What We Beleive
Our system of doctrine is the Reformed faith, also called Calvinism (because Calvin was the most important exponent of it during the Reformation). It pulls together the most significant doctrines taught in the Bible. These doctrines are set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms (with accompanying biblical references). Our system of doctrine is summarized in the following paragraphs.
Our Articles of Faith
The Presbyterian Church of East Africa is part of the Holy Catholic or Universal Church; worshipping God Almighty, All-wise, and All-loving, in the Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the same in substance, equal in power and glory; adoring the Father, infinite in majesty, of whom are all things; confessing our Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal Son, made very man for our salvation, glorying in His cross and resurrection and owing obedience to Him as the Head over all things in His Church; trusting in the promised renewal and guidance of the Holy Spirit, proclaiming the forgiveness of sins and acceptance by God through faith in Christ and the gift of eternal life; and labouring for the advancement of the Kingdom of God throughout the world. This Church receives the Word of God, contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as its supreme rule of faith and life; avows the fundamental doctrines of the Catholic faith founded thereupon, and in its interpretation and teaching thereof adheres to the guiding principles of the Protestant Reformation.
This Church receives the historic Confessions of the Faith known as the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and Short Catechism as containing the same substance of faith of the Church. Until such time as this Church shall exercise its right to frame its own Confession of Faith, it adopts as a subordinate standard the statement known as The Short Statement of Faith adopted by the Presbytery of East Africa in the year 1943.
This Church expresses the faith of the Reformed tradition. Central to this tradition is the affirmation of the majesty, holiness, and providence of God which creates, sustains, rules and redeems the world in the freedom of sovereign righteousness and love.
Related to this central affirmation of God’s sovereignty are the other great themes of the Reformation, such as the election of the people of God for service as well as for salvation, covenant life marked by a disciplined concern for order in the Church according to the Word of God; a faithful stewardship that shuns ostentation and improper use of the gifts of God’s creation; the recognition of the human tendency to idolatry and tyranny, and the need to call the people of God to work for the transformation of society by seeking justice and living in obedience to the Word of God; and the motto Ecclesia reformanda, semper reformanda. “the Church reformed, always being reformed.”
Its government is Presbyterian and is exercised through Parish Sessions, Presbyteries, Regional Councils and the General Assembly. The fundamental principles of Presbyterian Church government are: that the several different Congregations of believers, taken collectively, constitute one Church of Christ, called emphatically the Church; that a larger part of the Church, or a representation of it, should govern a smaller part or determine matters of controversy which arise therein; that in like manner, a representation of the whole should govern and determine in regard to every part and to all the parts united; that is, that a majority shall govern; and consequently, that appeals may be carried from lower to higher governing bodies, until they are finally decided by the collective wisdom and united voice of the whole Church. For these principles and this procedure the example of the Apostles and the practice of the early Church are considered as authority (Acts Ch 15).
This Church has the inherent right, free from interference by civil authority but under the safeguards for deliberate action and legislation provided by the Church itself, to frame or adapt its subordinate standards, to define the sense in which it understands these standards, to modify the form of expression therein or to formulate other doctrinal statements, and to define the relation thereto of its office bearers and members, but always in agreement with the Word of God and the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith as set forth in these standards, of which agreement the Church shall be sole judge, and with due regard to liberty of opinion in points which do not enter into the substance of the faith.
This Church acknowledges the divine appointment and authority of the civil government within its own sphere and maintains its historic testimony to the duty- of the nation acting in its corporate capacity to render homage to God, to obey His laws, to revere His ordinances, to honour His Church and to promote in all appropriate ways the Kingdom of God. 1.29 The Church and the State owe mutual duties to each other and, acting within their respective spheres, may signally promote each other’s welfare. The Church and the State have the right to determine, each for itself, all questions concerning the extent and the continuance of their mutual relations in the discharge of these duties and the obligations arising therefrom.
This Church is part of the universal Church wherein the Lord Jesus Christ has appointed a government in the hands of Church office bearers, received from Him, its divine King and Head. From Him alone, the right and power is given, subject to no civil authority, to legislate and adjudicate finally in all matters of doctrine, worship, government and discipline in this Church. This also includes the right to determine all questions concerning membership and office in the Church, the Constitution and membership of its courts, and the mode of election of its office bearers.
This Church, believing it is the will of Christ that His disciples should be all one in the Father and in Him so that the world may believe that the Father has sent Him, recognises the obligation to seek and promote union with other Churches in which it finds the Word to be purely preached, the Sacraments administered according to Christ’s ordinance, and discipline rightly exercised. The Church has the right to unite with any Church without loss of its identity, in terms which this Church finds to be consistent with these Articles
This Church, in the discharge of its mission in the world, cannot confine itself solely to the preaching of the Word and the administration of purely religious ordinances. Believing that it is entrusted with a ministry not only to the souls of men, but also to their bodies and minds, and following the example of its master, who went about doing good, it claims the right, as it shall see fit, to undertake educational, medical or charitable work for the benefit of all who desire its help; and declares its willingness to co-operate with governmental and other agencies in promoting the mental, physical and moral welfare of the whole community.
This Church, believing that God is the Creator of the universe, that Christ died for all without distinction of race, and that all are one in Him, recognises its obligation to preach the Gospel to men and women of all races; and affirms its resolve to recognise no barrier of race, sex or colour within its fellowship.
This Church believes that its unity derives from the unity of all its members with the Lord Jesus Christ, the sole King and Head of the Church. It recognises that the Act of Union with the Gospel Missionary Society, otherwise originally known as the Presbytery of Chania (1946) and that of the Overseas Presbytery of Kenya, under the Colonial and Continental Churches’ Committee of the Church of Scotland (1956), were able to draw together the uniting Churches in their doctrine, forms of worship, discipleship and ecclesiastical procedures. It is convinced that over the years, this togetherness has become real and lasting as a result of the basic respect for the traditional doctrines, forms of worship, discipline and ecclesiastical procedures brought into the union by each of the uniting Churches and cherished conscientiously by them, as part of their heritage from the past.
This Church reserves the right to interpret these Articles and, subject to the safeguard for deliberate action arid legislation provided by the Church itself, to modify or add to them; but always consistent with the first Article hereof; adherence to which, as interpreted by the Church, is essential to its continuity and corporate life.
Before any proposal for a modification of or addition to these Articles is approved or enacted, the General Assembly shall transmit it by way of a Barrier Act to Presbyteries, allowing not more than two successive years. If the proposal shall receive with or without suggested amendment, the consent of two-thirds of all Presbyteries, the Assembly or its GAC (when the GA is not meeting) may revise the proposal in the light of any suggestions by Presbyteries for their consent. If the proposal as transmitted in its final form shall receive the consent of not less than two-thirds of the total number of presbyteries, the General Assembly or the ‘GAC, when so authorised by the GA, may, if deems it expedient, modify or add to these Articles in terms of the said proposal. But if the proposal as transmitted in its final form shall not receive the above mentioned consent of Presbyteries, the same or a similar proposal shall not again be transmitted to the Presbyteries until an interval of three years after the failure to obtain the above mentioned consent has been reported to the General Assembly or GAC as relevant.
We believe that the Bible is the written revelation of who God is.
The Presbyterian faith goes back behind all denominational divisions and interpretations to the Bible. The Bible inspires and guides us in what we believe and how we live. Presbyterians consider the bible to be the most authoritative source for faith and practice. The writers of the Bible were guided and inspired by God to record events and God’s instructions. By reading the Bible, succeeding generations know what God has done and what God requires.
Scripture is partly shaped by its particular historical and cultural circumstances. We are also conditioned by our own time and culture. We bring to Scripture our own presuppositions. The task of joining text with reader involves four major components that are constantly interrelated.
- We are prompted by the Spirit working on our experience to listen afresh for God’s Word witnessed to in Scripture.
- We seek to understand the Bible in its original historical setting, recognizing the variety of material it contains. For this, a wise use of historical-critical methods is essential.
- We look at the biblical material as a canonical whole. We look for the underlying unity and diversity, continuity and discontinuity in Scripture, paying particular attention to the relationships between the Old and New Testaments.
- We bring the biblical materials to bear on our contemporary situation. The gift of discernment is especially needed here. We must pray for the guidance of the same Holy Spirit who inspired Scripture.
The Presbyterian Church of East Africa seeks to manifest visibly the unity of the Church of Jesus Christ and will be open to opportunities for conversation, co-operation, and interaction with other ecclesiastical bodies and secular groups.
The Presbyterian Church of East Africa will seek to initiate, maintain, and strengthen its relations and engage in mission with other Presbyterian and Reformed bodies and with other Christian Churches, Alliances, Councils, and Consortia.
All governing bodies of the Church, in consultation with the next higher governing body, shall be authorised to work with other Christian denominations in the creation and strengthening of effective ecumenical agencies ,for common mission.
The Presbyterian Church of East Africa will seek new opportunities for conversation and understanding with non-Christian religious bodies in order that interests and concerns may be shared and common action undertaken where compatible means and aims exist.
The Presbyterian Church of East Africa will initiate and respond to approaches for conversation and common action with movements, organisations and agencies of the business, educational, cultural and civic communities that give promise of assistance towards accomplishing the mission of the Church in the world.
Full organic union of this Church with any other ecclesiastical body shall be effected by: the approval of the proposed union from the General Assembly and its recommendation to the Presbyteries, the approval in writing of two-thirds of the Presbyteries, and the approval and consummation by the next General Assembly, or other General Assembly specified in the proposed plan of union.
In the search for the unity of Christ’s Church, the Presbyterian Church of East Africa may from time to time receive for guidance, statements of ecumenical consensus that regularly chosen representatives of this Church have helped to formulate. The purpose of receiving such ecumenical statements shall be to guide the particular Congregations and governing bodies of this Church as they share in joint action with other ecclesiastical bodies seeking ways to express the unity of the Church and to discover its possible future form. Such an ecumenical statement shall be approved by the General Assembly as a guide for such shared action, and shall be submitted to the Presbyteries for their affirmative or negative vote, together with a statement of the specific purpose and the effect of approving it.
When the next General Assembly shall have received written advice that an ecumenical statement has received the affirmative vote of a majority of the. Presbyteries, that statement shall serve as guidance for participation in ecumenical activity. Ecumenical statements which have been approved by the General Assembly and a majority of the Presbyteries in the manner described in the preceding paragraphs, shall be published as “Received Ecumenical Statements of Guidance”. Such statements shall not be part of the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa unless adopted as amendments pursuant to Chapter Eighteen. Ecumenical statements may be issued only under provisions of the Constitution of the PCEA.
Relations with other Denominations.
The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa is in correspondence with the highest governing bodies of those Churches with which it has had historical relations outside East Africa, and with those Churches that are members of the ecumenical bodies in which the’ Presbyterian Church of East Africa holds membership.
When a minister of another Christian denomination is called to work fully under the jurisdiction of a Presbytery, the Presbytery, after the constitutional conditions have been met, shall recognise the minister’s previous ordination to the office of the ministry. Similar procedures shall be followed in dismissing a minister from this denomination to another.
When a particular Church/Congregation of another denomination requests that it be received by a Presbytery of this denomination, the Presbytery shall verify that the Church/ Congregation has been regularly dismissed by the Governing body of that denomination dealing with relations between denominations, and shall then receive the Church/ Congregation in accordance with its responsibilities and powers. Before the final decision is taken, “the Presbytery shall consult the Principal Clerk for advice; he in turn shall consult the Business Committee for authorisation. Similar procedures shall be followed in dismissing a particular Church/Congregation from this denomination to another.
A Presbytery may authorise a particular Congregation to form a federated union Church with a Church or Churches of another denomination, or may organise a federated or union Church acting in concert with a comparable body of another denomination or denominations. A federated Church shall conduct its life and work under a plan of agreement between the Presbytery and the other governing body or bodies. This plan shall be subject to the Constitution, Disciplines or other organic documents of each Church involved. Wherever the Constitutions differ, the mandatory provisions of one shall apply in all cases when the others are permissive.
Whenever there are conflicting mandatory provisions, petitions shall be made to the appropriate governing bodies of the denominations to resolve the conflict either by authoritative interpretation or by constitutional amendment. In case of such federation becoming possible, a legally binding document which clearly stipulates the agreed conditions, relationships and what could happen if the federation were to be dissolved, is necessary.
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