See also: Why the Episcopal Church? Part 1
Episcopalians are just one denomination in the liturgical strands of Christianity that recite the Nicene Creed every week during their Sunday services. This creed, if you’re unfamiliar with it, is basically a summation of the central doctrines of the Christian faith. It was composed in the 4th century by the First Council of Nicaea, a group of Christian bishops, and it goes like this:
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth, of things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the begotten of God the Father, the Only-begotten, that is of the essence of the Father.
God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten and not made; of the very same nature of the Father, by Whom all things came into being, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.
Who for us humanity and for our salvation came down from heaven, was incarnate, was made human, was born perfectly of the holy virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit.
By whom He took body, soul, and mind, and everything that is in man, truly and not in semblance.
He suffered, was crucified, was buried, rose again on the third day, ascended into heaven with the same body, [and] sat at the right hand of the Father.
He is to come with the same body and with the glory of the Father, to judge the living and the dead; of His kingdom there is no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, in the uncreated and the perfect; Who spoke through the Law, prophets, and Gospels; Who came down upon the Jordan, preached through the apostles, and lived in the saints.
We believe also in only One Catholic and Apostolic Church; in one baptism in repentance, for the remission, and forgiveness of sins; and in the resurrection of the dead, in the everlasting judgement of souls and bodies, and the Kingdom of Heaven and in the everlasting life.
This, honestly, is one of my favorite things about the Episcopal Church service. While it may seem repetitive and rote to those who scoff at a “works-based” faith, I love it because it affirms everything that is important about my chosen faith. It affirms who God is, why Jesus came, and emphasizes what all denominations of Christianity have in common (the word “catholic” means “universal”).
But I also love the Creed for what it doesn’t say.
It doesn’t say anything about which political party you must belong to in order to best please God.
It doesn’t tell you what to think about controversial social issues like gay marriage, abortion, or immigration.
It doesn’t mention anything about how the earth was created — whether in six literal days or over millions of years via evolution.
It doesn’t even say anything about how, specifically, you get to heaven — and what happens to those who don’t believe correctly.
No, the Nicene Creed is mainly about Jesus. Because if you call yourself a Christian, what else matters?
My childhood was shaped by the question of how to be a proper Jew. I thought I had to check off a list of certain behaviors: mainly, keeping kosher and strictly keeping the Sabbath (no electricity, driving, spending money, or carrying heavy things, depending on the denomination).
My early adulthood was shaped by the question of how to be a “real” Christian: reading my Bible for no less than an hour a day. Evangelizing people I wouldn’t be held accountable for their souls. Attending Bible study and being active in ministry in some form, not limiting my Christian activities to just Sunday.
But saying the Creed during the Episcopal church service reminds me to keep it simple, because it is: if you can agree with the central doctrines above, you are a Christian. Period. Everything else requires wisdom and discernment, which looks different to each individual.