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Agreement drops clause from the Creed

Agreement drops clause from the Creed

Last Saturday I shared the story about the meeting of the Anglican-Oriental Orthodox International Commission and the communique issued by the Commission. The Agreement reached by the Commission was a major milestone for the two families of churches, Anglican & Oriental Orthodox. The Commission has made a major agreement regarding the common beliefs of the two groups regarding the nature of Christ. It was also noted that the Commission had also made a preliminary agreement with regard to the Holy Spirit. That preliminary agreement concerns the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, commonly known as the Nicene Creed.

The Nicene Creed draws its name from its origins in the 1st Council of Nicaea held in 325 CE, said to be attended by 318 bishops. The creed was later revised by the 1st Council of Constantinople held in 381 and reported to have been attended by 150 bishops. The Creed is recited by Christians in various branches of the Church throughout the world. It was devised to be a statement of the correct or orthodox doctrinal beliefs of Christians. Some branches of the church recite the Creed in the original 1st person plural form, “We believe…” Others have adopted the 1st person singular form, “I believe…”

iuThere are questions about the derivation of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan version of the Creed used by most churches today. There are differing theories regarding its true provenance prior to and after Constantinople, but the bishops gathered in council in 451 at Chalcedon finally accepted it as authentic, even though many had never heard of it prior to the meeting. It was reported at Chalcedon that the revised creed was found in the episcopal archives of the Constantinople council.

There is a difference in the versions of the Creed used in the East and the West that has been a point of contention. It is know as the filioque clause with regard to the Holy Spirit. Filioque is the Latin and the Son. It is not part of either the original Nicene nor the revised Constantinopolitan versions of the Creed. The original Creed stated, “And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the prophets.” Later, during the 6th Century, theologians in the West inserted the clause and the Son so that the Creed read, “And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the prophets.” This was to counter Arian heresy and to strengthen the concept on the divinity of the Son. Centuries later the Emperor Charlemagne ordered the filioque clause to be a permanent addition to the Creed. Eastern churches resented and have rejected the unilateral addition to the Creed.

The preliminary agreement regarding the Holy Spirit reached by the Commission recommends that Anglican churches drop the filioque clause from the Creed. This isn’t the first time this recommendation has been made to Western churches. It was made at Lambeth in 1978 as a result of the Anglican dialogue with the Eastern Orthodox churches. It was also made to Western churches on a more international scale by the World Council of Churches in 1987 in Confessing the One Faith. To date, some Anglican churches have dropped the clause during prayerbook/liturgical renewal, others have not. The TEC 1979 Book of Common Prayer includes the clause.

The title image is an “Icon depicting the Emperor Constantine, accompanied by the bishops of the First Council of Nicaea (325), holding the Niceno–Constantinopolitan Creed of 381.” from
The 2nd image is a word cloud of the Nicene Creed.
Read more about this story at the Anglican News Service.
Read more about the Nicene Creed at Wikipedia.


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Douglas Campbell

Note, the Spirit does not proceed from both the Father and the Son independently and in a detachable or separable way, but from both. (We ought to avoid getting too caught up in causality here; it is not a useful concept applied to the being of God, except under strict theological control. There are no literal causes in God.) The filioque also provides a further useful potential correction against any Monarchianism, which construes the Trinity internally as some sort of hierarchical power arrangement. Repudiating this view is absolutely critical.

Douglas Campbell

Actually, the filioque is arguably quite important. It is a bulwark against “the heresy of the third article,” that detaches the Spirit from the being of the Son, and it is an important affirmation of full consubstantiality of the Son with the Father. If the Father spirates the Spirit and begets the Son, the latter being of one being with the Father, in what sense can we not affirm that the Son too ought to be able to spirate the Spirit – as in fact He does in places like John 20:22? KB is, as usual, on the money, here in I/1.

Kurt Hill

I have never used the filioque in the Creed after it was explained to me in my confirmation class in 1966.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

JC Fisher

In my dim memories, I seem to recall that some of the trial liturgies, pre BCP79, omitted the filioque.

While the “Contra Arians”/”Contra Muslims” arguments are nice, I have a strong hunch that the filioque emerged chiefly from diverse lovers of rhetorical symmetry. That is, amidst constant Trinitarian language where *all 3 Persons were mentioned together*, having the Holy Spirit solely “proceed from the Father” must have looked like a stool w/ only 2 legs. [“Where’s Jesus? Has he been left out?” sad-faced Catechumens probably complained. Kinda like “Why is Pluto no longer a planet?” for a contemporary, secular example! ;-)]

It’s a paradox: you need to EXPLAIN the logic of theological language for it to make sense—but then again, no language to explain something as Beyond as GOD can *possibly* make sense.

“But in all things, Charity”: if our Eastern brethren don’t like the filioque, that’s certainly enough for me to agree we should drop it (at least for the next millenium or so!).

Michelle Jackson

Doesn’t it kind of work both ways? In the Apostle’s creed, Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit. I know the filioque clause has clause has caused millenia of problems. But even if a formal change is made, you can bet that most of the congregation will be going on autopilot and never notice!

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