This page is provided as a resource for understanding theological and practical terms that you might hear at BRC.
Communion and Baptism The two specific sacraments commanded in Scripture are Communion (sometimes known as "The Lord's Supper" and water baptism. Both are esteemed in God's Word as "signs and seals" of God's grace--that is, they are not "magical" in the sense that some traditions consider them to be (there is no supernatural conversion of the wine and bread into blood and body of the Lord), nor are they merely commemorative, as some would suggest. Rather, in the obedience of sincere Christians to these commands, we receive from God both outward reminders and inward spiritual strengthening of the grace that is ours in Jesus Christ. Baptism is understood by many at Blue Ridge Church to be first and foremost the sign of a person's membership in God's covenant promises, and thus applicable to all believing adults and to the children of one or both parents who profess Christ as Savior. The term for this understanding is "paedobaptist". Many others understand baptism to be a mark of public confession, a commemoration of a believer's testimony and commitment before God's Church to follow Christ, and thus only appropriate for those who are of an age to understand and own their salvation and voluntarily confess the same. Since there is plausible Scriptural support for both of these views, we allow for both without criticism or prejudice. Communion is commanded in Scripture for those who are actively following Christ, and so we encourage participation only by those who comprehend at least the essentials of God-given faith and seek to draw nearer to Christ in His sacrifice.
Confessions / Creeds / Catechisms All of these are documents, many with rich theological history and wisdom, which summarize Biblical faith for our understanding and application. Confessions are documents authored by various bodies of the Church, outlining the principles God's people understand to be true according to Scripture. Creeds are brief summaries of orthodox doctrine, intended to remind us of the true faith for which God says we are to contend. Catechisms are written in the form of question-and-answer, with the goal that they can be used to instruct new believers and children, but also to help us affirm our faith and prepare ourselves to give a ready answer for the hope that dwells in us.
Covenant Membership As Scripture teaches us that God, from the very beginning, has expressed His grace to man in the covenant promises He made to Adam and those who have come after him, we understand that membership in God's True Church is not a contractual, but a covenantal relationship. Thus, the full benefits of membership (legal standing, suffrage (voting on Church affairs), etc.) and the highest degree of responsibility to the local church (express submission to God's authority through the Church, commitment to contribute consistently to the support of the local church and its ministries, etc.) are reserved for those who have chosen of their own volition to enter into covenant relationship with God's people in the local congregation. Otherwise, all who take part in worship and ministry at BRC are considered fully equal, and have the right to be heard and assisted by Session in the same ways as covenant members.
Reformed While BRC does not have an official denominational affiliation, we fall broadly within the context of the Reformed tradition. Which is to say, we share much of our spiritual heritage and theology with Biblically-faithful Presbyterians and Baptists, as well as many other groups influenced by the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century and its quest for God's Church to be semper reformanda (always reforming.) In a nutshell, to say that we are "Reformed" means that we seek to live in the spirit of the Reformation--that is, to constantly be evaluating all of our faith and practice to see that it conforms to the truth of God's Word, and when we find that we are not in agreement with Scripture, to alter our course to pursue that which God has commanded us for His glory. In general, Reformed faith is associated with the understanding of what we term Sovereign Grace--that is, that God alone is able to save a person, and that all whom God has purposed to save will ultimately be redeemed through the sacrifice of Christ.
Session The term "Session" refers to the elders of the local congregation, operating as a team. At BRC, elders do not vote, but make decisions by consensus, trusting in God to guide us to a unified opinion through prayer and thoughtful study. Session carefully listens to the input of congregation members and considers their wisdom when bringing a proposal to the congregation for approval. When a motion is proposed, all covenant members in good standing of the congregation vote yes / no to approve Session's recommendation.