I confess that it was my idea for our Board to review the admission processes for NACSW. That review resulted in the Board’s unanimous recommendation that we revise our membership application to ask applicants simply to affirm the statement: “As a Christian, I affirm and support the mission of NACSW, which is to equip its members to integrate Christian faith and professional social work practice.” If we take this step, it means that we will drop requiring NACSW applicants to affirm the statement, “I accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior,” as well as the current Statement of Faith and Practice.
Friends who know me are probably wondering why I am so strongly in favor of this change. I personally affirm enthusiastically that Jesus is my Lord and Savior, and I really appreciate the Statement of Faith and Practice and have used is as an example for my students of a Christian world view for social work practice.
I support this change because I want NACSW to be a place where ALL Christian social workers can feel welcome and find a professional home with people who care about the things that matter to Christian social workers. Yet some Christian social work friends of mine – they happen to be Catholics and Presbyterians and Episcopalians – tell me that our language signals “only evangelicals welcome here.” Their feeling of exclusion deeply bothers me. I want to learn from them.
I also come from a denominational tradition that eschews creedal statements; I was taught “no creed but the Bible.” As a consequence, I have been an uneasy member of NACSW because our Statement of Faith and Practice is really a creedal criterion as it is for membership. I know what it feels like to be painted out of fellowship by a creedal statement. One of the most painful experiences of my adult life was watching my denomination adopt a creed that women should not be allowed to lead. Denominational employees were then required to sign it. A lot of good leaders were lost, and I had to leave my denominational home.
I believe it is wrong to make agreement on a creedal statement a criterion for Christian fellowship.
I don’t believe that those who wrote the NACSW Statement of Faith and Practice meant it to become a fence with a sign on it that says, “Only evangelicals who are comfortable with creeds welcome here.” Those comfortably inside the circle have a hard time realizing that some Christians, like me, are bothered by a creedal statement, however well it is written, when it leaves brothers and sisters out. I have spent more than 35 years of my professional career as a member of NACSW. I really would love these last years before retirement to be ones in which I feel truly welcome and part of the NACSW community!
Diana is currently a professor at Baylor University’s School of Social Work and has been a member of NACSW since the 1980s.
To view the entire article about the Board’s proposed changes in NACSW’s quarterly newsletter, Catalyst, please click on this link: http://www.nacsw.org/RC/49984541.pdf