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The Creeds

The word “Creed” comes from the Latin word “credo” which means, “I believe.” The Creeds are the statements of our basic beliefs as Christians. In the Episcopal Church, we say both the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed in public services of worship. The Creed of St. Athanasius is typically not used in public worship.

The Apostles’ Creed 

The Apostles’ Creed dates from the early years of the Christian Church and was used as a personal statement of faith at Baptism. The the Episcopal Church, the Apostles’ Creed is said publically the services of daily Morning and Evening Prayer. Since it is a baptismal creed, it is said as the statement of faith at baptisms (using question and answer) at the renewal of our baptismal vows, and at confirmation. It is also said in the context of the burial rite. It is also said in private devotions. The Apostles' Creed can be found in The Book of Common Prayer on pages 53, 66, 96, 120, 292, 304, and 496 within these different services. It reads as follows:

I believe in God, the Father almighty, 
     creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
     He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit 
          and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate, 
     was crucified, died, and was buried. 
He descended to the dead. 
On the third day he rose again. 
He ascended into heaven, 
     and is seated at the right hand of the Father. 
He will come again to judge the living and the dead. 
I believe in the Holy Spirit, 
     the holy catholic Church, 
     the communion of saints, 
     the forgiveness of sins, 
     the resurrection of the body, 
     and the life everlasting. Amen

The Nicene Creed 

Similar to the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed was originally written and adopted in the year 325 by early bishops meeting at the Council of Nicaea (in modern day Turkey). In 381, it was amended at the First Council of Constantinople, and the amended form is referred to as the Nicene or the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed. It is a statement of the Christian faith is said together, publically, during services of the Holy Eucharist on Sundays and Major Feasts. It can be found on pages 326 and 358 in The Book of Common Prayer.  It reads as follows:

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: 
     by the power of the Holy Spirit 
          he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, 
          and was made man. 
     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.]* 
          With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
          He 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

*Note: [and the Son]
or Filioque is a Latin term added to the original Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed. This has been the subject of great controversy between Eastern and Western Christianity. The Latin term Filioque describes the Holy Spirit as proceeding from both the Father and the Son, (and not from the Father only). In the Nicene Creed it is translated by the English phrase "and [from] the Son": 
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
        who proceeds from the Father ⟨and the Son⟩.
        With the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.
or in Latin:
Et in Spiritum Sanctum, Dominum et vivificantem:
        qui ex Patre ⟨Filioque⟩ procedit
       Qui cum Patre, et Filio simul adoratur, et cum glorificatur.

The Creed of St. Athanasius (Quicunque Vult) 

The Athanasian Creed is a Christian statement of belief focused on Trinitarian doctrine and Christology. The Latin name of the creed, Quicunque vult, is taken from the opening words, "Whosoever wishes". The creed has been used by Christian churches since the sixth century. It is the first creed in which the equality of the three persons of the Trinity is explicitly stated. It differs from the Nicene-Constantinopolitan and Apostles' Creeds in the inclusion of anathemas, or condemnations of those who disagree with the creed (like the original Nicene Creed).

Widely accepted among Western Christians, including the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran churches (it is also considered part of Lutheran confessions in the Book of Concord), and other ancient, liturgical churches, the Athanasian Creed has been used in public worship less and less frequently, but part of it can be found as an "Authorized Affirmation of Faith" in the recent  Common Worship liturgy of the Church of England (2000). The Episcopal Church does not typically use the Athanasian Creed in Public Worship (except on Trinity Sunday), and can be found in the Book of Common Prayer, pp. 864-865. It reads as follows:

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith.
Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish
And the Catholic Faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity,
    neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance.
For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost.
But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one, the Glory
    equal, the Majesty co-eternal.
Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost.
The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Ghost uncreate.
The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost
The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal.
And yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal.
As also there are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated, but one uncreated, and
    one incomprehensible.
So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty.
And yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty.

So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God.
And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.
So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord.
And yet not three Lords, but one Lord.
For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by
    himself to be both God and Lord,
So are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion, to say, There be three Gods, or three Lords.
The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten.
The Son is of the Father alone, not made, nor created, but begotten.
The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son, neither made, nor created, nor begotten,
    but proceeding.
So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three
Holy Ghosts.
And in this Trinity none is afore, or after other; none is greater, or less than another;
But the whole three Persons are co-eternal together and co-equal.
So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be
He therefore that will be saved is must think thus of the Trinity.

Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the
    Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of
    God, is God and Man;
God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man of the substance
    of his Mother, born in the world;
Perfect God and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.
Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father, as touching his
Who, although he be God and Man, yet he is not two, but one Christ;
One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh but by taking of the Manhood into God;
One altogether; not by confusion of Substance, but by unity of Person.
For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and Man is one Christ;
Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead.
He ascended into heaven, he sitteth at the right hand of the Father, God Almighty, from
    whence he will come to judge the quick and the dead.
At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies and shall give account for their
    own works.
And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil into
    everlasting fire.
This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved.

Why do we say the Creeds?

As a community of faith, we openly declare our beliefs. By saying the ancient statements of belief in the Creeds, we unite ourselves to Christians in the past, present and future. 

Do I have to believe everything in the Creeds? Relationship with God is a both a personal journey and one we share with others in a community of believers. The Creeds articulate the beliefs of the Church, and we recite them as we join with those around us in the process of discovering our own relationship with God. So, it is not easy to answer this question “yes” or “no.” The importance lies in taking part with fellow believers in this lifelong journey. 

What if I have doubts or questions? It is not unusual to have doubts and questions. In the Episcopal Church, questions are encouraged. There are many groups, classes, and forums available for discussing questions with other believers. In addition, the clergy is eager to be contacted for help with questions.