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Why does UCCF have a Doctrinal Basis of Fellowship, and how should it be used?

Here's 27minutes of a really helpful workshop on doing unity in a Christian Union... I've deeply enjoyed working through 1 Corinthians 12-14 with Kenny in recent months and batting this key question around, the fruit has been this workshop he delivered at our CU leaders weekend. Kenny blogs occasionally.

Download MP3: We are being transformed together in the gospel.

Christian Unions unite a wide range of people; how is that supposed to work in practice?What do you think are the benefits/difficulties of having an interdenominational mission team?
- What's been your experience of this - positively and negatively?
- What do you think are the benefits/difficulties of having a doctrinal basis of fellowship?
- What do you see as key issues you would like to consider in this seminar?

1. Why do we have a Doctrinal Basis of Fellowship?
(i) It is exclusive and inclusive
(ii) It is confessional
(iii) It is a good thing!

2. Issues that arise from having a Doctrinal Basis of Fellowship
(i) Dealing with those who disagree with it

- Arrogance v. Humility. Vicar Bob, of local church St Botolph of the Windy Lawns, has been invited to do some bible teaching at Axelrod College CU. He replies to the CU Exec explaining that he cannot in good conscience sign the DBF, because he disagrees theologically with point e, that Jesus is
God. Helpful principle: build friendships

(ii) Dealing with disagreements within it

- Suspicion v. Partnership. Bristominster CU are aware that lots of students attend the local pentecostal church but aren't involved in CU. It is a bible-believing church, but the pastor's methods are somewhat 'unconventional'. CU President Hugo decides to meet the pastor, and takes a copy of the DB to discuss, thinking that if the pastor proves himself to be 'sound' then he'll chat to him about getting his students along to CU. Helpful principle: Invite widely, accept generously

- Primary v. Secondary. Dreckly Tech College has a lively CU of about 30, who are united in the gospel and engaged in evangelism on campus. However, within the CU, there are a wide variety of opinions on the role of women in ministry and whether women should do some of the bible teaching in the CU. Helpful principle: Have a working policy 

 - Power v. Sacrifice. Banterhampton CU have a very conservative style of worship in their CU meetings. This upsets some students from a more charismatic background who deeply appreciate a more fluid style of worship with space to reflect. Their suggestions are dismissed by louder voices in the CU. Helpful principle: Be willing to lay all down, but the Doctrinal Basis of Fellowship

3. How to do gospel unity
 The principle of love. 1 Cor 13: 1-7.
Describe the dynamic in your CU.
Is it a diverse group of Christians? Do they come from a variety of church backgrounds & experiences? How does that diversity contribute to the life of the CU, positively and/or negatively?
How do you feel towards those different from you? What words would you use to describe those feelings? Be as honest as you can!
Read v1-3. Write down the gifts mentioned. What is more important than all of them? Why are the gifts so ineffective if that thing is not present?
Read v4-7. Write down the adjectives used to describe what love is, and what love is not: What love is: What love is not: (Note: these are relational adjectives; they describe how love responds to other people.) 
Think about the different people in your CU. Which of these adjectives most commonly describe how you feel about them? Which describe your feelings in a situation of disagreement? What needs to change in your heart? What needs to change in your CU?

4. Questions & Discussion.


  1. Should be said the focus here is much more on how to use a doctrinal basis of fellowship than why have one. For the why see Mike Reeves - why have a doctrinal basis of fellowship.

  2. I really enjoyed the names in this. Very funny.

    In terms of achieving what it set out to do (i.e. show how to use it rather why to have one) I'd say this little article is very successful too. (I haven't listened to the audio)

  3. Scottish creativity is responsible for the names! Worth a listen.

    The why obviously matters too but what I tend to find is most peoples objections to having a DBF are because of the way they can get used, rather than that they disagree with the content. Seen as a positive document of fellowship, partnership, unity, celebration they're hard to object to.

  4. Is there any value to the suggestion that a DB can function as a creed? I remember Dan Strange making the argument a while ago. I've done some study in historical theology now and I think he could be correct on this. Creeds started off being foundational then came to be employed as a protective and communicative vehicle.

    I'd argue along this line that evangelicals should continue to use DB's but that there is a need to really use a DB properly, not just throwing it down to those who have little love for other kinds of Christians and who want to draw a line around their favourite bit of reformed doctrine and make believing it essential for evangelical unity. (Just to be clear, this isn't a dig at UCCF at all, but some of the DB's I've read at the fringes of the whole evangelical spectrum). I just think that sometimes it's more obvious to someone looking in, than looking out where the love is and isn't.

    I'd actually like to revise most evangelical DB's to take into account a couple of things. Firstly, the misinterpretation people have about evidence, reason and faith. We need to clearly communicate that there is no leap of faith, there is a right response to the facts. And secondly, to reinforce that the creation mandate as well as the great commission must be central focus' for the Christian believer. We have forgotten the first part of the gospel in conservative circles. Why couldn't we could use a DB/creed to nail these two things?


    Perhaps, but having the conversation might make us more outward looking too. Is that a bad thing?

  5. Thanks Tom,

    I guess a Creed serves a different purpose to a Doctrinal Basis of Fellowship...

    I would argue that the attached Vision, Values, Strategy, Missional Basis of Fellowship incorporate some of what you're suggesting - whether they'd be worth including in the doctrinal component is a decent question to raise.

    I suppose these sort of documents are always responding to certain issues of their day. Strength for a DBF is that it can stand as the tides of emphasis rise and fall, but that might mean it doesn't explicitly unpack what is being meant in every age...

    So, a DBF like UCCF's that emphasises justification by faith alongside our Values Statement of Faith that promotes 'relevant, engaging and persuasive proclamation of gospel truth that speaks to students where they are' would imply what you're suggesting...

    UCCF's practice picks up the creation mandate stuff though I think it could be argued that we could say more about that in the fellowship documents.

    Hopefully such documents are core things that establish fellowship and then you apply the doctrinal commitment to scripture, creation and new creation (for example) and you get creation mandate...etc. If the documents are too extensive maybe they don't work enough. Funnily I've heard people object in the last year or so that the UCCF DBF is both too long and too short.. An summary statement fails somewhere.

  6. I love our conversations Dave. Really genuinely do. You are brilliant!


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