Dear Friends - We Believe


When I became an Anglican in my 20's one of the things that immediately struck me was the use of the creed in worship. My non-conformist background had relied on a range of worship songs and hymns to corporately express the basics of the Christian faith, and to be fair they varied in quality and orthodoxy! The creed is not just a dry statement of facts; just like those worship songs and hymns it is an act of faith and worship in itself.

The Nicene creed we use most Sundays was formulated in 381, based on an earlier creed of 325. It was forged in the fires of heresy and controversy but is unique in being embraced by all streams of apostolic Christianity – Western European (Roman Catholic) , Eastern (Orthodox) and Far Eastern (Syrian and further to the east – what we used to call Oriental Orthodox).

This universality is expressed for us in the way we begin the creed: "We Believe". The creed can be used in both "I" and "We" forms. The Church of England's preference for "We" in modern services expresses the corporate nature of the creed. That belief is not a purely private matter, but something that we share others. For me the creed is something I can say with confidence, but where we struggle with elements of the creed "We" are supported by others, the weight of belief being shared among many members: millions of Christians world wide.



That universality is affirmed towards the end of the creed: We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. The Church of England claims to be part of one holy catholic and apostolic church. Archbishop of Canterbury Geoffrey Fisher said: “We have no doctrine of our own. We only possess the Catholic doctrine of the Catholic Church enshrined in the Catholic Creeds, and these creeds we hold without addition or diminution.” Like those early three streams of Christianity we have Bishops who are linked by the laying on of hands to the first apostles, and we celebrate the sacraments with the same intention as other apostolic Christians world wide. Not all Christians believe this, which is why some groups replace catholic and apostolic with 'universal', but it does not mean the same thing.

The Church of England is part of a family of European Churches called the Porvoo Communion that are non-Roman Catholic churches with this view of bishops and sacraments, and includes Anglicans and some Lutherans. There are of course differences of theology between Anglican, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Eastern and Syrian Orthodox communions, but as Anglicans we accept their sacraments and ordination freely. Every Sunday we proclaim we are part of the same family. This does mean that we have a more distant relationship with Baptist, (United) Reformed and Presbyterian churches, although we seek closer unity and ecumenical understanding.

In many ways Anglicanism is a bridge between different expressions of Christianity, where in generosity we welcome others even when there are differences of opinion. Holy Communion is open to all baptized Christians, even if they don't accept an Anglican understanding of baptism and communion. Baptism is open to all who are willing to express a basic desire to follow Jesus, or whose parents and Godparents are willing to affirm that intention.

Just because we say 'We Believe' on Sundays does not mean that we should not explore what it means to say "I Believe" also. Faith is both corporate and individual, which is why at All Saints we run courses like Alpha to help us respond personally to God. Even in saying the creed together the implications are real for each of us: Jesus dying for our sin, the gift of the holy spirit, a relationship with the Father who made all that is seen and unseen, and the hope that God will restore all things and draw all things to himself that we proclaim as the resurrection from the dead.

As you say the creed week by week I pray that God will reveal himself to you in the words you speak.

Much love,

Fr. Eddie



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