April 27, 2009
Back to considering my recent colleague meeting and a discussion of the merits or otherwise of saying the creeds: I was surprised by how many of our group preferred to omit creeds or rewrite them in some way for use in public worship, finding them to be irredeemably irrelevant to the lives of the people they serve and an offense and affront to true hospitality to strangers.
I am not aware of this having been a problem of that magnitude where I serve for a number of reasons. I have assumed that it is not an option to drop the Nicene Creed from the main Sunday Services and have decided to help people find ways to say them. A class on ‘how can we say the creeds?’ is something I will revise and repeat. In adult enquirer’s classes and elsewhere I teach the creeds as the bare-bones outline of the story of our faith. I make clear that I do not take the creeds as a series of dodgy propositions to which we must give intellectual assent as though we were inhabitants of the intellectual and imaginative world of the third century Christian. I acknowledge that there have been times in the period of the church councils in which it was hoped and intended that the creeds were something to which everyone would give intellectual assent to the exact meaning of the words as intended by the councils that promulgated them. I also explain why such a requirement is both impossible to enforce in worlds in which our imaginative universes are undergoing constant change, and also undesirable for a church that prefers that doctrine be shaped by relationship rather than vice versa (given a choice and recognizing the oversimplification but not falsehood inherent n such a formula).
I believe that hospitality is something discovered in the whole ‘feel’ of a community and that much of our worship would and should be declared inhospitable if immediate accessibility is the goal. I value our connections to the Communion of Saints across the world and down the ages that includes affirmation of the creeds
I liked Dr. Borg’s suggestion that we should use and rotate three or four creeds so as to relativize all of them and minimize their usefulness as ecclesiastic cudgels. Think we are on the way to this with our regular use of the Apostles’ Creed as the ‘baptismal symbol’ of our faith and the Nicene as its ‘sufficient statement’.
To some degree this begs the question as to whether we should be saying the creeds at all. Politically I like them because they serve to make a modern Anglican Covenant (even in ‘the best possible draft’) unnecessary. I’m not so sure that is true for a church that doesn’t recite the creeds in public worship as part of our response to the gospel.