Faith and Practice
The traditions of American Baptists and Congregationalists (the historic predecessor of the United Church of Christ) do not encourage the use of demanding, creedal affirmations. Rather, these churches seek to be guided by "covenants" which describe their reason for being "church," with responsibilities as Christian disciples and between each other. They also have historically held that each person is free and capable to make peace with God and to interpret the Bible. Such postures are often called "Soul Liberty."
Words like "crusades" and "inquisition" make Christians blush with shame. They point out what some religious zealots have done to people throughout history. Baptists and Congregationalists, however, have tried to be consistent in standing firmly for the rights of all individuals to seek and pursue their own faith, or even for each to decide to be without a belief system if that is their choice. They have even been the recipients of religious oppression themselves, and so have resisted using the power of the State to suppress others.
These two denominations take the Scriptures and their symbols seriously, where one can read that God has "...broken down the dividing wall of hostility ...making peace by the blood of His cross" (Ephesians 2:14, Colossians 1:20). The cross, Soul Libertarians hold, should never again be used as a weapon of coercion (as it was in the crusades against the Muslims), nor an instrument of torture (as it was in the heresy trials and inquisition). The cross, Soul Libertarians maintain, should always be the symbol that each person is not only loved by God, but also sent out to love and respect others in God's name.
Williston-Immanuel United Church may strongly disagree with some ideas others hold; there are some forms of worship practiced by others which Williston-Immanuel may think are inappropriate; and some people support beliefs which W-I holds to be offensive. But history has shown that however incompatible any of their viewpoints may be with others, Baptists and Congregationalists have always stood firm in the support of the other party's right to disagree, without the interference of the law, power or majority opinion.
The notion of Soul Liberty implies the need for every individual to make his or her own decision on religious matters. Historically, Baptists and Congregationalists have stood firm, suffered loss, and even been punished themselves for this emphasis on the rights of others to be what they choose to be, which includes the right to be different.
The historic creeds of the Christian Church include the "Apostles' Creed" and the "Nicene Creed." The Nicene Creed was adopted officially at the Council of Constantinople in 381 C.E. Many liturgical churches, like the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran, among others, use the Nicene Creed in their services of worship. Williston-Immanuel United seldom finds anything wrong with the wording of the Creed, but does not insist that those who worship make a public confession of specific, accepted beliefs. The Apostle's Creed is older than the Nicene and is thought to have been devotionally recited by a person seeking a life of faith.
In the spirit of being covenantal rather than creedal, Williston-Immanuel United Church sets our mission priorities guided by this simple phrase:
"WE ARE A WELCOMING CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY WHO PROMOTES FAITH, JUSTICE, AND LOVE AS EACH OF US MAKES OUR OWN FAITH JOURNEY." At the top of our Sunday Worship Bulletin each week it states:" ACCEPTANCE WITHOUT CONDITION... AFFIRMATION WITHOUT DISCRIMINATION."