Editor's note:

In utter dependence upon Jesus Christ as my ever-living Savior, Teacher, Lord, and Friend, I will seek continual renewal through spiritual exercises, spiritual gifts, and acts of service.

Last week, Renovaré Board Member Richella Parham shared a bit of her own history with the Renovaré Covenant. This week, we are pleased to bring you some new reflections from Richard Foster about how the Covenant came to be, what it means, and why it matters.

—Renovaré Team

The Renovaré Covenant is so central to the thinking and living of the Renovaré family. What Richella shared about the Covenant is spot on, and I’ll just add a few comments about the Covenant itself.

First, developing the Covenant was a team effort. I worked with James Bryan Smith and several others on the wording—especially Bill Vaswig and Dallas Willard. I was the one to put pen to paper. It was so important to have the exact words so as to pack as much as possible into one sentence.

It took us six months to think through the theology and develop the wording for the Covenant. In the background of my mind were three earlier groups: Elton Trueblood’s Yokefellow movement, a group called “The Disciplined Order of Christ,” and a third called “The Order of the Burning Heart.” All are gone now but they had a real impact in their day.

I’m sure you noticed the high Christology of the Covenant. This is quite intentional. It was to give us “a place to stand,” one unifying focal point for the movement. People came from many theological traditions and many of those issues could easily divide us. But we were to focus on the one supreme reality that was able to unite us. The background to the Christology of course is the biblical witness. Also, we were drawing from the Quaker theology of Christ “the Present Teacher” and the Lutheran theology of “Christ Alone.” (Faith alone, Grace alone, Scripture alone, Christ alone … the four solas.)

You will notice that I included the word “ever-living” in describing Christ, which was to put a stake in the ground for the resurrection of Jesus. We could allow differences on many issues but the centrality of Christ and his resurrection were nonnegotiable for us. This gave us a place to stand for the movement: Give me a place to stand and I can move the world - Archimedes.

Then I wanted to stress that Christ was not just a static doctrine but that he is functioning among us. That is the reason for the description of Christ as our Savior (to forgive us), our Teacher (to instruct us), our Lord (to rule us) and our Friend (to come alongside us). Those who have studied theology will recognize that this is another way of describing the classical offices of Christ as “Prophet, Priest and King.” It was Dallas who suggested we add “Friend” to the offices of Christ, of course drawn from John 13:14, “You are my friends if you do whatsoever I command you.”

Then, and only then, comes the verb “I will seek.” This is the statement of intention. It is, if you will, the “invitation” at the end of the service. And what do we seek? We seek “continual renewal” which is an effort to stress the importance of progress in the spiritual life. Here we are drawing from the great conversation about the growth of the soul that is found all through the devotional classics.

Then comes the means of grace, through “spiritual gifts, spiritual exercises and acts of service.” The phrase “spiritual gifts” draws from the charismatic emphasis upon the power of the Holy Spirit. The phrase “spiritual exercises” draws from the strong emphasis of the devotional classics upon spiritual disciplines as the key means for the formation of the person. “Acts of service” draws both from the Catholic and the Wesleyan emphasis upon doing “acts of mercy.”

Well, that gives you a thumbnail sketch about the theology that informs the Covenant. In the Regional Conferences I used to devote an entire session to unpacking the Covenant and the common disciplines and why those two must go together—the Covenant as the word of intention, and the common disciplines (which are drawn from the six great traditions: contemplative, holiness, charismatic, social justice, evangelical and incarnational) as the means for fulfilling the Covenant.

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