I've written before about instances of letting go of the Creed, clergy who charge that the creeds are defective, and a Church of England chaplain who banned the creed to be inclusive. Perhaps this is more common than we realize?
Regardless of whether or not it happens a lot or rarely, dropping the Nicene Creed and replacing it with something else is a flagrant violation of ordination vows on the part of the clergy in charge of the parish. Accordingly, there should be discipline. And insofar as the Nicene Creed is the sufficient statement of the Christian faith, I'd even go so far as to say that dumping it for something insufficient borders on apostasy.
When asked about the rationale for making this change, my friend noted a handout given to parishioners which says: "It is anticipated that we will return to use of the traditional Creed in other seasons; but will remain open to occasional changes when it seems appropriate and timely." When it seems appropriate and timely? For whom? And by what authority? And what exactly makes dumping the Creed for an alternative that downplays the resurrection during Easter season a timely change? (Perhaps it's timely during Easter as a statement of disbelief in the traditional understanding of our Lord's resurrection?) This rationale strikes me as a perfect illustration of the emptiness of "progressive," "wanna-be-relevant" Christianity lite.
Dumping the Nicene Creed from the Eucharistic liturgy signals a bold departure from the norms of common prayer within the Episcopal Church, the ordination vows made by Episcopal clergy, and the traditional and sufficient statement of the core dogmatic content of the Christian faith. And it suggests not only that the sufficient statement of the Christian faith is optional, but that the content of that faith is optional as well. We are free to pick and choose alternatives to the faith of the Church, or to just make something up we like better, whenever we feel like it ("when it seems appropriate and timely").
Writing about the Nicene Creed when I first started blogging almost four years ago ("The Radical Creed"), I noted the following:
As "the sufficient statement of the Christian faith," the Nicene Creed underscores that there are boundaries and norms that define the Christian faith and that differentiate it from other possible faiths. Christianity is not a recipe for relativism, nor does it affirm subjectivism. It's interesting in this regard to note that the English word "heresy" derives from the Greek hairein, meaning "to choose." The Creed reminds us that Christianity is not an individualistic, "pick and choose what you like and discard the rest" faith.
Christian faith entails certain non-negotiable truths that make a claim on our loyalties and our lives.
The faith of the Church as expressed in the Nicene Creed is the norm against which individual opinions and judgments are measured and found more or less adequate, or wrong.
As Luke Timothy Johnson points out, all of this makes the Creed a deeply counter-cultural statement. And so, for all the ways in which it suggests a kind of rebellion against the norms of the Church's faith and practice, dumping the Creed is also an expression of accommodation to an increasingly post-Christian, and at times even anti-Christian, culture.
How very sad to see a parish church lose its identity and its way like this!