The most basic statement of our beliefs is the Nicene Creed. It was created in 325 AD. Almost all Christian churches agree with the basic tenants of this statement.
It has four basic parts. The first three parts proclaim the different aspects of God we call the Trinity. The first part proclaims God the Father who created and sustains all things. The second part speaks of God the Son (Jesus) who came to earth and died for our sins. The third part speaks of the Holy Spirit, which was a gift of God’s presence to us after Jesus left this earth.
In the fourth, and last, section of the creed we affirm three basic beliefs:
- The church is “holy” (made by God), “catholic” (which means universal) and apostolic (that its existence can be traced directly back to the apostles),
- We believe that in baptism our sins are forgiven,
- We believe in eternal life.
This is a very general statement about our basic beliefs. The Catechism is another document in our Prayer book (p. 845) that outlines some very basic tenants of our faith.
In the Episcopal Church we seldom make statements of doctrine. That is, we seldom say this is the way you have to believe in order to be a good Episcopalian. We leave the particulars to you and your relationship with God. We always leave room for diversity in the church. Your faith may look a little different than mine, and that’s okay.
The priest’s job is to get you to think about and to help you determine what exactly your relationship with God looks like. Not to tell you what to believe but to help you figure out what you believe for yourself.
The only thing we ask you to do is to use three things to assist you in determining what you believe: scripture, tradition, and reason.
We believe that scripture contains all things necessary to salvation.
We believe that God inspired the scripture but humans wrote it. Now what that means is that when we interpret scripture we must take it as a whole. Each part is heard in relation to other parts. You cannot just pick and choose scriptures. Each and every passage is historically conditioned and context specific.
We believe that the way the church has interpreted things over the years is important. We have a strong sense of history and beauty in worship that comes from hundreds of years of tradition.
We believe that God gave us the ability to reason and so we should use it. In fact, God, Himself, is reasonable – He makes sense. And he gave us our reason to help figure out His will. After all the Bible cannot speak to every issue in every situation.
We use Reason because Scripture and Traditions were intended to be interpreted and re-interpreted over and over again in light of contemporary knowledge and experience.
Two other basic guiding principles:
- ‘Via Media’. This concept comes from the writings of Aristotle and it literally means “Nothing too much”. In other words, we generally feel that one should stay away from extremes (e.g. Don’t drink too much, Don’t cuss too much, etc…)
- We also believe that there is always a Pastoral Element to every issue. As a church we understand that we cannot create absolute moral laws because they always fall short. A law cannot just take into account every situation that occurs.
The Nicene Creed
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.