Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
October 14th, 2015 by Joel Watts

Petition: The Nicene Creed as a Doctrinal Standard

Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea.

Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With all of the talk of homosexuality, abortion, inerrancy, and everything else that divides us, many of us are looking to find something that unites us, not only within the United Methodist Church, but to other historic communions of the Christian faith. Many of us believe we have let politics separate us from the Christ of Christian Tradition, and as such, we have lost our way. Therefore, I have joined with others to submit proposals to the General Conference to add the Nicene Creed as part of our doctrinal standards.

The rationale is as follows:

The Doctrinal Standards affirm the Nicene Creed. Including the Creed further strengthens ecumenical conversation, giving a theological framework for dialogue and discernment within United Methodism.  Also, it professes our theological connection and heritage with the greater Church of Jesus Christ.

I am certain others will enjoin the ecumenical part, and why this is important.

For me, Methodism is a Creedal faith (that is five links but I have more). The Nicene Creed (381) represents the most concise statement of the Christian faith, preserving the tradition before it and securing an ecumenical relationship after it. The Creed is affirmed in our doctrinal standards — including Wesley’s sermons — and is the root of Christianity. It is part of the Wesleyan heritage and part of Wesley’s early method in building up the United Societies.

To that end, these are the petitions as submitted:

Amend Discipline ¶ 3 as follows:

¶ 3. Article III.Articles of Religion, and the Confession of Faith, and the Nicene Creed—The Articles of Religion and the Confession of Faith of The United Methodist Church are those held by The Methodist Church and The Evangelical United Brethren Church, respectively, at the time of their uniting.3 The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed that is part of the Church’s doctrinal standards is the version that is printed under the heading, “The Nicene Creed,” in the 1989 edition of The United Methodist Hymnal.

And:

Amend Discipline ¶ 17 as follows:

¶ 17. Article I.—The General Conference shall not revoke, alter, or change our Articles of Religion or establish any new standards or rules of doctrine contrary to our present existing and established standards of doctrine, except to affirm the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, as printed under the heading, “The Nicene Creed,” in the 1989 edition of The United Methodist Hymnal, as a part of our doctrinal standards.

And:

In order to implement the Constitutional amendments in similarly titled petitions, amend ¶104 as follows:

¶104. SECTION 3—OUR DOCTRINAL STANDARDS AND GENERAL RULES

THE ARTICLES OF RELIGION OF THE METHODIST CHURCH3

THE CONFESSION OF FAITH OF THE EVANGELICAL UNITED BRETHREN CHURCH6

THE STANDARD SERMONS OF WESLEY

THE EXPLANATORY NOTES UPON THE NEW TESTAMENT

THE GENERAL RULES OF THE METHODIST CHURCH7

THE NICENE-CONSTANTINOPOLITAN 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,
 was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
 and became truly human.
 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 in glory
 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,
 who with the Father and the Son
 is worshiped and glorified,
 who 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

There is doubt this will make it though. I share that concern. But, if you know the history of the Creed, fighting and education for four more years is well worth it.

No doubt, if passed, those who ignore the doctrinal standards today will ignore them tomorrow. However, for those us concerned with the doctrinal, theological, and intellectual life of the Church, as well as our ecumenical endeavors…and our focus, we believe this will help guide us back to where we should be.

Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Comments

10 Responses to “Petition: The Nicene Creed as a Doctrinal Standard”
  1. I was born into and raised in the Presbyterian communion, but have been a Methodist since 1960. We sometimes recited the Nicene Creed in the Presbyterian Church. I like both the Nicene and Apostles Creeds. I have two question re your proposal: (1) Do you view the Nicene Creed as exclusionary or inclusionary; that is, do you envision the Nicene Creed as a means to exclude from our communion those who have reservations about certain postulates, e.g., the Virgin Birth? and (2) What does the Nicene Creed have to do with full inclusion of LGBTQ persons into our communion; that is, does this creed allow for full inclusion or exclusion from certain aspects of the UMC, e.g., ordination as ministers? I’ve never considered the UMC as a creedal communion.

    • I am under the impression that everything as view by the progressives must somehow involve the bedroom activities of those who identity as homosexual. I find this repulsive and inhuman.

      Therefore, I will ignore the silliness of the second question.

      In regards to your first question, the Creed begins with “I believe”

      It does not begin with “I know” or “The fact of the matter is” but it begins with that very essential element of faith, “I…believe…”

      I hope.

      I want to see.

      I believe.

      • Thanks for your illuminating responses that did not address the substances of the questions I asked.

        • I am not going to answer questions I believe are ridiculous.

          I did answer the other question, just not in the way you’d like.

          • Exactly why do you think my first question was ridiculous? I view your response to the first question as an ad hominem response, i.e., attacking the person instead of the person’s ideas. Please note: I have not treated you in this disrespectful manner. Regarding the second question, I didn’t ask you about the difference between belief and knowing, a distinction with which—as a religious scientist—I am well familiar. I am aware of the movement in some quarters to have the Nicene Creed incorporated into our Book of Discipline. My question has to do with what is the purpose of this movement and how does the Nicene Creed impact an important question that threatens a schism within our communion.

          • I view the need to associate every decision with gay sex as a phallacy.

            I am helping in the movement to have it recognized in our BoD. It is needful not only for ecumenical reasons, but for help in clarifying such things as our first several articles.

            Would it be used for doctrinal trials? Hardly given that we don’t do those now, even though we should.

  2. Thanks for the clarification. I understand your positions now, although I don’t consider every decision to have something to do with gay sex. I wonder if you protest too much?

    • protesting the overuse of people? Do you understand what you said?

      • I certainly understand what I said; but, clearly you don’t. Simply recall the following from Hamlet: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks” is a quotation from the 1599/1600 play Hamlet by William Shakespeare. It has been used as a figure of speech, in various phrasings, to describe someone’s too frequent and vehement attempts to convince others of some matter of which the opposite is true, thereby making themselves appear defensive, and insincere. Yeah, you can taint me with the same tar brush. I don’t have the time or interest to pursue this issue further this afternoon as I’m busy writing the draft of my next novel and because I’ve manage to elicit your true positions.

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