Friday, June 18, 2010

The Missing Creed...

For a long time I did not realize that it was a problem of any magnitude but now I realize that is is a problem, and a big one.  I am not writing about non-creedal churches but about Lutherans and even Missouri Lutherans who have either consigned the creed to occasional use or use creedal statements other than the three ecumenical creeds (Apostles, Nicene, and Athanasian).

On one hand I know of several congregations that use the liturgy from the hymnal but routinely omit several elements of the ordinary of the liturgy in order to save time (from the Kyrie and Hymn of Praise to the Creed and Sanctus).  These folks are not anti-creed but have gone astray on their quest to get the crowd in and out in the shortest period of time.  Sadly, the time saved by omitting parts of the ordinary is needed because of ridiculously small altar rails for the communion or, worse, to give the Pastor more pulpit time.  For whatever intention, the choice to regularly eliminate portions of the ordinary and the creed is a wrong headed practice.  Period.

On another hand I know of more than several congregations who use home-made creedal statements in place of the ecumenical creeds.  One has the confirmands each write a creed as part of their catechism instruction and then the congregation uses theses creeds on Sunday mornings.  While an exercise of writing a creed might be an instructive tool, it is bizarre to have the congregation use these personal statements in place of the Church's creeds.  In other congregations they have confessed creeds borrowed from others (I recall seeing a Korean Creed in one bulletin) and their pastors have written things to emphasize on thing or another (often the practical of stewardship and service over confession and doctrine).  The creed does not belong to an individual congregation or the clergy -- the creed is the Church's possession and no one has the right to alter or re-write these creeds.  Secondly it is a surefire way to make orthodoxy optional and replace it with some fuzzy, local, personal perspective on things.  Recall Neuhaus' law that Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed."  The creeds are part of the liturgy that instructs and places bounds on orthodoxy.

And then there are the musical substitutes for the creed.  While I am less concerned say by the occasional use of sung creeds such as Luther's Wir Glauben All within the context of a Deutsche Messe, I am concerned with the ordinary substitution of any hymn in place of the creed or contemporary songs that similarly lack the classical creedal formations by which we confess the Triune God.  

Even more troubling, however, are those many congregations -- especially those using contemporary worship and music -- who hardly ever use the creed as part of the worship service.  I know of some who never use a creed except for a baptism.  I know of many who find a creed "elitist" or "unwelcoming" and since they target the service toward unchurched people and use the worship service as an outreach tool, the creed is omitted on a regular basis.  For these congregations and for the folks in these congregations, the creedal norm of how we define and confess God is missing and with it the most substantive tie to the Church that went before them.

The point of this all is a reminder that the creed is not like the choice of a hymn -- it is part of the ordinary.  To those whose congregations routinely omit the creed, I challenge you to reconsider and restore this essential element to the Sunday morning assembly... that the faith may be retained in its historical, Biblical, and classic form and passed on to those just learning the faith...


Carl Vehse said...

What's needed:

Names of pastors and churches omitting the creeds. Their congregational websites. Pdf scans of church service folders with faux creeds. Links to mp3 audio files or YouTube videos of congregations confessing these faux creeds.

Public actions; public documents; public files; public substantiation.

Otherwise... it's just hearsay.

Pastor Peters said...

Not if I have sat in the pews in those churches and have been shown bulletins by members who visited these Lutheran churches... this is not hearsay... one pastor I know has said up front that he never uses the creed...

Chris said...

The evangelical influence on modern Lutheranism is quite apparent with the omission of the Creed (particularly the Nicaean). Rick Warren is quite famous for the dictum "Deeds not creeds" and too many Lutherans, as well as Christians of many other confessions, are following suit.

I cannot imagine the Divine Liturgy without the Creed. It's always in the center, holding everything together and keeps everything in proper perspective.

Congregations omitting the creed should automatically be suspect.

Dr.D said...

I agree with Chris. I would never dream of saying Mass without the Nicene Creed right after the Gospel lesson.

On the other hand, I correspond at times over the internet with the wife of a Baptist pastor who has told me that they never use any creed and rarely ever use the Lord's Prayer. She is aware of the Apostles Creed only, but says they do not say it. I found this truly shocking.

What Pastor Peters has said is all certainly true. In regard to cutting service elements for time considerations, I would add the question, "what have people come to Church for?" If they only came to get a cup of coffee, that is available lots of other places. The Church is the only place you can come to worship the Triune God, and time constraints really need to be reevaluated (ignored in most cases).

Steve said...

As a layman who goes into the world Monday through Saturday I will tell you that I desperately need the Word and Sacrament and the only place to get it is in the Liturgical, Creedal, Lord's Prayerful church my Lord has given me to attend and grow my faith. It is the place in which I become more grounded as Jesus comes to me with forgiveness and love. Why any Pastor or group of people would ever want to change what God gave us in the Divine Service is something I simply cannot comprehend. God's ways are above our ways yet we think we can do better?

I deeply appreciate you Pastors of our land who understand your calling and are determined to truly deliver the Gospel as Undershepherds and not tickle the ears of us fickle sheep who want to feel life is about us.

Steve Foxx

Mr PSb said...

I believe there is a lack of understanding of the Creeds in addition to their historic context. Ignorance can lead to a lack of appreciation. I certainly agree that there is a dire need to return to the faith of our Fathers espoused in the Creeds and Confessions of the Church.

Rev. Kevin Jennings said...

A few observations:
...At certain points in the year, I use an article of the creed with accompanying explanation from the Small Catechism.
...I once heard a pastor say that the church he served no longer used the Nicene Creed because people asked questions about it. Why would any pastor not want folks asking questions about the creed? Would he rather his congregation ask questions about why so-and-so gets to decide on this color of paint?
...In seminary, Prof. Schmelder told us that, if we had the urge to rewrite one of the creeds, we should get a bottle of whiskey and drink until the urge left us.
...Worship services are public acts. Bulletins are public documents. I routinely receive bulletins from our members attending elsewhere on a Sunday. Sometimes I wonder, "What was this guy thinking?" Anyway, if you hear about one, it's somewhat like pests in your home: if you find the evidence of one, there are usually a lot more.

Carl Vehse said...

...Worship services are public acts. Bulletins are public documents. I routinely receive bulletins from our members attending elsewhere on a Sunday. Sometimes I wonder, "What was this guy thinking?"

Scan 'em and post them on the internet, so we can all wonder, "What was this guy thinking?"

Pastor Jim Wagner said...

I hope I'm not too late to join this conversation. I just returned from vacation, and worshipped last Sunday at another Lutheran church - it was ELCA, but I suspect it could just as well have been LCMS.

No creed, no reading of the lessons or Gospel, no Lord's Prayer, and the Verba spoken from the head of the aisle, not the altar, quite apart from the actual elements. The two pastors were in shirts and ties. The service was only 45 minutes long, so time was not a factor (if that is at all important). Praise band in the front.

My heavenly days, what are we coming to? I picked up a bulletin from the "traditional service" which had preceeded at 9:00am, and it followed the LBW to the letter. But how can we take them seriously when they are willing to do what they did at 11:00?

When we left the service it became crystal clear to me: we have to decide, are we Protestant or catholic? There is no in-between.

Dr.D said...

@ Pastor Wagner
You say, "we have to decide, are we Protestant or catholic?"

With as much as was left out, it seems pretty questionable as whether it was actually Christian or not, so perhaps that is the first question that those folks need to address. (I understand that your comment was more addressed to the LCMS, and perhaps your own parish.)

When you leave out the creed, leave out the Lord's Prayer, and do not clearly consecrate the Communion Elements, what do you have left to mark this as unmistakably a Christian worship service? Yes, I would hope that the preaching was noticeably Christian, and perhaps the hymns (although with a praise band, that become questionable), but the whole thing has really been eviscerated and might be mistaken for something else. Perhaps that is the purpose, to give it the spirit of the age.

Anonymous said...

It was bad, but I would not say it was not Christian. It might have been acceptable in any number of Protestant churches. But in our Lutheran churches? In a sense, I suppose I would not have been as offended had it not been a service of the Lord's Supper.

On second thought, my point was not so much about the service itself, which is probably becoming more prevalent in many churches, but the contrast between the 9:00 and 11:00 services. What seemed to me to be so odd was the contrast between the first and second services. If one is willing to do what was done in the second service, is there any real understanding or commitment to what was done in the first? Or is it "just another form" - a matter of taste?

I guess what I am asking is, how could anyone who truly understands the Divine Service do this other stuff? Or, if one really believes in the is other form, how could one do the Divine Service with any integrity?