Just over 10 years ago, our denomination (the Evangelical Free Church of America) clarified their doctrinal statement to more accurately and succinctly articulate our core doctrines. The EFCA way is to keep our statement minimal - only those statements that are core to Christianity being Christianity. Many of you were a part of the Grace Fellowship family when that occurred. The current EFCA doctrinal statement is found here: https://www.efca.org/about/what-we-believe.
There was one proposed change that was eventually removed from the proposal. Not because there wasn't a good reason for the proposal, but because it reflected a change that required a great deal of consideration, and they didn't want this one issue to derail the entire proposal. So they tabled that idea and proceeded to accepted the rest of the proposed changes.
This year, the EFCA is now set to vote on that deferred change at EFCA One, our national conference. Chet Toole and I will be there to represent Grace Fellowship.
I will teach on the theology of this topic in the worship service on May 5. Then after the worship service, we will host a roundtable discussion to talk through any questions or thoughts you have on the proposal in particular. I will also have more time then to discuss some history and rationale for the proposal.
The proposed change is in Article 9, which currently states:
We believe in the personal, bodily and premillennial return of our Lord Jesus Christ. The coming of Christ, at a time known only to God, demands constant expectancy and, as our blessed hope, motivates the believer to godly living, sacrificial service and energetic mission.
The proposal is to change one word, but a significant one: Replace “premillennial” with “glorious.”
In other words, the EFCA would no longer require a premillennial view of Jesus’ return in order to be a member of the denomination.
Premillennial view: Jesus will return to collect His Church before the Millennial (1000 year) period described in Revelation 20. This collecting is called the “rapture.” Some see the rapture happening before a tribulation, some midway through a tribulation, and some after the tribulation. The the Millennial period, then the fullness of the Kingdom. There is a resurrection of some believers before the Millennium and a resurrection of the rest after.
Postmillennial view: The "Millennium" is this present long period (the "Church Age") of the gradually increasing influence of the Kingdom until fulfillment, with the resurrection of believers to eternal life and unbelievers to eternal death.
Amillennial view: The "Millennial" period is metaphorical, describing the present age, starting when Jesus inaugurated His Kingdom at the resurrection. Jesus will return at the time appointed by His Father, rapture the Church, and establish the new heaven and new earth.
The proposed change would allow those who hold postmillennial and amillennial views to be members of EFCA churches and to teach at EFCA colleges and seminaries.
This does not mean the EFCA is moving as a denomination to become “a-mill” or “post-mill,” but consonant with the EFCA commitment to keep our doctrine focused on the core of Christianity, the proposal is a statement that which Millennial view one holds is not critical to Christian orthodoxy. Views on the Trinity and the work of Christ in the Cross, by comparison, are critical elements of orthodoxy.
We'll discuss the Millennial views in more detail in the worship service on May 5, and then host a discussion after the service for open dialog on the proposal.
We encourage you to be a part of the discussion, to voice your views and ask your questions, and get everything you need in order to form your reaction to the proposal. Chet and I will convey Grace Fellowship's collective thoughts at the national conference. Note: Voting for the proposal does not mean that one is giving up their premillennial view, but merely that they are not requiring a premillennial view in order to be a member of the denomination.
What we will not do is tell you which Millennial view you should hold, but we will be happy to share our personal views on the theology and the proposal itself.
If the proposal passes at the national level, Grace Fellowship will then have the task of incorporating that statement into our Bylaws in order to remain within the EFCA.
Here is a treasure trove of resources on this topic: https://www.efca.org/resources/document/resources-and-references.