As a denomination, one of our great strengths is that we’re flexible in how we operate and not dogmatic about what we believe. Some people may argue that we’re wishy-washy and weak, afraid to take a strong stand one way or the other on various issues. But we don’t see it that way.
Our Confession of Faith says we believe in the Triune God, Jesus Christ the Son, the Holy Spirit, the Church, the Bible, salvation, and the Christian ordinances. Those seven points contain the basic beliefs on which we cannot compromise.
But look at what it doesn’t say. For instance, while stressing the importance of baptism, the Confession says nothing about how a person must be baptized. We give individuals the freedom to choose the method—sprinkling, pouring, or immersion. If somebody wants to be sprinkled or poured (perhaps because of a medical condition), we’re free to accomodate them.
Most want to be immersed, but even there you have differences, such as three times forward or one time backward. Any method is okay in the UB church. The Bible commands us to be baptized, but doesn’t specify what method to use. We want to follow the Bible, but not go beyond its teachings.
Let’s take another issue: the Second Coming. The Confession of Faith says Christ will return, but doesn’t say how. Some church groups require belief in a specific view of the End Times. But in the UB church, you can be premillennial or amillennial, pre-trib, mid-trib or post-trib. It’s not something we get hung up about.
Regarding salvation, we could spell out a series of steps for becoming a Christian, or set other rules about how, when, and where you can be saved. But we don’t.
Likewise, the Confession of Faith affirms the role of the Bible, but doesn’t say which Bible version people must use.
There may be a predominant view, but not a required view.
If you travel across our denomination, you’ll encounter a wide range of worship styles and settings. Some churches have very formal worship services, some use a contemporary style, and some are on the cultural cutting edge. You’ll find churches singing hymns with a pipe organ, and churches with a full band and screaming guitars. Larger churches may hold multiple services with different styles.
Some churches meet in beautiful sanctuaries, while others hold services in fellowship halls or store fronts. Some have a printed order of service, others don’t. Some stick to the hymns and use hymnbooks, others use brand new songs with lyrics projected on a screen. Some ministers preach in suits, others in bluejeans.
We just don’t get worked up about these things. We give churches the freedom to worship in a way which best fits their situation.
At one time, our Discipline spelled out countless details about how a church should operate—what committees they must have, who can serve on them, how often they meet, whether members are elected or appointed, etc. But we removed nearly all such requirements. Why micro-manage stuff like that?
Recognizing that every church is different, we let churches adopt whatever structure best fits their needs. We state a few basic requirements which enable us to work together—an administrative board, a personnel committee to deal with pastoral assignments, and a lay delegate to represent the church at the national conference. Beyond that, we let churches do what they want.
“The Bible gives clear instruction on many issues, but on other issues, it leaves room for Christians of equal spiritual commitment and insight to disagree. The church’s historic position has been to stand firm on biblical absolutes, allow freedom where the Bible allows freedom, and maintain unity when disagreements arise.”
That sums up the spirit of United Brethrenism. Instead of taking extreme positions, we stick to the middle-of-the-road. We’ve been criticized for that. But we prefer the center lane.
Adapted from an article by Bishop Emeritus C. Ray Miller