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.
Along with most Christian churches, the RCA affirms three creeds that were written in the first few centuries after Jesus’s death: the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed.
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.
The most recent of the RCA’s Standards of Unity, the Belhar Confession makes the case for unity, reconciliation, and justice.
The Belhar Confession has its roots in the struggle against apartheid in southern Africa. It was first drafted in 1982 by the Dutch Reformed Mission Church (DRMC); the DRMC formally adopted the Belhar Confession in 1986. It is now one of the “standards of unity” of the new Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA). Belhar’s theological confrontation of the sin of racism has made possible reconciliation among Reformed churches in southern Africa and has aided the process of reconciliation within the nation of South Africa.
Belhar’s relevance is not confined to southern Africa. It addresses three key issues of concern to all churches: unity of the church and unity among all people, reconciliation within church and society, and God’s justice.
The Belhar Confession
1. We believe
in the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who gathers, protects and cares for the church through Word and Spirit. This, God has done since the beginning of the world and will do to the end.
2. We believe
in one holy, universal Christian church, the communion of saints called from the entire human family.
- that Christ’s work of reconciliation is made manifest in the church as the community of believers who have been reconciled with God and with one another (Eph. 2:11-22);
- that unity is, therefore, both a gift and an obligation for the church of Jesus Christ; that through the working of God’s Spirit it is a binding force, yet simultaneously a reality which must be earnestly pursued and sought: one which the people of God must continually be built up to attain (Eph. 4:1-16);
- that this unity must become visible so that the world may believe that separation, enmity and hatred between people and groups is sin which Christ has already conquered, and accordingly that anything which threatens this unity may have no place in the church and must be resisted (John 17:20-23);
- that this unity of the people of God must be manifested and be active in a variety of ways: in that we love one another; that we experience, practice and pursue community with one another; that we are obligated to give ourselves willingly and joyfully to be of benefit and blessing to one another; that we share one faith, have one calling, are of one soul and one mind; have one God and Father, are filled with one Spirit, are baptized with one baptism, eat of one bread and drink of one cup, confess one name, are obedient to one Lord, work for one cause, and share one hope; together come to know the height and the breadth and the depth of the love of Christ; together are built up to the stature of Christ, to the new humanity; together know and bear one another’s burdens, thereby fulfilling the law of Christ that we need one another and upbuild one another, admonishing and comforting one another; that we suffer with one another for the sake of righteousness; pray together; together serve God in this world; and together fight against all which may threaten or hinder this unity (Phil. 2:1-5; 1 Cor. 12:4-31; John 13:1-17; 1 Cor. 1:10-13; Eph. 4:1-6; Eph. 3:14-20; 1 Cor. 10:16-17; 1 Cor. 11:17-34; Gal. 6:2; 2 Cor. 1:3-4);
- that this unity can be established only in freedom and not under constraint; that the variety of spiritual gifts, opportunities, backgrounds, convictions, as well as the various languages and cultures, are by virtue of the reconciliation in Christ, opportunities for mutual service and enrichment within the one visible people of God (Rom. 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12:1-11; Eph. 4:7-13; Gal. 3:27-28; James 2:1-13);
- that true faith in Jesus Christ is the only condition for membership of this church.
Therefore, we reject any doctrine
- which absolutizes either natural diversity or the sinful separation of people in such a way that this absolutization hinders or breaks the visible and active unity of the church, or even leads to the establishment of a separate church formation;
- which professes that this spiritual unity is truly being maintained in the bond of peace while believers of the same confession are in effect alienated from one another for the sake of diversity and in despair of reconciliation;
- which denies that a refusal earnestly to pursue this visible unity as a priceless gift is sin;
- which explicitly or implicitly maintains that descent or any other human or social factor should be a consideration in determining membership of the church.
3. We believe
- that God has entrusted the church with the message of reconciliation in and through Jesus Christ, that the church is called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, that the church is called blessed because it is a peacemaker, that the church is witness both by word and by deed to the new heaven and the new earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Cor. 5:17-21; Matt. 5:13-16; Matt. 5:9; 2 Peter 3:13; Rev. 21-22).
- that God’s lifegiving Word and Spirit has conquered the powers of sin and death, and therefore also of irreconciliation and hatred, bitterness and enmity, that God’s lifegiving Word and Spirit will enable the church to live in a new obedience which can open new possibilities of life for society and the world (Eph. 4:17–6:23, Rom. 6; Col. 1:9-14; Col. 2:13-19; Col. 3:1–4:6);
- that the credibility of this message is seriously affected and its beneficial work obstructed when it is proclaimed in a land which professes to be Christian, but in which the enforced separation of people on a racial basis promotes and perpetuates alienation, hatred and enmity;
- that any teaching which attempts to legitimate such forced separation by appeal to the gospel, and is not prepared to venture on the road of obedience and reconciliation, but rather, out of prejudice, fear, selfishness and unbelief, denies in advance the reconciling power of the gospel, must be considered ideology and false doctrine.
Therefore, we reject any doctrine
- which, in such a situation, sanctions in the name of the gospel or of the will of God the forced separation of people on the grounds of race and color and thereby in advance obstructs and weakens the ministry and experience of reconciliation in Christ.
4. We believe
- that God has revealed himself as the one who wishes to bring about justice and true peace among people;
- that God, in a world full of injustice and enmity, is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor and the wronged;
- that Go4. We believed calls the church to follow him in this, for God brings justice to the oppressed and gives bread to the hungry;
- that God frees the prisoner and restores sight to the blind;
- that God supports the downtrodden, protects the stranger, helps orphans and widows and blocks the path of the ungodly;
- that for God pure and undefiled religion is to visit the orphans and the widows in their suffering;
- that God wishes to teach the church to do what is good and to seek the right (Deut. 32:4; Luke 2:14; John 14:27; Eph. 2:14; Isa. 1:16-17; James 1:27; James 5:1-6; Luke 1:46-55; Luke 6:20-26; Luke 7:22; Luke 16:19-31; Ps. 146; Luke 4:16-19; Rom. 6:13-18; Amos 5);
- that the church must therefore stand by people in any form of suffering and need, which implies, among other things, that the church must witness against and strive against any form of injustice, so that justice may roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream;
- that the church as the possession of God must stand where the Lord stands, namely against injustice and with the wronged; that in following Christ the church must witness against all the powerful and privileged who selfishly seek their own interests and thus control and harm others.
Therefore, we reject any ideology
- which would legitimate forms of injustice and any doctrine which is unwilling to resist such an ideology in the name of the gospel.
5. We believe
that, in obedience to Jesus Christ, its only head, the church is called to confess and to do all these things, even though the authorities and human laws might forbid them and punishment and suffering be the consequence (Eph. 4:15-16; Acts 5:29-33; 1 Peter 2:18-25; 1 Peter 3:15-18).
Jesus is Lord.
To the one and only God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be the honor and the glory for ever and ever.
June 3, 2020
Communion and Virtual Worship at Hope Church
Questions and Answers
Q: What is ‘communion’ in our faith tradition?
A: Hope Church is a part of the world-wide collection of ‘Reformed’ churches which gather in various denominations. We are a part of the Reformed Church in America (R.C.A.), the oldest continuous Protestant denomination in the United States. We believe that ‘communion’ is understood as ‘The Lord’s Supper’, meaning that what we are doing is an act of remembrance of the night Jesus was betrayed, took bread, gave thanks, broke it and shared it with his disciples.
Q: Why is The Lord’s Supper called a Sacrament?
A: Jesus instructed his followers to remember him in this way whenever we break the bread and drink the cup. This makes it a ‘holy instruction’ from our Lord to the church. It is a sacred, ‘set apart’ act in which we commune with Christ and with each other and with the saints.
Q: Do we need ‘holy bread’ and ‘holy wine’?
A: No. We do not believe that the bread and wine (juice) are transformed into holy elements. So, you may use bread or crackers, regular or gluten free. You may use wine or grape juice or any juice. What makes The Lord’s Supper ‘holy’ is the act of remembering Jesus in our prayers, in sharing the bread and cup, and in recognizing that as we do so Jesus Christ himself joins us at the Table! What a blessing to know that Christ is with us as we ‘dine’ together!
Q: What then is our attitude to bring to the Table?
A: Reverent Joy! We celebrate the Risen Christ every time we partake of the Supper. We celebrate the presence of Christ; we celebrate the hope that we are given there that Christ will come again when we shall behold him face to face and be made like unto him in glory! Oh joy!
Q: How will we be able to share the elements in a virtual worship experience?
A: The prayers and invitation will be offered at the Sanctuary Table, as always. Everyone watching will be joined physically via the ‘remote connection’ of livestream, but more importantly, via the Spirit of Christ who lives in each of us. As Christ is truly present at the Table, and as Christ is truly present in all of God’s Children, we will be one in the Spirit at the Table. So, as each one at home around your own tables, shares and partakes in the breaking of the Bread and the drinking of the Cup, we will be doing what Jesus taught us: remembering Christ’s death and resurrection, communing with Christ and each other, and expressing our hope that we will soon be reunited physically with each other in this church and with Christ.
Hope Church is a member of the Reformed Church in America, the oldest protestant denomination in America with a continuous history. It was established in New York in 1628. It is a historic denomination coming out of the Reformation when the Church was "reformed" according to the Word of God. The Church is Reformed in belief, with a Presbyterian form of government.
Hope Church was founded in 1891 by a group of Dutch immigrants. In 1938, the present sanctuary at 6th Street and Ontario Avenue in Sheboygan was built. In 1982, the attached Faith Center, containing church offices and Sunday School rooms, was completed. In 1999, the Wynveen Hope House, formerly the pastor's residence, was converted from housing to a meeting facility and is now used as a Youth Center and for various church and community meetings.
Hope Church has not only cared for our own members but has sought to bless our community and our world. In 1958, Bethany Church was founded on the south side of Sheboygan by members of Hope Church. The 10 acres of land on which there campus now sits was given as a gift to Bethany Church.
Through the years 20 sons and daughters of Hope Church have gone into full-time ministry over the years. Many also served in short-term missions and gone on mission trips to several people in need in the US and around the world.
…about God: God is love. We are drawn to God by overwhelming, unconditional, irresistible love. God is one and three, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
…about Jesus: Jesus is the Son of God, fully God and fully human. Jesus is Lord of our lives. Jesus is a friend and a brother. Jesus saves. Jesus is alive.
…about the Bible: The final truth about our salvation is found in the Bible, God-inspired words, preserved by the Holy Spirit, to help us know God and God’s will.
…about Salvation: Because of our sin we cannot save ourselves from eternal death. We are saved by the work of Jesus on the Cross. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone.
…about the Church: we exist to worship God and to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world. We are a covenant community accountable to God and each other.
…about Discipleship: all believers are called to be transformed and transforming followers of Jesus Christ, bringing mercy and compassionate justice to children, families and communities.
…about Prayer: God offers us this most important way to engage in a two-way conversation with God. Prayer is vital for our lives and our families.
…about Serving Together: God calls both men and women to serve alongside each other as Teachers of God’s Word and to the Church Offices of Minister of Word and Sacrament, Elder and Deacon.