We pray that this communication might find you and your congregation well. The General Council and staff of the General Conference pray frequently for you.
We are writing this letter to you concerning issues of conscience brought about by the proposed amendment to our Statement of Belief concerning the return of Christ. The proposed amendment was passed as a first reading at our General Conference sessions in 2013 with an overwhelming voice vote and was sent to all member churches in January 2014 to prepare for a vote by churches at our General Conference sessions in 2014. Your congregation may or may not have received this communication. It is attached for your reference.
We believe there is overwhelming support for the intent of the proposed amendment. The reason behind its proposal is to communicate our common belief that Christ will return (while not committing to a certain eschatology) as the hope of the gospel and that the timing of His return is known to God alone.
Communication has been received from both clergy and laity within our churches which let us know that the wording of the proposed amendment has caused some confusion regarding these matters. Because of these genuine concerns of conscience, the General Council would like to be proactive in addressing them.
Therefore, after consultation with our parliamentarians and denominational leaders, we are seeking unanimous consent from the delegates to the 2014 General Conference sessions to change the word Father to God in the proposed amendment to the Statement of Belief. The new sentence would then read, “We believe that Jesus Christ, in keeping with His promise, will return suddenly, personally and visibly, at a time known only by God.”
We believe that this change from one specific person of the Godhead to involve the entire Godhead will eliminate the concerns of conscience communicated to us. This should permit us to bring greater unity to a statement which expresses our common belief.
If we are not able to achieve unanimous consent, we will seek to temporarily suspend the rules regarding the framing of the question to allow this amendment.
As you instruct your delegates or send your votes to the Conference office, please understand that this change will take place at our Conference sessions in 2014 and your delegates or votes should be prepared accordingly. If you are already in favor of the amendment as currently worded, this should not change your vote. If you have issues of conscience over the current wording of the proposed amendment but concur with the intent, we believe that this change to the amendment should help address your concern.
It is our eager desire to serve Seventh Day Baptists and to communicate the gospel and our beliefs as clearly as possible. If you should have any questions, or need any clarifications, please do not hesitate to contact the General Council or the General Conference office.
May we be faithful to God and each other as we strive to advance His Kingdom!
Serving Christ’s Kingdom and SDBs,
The SDB General Council