The February newsletter covers the book titled We Believe that will be published in the next couple months by Faith & Fellowship Publishing, written by Dr. Timothy Ysteboe who sadly passed away in November 2009. The book is a wonderful commentary on the Church of the Lutheran Brethren Statement of Faith. Below is an article by Rev. Robert Overgaard, former president of the CLB, about why we have a statement of faith and why this book is important to us as a family of churches. Tomorrow we will be posting Part Two, an interview with Dr. Ysteboe's wife, Rachel, about the process and purpose of writing the book.
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Why What We Believe Matters Now
By Robert Overgaard, Sr.
The conversation God sets up with His people is substantive. God has spoken through prophets, apostles and through His Son, Jesus Christ. When the church speaks back to God, giving expression to what has been heard through the proclamation of the Word, the church confesses both the personal faith of the believers, and the corporate faith of the Body. To confess is to “speak with,” to speak in harmony with what God is saying. We believe what he reveals, we trust what he promises. Therefore we speak (Romans 10:9-10), speaking back the Word preached, confessing Jesus as Lord.
Since the beginning of the church, as new communities of faith have been formed and old communities reformed, the center of the community life has always been anchored in “one faith, one hope and one baptism” (Eph. 4:5). Because we know in part, we can never speak exhaustively of our faith, but we can speak truly and we can recognize the confession of all who confess in spirit and truth Jesus as Lord. But, it is not just a community consensus confession, as if we settle for the lowest common denominator. A community consensus does form, but it is forged in the light of God’s presence, as the church humbly seeks to say in words, out of our own hearts, what we have heard and what we will trust. It is shaped in interaction with the Living Word, not the word as only ancient tradition.
Through the use of written confessions or statements of faith, the church has achieved and maintained its unity around its corporate confession. Sometimes these confessions have been relatively brief, like the Apostle’s Creed, focusing on a current point of conflict with the spirit of the age. Sometimes they have been extensive, like the Lutheran Confessions and the Westminster Confession when the need for stating what is believed was so comprehensive that nothing less than a major statement would serve to unite and express the faith at that time and place.
In the early history of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren the need for a particular statement of faith was not a pressing issue because the immigrant believers came from a small country where all people were taught the basic doctrines of the church in public school, where church and kingdom were joined in a Christendom, a national society where church and state were managed in a cooperative way.
As the Church of the Lutheran Brethren began its transition into the English language, they added an English language official organ that gave much time and space to teaching and discussing the common faith. It was read and discussed as avidly as any newspaper and was published twice a month. It took the name Faith & Fellowship to give expression to its mission.
While Faith & Fellowship gave expression to this faith in many particulars, the need for a more collected Statement of Faith became more and more apparent as the church saw itself as both a Lutheran church and a church that found itself in fellowship with believers of other traditions who confessed a common faith and served the Lord in a common life. How should we teach what God has given us? How shall we maintain unity in the faith? What should we confess?
These concerns led to the authorizing of the Statement of Faith by the highest governing body in our church, the Annual Convention, in the 1950’s.
In the 1990’s the church felt a need to address some issues in the Statement of Faith that were culturally limiting because of our two language history. For example, we had expressions that made sense in a Norwegian “Christendom” setting that did not communicate to people who did not share that culture. This need resulted in various study committees doing extensive work. As a part of that work, Pastor Timothy Ysteboe served for over a year in a joint assignment with the Lutheran Center for Christian Learning and the Office of President as he was transitioning to his long term of service with LCCL. He worked to generate extended discussions and commentary on the Statement of Faith to assist the revision process. Over the years he made this commentary his own through working and re-working it as he taught. Fortunately, he was able to give it to us as his parting gift.
This gift is particularly timely as the Church of the Lutheran Brethren in undergoing an extensive examination of how missional theology relates to our Statement of Faith. The book We Believe: Commentary on the Statement of Faith, by Timothy Ysteboe, can serve as a valuable reference book and will fulfill in an unexpected way the original purpose of the Congregation Based Theological Education (CBTE) initiative under which Ysteboe began this work.
Rev. Robert Overgaard, Sr. served as the president of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren from 1986 to 2001
About the Book
“What do we believe?” That is a question we have all asked at one time or another. It’s important for us to know what we believe and why we believe it. Our theology is not just a feeling or an experience and our Statement of Faith is more than just rules to follow or guidelines to live by. For us in the Church of the Lutheran Brethren, our Statement of Faith summarizes the biblical foundation of our living, teaching and witnessing.
This book, “We Believe,” is a wonderful commentary on our Statement of Faith. It presents the Statement of Faith in eleven chapters, and includes questions for group discussion. It is ideal for elder training, small group Bible study and personal education. This book was born in discussion with young adults and later honed for congregational leaders and elders.
The book is in the final stages of editing and is set for printing soon. It will be available for purchase in the next couple months. We were able to print copies for Dr. Ysteboe before he passed away but it did not include the indexes, which we are working on at the moment. Because of Dr. Tim’s passion that the church be anchored in Scripture, money has been set aside to send copies to each CLB congregation. We pray that this work will encourage elders, Sunday classes and home Bible study groups to engage this book in their growing into that which “We Believe.”
Related Post > CLB Newsletter February (Part 2 of 2)