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The following 1997 Declaration of Reformed Faith was written and signed
the weekend of January 10-12 in Rochester NY.


We, faithful members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), are gathered around our concern for our church in this difficult time, to share in faith and hope. We have set our feet firmly on the foundation of the Reformed Tradition as rooted in the Scriptures and encouraged by the Holy Spirit. Upon this foundation and within this communion, we seek to give witness to the convictions that sustain us as we seek to follow our living Lord.

We affirm that we are children of God and servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, who has redeemed us by His grace and abides with us in the Holy Spirit. In the providence of our loving God, we find ourselves to be different from one another in our natures while joined in the Body of Christ through faith; at the same time, we find ourselves called to faith and life in this church in this time. We are grieved by our church’s efforts to exclude some of us from full participation in the church’s life, worship, and service, and we hold this to be a wrongful discernment of the Body of Christ. We believe such actions to be a distortion of God’s image, a repudiation of God’s providence, and a misunderstanding of God’s grace in Christ. We stand against this rejection of historic Trinitarian and Reformed theology on which our communion rests.


“For there is no distinction since all have sinned and are short of the glory of God...”

Romans 3:23

We affirm the biblical faith that knows sin to be a condition of our very being,
to which all are subject
and from which Christ redeems us;
no human act is pure or without sin,
and so we must rely on the generous grace of God for our redemption.
We therefore reject the false doctrine
that sin is a category of human behaviors,
to be identified by a catalog of acts;
that to obtain moral purity,
we are required only to do certain acts
and to refrain from others.


“When controversy arises about the right understanding of any passage or sentence of Scripture, or for the reformation of any abuse within the Kirk of God, we ought not so much to ask what [those] have said or done before us, as what the Holy Ghost uniformly speaks within the body of Scriptures and what Christ Jesus himself did and commanded... We dare not receive or admit any interpretation which is contrary to any principal point of our faith, or to any other plain text of Scripture, or to the rule of love.”

The Scots Confession, Chapter XVIII

We affirm the reformed principle
that the only interpreter of Scripture
is Scripture itself,
and that the Holy Spirit guides us in application
of biblical truth to daily life.
We therefore reject the false doctrine
that seeks certainty in a literal interpretation of Scripture;
that uncritically lifts up certain passages
for the purpose of damnation,
while ignoring others of equal power and relevance.

“What then are we to say? Gentiles, who did not strive for righteousness have attained it, that is, righteousness through faith; but Israel, who did strive for righteousness that is based on law, did not succeed in fulfilling that law. Why not? Because they did not strive for it on the basis of faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone...”

Romans 9:30-32

We affirm
that we are given new life
solely by the grace of God,
and that we receive this new life
by means of faith and faith alone.
We therefore reject the false doctrine
that causes us to stumble
along the pathway of works-righteousness,
and leased us to believe
that we may obtain salvation
through our own acts or merit.


“The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) states its faith and bears witness to God’s grace in Jesus Christ in the creeds and confessions in the Book of Confessions... These confessional statements are subordinate standards in the church, subject to the authority of Jesus Christ, the Word of God, as the Scriptures bear witness to him... Yet the church, in obedience to Jesus Christ, is open to the reform of its standards as well as of governance. The church affirms Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda [the Church reformed, always being reformed]...according to the Word of God and the call of the Spirit.”

Book of Order, Form of Government, Chapter 2 – G-2.0100-.0200

We affirm that the Confessions of our church
express the essential tenets of the reformed faith
as authentic and reliable expositions of
what Scripture leads us to believe and do;
that ordained officers are to be instructed
and led by these Confessions; and
that our creeds and confessions
are the beginning and not the end of our pilgrimage,
for we stand always in need
of God’s reforming hand and transforming power.
We therefore reject the false doctrine
that the Confessions express settled truths
equal to or greater than
the written or living Word of God;
that they may be used as a catechistic tool
for the measurement of all acts and
standards by which all shall be judged.


“But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

Galatians 3:25-28

We affirm that the Church of Jesus Christ
is marked by baptism,
and all other distinctions lose their power;
that the church is therefore called
to display the grace of openness
and to affirm itself as a community of diversity
including women and men of all ages, races,
and human conditions who are elect of Christ.
We therefore reject the false doctrine
that the church can establish itself
as a community marked by classes
or levels of membership.


“All ministry in the Church is a gift from Jesus Christ. Members and officers alike serve mutually under the mandate of Christ who is the chief minister of all. His ministry is the basis of all ministries; the standard for all offices in the pattern of the one who came ‘not to be served by to serve.’ (Matt 20:28)”

Book of Order, Form of Government, Chapter VI – G6.0100

We affirm that all believers are united
in a common ministry
by the call of Christ to discipleship,
who, responding in trust and obedience
to God’s grace in Jesus Christ,
shall demonstrate in their lives the character of Christ
and the fullness of the Gospel.
We therefore reject the false doctrine
that would establish a hierarchy of officers and ministers
who possess moral, ethical, or spiritual virtues
distinguishing them from the common lot of all persons
before God.


“[O]fficers...are ordained to fulfill particular functions. The existence of these offices in no way diminishes the importance of the commitment of all members to the total ministry of the church. These ordained officers differ from other members in function only.”

Book of Order, Form of Government, Chapter VI – G-6.0102.

We affirm that the church calls people
to perform certain functions
in order that the fullness of the church’s mission
may be accomplished;
that men and women are ordained
to govern the church,
to serve the children of God,
and to proclaim the Gospel in sermon and sacrament,
so that the church may serve as the Body of Christ in the world.
We therefore reject the false doctrine
that ordination confers special status before God
or rests upon spiritual superiority
in the communion of the faithful.


“[N]o Church governing body ought to pretend to make laws to bind the conscience in virtue of their own authority; ...all their decisions should be founded upon the revealed will of God.”

Book of Order, Form of Government, Chapter VI – G-6.0307.

We affirm that the polity and processes of our tradition
are means of expressing our faith
and assuring our openness to the Holy Spirit,
which speaks to and through the governing bodies of the church;
we also acknowledge the frailty
inherent in the church as a human institution.
We therefore reject the false doctrine
that acts of church governance are immutable
and human decisions may bind
the consciences of believers.


“Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”
Ruth 1:16

We affirm that we are created by God
to be in relationship with one another;
that these relationships should be characterized
by mutuality, commitment, respect, and love;
that human sexuality
is one of God’s many good gifts;
and that while all have fallen short
in the expression of this gift,
nevertheless we each have the ability
to exercise responsibility
in our sexual relationships,
whatever their nature and form.
We therefore reject the false doctrine
that the gender of the partners
in a sexual relationship
is a sign by which its inherent worth
and acceptability before God
can be judged.

“The church of Jesus Christ is the provisional demonstration of what God intends for all of humanity.”

Book of Order, Form of Government, Chapter 3 – G-3.0200.

We state these affirmations and reject these false doctrines as a visible sign of our assurance that all God’s children are worthy; our conviction that each may receive the call of God to special service in the church; and our commitment that we shall become truly a provisional demonstration of what God intends for all humanity.

This Declaration was formatted after the Barmen Declaration of 1934.

Written and Signed this 12th Day of January 1997
Downtown United Presbyterian Church
Rochester, New York
Donald Wilson Stake
Joan A. Wolfarth
Rosemarie Wallace
Ruth M. Pringle
C.F. Van Gorder
Gail A. Ricciuti
Anthony J. Ricciuti
David C. Stimson
Peter Oddliefson
Stewart A. Pollock
Jane Adams Spahr
W. Clark Chamberlain
Luis Antonio De La Rosa
Mary Charlotte McCall
Bear Ride Scott
Leslie H. Ellison
John A. Matta
Margaret S. Wentz
Joanne Whitt
Virginia West Davidson
Betsy Massie
William P. Thompson
Charles P. Forbes
James L. Vesper
Frances H. Hollis