A Cry from the Heart

Faith Matters

What’s really on my heart? Questions, questions, and more questions. . . .
Is the church redeemed, saved, sanctified, and set apart for such a time as this?
Is it willing to use its voice as an instrument of confession—
a way to recognize, repent, apologize to God for its shortcomings?

The Belhar. Is it a supplement? Is it fundamental to our faith?
Is it a pathway to profound self-examination?
Does it help us determine if the church lives by the faith it proclaims?
Our faith in Jesus Christ?
This is who we are.
This is what we believe.
This is what we intend to do.
And so we confess . . . that we might act justly
that we might love mercy
that we might walk humbly with God.


“The greatest spiritual crisis comes when a person has to move a little farther on in his faith than the beliefs he has already accepted.” —Oswald Chambers

The Belhar. A call for the voice of the Christian church.
Stand up, Queen!
Let your voice be heard with clarity!
What does it mean for the church to confess?
That we live a life of witness in word and deed—a living sacrifice?
Has God set for us a special time and place to remind us of our purpose?
Perhaps the Belhar is a confession to correct error.
Perhaps it calls us to listen through ecclesial confusion and social uncertainty.
Perhaps this really is a confessional situation!
Perhaps God is asking us to listen and to speak a word new to our thinking.

The Belhar. Will it clarify what we already know to be true?
Have we made up our minds theologically and ethically?
Are we looking for a confession to ratify our position
our authority
our point of view?
Step up, O faithful hearers!
Perhaps the Word confronts us from outside ourselves
into a new future—
a future against the pattern of the world
against false teaching
against the church's own sinfulness.

The Belhar. Is race the overwhelming question?
Do disparities between whites and nonwhites continue?
Should the church provide a spiritual product that makes people
feel better about God, about themselves?
Can we learn to be culturally inclusive . . . are we willing?

What does the Belhar call the church to confess?
That we listen to God through diverse social backgrounds.
That we confess that the God of Israel is the God who speaks to us still.
That we resist reduction of faith to a mere feeling of comfort.
The God we serve is all-powerful, almighty, supreme, majestic.
The God we serve created us for himself and each other.

The Belhar. Should it stand alongside our three sister voices?
Have we studied it?
If adopted, will we use it?
As a Black and Reformed servant of Jesus Christ, I am empowered.
I am waiting for my church
to move toward change.
How many hearts have changed? How many more will change?
Are you one of the stubborn, unwilling, fearful ones?
I wonder where lies your faith in the One who gave his life so that
we could all at least try, together.

The Belhar. If adopted, will it speak to our time and place?
Will it challenge us with a Word of God beyond ourselves,
not just a Word we already know to be true?

Will it help us counter false teaching about unity, justice, and reconciliation?
Does it convict us of sin in order to free us?
Where are all my brothers and sisters from other cultures?
Have we assimilated so much until we are not sure how to articulate a cry from the heart?
Will we be intellectual enough? Theological enough?
We need to keep our jobs, you know.
What finally matters is not whether the church adopts the Belhar,
but whether we allow it to interrogate us
desegregate us,
change us.

About the Author

Rev. Angela Taylor Perry is pastor of reconciliation for Faith Christian Reformed Church, Holland, Mich.

See comments (3)


The Belhar can not change us from doing, thinking evil..the talk is about racism today..always accusing..this is a Christian church for heavens sake..we should know that a "creeed" aint goin to do it..Trying to change the "head knowledge" or thinking by giving folks more creeds..IT IS a Spiritual issue! Teaching bout the power of Holy Spirit has to be accepted and allowed.. to do theheart changing work with POWER in this church body...Please no more creeds and head knowledge..It is a good vs.evil issue..PRAY and Change ones heart..NO MORE CREEDS!!

The problem with poetry is one cannot be sure just what the author intends to say. Still, I think this author equates opposition to the Behlar to what she says here:

"Are you one of the stubborn, unwilling, fearful ones?
I wonder where lies your faith in the One who gave his life so that
we could all at least try, together."

I oppose adoption of the Behlar. Why does this author get to judge my motivation as "stubborn, unwilling, and fearful"?

I suspect if I expressed similar sentiments about others in my posts, they'd stand a good chance of getting censored.

Excellent points from Doug. I thought about reacting to the same items.

More impugning of motives (difficult to say) may lie in the lines, "Will we be intellectual enough? Theological enough? We need to keep our jobs, you know," as if those are what the opponents are looking for. These seem like half-hidden accusations; they do not seem like a way to build unity in the church. To do that would require addressing the objections the opponents raise, out of respect for them as brothers and sisters in Christ.

I have a question as well: Are those who emphasize a "cry from the heart" willing to see the heart for the gospel and for the church shown by those who have spent many, many hours defending better confessions so that the church will continue to be strong and relevant to all nations and all times?