Faith, Church Order, And Discipline
Congregational, or Independent Dissenters,
Adopted at the Annual Meeting
of the Congregational Union
The Congregational Churches in England and Wales, frequently called
Independent, hold the following doctrines, as of Divine authority,
and as the foundation of Christian faith and practice. They are also
formed and governed according to the principles hereinafter stated.
1. It is not designed, in the following summary, to do more than
to state the leading doctrines of faith and order maintained by
Congregational Churches in general.
2. It is not proposed to offer any proofs, reasons, or arguments, in
support of the doctrines herein stated, but simply to declare what the
Denomination believes to be taught by the pen of inspiration.
3. It is not intended to present a scholastic or critical confession
of faith, but merely such a statement as any intelligent member of the
body might offer, as containing its leading principles.
4. It in not intended that the following statement should he put
forth with any authority, or as a standard to which assent should
5. Disallowing the utility of creeds and articles of religion as a bond
of union, and protesting against subscription to any human formularies
as a term of communion, Congregationalists are yet willing to declare,
for general information, what is commonly believed among them, reserving
to every one the most perfect liberty of conscience.
6. Upon some minor points of doctrine and practice, they, differing
among themselves, allow to each other the right to form an unbiased
judgement of the Word of God.
7. They wish it to be observed, that, notwithstanding their jealousy
of subscription to creeds and articles, and their disapproval of the imposition
of any human standard, whether of faith or discipline, they are far more
agreed in their doctrines and practices than any Church which enjoins
subscription and enforces a human standard of orthodoxy; and they believe
that there is no minister and no church among them that would deny the
substance of any one of the following doctrines of' religion, though each
might prefer to state his sentiments in his own way.
PRINCIPLES OF RELIGION.
I. The Scriptures of the Old Testament, as received by the Jews, and
the books of the New Testament, as received by the Primitive Christians
from the Evangelists and Apostles, Congregational Churches believe to
be Divinely inspired, and of supreme authority. These writings, in the
languages in which they were originally composed, are to be consulted,
with the aids of sound criticism, as a final appeal to all controversies,
but the common version they consider to be adequate to the ordinary purposes
of Christian instruction and edification.
II. They believe in one God, essentially wise, holy, just and good; eternal,
infinite, and immutable in all natural and moral perfections; the Creator,
Supporter, and Governor of all beings, and of all things.
III. They believe that God is revealed in the Scriptures, as the Father,
the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and that to each are attributable the same
Divine properties and perfections. The doctrine of the Divine existence,
as above stated, they cordially believe, without attempting fully to explain.
IV. They believe that man was created after the Divine image, sinless,
and in his kind perfect.
V. They believe that the first man disobeyed the Divine command,
fell from his state or innocence and purity, and involved all his
posterity in the consequences of that fall.
VI. They believe that, therefore, all mankind are born in sin,
and that a fatal inclination to moral evil, utterly incurable by
human means, is inherent in every descendent of Adam.
VII. They believe that God having, before the foundation of the
world, designed to redeem fallen man, made disclosures of His mercy,
which were the grounds of faith and hope from the earliest ages.
VIII They believe that, God revealed more fully to Abraham the covenant
of His grace, and, having promised that from His descendants should arise
the Deliver and Redeemer of mankind, set that patriarch and his posterity
apart, as a race specially favoured and separated to His service; a peculiar
church, formed and carefully preserved, under the Divine sanction and
government until the birth of the promised Messiah.
IX. They believe that, in the fullness of time, the Son of God was manifested
in the flesh, being born of the Virgin Mary, but conceived by the power
of the Holy Spirit and that our Lord Jesus was both the Son of man and
the Son of God; partaking fully and truly of human nature though without
sin - equal with the Father and "the express image of His person."
X. They believe that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, revealed, either personally
in His own ministry, or by the Holy Spirit in the ministry of His apostles,
the whole mind of God, for our salvation and that, by His obedience to
the Divine law while He lived, and by His sufferings unto death, He meritoriously
"obtained eternal redemption for us"; having thereby vindicated
and illustrated Divine justice, "magnified the law," and "brought
in everlasting righteousness."
XI. They believe that, after His death and resurrection, He ascended
up into heaven, where, as the Mediator, He "ever liveth" to
rule over all, and to "Make intercession for them that come unto
God by Him."
XII. They believe that the Holy Spirit is given, in consequence
of Christ's mediation, to quicken and renew the hearts of men; and
that His influence is indispensably necessary to bring a sinner
to true repentance, to produce saving faith, to regenerate the heart,
and to perfect our sanctification.
XIII. They believe that we are justified through faith in Christ,
as "the Lord our righteousness and not "by the works of
XIV. They believe that all who will he saved were the objects of
God's eternal and electing love, and were given by an act of Divine
sovereignty to the Son of God; which in no way interferes with the
system or means, nor with the grounds or human responsibility; being
wholly unrevealed as to its objects and not, a rule of human duty.
XV. They believe that the Scriptures teach the final perseverance
of all, true believers to a state of eternal blessedness, which
they are appointed to obtain through constant faith in Christ, and
uniform obedience to His commands.
XVI. They believe that a holy life will be the necessary effect
of a true faith and that good works are the certain fruits of a
vital union to Christ.
XVII. They believe that the sanctification of true Christians, or their
growth in the graces of the Spirit, and meetness for heaven, is gradually
carried on through the whole period during which it pleases God to continue
them in the present life, and that, at death, their souls, perfectly freed
from all remains of evil, are immediately received into the presence of
XVIII. They believe in the perpetual obligation of Baptism and
the Lord's Supper; the former to be administered to all converts
to Christianity and their children, by the application of water
to the subject, "in the name of the Father, and of the Son,
and of the Holy Ghost," and the latter to he celebrated by
Christian churches as a token of faith in the Saviour, and of brotherly
XIX. They believe that Christ will finally come to judge the whole human
race according to their works; that the bodies of the dead will be raised
again; and that, as the Supreme Judge, He will divide the righteous from
the wicked, will receive the righteous into "life everlasting,"
but send away the wicked into "everlasting punishment."
XX. They believe that Jesus Christ directed His followers to live together
in Christian fellowship, and to maintain the communion of saints; and
that, for this purpose, they are jointly to observe all Divine ordinances,
and maintain that church order and discipline which is either expressly
enjoined by inspired institution, or sanctioned by the undoubted example
of the apostles and of apostolic churches.
PRINCIPLES OF CHURCH ORDER AND DISCIPLINE.
I. The Congregational Churches hold it to be the will of Christ
that true believers should voluntarily assemble together to observe
religious ordinances, to promote mutual edification and holiness,
to perpetuate and propagate the Gospel in the world, and to advance
the glory and worship of God, through Jesus Christ; and that each
society of believers, having these objects in view in its formation,
is properly a Christian church.
II. They believe that the New Testament contains, either in the form
of express statute, or in the example and practice of apostles and apostolic
churches, all the articles of faith necessary to be believed, and all
the principles of order and discipline requisite for constituting and
governing Christian societies: and that human traditions, fathers and
councils, canons and creeds, possess no authority over the faith and practice
III. They acknowledge Christ as the only Head of the Church, and the
officers of each church under Him, as ordained to administer His laws
impartially to all; and their only appeal, in all questions touching their
religious faith, and practice, is to the sacred Scriptures.
IV. They believe that the New Testament authorises every Christian
church to elect its own officers, to manage all its own affairs,
and to stand independent of, and irresponsible to, all authority,
saving that only of the Supreme and Divine Head of the Church, the
Lord Jesus Christ.
V. They believe that the only officers placed by the apostles over individual
churches are the bishops or pastors and the deacons; the number of these
being dependent upon the number of the church; and that to these, as the
officers of the church, is committed respectively the administration of
its spiritual and temporal concerns - subject, however, to the approbation
of the church.
VI. They believe that no persons should be received as members of Christian
churches, but such as make a credible Profession of Christianity, are
living according to its precepts, and attest a willingness to be subject
to its discipline, and that none should he excluded from the fellowship
of the church. but such as deny the faith of Christ, violate His laws,
or refuse to submit themselves to the discipline which the Word of God
VII. The power of admission into any Christian church, and rejection
from it, they believe to be vested in the church itself, and to
be exercised only through the medium of its own officers.
VIII. They believe that Christian churches should statedly meet
for the celebration of public worship, for the observance of the
Lords supper, and for the sanctification of the first day
of the week.
IX. They believe that the power of a Christian church in purely spiritual
and no way be corrupted by union with temporal or civil power.
X. They believe that it is the duty of Christian churches to hold communion
with each other,. to entertain an enlarged affection for each other, as
members or the same body, and to co-operate for the promotion of the Christian
cause; but that no church. or union of churches, has any right or power
to interfere with the faith or discipline of any other church further
than to separate from such as, in faith or practice, depart from the Gospel
XI. They believe that it is the privilege and duty of every church to
call forth such of its members as may appear to be qualified by the Holy
Spirit to sustain the office of the ministry; and that Christian churches
unitedly ought to consider the maintenance of the Christian ministry in
an adequate degree of learning as one of their especial cares, that the
cause of the Gospel may be both honourably sustained and constantly promoted.
XII. They believe that church officers, whether bishops or deacons,
should be chosen by the free voice of the church; but that their
dedication to the duties of their office should take place with
special prayer, and by solemn designation, to which most of the
churches add the imposition of hands by those already in office.
XIII. They believe that the fellowship of every Christian church should
be so liberal as to admit to communion in the Lord's Supper all whose
faith and godliness are, on the whole, undoubted, though conscientiously
differing in points of minor importance; and that this outward sign of
fraternity in Christ should be co-extensive with the fraternity itself,
though without involving any compliances which conscience would deem to
[Note. In "Principles of Religion" - I: The Common Version,
was at that time the Authorised, or King James Version with the
New Testament based on the Received Text of the Greek New Testament.)
Published by Orange Street Congregational Church, Orange Street. Leicester
Square, London. WC2N 7HR.