.
According to the testimony of the Scriptures, that after a godly evidence and decision of the Church, and by Scriptural examination, ministers should be chosen and ordained into the office by laying on of hands. In case through prayer and fasting a decision cannot be brought forth, then in the most extreme need, it is permitted to choose by lot. We also believe that the gifts of the ministries are revealed, (although not in every instance), through the spirit of revelation, at the time of ordination by the laying on of hands; the spirit of revelation, is the "witness of Jesus." We also believe that the Lord has in a measure imparted unto us the "witness of Jesus," the spirit of revelation.
We do not believe that women are called to the office to preach the gospel; neither have we any proof in God's Word that they did.
According to the principle of creation and the result of the fall of man, women are to be in subjection unto their husbands, and not permitted to teach, for it is unbecoming for a woman to speak in public meetings. Women and virgins may prophesy in family circles and labor for the Lord. Luke 6:13-16; Acts 1:24-26; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4; 1 Timothy 1:18 and 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6; Revelation 19:10.
9. God's United Church
We believe in one united Church of God, a true, organized, visible Church of God, which constitutes the true believers, which is a pillar and ground of Truth, unto which she is called for a light unto the people. John 17; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4; 6:22, 23; 1 Timothy 3:15; Hebrews 12:22, 23; Revelation 1:11; and chapters 2 and 3, 12:1.
10. The Scriptural Guide
We believe, that the Holy Scripture is the guide, whereby all doctrines and oracles must be governed; for they are given of God unto us as a guide for the way we should live.
We believe that the Church of God is the supreme judge; which God has here on earth for gospel matters; therefore, all elders, ministers and laymembers who at any time, conceive anything different from the Church, should place this before the Church of God, that it may be proved, before they labor therewith. We should walk in the same rule; and when anyone apprehends anything else, let the Lord reveal, whether it will stand or not. A spirit that labors in division, is a sectarian spirit; and after they are thus proven by the Church with the Word of God, they should be dealt with according to the Holy Scriptures, as is written in our article of confession of the "excommunication." John 5:39, 40; Romans 16:17; 1:1 Timothy 3:16, 17.
Concerning marriage, we believe that the Lord founded and blessed it in the Garden of Eden. We also believe that a marriage in the Lord is only when two believers are joined together who have, through the same Spirit, been baptized into one body (the body of Christ).
When a member (brother or sister) of the Church of God marries outside of God's Church, we consider such disobedient, and he should be expelled; because he joins in a marriage in disobedience to God and His Word, therefore he cannot again be reaccepted until he thoroughly repents of his disobedience. The disobedience of such a marriage consists, in that the member in a fleshly manner has chosen and united with a disobedient consort; therefore they both must repent of their disobedience before they can be taken into the Church of God.
But in case the expelled member should repent of his transgression, and the other party remain disobedient, then it must needs be that the fruit of the returning member will manifest itself by abstaining from the intercourse of his consort which was the cause of his fall and expulsion. But when no repentance will follow in the disbeliever and the expelled member continues to live with his consort in the manner he or she were united, then we cannot believe this to be fruit of repentance; for after a member has been expelled for the transgression of such forbidden marriage, and then afterwards be reaccepted and yet continue to keep and live with the disobedient consort as formerly, this would cause the excommunication as well as reacceptance to become a groundless transaction.
In 1 Corinthians 7, the regulation of the conduct is given, when two unbelieving persons were joined in marriage, and afterwards one repents and the other does not; which Scripture cannot be otherwise applied and not misconstrue the apostle Paul's writing, Genesis 1:27, 28; Matthew 19:4; 1 Corinthians 7; 11:3; Ephesians 5:21-33; 1 Timothy 3:2.
We do believe that the Lord prohibited divorcing excepting in case of adultery. Yet we do not believe that a brother or sister should apply for a divorce. We understand the Savior's expression in Matthew 19:9, as did the Martyr brethren in their 33 articles of faith as we read in "Martyr's Mirror," page 387, article 25, when they expressed themselves as follows: "And thus re-establishing marriage between one man and one woman, and so inseparably and firmly binding the bond of matrimony, that they might not, on any account, separate and marry another, except in case of adultery or death." Also read in Menno Simon part 2, page 311.
We believe that all swearing of oaths is prohibited; and that we should herein take care that we be a light unto the world. Matthew 5:33-37; James 5:12.
We do believe, all who are in the kingdom of Christ, whose kingdom is not of this world, and the gospel prohibiting all fleshly and legal revenge, and compulsion, that therefore the members of God's Church cannot be permitted to serve in any office of the magistracy, from the highest to the least, which require to bring transgressors into judgment by the power and authority of law.
The conclusion that we are not entitled to go to the polls and vote for men who are to bear the sword, and with the power and authority of the magistracy subdue nations and govern the people, we base on the clear gospel foundation; for we believe, when voting for such officers we are under obligation to support them in carrying out the execution of legal judgment.
It is inconsistent for a nonresistant man to cast his vote for a worldly officer, who is required to use the authority of the law. Isaiah 2:2-4; Micah 4:1-3; Matthew 5:38-45; John 13: 34, 35; Matthew 10:17-25; 2 Corinthians 10:4.
We believe in excommunicating offensive members for threefold reasons; namely, the first is to retain the Church in its purity; the second is to so reprove the transgressor that he may be ashamed; thirdly, that the Church may not be blasphemed by the world.
Grave sins, such as fornication, covetousness, idolatry, drunkenness, premeditated lying and defrauding, should be expelled without previous admonitions. 1 Corinthians 5:11. Heretics should be dealt with as we read in Titus 3:10, 11; and brother sins according to Matthew 18:15-17.
In critical times, excommunication should be dealt with in less haste and with painstaking care.
The expelling should be done through the power in the death of Jesus Christ. All disobedience will be judged by the obedience of Jesus Christ; therefore we all with an earnest zeal should seek to raise the obedience of Christ in our hearts, so as to fulfill our obedience by a true repentance and confession of our sins, that as much as possible all offences may be removed in critical times, as was the case with the Corinthian, that the disobedient may be judged in power through our obedience in Christ. Matthew 18:15-18, 1 Corinthians 5; 2 Corinthians 13:1, 3, 10.
15. The Avoidance
In regard to the avoidance, we do believe according to the Holy Scriptures that all expelled sinners should be avoided in all spiritual, doctrinal fellowship, as in the Lord's supper, greeting of peace, etc.
Nowhere in the gospel is the Greek word, "Sunanamignusthai" used to convey spiritual fellowship. In 1 Corinthians 5:9,11, Paul uses this word to command the avoidance in temporal matters and the use of this word in 2 Thessalonians 3:14 is sufficient to establish the avoidance in temporal matters. The Martyrs Mirror, "Menno Simon" and "Mirror of Truth" clearly convey this concerning the avoidance. We axe united with the confession of the Martyrs; namely that the separation in 1 Thessalonians 3:6, is to be understood in temporal matters, and in like manner with 1 Thessalonians 3:14; Romans 16:17. See Martyrs Mirror page 390, article 29.
We do not believe in a withdrawal which is limited to only withdraw from the Lord's supper, feet washing, kiss of peace and brotherly counsel. We believe that the holy kiss should not be withdrawn before the excommunication. Matthew 18:17; Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 5:9-11; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14; Titus. 3:10.
16. To Avoid Sinful Places and Gatherings
According to the gospel dispensation, which prohibits all fleshly lusts, we believe that it cannot be tolerated for members to use tobacco out of habit, and conforming themselves with the world in going to fairs and other like fleshly social gatherings. Since we are to avoid all appearances of evil, we do not permit entering into saloons (except in urgent cases as in sickness); for we are "not to sit in the seat of the scornful"; therefore we should not go into the ballrooms where the scornful and drunkards are standing and sitting, and to not uphold these ungodly saloons and places of destruction. Galatians 5:16, 17; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:22; Titus 2:11-15; 1 John 2:16.
17. Manner of Dress and Cutting of Beard and Hair
We believe that the gospel does not give any regulations in what manner the cut of our clothing is to be. But costly clothing, adorning and plaiting of the hair, and the wearing of gold and pearls are forbidden. The useless things and new fashions of pride, and such manner of cut of dress that are brought and accepted which conforms us unto the world is sin. We should dress decently according to Christian rule, and not be offensive.
In the New Testament we learn that the apostle Paul teaches, in presenting the fundamentals of nature, that it is a shame for men to wear long hair, and the women are not to out their hair. 1 Corinthians 11. In Mosaic law, we read, regards the mustache we find no clear word; therefore we that we are not to mar the corner of our beards, but believe this a matter of conscience. There is no question but that the Mosaic law, in regards to the cut of the hair and beard, was founded upon the fundamentals of nature; therefore, upon this ground we are decidedly opposed to the beard cutting, and the conformance unto the world in this respect. Leviticus 19:27; 21:5; Ezekiel 44:20; 1 Corinthians 11:5; 6:14, 15; Romans 12:2; 1 Timothy 2:9.
18. The Resurrection
We believe in a general resurrection of the dead at that great day when the Lord Himself will come from heaven to raise the dead, and transform the living; consequently the corruptible will take on incorruption, and the mortal will take on immortality, changed like unto the transfigured body of Jesus Christ, wherewith the saints will enter into that eternal glory.
But the ungodly shall be raised to the resurrection of condemnation, and be cast into eternal punishment; where-from there is no promise of ever being redeemed.
Therefore we believe in no other kingdom of glory, excepting the kingdom of the new earth, after this earth and sea, with all its visible elements have been destroyed. We therefore maintain, that all who are looking for a future kingdom of glory to exist on earth for a thousand years, will be deceived.
We set no time in regards to the day of the Lord's coming; for we believe no one will know the time and hour of His coming. For this reason we are taught to always be ready for the coming of the Lord whether it be by the message of death, or His personal, glorious appearance at that great day; therefore be ready. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.
Ministers and Deacons Present Ministers
John Holdeman, Jasper, Mo. Henry Heer, Avilla, Mo. David Kropf, Lancaster, Mo. Peter Toews, Kleefeld, Man. Wilhelm Giesbrecht, Steinbach, Man. Henry H. Schmidt, Durham, Kans. Daniel B. Holdeman, Newton, Kans. John A. Holdeman, Homestead, Kans. John D. Dueck, Hillsboro, Kans. Tobias A. Unruh, Moundridge, Kans. Peter A. Unruh, Moundridge, Kans. Benjamin P. Becker, Moundridge, Kans. Benjamin Wedel, Moundridge, Kans. Henry A. Koehn, Halstead, Kans. Jacob Dirks, Halstead, Kans. Peter A. Friesen, Inman, Kans. Abraham G. Ensz, Inman, Kans. Samuel Boese, Perrydale, Ore. Isaac Nelson, Firtil, Iowa Jacob P. Unruh, Marion Jct., S. Dakota
Jacob P. Becker, Moundridge, Kans. Abraham Eck, Moundridge, Kans. T. Koehn, Durham, Kans. Jacob T. Schmidt, Durham, Kans. Jacob Enns, Morris, Man.
Context of the Confession
These "articles of confession" was the first confession of faith created by the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite. Three earlier confessions could also be considered foundational for the denomination -- the Confession of Faith by Peter J. Twisck (first published 1617) that was printed within in the Martyrs Mirror; the Dordrecht Confession of 1632; and an 1875 confession written by their founder, John Holdeman, in 1875.
Both Dordrecht and the Twisck confessions have continued to be considered authoritative by the church, and have reprinted on a number of occasions. The Twisck confession, which is extracted from the writings of Menno Simons, is quoted on several occasions in the 1896 confession. (The Martyrs Mirror cited in the confession is the 1881 English edition published by John Funk in Elkhart, Indiana; the edition of Menno Simon's Complete works is the English 1870 edition, also published by Funk.)
According to Clarence Hiebert, the 1896 confession emerged through the influence of former Kleine Gemeinde members in Manitoba who probed and tested Holdeman's theology after their conversion to his movement in the 1880s.
The Statement of the Christian Doctrines of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite written by Fredrick Fricke in 1925 has also served as an authoritative doctrinal statement for the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite. The 1896 confession has been modified through the years; the 1959 edition remains authoritative.
Context written 1999 by Sam Steiner.
- Conference reports, 1896-1962. Steinbach, Man. : Church of God in Christ, Mennonite, 1963: 3-14.
- Loewen, Howard John, ed. One Lord, One Church, One Hope, One God: Mennonite Confessions of Faith. Text-Reader series. Elkhart: Institute of Mennonite Studies, 1985.
- Hiebert, Clarence. The Holdeman People: the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite, 1859-1969. Pasadena, Calif. : William Carey Library, 1973: 378-383.