Nicene Creed

Andy Hargrove & Charles Rivera: In Support of The Nicene Creed as a UMC Doctrinal Standard

Andy Hargrove & Charles Rivera on April 15, 2016

Revs. Andy Hargrove and Charles Rivera are young-adult clergy from the Great Plains Conference of the UMC.  This statement on the Nicene Creed originally appeared on the Unsettled Christianity blog.  Reposted with permission.


Eastertide 2016

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

As General Conference approaches many proposals vie for your attention.

Some of these have had mountains of ink spilled about them and are sure to cause great strife across the Connection. We write to draw your eyes to a very little but very worthy proposal, which we believe has the potential to increase our unity and strengthen the UMC. Petition Number: 60980-FO-1J104-G, presented by a lay member from the West Virginia Conference, proposes that the Nicene Creed (UMH #880) be added to our doctrinal standards.

The Nicene Creed was the product of a council held at Constantinople in 381. This council’s work was a revision of the creed of an earlier council at Nicaea in 325 and for this reason the creed is called “Nicene.” In an era when Christianity was being transformed from a persecuted religion to the faith of the majority under Constantine and his successors, this creed was written to be a clear statement of doctrine as the Church struggled to maintain the integrity of its message. True to this purpose it has served down through the centuries as a touchstone for what we believe about God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit—the very heart of our faith. The Nicene Creed steadied the Church as it trod treacherous ground in becoming Rome’s dominant religion; it can steady us today as we venture hesitantly into a world where Christianity is no longer dominant in the West.

Yet the creed is much more than an anchor for orthodoxy: it is a powerful symbol of the global unity of the Church. The Council of Nicaea, for which this creed is named, was the first council to draw Christians from all over the world. Bishops came from Spain and India, Britain and Africa and all lands in between to attend the council. As a result, the creed which represents this global gathering and the faith which it confesses unite many Christian communities otherwise separated by so much. Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Pentecostal, we all trace our lineages to the bishops and theologians who gathered at that synod in the early fourth century. By making the creed which bears their name one of our doctrinal standards we would embrace United Methodism’s place in “Christ’s universal Church”.

None of our current doctrinal standards bear such an ecumenical significance. While they express well our distinctiveness they do not confess our universality—none of them testify to that old Methodist “catholic spirit” we so rightly cherish. There are the sermons and notes of one man, a Spirit-filled man, a wise man, but one man. There is his abridgment of a document written by a few divines in England during the Reformation. There is the Confession of the E.U.B., a rich document, but again written recently by a few Americans. By adding the Nicene Creed we confess that we are a church not of a few westerners of the last few centuries, but of the whole world, in union with all Christians everywhere.

We urge you then to consider supporting Petition Number: 60980-FO-H104-G. We urge you, in an age and a culture where we are constantly seduced into emphasizing the distinctiveness of our particular tribe,-to embrace the Nicene Creed as a symbol of United Methodism’s “catholic spirit.” We urge you, in an age of doctrinal indifference and confusion, to embrace it as a distillation of our sacred, life-giving teaching about God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

  1. Comment by Joel on April 15, 2016 at 9:20 am

    Thanks for sharing. Here is the rationale from an earlier post.

  2. Comment by DannyBoyJr on April 15, 2016 at 7:53 pm

    What is the status of the Nicene Creed in the UMC currently? Don’t we already use it as an affirmation of faith during worship service? Then it is already a standard of sorts already. And if you read both the Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church and the Confession of Faith of the EUB, you might find that the Nicene Creed is already somewhat embedded therein.

  3. Comment by John Lomperis on April 15, 2016 at 10:09 pm

    Indeed, I have argued that the Methodist and EUB articles themselves are substantially Nicene. And yet the Nicene Creed is included in the UMC hymnal and sometimes recited in some services, it currently holds no official status in our doctrinal standards. This creates some ecumenical issues, as well as the issue of making our denomination’s doctrine overwhelmingly dependent on just one man (John Wesley).

  4. Comment by Dan on April 16, 2016 at 9:54 am

    A recommendation with much to recommend it. Unfortunately, if adopted, it would put at least half (by current survey estimates) of the currently appointed UMC clergy at odds with the doctrinal standards. I think that the majority of clergy will vigorously oppose it, since adoption will make it clear that they really are not Christians, but rather assenting to various forms of heresy. I use the term “heresy” because that was the purpose of developing the Nicene creed – to set bounds on the limits of what one can believe and still call himself or herself a Christian. I pray the UMC can recapture what it once was over 100 years ago, but I fear that it is too far gone to recover.

  5. Comment by Ella Pauline on April 18, 2016 at 11:39 am

    A view from the UMC pew from one with an impeccable Methodist heritage and lineage: I so appreciate what you are proposing. Nobody knows better than me how far the UMC has drifted from a clear and consistent teaching of basic orthodox Christian doctrine. After a lifetime of being a good church-going Methodist, I was just shy of my 60th birthday when, after distancing myself from all things church, I stumbled into the Heidelberg Catechism and three very modern books about it. As a result, I finally found myself in the wide open space of God’s amazing grace with an understanding of God and myself I never thought possible. It was a stunning experience to realize that Christianity is not rocket science but is simply unfathomable! I still wonder how different my life would have been if I had been exposed to such basic orthodox teaching much sooner! Yes, the UMC needs to reclaim some orthodox Christian doctrine beyond Wesley–it is actually the Heidelberg and the three books that enriches my reading of Wesley–but just realize, having one more thing on paper and a website that states what we believe is not going to fix anything; until it is taught to the rank and file person already sitting in the pew. My version of revitalization: Get the person already in the pew excited about God. Start connecting people already in the pew to the one and only Perfect God! It is a game-changer!, especially the Daily Text, have provided some amazing follow-up and confirmation of what I learned. I have spent enough time investigating the Wesleyan Church to know that its growth is rooted in the fact that their beliefs go much farther than being mere statements printed on paper or posted on a website. There is absolutely nothing to stop a pastor from schooling their congregation in the Nicene Creed or the Apostle’s Creed and then give them the amazing bigger story that gave rise to the creeds! In his book about the Heidelberg Catechism, “Body & Soul”, M. Craig Barnes gives a profound argument why we need to keep connected to the communion of saints of the past through their creeds and such.

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