The Creed is Freeing? [worship.hack]


Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of hanging out with a church planter who does lots of missional church behind-the-scenes work: getting to know the community, the people, the needs, and the aspirations…and allowing those factors to dictate what the church looks like.

And what she told me shocked me.

She told me of a conversation with the pastor of an evangelical church plant in Portland–the heart of the None Zone and one of the cities with the lowest rates of Christian attendance–who said that his congregation recites the Apostle’s Creed every Sunday.

I was like…what?

That’s a mainline church thing. That’s a stuffy Frozen Chosen thing to do. Saying the Creed, being high liturgy. Why would they do it?

The pastor replied that “Saying the Creed is freeing.”

What? Freeing? Excuse me, Mister Pastor Person, you realize that the Creed is Creedal, as in you are giving you assent to the beliefs in the Creed. How is that freeing?

He said that for his congregation, most are post-evangelical: people who have left evangelical traditions with their intricate moral codes and expectations for one reason or another.

So when his church says the Creed, they are saying “This is IT. This is ALL there is. Outside of the 10 Commandments and the Great Commandment, this is all you have to believe.”

And in its simplicity–especially for post-evangelicals who are used to rigorous expectations and serpentine moral structures such as at Mars Hillthe Creed can be freeing indeed.

Two thoughts in response:

  1. I wonder if when I look at church websites and they have page after page of “Beliefs” in the belief section if they aren’t turning these same type of people away.
  2. I also wonder if in the worship context if the beliefs we espouse are framed as freeing not restrictive? Are they obligatory or emancipatory? Are they squeezing people’s minds or are they giving voice to that beyond ourselves?

I’m not sure.

Musing for today…thoughts?

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  1. Brad says

    Lots of post Christian types in low church congregations doing that here in the south as well. My guess is the deconstruction that has taken place has obliterated much of our beliefs but we want to “give voice to that beyond ourselves”. The creed is a simple way of doing that. I’m also wondering how to frame beliefs as freeing on worship.

  2. Brad says

    Lots of post Christian types in low church congregations doing that here in the south as well. My guess is the deconstruction that has taken place has obliterated much of our beliefs but we want to “give voice to that beyond ourselves”. The creed is a simple way of doing that. I’m also wondering how to frame beliefs as freeing in worship.

  3. Anthony Fatta says

    The creed is freeing. It sets up essentials on belief. I don’t know about it being simple. There is a lot of info going on between the lines of the Apostle’s Creed. I think it needs to be explored in addition to recited every week.

  4. says

    My issue is that it has an empty center: nothing on Jesus’ life, nothing on justice, nothing on prophetic aspect of the Christian life. So a Creed is not enough for me. But for those who are turned off by morality systems and requirements, I can understand how it is freeing.

  5. Birdy Grease says

    If the Creed is used as “what is the least I can believe and still be a Christian” then I think the Creed can become binding and restrictive by minimizing the responsibility to participate in transformative spiritual formation. If the church requires a particular understanding or interpretation of the Creed, then I believe this is also a restricting use of the Apostle’s Creed.

    If, however, the Creed is used as an initial theological place that connects believers in a relational way that points forward to the vast expansiveness of spiritual journeys then I think this an important synthesizing of tradition and post-modern (or whatever is now the word for post post-modern).

  6. Brad says

    Maybe I should clarify. We don’t actually use the creed like this. I’m really thinking aloud about why they would.

    I like what you have all said. It could be freeing as a starting point that would need to be explored further. (A suffering lord, participation in that suffering, communion with his church, our future etc)

    How do you all approach beliefs in worship or on a website?

  7. Carolyn says

    One thing I really like about creeds is that they are an experience of saying, “Yes!” After a childhood in restrictive Evangelical moral frameworks, in which all I seemed to hear was “No, no, no!”, being able to say something in the affirmative is uplifting. While Evangelical rhetoric is often divisive, especially on life issues, saying a creed is a unifying experience.

  8. says

    One of the things I appreciate about your posts, Jeremy, is that they show me the dramatic diversity of how people approach the faith within the UMC. For instance, you perceive the creed as so fundamentally different from the way that I do, that I am positive we would need to actually be in the same place, engaged in real conversation, before either of our perspectives were really understood by the other. In that sense, social media doesn’t really allow for conversation so much as it provides a forum to express one’s own view. (That’s not a critique; obviously, I use social media in exactly the same way.) In the area of what the creed does and does not do, I would only suggest that the creed must be judged on what it *seeks* to do, which is to affirm what all Christians believe about the nature of the triune God. And as for issues of justice and the prophetic aspect of the Christian life, I would only point to the creed’s second article for that: Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. The third day he rose again…” That simply *is* the basis for all Christian notions of justice and prophetic ministry — namely, that God’s work of reconciliation in the world is grounded in the incarnation of God in Christ and in the victory of Christ over death in the resurrection. Thus does salvation proceed by the work of the Holy Spirit. Vicit agnus noster.

  9. Lisa Beth says

    Which creed? According the the UMC Book of Worship, a creed is properly used as a response to the proclaimed word, and can be any of the 10 included in the UMC Hymnal. The language in the Affirmations of Faith is quite varied.

  10. says

    I recently posted a comment on another older post on this blog regarding Wesley’s creedal theology; I feel I should also mention here in passing, that John Wesley apparently did agree with the liturgical practice of using the Apostle’s Creed every Sunday; as his Sunday Service book for North America features it in its rubrics, with no indication that the saying of it was in any way optional.

    A copy of the Sunday Service liturgy can be found here:

    I would not object to that simple, beautiful liturgy becoming the standard liturgy in all United Methodist parishes.

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