Words of Faith: Varieties of Creeds


In another place, I argue that the United Church (and indeed any organization) is creedal. It bears noting that our beliefs are often expressed in different forms for different organizational purposes. Some creeds are deliberately liturgical, favouring brevity for use in worship. These creeds often attempt to evoke joy and praise. They teach, but their primary use is not teaching. Other creeds are doctrinal, primarily for teaching.  Catechisms and doctrinal statements fall into this category, and go into more detail than most liturgical creeds. Some creeds are constitutional, applying convictions to issues of membership, structure, governance.  Here non-negotiable tenets of faith are married to more fluid beliefs about best practices.

Choosing the right form of creed for each purpose is important. The experience of any movement has been that the grand liturgical creeds never go into enough detail to help even the best-willed people cooperate in the daily grind over the course of generations. Doctrinal and constitutional creeds do not merely add a layer of administrative rules to the eternal truths of the Scriptures. They also address emergent misunderstandings of scripture and creed that have needed more detailed explanation for the fellowship of believers to successfully engage in mission together.