Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
The EFCA Board of Ministerial Standing (BOMS) has been tasked by the Conference (the delegates at the bi-annual EFCA business meeting) to uphold the mandates of credentialing as determined by the Conference. The EFCA Statement of Faith (SOF) is foundational for churches to affirm in order to become associated with the EFCA, and the SOF is also foundational to affirm for all those credentialed in the EFCA.
One of the expectations is that all who are credentialed will initially affirm belief in the SOF “without mental reservation.” In order to remain accountable, every person credentialed in the EFCA is also required to reaffirm the SOF “without mental reservation” every five years. Some have asked what this expression means, especially as it relates to premillennialism (Article 9).
BOMS discussed this question and wrote the response below. As you read this, it is important to remember that BOMS has been tasked by the Conference to uphold the decisions made by the Conference, not make new decisions or to make concessions to the Conferences decisions. For BOMS, upholding this is a matter of integrity.
BOMS Definition: "Without Mental Reservation"
The EFCA credentialing document spells out the role of BOMS in carrying out the Conference decision on credentialing. Under “Requirements for Ministerial Credentials,” it states that all “Must subscribe without mental reservation to the Statement of Faith of the EFCA and agree to reaffirm that conviction every five years” (p. 2). Furthermore, BOMS ultimately defines what “without mental reservation” means as noted in our credentialing requirements, “All definitions of language or interpretation of individual cases shall be solely delegated to BOMS” (p. 2).
“Without Mental Reservation”
The bottom line issue is the necessity of affirming without mental reservation our Statement of Faith in toto. Upon being granted a credential, and then every five years thereafter, the question is asked, “Do you subscribe to and affirm without mental reservation each article of the EFCA Statement of Faith?” The expression “without mental reservation” means that it is your personal conviction. It means you can affirm in good conscience, and without some unexpressed or expressed qualification, that you believe this statement to be true. It means you can affirm the statement without fudging, hedging or equivocation.
The question is raised regarding “premillennialism” in Article 9 and whether or not one must affirm and reaffirm premillennialism without mental reservation, or if there is any wiggle room on that doctrinal issue. Though premillennialism is a non-essential as it relates to evangelicalism or soteriology, because it is in our SOF (recognized more as a distinctive, though still in our SOF which makes it an essential, even though not a soteriological essential) it is an essential for credentialing in the EFCA. Until or unless the Conference were to broaden our position, we will affirm premillennialism without mental reservation and require others who are credentialed to do so as well.
On the one hand, it is not sufficient to affirm merely that premillennialism is the position of the EFCA, or that you can minister within that framework without causing disunity. You must affirm premillennialism as your own position, your own settled conviction. On the other hand, it may be that your degree of certainty about premillennialism (as over against postmillennialism and amillennialism) is not as great as your certainty about other parts of the SOF. Indeed, article 9 itself implies a certain humility about our eschatological views: Christ's return will be "at a time known only to God." But the premillennial view must be your personal conviction.
The premillennial phrase in our SOF does not necessarily imply that those who hold an alternate view of the return of Christ deny the inerrancy and authority of the Scriptures, that they lack integrity, or are unbelievers. It means that, while we acknowledge there are other biblically viable views, we believe that the premillennial view is the best interpretation of Scripture overall.