|Liberal Christian International|
Motto: "Above all, love."
~20 million registered members worldwide|
~30-55 million followers
|Marthinus van Ztaden|
Liberal Christian International (LCI) is a worldwide association of liberal Christian churches, groups and individuals, based out of De Hague. It formed out of a merger between the European Liberal Protestant Network and the New Christian Movement (based out of Cape Town, South Africa), in September 1994. Its first and current chairman, Marthinus van Ztaden, contributed largely to forming the beliefs of the association.
Unlike many other church denominations, the LCI holds true that its leadership only functions as an administrative part of the association, and that each follower and member is only second to God in their religion. The Chairman of Liberal Christian International acts as an administrator; among his tasks are arranging large-scale events and conventions and managing the public affairs of the association.
The annual Liberal Christian Convention (LCC) is a large gathering of followers at two locations, one in Europe and one in Northern America. While the LCC is held over a weekend, members decide on who to have as the LCI's chairman for the following year and how to take care of some administrative issues within member churches. Marthinus van Ztaden has won the "election" of the chairman each year, mostly being an unopposed candidate.
- Remonstrant Brotherhood
- Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland
- General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches
- Unitarian Church of Transylvania
- Hungarian Unitarian Church
- Free Christian Association
- Free Christian Association
- New Christian Movement
- Alliance of Progressive Christians
Beliefs and views
The principle beliefs of the LCI are based around the notion that the Bible acts only as a guide to Christians and not a way of life. It believes that only sincere belief and love in God, and a morally good lifestyle should be observed, but at the same time believes only God decides who He lets into Heaven, thus nullifying any attempts to get there by humans. All beliefs are codified in the Charter of Liberal Christianity, however, in the opening clause, it states, "Each person must have his own relationship with God and whatever is found below this line is merely generally accepted beliefs. Don't allow us to tell you how to view Christianity and your relationship with God: it is between you and Him exclusively."
The LCI believes that the ceremonial process of being baptized is not a necessary part of worship, and that what was meant in the Bible with the baptism was to be baptized in the love of God. While other churches hold true that baptism is needed to be a Christian, the LCI states that it is optional to go through the process, and people need only accept God into their lives at a spiritual level.
Church attendance is somewhat a grey area within the beliefs of the association. While it states the importance of regularly sharing your "God-filled" life with friends, family, and the world, it also believes that going to church because it "is a must for worshipers" is "hypocritical and bullshit." The association at times stated that people who frequent church just because they feel they must are "attention-seekers" and want a place to belong, and while the LCI does respect people's urges to attend church each Sunday, it strongly believes that; "We don't sacrifice one day per week for quiet time and for God... we give our entire lives to God and everything we do, always, is for God."
The association states that while homosexuality will always be unnatural and a taboo, it firmly believes that homosexuals have just as much a place in the Kingdom of God as any other. As one of its more controversial beliefs, however, the LCI believes transgender or cross-dressing people are misguided and confused. Officials have stated; "God didn't accidentally give you a man's body and put the spirit of a woman or in vice-versa in it. It's understandable that same-sexes might start feeling attraction to each other; however, feeling you have a wrong body is like saying to God's face that you are not happy with what He decided to give you." Regardless of this, the LCI welcomes transgender people and believes they also have a place within Christianity.
The LCI is firmly a pro-choice association, and has numerous times stated that abortion is not murder. It does however not support abortion in a matter of speaking. "Abortion is justified in some cases, but having one just because your lover forgot to buy condoms is disgusting, quite frankly," said an official of the association. It believes that regardless of having an abortion or not, the fetus will also be judged by God whether or not it can enter His Kingdom, also stating; "the age of a fetus, whether it is one or two seconds old, does not matter to God. God knew whether it would end up in Heaven even before its parents were born."
The death penalty is strongly frowned upon by the association. It believes that no government should have the right to just take life in a controlled environment. It has been compared to being worse than accidentally killing children during war, since "these people knowingly inject chemicals into another person to KILL them, and don't do so accidentally." The association states that human-on-human punishment must not involve death. It believes that for the most heinous crimes, more passive, albeit radical, punishments must be used.
Religion in school
The LCI believes only the children can decide whether or not they want religion taught in their school. "Removing religion from school entirely and replacing it with Atheism is unfair. The government is not allowed to have an opinion on religion, thus, cannot imply that there is none, since that's taking the side of the nonbelievers," said an official of the association.
The association believes that marriage is a private bond between two individuals, and that contract by state and church ceremonies and only "background noise." "You can get 'married' anytime, any place, and under any circumstances; you don't need a contract or an event, but it is nice to have one though," said an official. While the LCI holds nothing against ceremonies in churches or in front of pastors, it said that "your marriage is between you, your soul mate, and God - not the pastor or your father's oversight."
Premarital sexual intercourse
While it is frowned upon, the LCI has a somewhat neutral stance on premarital sex. A controversial statement from one official in 2003: "Don't confuse 'making love' with 'sex'; one is an activity for fun, but must be done carefully, like skydiving; the other, however, is an actual show of love between two individuals; don't confuse them." The LCI has stated that it doesn't at all believe it's "unChristian" to have sex before marriage, but that it might be a somewhat reckless act.
Corporal punishment (spanking)
Children's corporal punishment is also a neutral area for the LCI. It believes that parents must have the right to discipline their children, but that there is a fine line between abuse and "giving tough love."
Suicide has been described by the association as one of the most humanly cowardice things to do, and that it is almost as bad as murdering someone else. However, the LCI does not believe people who succeed in suicide are damned to Hell. As a spokesperson said; "Why would you want to take away the biggest gift God can give anyone? He gave you life, and now you're telling Him you're not satisfied. It's not just a religious thing, though; why are YOUR troubles so bad that you need to take the easy way out, while the rest of us have to continue enduring this difficult life? We all have problems, but we must deal with them."
"Mercy killings" by certified hospital staff is a strongly supported by the LCI. It believes that if someone is going to die without a doubt, and that they are suffering substantially, they must be killed. However, normal assisted suicide or people wanting themselves to be killed by hospital staff for a disease like cancer or AIDS, which can be survived, is seen as the same as suicide by the association.
"God gave us science." That is a fundamental belief of the LCI. It believes that anything science proves is in fact true, but has nothing to do with whether or not God exists. "God is everything. We Christians see evidence of Him in everything and know for a fact that He is there. But you need to be a Christian to see proof of God. Being an Atheist and keep on hammering on the proof-debate is just a paradox. You don't want to believe, and you are blind," said an association official.
Heaven and Hell
The LCI believes that Heaven is a dimension on its own in "God's immediate realm" and that Hell does exist, however, is also controlled by God. "Satan was created by God. He tests us and tempts us; it's up to us to only see the light and not take some easy path," said an association official. It believes God and God alone decides who He allows into His Kingdom, and that whatever humans do during life doesn't matter in the end.
Followers of other faiths
This comes back down to the LCI's belief that only God will decide who He allows into His Kingdom, no matter what faith or how Atheist someone is. "It's not our place to decide who is right and wrong. We chose Christianity. It's human of us. We have been given the free will to choose. We don't accept their traditions, practices and beliefs, but we will also not judge them."