Monday, January 12, 2009

Do Episcopalians Believe in the Creeds?

In 2008 Morehouse Publishing released The Episcopal Handbook. Describing itself as "The essential field guide for all things Episcopal!", the style and format of the book echoes that of The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook. It combines lots of basic, good information about the Episcopal Church with occasional humor, as some of the chapter titles suggest:
  • How to Survive a Baptism
  • Do Episcopalians Leave Church Early?
  • Is Coffee Really the Third Sacrament?
  • Why (Most) Episcopalians Don't Kick Dogs
Here's what it says in response to the question, "Do Episcopalians Believe in the Creeds?"

Believe in them? We even memorize them!

Like most churches, Episcopalians have a high regard for the historic creeds of the Christian faith. You will find the Nicene Creed included in the main Sunday services at nearly every Episcopal church. The Apostles' Creed is found in the daily prayers suggested in the Book of Common Prayer, and is recited at baptismal services.

These creeds are more than 1,500 years old and are widely regarded as embodying the essentials of the Christian faith. They describe our understanding of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as well as the place and role of the church. When we recite them on Sundays we realize that we are not only confirming our unity with millions of other Christians around the world, but with even millions more who have preceded us in the faith.

Also included in the Book of Common Prayer is the Creed of Saint Athanasius, which is found in the back in a sectioned labeled "Historical Documents." This is not normally recited at worship, but is included as a reference alongside other writings that have shaped the Episcopal Church.

The creeds play an important role in the ongoing formation of the Episcopal Church. We continue to rely on their principles as we take our faith into the new millennium.

May we ever hold fast to those principles and embrace the theology they entail.


plsdeacon said...

Do I believe in the creeds? No. I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Creeds did not die on the cross nor did they rise from the dead.

Do I believe the creeds? Absolutely! I accept that they are true statements about the nature of God and His saving acts in History. They are wonderful summations of the Faith handed to us and are good defenses against heresy. I love the creeds. I faith that they are true. But I do not trust the creeds for my salvation. For that, I trust Jesus Christ and him alone.

Phil Snyder

Bryan Owen said...

Point very well taken, Phil.

In a posting on the Nicene Creed, I wrote: "The mysteries of God cannot be contained by rational explanations. But like a compass that always points north, the Nicene Creed points us in the right direction. The compass is not the destination just as the Creed is not God. But it would be much easier to get lost as to what is truly essential for reaching the goal of the Christian journey without it."

Perhaps a charitable reading of this language from The Episcopal Handbook would say that "believing in" the Creeds is akin to saying "trusting that the Creeds bear true witness."