Tuesday, December 27, 2011

"A New Creed," apostolicity, and ecumenicity

The current issue of Touchstone, a journal related to (but not officially published by) the United Church of Canada, includes an article by William Haughton, one of my former M.Div. students at Campbell University Divinity School who went on to earn a Th.M. from the University of Toronto and is currently a minister in the United Church of Canada serving the Port Rowan Pastoral Charge on the north shore of Lake Erie. Haughton's article "'A New Creed': Its Origins and Significance" (vol. 29, no. 3 [September 2011], pp. 20-29) engages the story of the origins and reception-history of "A New Creed," a statement of faith adopted by the United Church of Canada in 1968, in light of contemporary questions about the relation of the United Church of Canada to the apostolic faith and to the church in its ecumenicity. The full text of the article is available online along with the entirety of the issue in which it appears in Flipbook format (click on hyperlink and see pp. 20-29). An excerpt from the article's conclusion appears below:

...[h]as "A New Creed" discouraged corporate confession of faith in the United Church and, in a sense, actually preserved the widespread sense of individual isolation which occasioned its writing?

More troublesome is the way "A New Creed" is being used, by all accounts, within the United Church as a fully adequate replacement for the Apostles' Creed. As Paul Scott Wilson has warned, a willful rejection of the latter means "we would cease to be ecumenical." Publication in The United Methodist Hymnal and occasional use by congregations outside Canada notwithstanding, "A New Creed" is not a catholic statement. Its pervasive use by our denomination may signal, ironically, that within the wider church, we are alone. The future legacy of "A New Creed," and its impact on the United Church, will be determined in large part by our ability to confess and to celebrate both our distinctiveness and our catholicity. (p. 29)

It occurs to me that, mutatis mutandis, the same questions Haughton addresses to the United Church of Canada may be asked of my own Baptist tradition and its contemporary efforts to confess the faith.

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