IN ESSENTIALS, UNITY
One of the emphases of the Unity of the Brethren from the outset has been upon the Bible as the sourcebook of all Christian truth. This emphasis placed it at the forefront of the Protestant Reformation movement. We believe that the Bible is not only to be regarded as the heart of God’s revelation of His person and purpose for His creation, but also as a standard for Christian faith and conduct. For this reason, translating the Word of God into everyday life continues to be a high priority for Brethren. Interpretation and application of scriptural truth to life, however, has been strongly influenced by that ancient motto of the Church, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, love.” Accordingly, we believe that it is essential for a Christian to believe in one God as revealed in three persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Secondly, we believe that God the Father offers in Christ, God’s Son, the only revealed way of salvation from the penalty and power of sin. Those who accept this grace by faith become members of the Body of Christ, the Church. It is this fellowship of believers, committed to the will and purpose of God as a means of giving glory to Christ, which serves as the visible form of the Kingdom of God on earth. We also believe that the Holy Spirit continues to be active in the world, particularly in the hearts of believers, communicating God’s presence, power, and purpose for a life of witness. We believe, furthermore, that it is essential for a Christian to believe in the glorious return of Christ, at the time appointed by the Father, to judge the world and to reward the faithful.
IN NON-ESSENTIALS, LIBERTY
However, we believe that full agreement is not essential among Christians in such matters as the way Christ is present in the sacraments, the elements used, the time and method of baptism, nor the system of church organization and government. But as Brethren, we do believe that Christ is mysteriously present in the two sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion. We believe that Christian parents should present their children for baptism even as infants, in keeping with the attitude Jesus expressed to little children during his earthly ministry. In doing so, believing parents claim for their child that cleansing and saving grace offered by Christ and especially symbolized in this sacrament. In response, the parents promise to bring up their child in the faith which they themselves profess. This they do with the hope and prayer that, in due time, their child will confirm this covenant relationship with a personal profession of faith in Christ and in a commitment to his service. Believers who have not been baptized as infants are baptized following their public profession of faith.
AND IN ALL THINGS, LOVE.
Because of our oneness in Christ with all Christians through our common faith, and because we believe that Jesus established the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper as a special means of grace for all believers, we invite all Christians to come to the Lord’s Table with us in Holy Communion, regardless of denominational affiliation. We further believe that the Lord himself continues to serve as host at the Table which he established. And finally, we believe that it is urgent that all Christians work together in love. Jesus said: “If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples.” (John 13:35) Working together with all Christians in a spirit of love has always been an important concern of Brethren as we labor together toward that common goal when “every knee should bow . . . and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11)