Diversity, Unity Characterize Formation of Antioch Network March 4, 2008
Texas – March 4, 2008 – – Representing diverse denominational and racial backgrounds, 42 senior pastors, 7 staff ministers and 1 layperson gathered for a two day season of prayer and reflection concerning the formation of the Antioch Network of Churches. The group gathered at the invitation of area pastor, Dwight McKissic, Sr. of Arlington’s Cornerstone Baptist Church.
Several presentations were made during the meeting to help guide the conversation about forming the network, which McKissic characterized as a “vehicle to help mobilize and resource churches to fulfill the Great Commission.”
Evangelical theologian and prolific author, Sam Storms, opened the meeting with an exposition of the biblical pattern for church planting found in the New Testament Book of Acts. Listing twelve descriptive components of the church in Antioch, Storms articulated the biblical rationale for intentional efforts to network churches in collaborative efforts to reach the nations.
Oklahoma pastor, Wade Burleson, moderated a lengthy discussion about the parameters of doctrinal fellowship that will characterize the Antioch Network. Recognizing the need for simplicity and clarity in a confessional framework, Burleson moved the meeting toward what he labeled a “consensus statement.” “A consensus doctrinal statement is needed to affirm our passion for Jesus Christ and the good news about His person and work,” Burleson noted. “Because we treasure church autonomy, we respect churches that go further in their doctrinal statements, but it unnecessary for a network of autonomous churches who desire to cooperate in ministry to expect conformity on tertiary doctrinal matters.”
The group affirmed the following statement:
“The Antioch Network of Churches will serve Jesus Christ by encouraging fellowship and ministry cooperation between churches of diverse denominational heritage and by affirming the autonomy of local churches to partner with like-minded believers as the Spirit leads. We are thankful for and intentional about retaining our preexisting identities, yet we do not suppose that those identities preclude our joint ministry with others who share our passion to proclaim the gospel.”
Paul Littleton, pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Sapulpa, OK, presented a paper on emerging church theory to familiarize the group with strategies and ministry philosophies of other church networks who are seeking to pursue the same goals of cooperative ministry. Citing the great need for racial reconciliation between churches, Littleton observed that few existing networks have experienced success in planting churches “whose DNA is multi-racial.” “As far as I know this would be among the first formal associations of churches that demonstrates the reconciling power of Christ from the outset. This isn’t a call to forsake our other associations. Perhaps the foundation we lay today will lead our respective associations to awaken to the reconciling power of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Littleton noted. “If nothing else, may a world that increasingly lives at odds with people who are different, see a very real and powerful expression of the oneness that is ours in Christ. The power of that witness will speak more loudly of the beauty of Christ than a million tracts, dozens of media advertisements, or ten thousand sermons.”
Ralph Emerson, pastor of Rising Star Baptist Church in Fort Worth, led the conversation about an organization structure and strategy for the network, which will aspire to share resources and nurture relationships among churches that result in planting churches committed to bold gospel proclamation and application.
No formal organizational chart was adopted, though the group elected an exploratory leadership team to finalize the confessional framework and coordinate long range planning. The twelve member exploratory leadership team will be comprised of 6 African-Americans and 6 Anglos and will include men and women. The exploratory leadership team will meet in April to plan the future direction of the network.
The rudimentary doctrinal statement drafted by the Antioch Network follows, though its final form will be presented by the leadership team at a later date.
“We affirm the authority, sufficiency, reliability, and consistency of God’s infallible revelation in both the Words of Holy Scripture and the Person of Jesus Christ.
We affirm that the one true God exists eternally in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that these, being one God, are equal in deity, power, and glory. We also affirm both the full humanity and deity of Jesus Christ.
We affirm Christ’s virgin birth, His substitutionary death for sinners, His resurrection from the dead, His second coming, and His gift of eternal life to all who are in relationship with Him by grace through faith alone.
We affirm that God has ordained the proclamation of the gospel message by His people in the power of the Holy Spirit, who is both the Gift of God to the church and the Giver of diverse spiritual gifts. We also affirm baptism as the public testimony for those who have come into covenant with Jesus Christ in Lord and Savior.
We affirm that persons apart from a relationship with Christ will face God’s judgment.”
The Antioch Network is also looking to explore relationships with the Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Convention and the Global Connection Partnership Network. The Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention was established in 1897 by a freed slave, to help churches extend their Christian witness to the ends of the earth through education, health and ministry. The GCPN is a community of churches partnering with churches worldwide to reach all peoples for Christ. With a commitment to have “all things in common” Acts 2:44, they seek to share strategies, resources, people, knowledge and the responsibility of the Great Commission.
For Information Contact: Veronica Griffith – 817.468.0083 ext. 203
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