Posted by: AJtheIrishLass | June 18, 2007

What Are the Creeds Episcopalians Use?

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What Creeds Does the Episcopal Church Use, and Why?

The creeds state basic beliefs about God. Many churches use creeds or longer statements of faith called confessionals. Some Christians believe that, because creeds are not explicitly stated in the Bible, they are wrong or “a tradition of man, not God”. However, the creeds used by most mainline churches (Episcopal, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, etc.) use are based on ideas found in the Bible. The Episcopal Church has three main creeds: the Apostles’, the Nicene, and the Athanasian (also called Quicunque Vult). The beliefs of Episcopalians are certainly not restricted to these creeds, but these statements provide a summary of the basic beliefs of the Episcopal Church.

The Apostles’ Creed

Although there is no record of this creed being composed by the apostles themselves, it is probably the earliest creed of the Church. In the early days of the Church, most candidates for baptism were adults and this statement of faith (or at least part of it) was thought to have been used at baptism. Also, because it begins with “I believe”, it may very well have been a personal profession of faith, which would be appropriate at baptism. The Apostles’ Creed is still used at baptism and at daily Morning and Evening Prayer.

I believe in one God, the Father almighty
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate
was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

The Nicene Creed

Since the time of the first apostles, Jesus’ followers had been misunderstood and persecuted. The first couple of centuries were difficult because of Roman persecution. The Church still flourished, and grew in numbers. The year 313 was a landmark year because the Roman Emperor Constantine gave Christians religious tolerance in the Decree of Milan. At the same time, there were many unorthodox sects which taught beliefs different from those accepted by a majority of the Church. An ecumenical council was held in Nicea in 325 and another in Constantinople in 381. It was during this time that the Nicene Creed was written. The Nicene Creed is used on Sundays at celebrations of the Eucharist and Major Feast Days, and is considered an ecumenical creed.

We believe in one God
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made
For us and for our salvation he
came down from heaven;
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven;
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
{who proceeds from the Father and the Son.}(omitted by the Orthodox)
With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Creed of St. Athanasius (Quicunque Vult)
The Creed of St. Athanasius was written at a time when many ideas about Jesus Christ that were contrary to orthodox beliefs were common, (probably the 4th or 5th century) most notably the Arian teaching that Jesus was not really God. Although many scholars doubt that this creed is actually the work of St. Athanasius, it does reflect his teachings about the Trinity. This long creed defined the nature of the Trinity. It is not commonly used now, but is included in the book of Common Prayer along with other historical documents of the Church. Some churches use this creed on Trinity Sunday.

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith.
Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
And the Catholic Faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in unity, neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance.
For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost.
But, the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one, the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal.
Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost.
The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Ghost uncreate.
The Father is incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible.
The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal.
And yet there are not three eternals, but one eternal.
As also there are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated, but one uncreated, and one incomprehensible.
So likewise the Father is Almighty, the son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty.
And yet there are not three Almighties, but one Almighty.
So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God.
And yet there are not three Gods, but one God.
So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord.
And yet there are not three Lords, but one Lord.
For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by himself to be both God and Lord.
So we are forbidden by the Catholic Religion, to say, There be three Gods, or three Lords.
The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten.
The Holy Ghost is of the Father, and of the Son, neither made, nor begotten, but proceeding.
So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts.
And in this Trinity none is afore, or after another; none is greater; or less than another;
But the whole three Persons are co-eternal and co-equal.
So that in all things, as is foresaid, the Unity in Trinity is to be worshipped.
He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.
Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ,.
For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man;
God, of the Substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the substance of his Son, born in the world;
Perfect God and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting;
Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father, as touching his Manhood.
Who although he be God and Man, yet he is not two, but one Christ;
One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of the Manhood into God;
One altogether; not by confusion of Substance, but by unity of Person.
For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and Man is one Christ;
Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead.
He ascended into heaven, he sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty, from whence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies and shall give account for theirown works.
And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting,; and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.
This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully he cannot be saved.
These creeds and the Bible are the basic summary of beliefs of Episcopalians. Although Episcopalians are not bound by a strict literal interpretation of them, both of the commonly used creeds are a good, short way to describe Episcopalian beliefs.

previous page ©2001. Written on July 14, 2001. May not be reproduced without permission. Updated March 11, 2007.


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