There is a discussion going on in a couple of places right now about whether or not it is appropriate to omit the Nicene Creed at Sunday services – setting aside the rubrical and historical notes for a moment the most troubling thing to me about the discussion is the notion that it is “inclusive” to omit it. There are those who have gone so far as to call its use “bullying.”
This is where the notion of inclusion loses all fixed reference to reality.
In order to be included in something then something must have some sort of definable shape, belief, boundary, norm, or pattern. The notion that if we recite the Creed on Sundays then we are excluding someone somehow misses an essential point – excluding them from what?
For all the talk about inclusion in the Church the sad thing to me is that this has become a cheap thing – we are too often not including people in anything more challenging, life-changing, or controversial than a New York Times subscription. The only thing the Church includes anyone in is in the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ – the mystery at the heart of the Creed.
We are going to have fewer and fewer people enter our churches over time who have any formation in the basic teachings of the faith or exposure to the claims we make about Jesus Christ. For those who have questions – ask away. For those who doubt – doubt away. For those who have trouble believing – please do continue to wrestle. Yet, there are those coming through our doors, aching in our communities, weighing whether to accept an invitation – and they are not weighing an invitation to stale cookies and bad coffee. They are weighing an invitation to something that upends who they think are, who they know others to be, and has reknit the very essence of Creation.
We are welcoming them to the joy of salvation. Whether we recognize its lyrics or not – the Creed is a salvation hymn that expresses the movement of the Spirit over generations of the Church and lays out the shape of God’s interplay with humanity in past, present, and future. This is a salvation that has been proclaimed from cave to cathedral through tragedy and triumph. It has been sung of and whispered about. It was fought over and debated. Word of it is handed to us to pass on to those who come afterward.
Do I believe every word? Do you? Does every visitor? It doesn’t matter. I am not an ecumenical council. I am not the canons. I am not the Prayer Book. I am not any of these things and neither is any one church nor any one visitor. We can only be clearly, openly, audaciously honest about what we proclaim as the inheritance of faith – an inheritance wrestled over and debated over time and through the ministry and working of the Holy Spirit.
Part of belonging – being included – in an institution that finds its pattern and being planted before the foundation of the world is that it is bigger than us. It claims things that we do not comprehend. If it did not then I don’t suspect that it would be terribly compelling. This mystery is what we are being included into – not into our local church. Not into a denomination. Not into a coffee hour. We are being called to find our place in salvation history – in the unfolding power and promise of Christ.
So we say, again and again, “We believe.” It is an aspirational statement. It is a claim. It is a hope. It is even a lament – a lament because we lose part of who we are when we say it even as we know that we are being caught up in a new identity that will shape and mold our being. It is beautiful in its binding simplicity and its ever-unfurling complexity.
We say it together because we hope it’s true. We long for it to come to pass. We know its promise and yet we still ache. We hope, and long, and ache and we believe.
For a good, thoughtful look at this I recommend Fr Chris Arnold’s blog http://www.fatherchristopher.org/blog/on-the-nicene-creed-in-the-liturgy/…