(By ECO News). The ECO Book of Confessions is a very special collection of documents that give witness to the system of doctrine embraced by countless reformed and Presbyterian believers over many centuries. Each document has played an important part in our history as a church and continues to guide us through the present and into our future together. Upon the formation of ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians it was decided that all of the current confessions of the Presbyterian Church (USA) would be kept as our founding documents. Therefore the ECO Book of Confessions stands as it was at the moment in time that ECO came into existence. This was a wise and faithful decision as the vast majority of incoming members had taken vows in support of this Book of Confessions. There was also a commitment made that there would be further study and reflection upon this decision after the denomination was established.
Now that ECO is well established we have the responsibility to assess our collection of documents and to clarify and consider their meaning for us going forward. We also have the responsibility to determine which creeds, catechisms, confessions, and statements we would like to see included in our future confessional standards. We trust that our Lord Jesus Christ will guide us as we prayerfully consider the best way forward for the future health and growth of our family of churches. We are proud of our confessional heritage and affirm the secondary authority of the Book of Confessions as a faithful exposition of the Word of God. We also trust that the study and examination of each of these documents in light of the Word of God will bring a harvest of righteousness for those who are willing to be trained by the Holy Spirit and stand upon the shoulders of those who have believed before us.
Members of ECO’s National Theological Task Force have prepared new introductions for each of the confessions in this ECO Book of Confessions. The introductions themselves, while broadly applicable, are nevertheless the authorship of particular individuals and should not be understood as an official position of our denomination. The introductions are intended to be helpful and stimulating documents that will not only introduce the confession to the reader but will also assist us in our project of discerning the content and understanding of any possible ECO Book of Confessions going forward. The individual introductions are listed below along with their author or authors.
Link: Read and/or download the ECO Book of Confessions.
(Article originally appeared here).
Related resource: The online center for theological discussion for the Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians
Get rid of the Confession of 1967.
As a minister of the OPC, once a minister in the EPC, it seems unwise to me that the ECO adopted the same Book of Confessions as the PCUSA. I have for years asked officers of the PCUSA the meaning of the third ordination vow- “Do you sincerely receive and adopt the essential tenets of the Reformed faith as expressed in the confessions of our church as authentic and reliable expositions of what Scripture leads us to believe and do, and will you be instructed and led by those confessions as you lead the people of God? – What are these “essential tenets of the Reformed faith …expressed in the confessions”? Rarely have I been given an satisfactory or definite answer. Indeed, the inclusion of seemingly contradictory confessions seems to negate the second ordination vow – “Do you accept the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be, by the Holy Spirit, the unique and authoritative witness to Jesus Christ in the Church universal, and God’s Word to you?”
In 1971, while attending Princeton Theological Seminary, former UPCUSA Moderator, George Sweazey, who was teaching homiletics at PTS at the time, said in a chapel service (from my memory), “The UPCUSA is no longer a confessional church, having adopted the Confession of 1967 and included it in a Book of Confessions.” Edward Dowey, who chaired the committee which wrote the Confession of 1967, took exception with Dr. Sweazey’s statement, and invited him to his theology classroom (in which I was enrolled) to discuss the issue. Dr. Sweazey made a coherent argument for the need for a comprehensive confession, like the Westminster, that clearly stated what the church confessed. Since then, it has seemed to me that Dr. Sweazey was correct in his assessment. The UPCUSA, and subsequently the PCUSA, has been a denomination without a confession. The Book of Confessions has been a theological archive from which individual officers might pick and choose whatever they wish to believe or reject.
Without a definite and clear confession of faith, can any group be truly Reformed and Presbyterian? In spite of its weaknesses, the EPC at least adopted a form of the Westminster Standards, and require all officers to additionally affirm without exception THE ESSENTIALS OF OUR FAITH (a brief statement of those). Denominations are often contexts in which congregations, church judicatories, officers and ministers are in transition from a more orthodox confession to a lesser one, or from a lesser to a greater orthodoxy. I hope and pray the ECO, as well as the EPC, foster the latter to an increasing degree. But, a Book of Confessions is not likely to help in this process.