STATEMENT OF FAITH
We believe the teachings of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and with the help of God, we will strive daily to live the life of purity, unselfishness and service which He exemplified to the world.
The Peoples Church is a multi-denominational congregation with recognition as a church in the following four denominations simultaneously: The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), The United Methodist Church, The United Church of Christ, and the American Baptist Church. Clergy and staff are selected and called with this ecumenical arrangement in mind by insisting on theological and denominational diversity amongst the women and men working at The Peoples Church. Each member of the congregation is considered a full member of each of the four denominations.
It is a fully multi-denominational, multi-generational congregation located just off the campus of Michigan State University, in close proximately to the Michigan State Capitol, and in the heart of the growing Lansing region. The Peoples Church is a welcoming, inclusive, service-oriented church focused on living out the good news of Jesus Christ through an ecumenical expression of hope.
Prior to 1907, there were no Protestant churches in East Lansing. Four Michigan State University professors (then known as Michigan Agricultural College), including the school’s president, decided to remedy the situation by establishing a Protestant congregation. The four professors “favored the view any church developed in the community should be interdenominational in character, embrace all Protestant faiths and be controlled by the membership." Such independence was in the spirit of congregationalism and the uniting of the denominations was ecumenical. This aim led to designation of the church concept as ‘the great experiment.’” This experimental congregation would strive to be ecumenical in all areas – worship, mission, polity, and education. Within the first ten years, the congregation grew substantially to include more than two dozen recognized denominations.
Because The Peoples Church is simultaneously a member church of four denominations, the polity does not draw from one denominational model. On February 9, 1919, representatives from each of the four denominations came together to determine how best to meet the spiritual needs of the students and surrounding community of the Michigan Agricultural College through the growing congregation.
At that gathering, each denomination pledged $25,000 toward the current church building that would house The Peoples Church, provided the congregation met certain requirements from the parent denominations. As the longest tenured former senior pastor, Rev. Dr. Newall Avery McCune, wrote in his 1966 “The Great Experiment: the Story of Thirty Two years of Ministry to The Peoples Church:”
This was an adventure in Ecumenism….Theological matters were considered first. The Baptists said that if they were to have a part in this untried form of church organization, the theology must be plain and short. They also expressed the wish that when a larger church was built a baptismal font should be included…Also, there should be a minimum of ritualism. The word sacrament should be deleted from the original church constitution and ordinance be substituted for it. The Methodists thought the Methodist appointing system should be recognized in the calling of a pastor…This was opposed by several of the local committee members. The Presbyterians held that the church would do well to use the Presbyterian form of organization with ruling elders.
The Congregationalists, there must be freedom of the congregation to choose it’s ministers. These recommendations were met, as Dr. McCune concluded, “The die was cast and a new type of church was definitely planned. The great experiment was begun. As the men were slowly making their way toward the stairs, one of them was heard to remark, ‘This is the way it will be in Heaven.’"