Declaration of Assent and Athanasian Creed

Discussion in 'Liturgy, and Book of Common Prayer' started by Pog, Jul 20, 2014.

  1. Pog

    Pog Member

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    I wonder if anyone here has an 'official' answer for me.

    When looking at what declarations an ordinands in the Church of England must make, I came across this from the CofE website:

    From the CofE official website, Canons 7th ed. C15 Declaration of Assent:

    1(1) The Declaration of Assent to be made under this Canon shall be in the form set out below:

    PREFACE

    The Church of England is part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church worshipping the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation. Led by the Holy Spirit, it has borne witness to Christian truth in its historic formularies, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, The Book of Common Prayer and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests and Deacons. In the declaration you are about to make will you affirm your loyalty to this inheritance of faith as your inspiration and guidance under God in bringing the grace and truth of Christ to this generation and making him known to those in your care?

    Declaration of Assent

    I, A B, do so affirm, and accordingly declare my belief in the faith which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds and to which the historic formularies of the Church of England bear witness; and in public prayer and administration of the sacraments, I will use only the forms of service which are authorized or allowed by Canon.

    (2) The preface which precedes the Declaration of Assent in the form set out above (with in each case such adaptations as are appropriate) shall be spoken by the archbishop or bishop or commissary in whose presence the Declaration is to be made in accordance with the following provisions of this paragraph and shall be spoken by him before the making of the Declaration.

    (3) Every person who is to be consecrated bishop or suffragan bishop shall on the occasion of his consecration publicly and openly make the Declaration of Assent in the presence of the archbishop by whom he is to be consecrated and of the congregation there assembled.

    (4) Every person who is to be ordained priest or deacon shall before ordination make the Declaration of Assent in the presence of the archbishop or bishop by whom he is to be ordained.

    See: http://www.churchofengland.org/about-us/structure/churchlawlegis/canons/section-c.aspx

    However,
    It is not made clear precisely whether or not the 'catholic creeds' would include either a) the Athanasian Creed, or b) assent to every part of every creed, or c) exactly what creeds are included under the term

    Given the difficult history of the Athanasian Creed within Anglicanism this is quite troubling: a good historical case can be made for it a) not being by Athanasius, and b) no being originally a creed, and c) not originally being accepted by ecumenical council, and d) not being truly catholic.

    It's use has obviously been marginalised within Anglican practice, and there are obviously ministers within the communion who reject its teachings, but it is still an official part of the anglican documents.

    I can get no clear answer to the question (I e-mailed the CofE directly) - Does the ordinand declaration of assent include the Athanasian creed or no?

    Help?
     
  2. Pog

    Pog Member

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    To further complicate the matter, the Athansian creed which is present within the BCP and mentioned within the 39 Articles, is not contained (unlike the Apostles and Nicene creeds) within the new CofE Common Worship.

    It might be that quite a lot is dependant upon how one interprets the phrase, 'set forth' - and also whether by saying you declare your belief in the faith revealed in scripture and set forth in the creeds, you are in fact saying you believe in scripture and the creeds or just in the faith that they reveal and set forth. Semantics :)
     
  3. Spherelink

    Spherelink Active Member

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    I was about to say, the athanasian creed is endorsed in the articles, so on the formal doctrinal level it is a mandatory creed of the church. What issues do you have with it? The list you gave above doesn't strike me as sufficient, ie. the question of authorship by THE one Athanasius of Alexandria is a sideline matter that doesnt affect its authorship by SOME Athanasius, or the antiquity of its title; its sometime location in the church's creedal structure is a sideline matter, when compared to its subsequent location which carries on to today. Ultimately you also have to judge it by Scripture, and would need to show that it goes against scripture to have grounds for opposing it, which the Historic Church never have.
     
    Fr. Bill likes this.
  4. Pog

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    1) from what I can understand belief in the articles are no longer mandatory for the CofE, and the wording of the assent seems to support this (along with various bits in canon law docs): it also seems that one only has to go with creeds and councils in as far as one believes them in agreement with scripture.

    Consider:
    A 2 Of the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion
    The Thirty-nine Articles are agreeable to the Word of God and may be assented unto with a good conscience by all members of the Church of England.

    Also, there doesn't seem to be any necessary assent required in confirmation regarding the 39Articles.

    From Wikipedia:
    "Each of the 44 member churches in the Anglican Communion is, however, free to adopt and authorise its own official documents, and the Articles are not officially normative in all Anglican Churches (neither is the Athanasian Creed). The only doctrinal documents agreed upon in the Anglican Communion are the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed of AD 381, and the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. Beside these documents, authorised liturgical formularies, such as Prayer Book and Ordinal, are normative. The several provincial editions of Prayer Books (and authorised alternative liturgies) are, however, not identical, although they share a greater or smaller amount of family resemblance. No specific edition of the Prayer Book is therefore binding for the entire Communion."


    2) if historically the Athansian creed was not a creed, was not supported ecumenically and wasn't by Athanasius, then I think that would undermine its credibility as a creedal formula, as does some of its wording (one bit is a direct contradiction)

    3) the main doctrinal issue with it is the damnatory clauses, which obviously are rejected by universalists and annihilationists (and there are many of both within Anglicanism), but also many who don't like to affirm that one is damned simply by getting a specific doctrine wrong - all of which can be contested biblically

    4) the CofE has struggled with this creed a lot over history (esp from 19th c), which is why it dropped first out of regular use, then out of the main text for ordering worship (Common Worship) both in England and NZ. It seems the communion has an ongoing issue with this text, and that too undermines it.
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2014
  5. Pog

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    Note: It seems that the Athansian creed was developed post West-East schism, and isn't mentioned in any records of the ecumenical councils - whjich I guess means it cannot be considered 'catholic'. Also, didn't the Episcopalian Church drop the Creed in 1801?
     
  6. Spherelink

    Spherelink Active Member

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    Historians place it in the 5-6th centuries. I've a hard time believing your other statement as well that it hasn't served as a creedal statement. Not only has it done so among us, but in wider Western Christianity, and it's style bespeaks a creedal and declarative style.
     
  7. Pog

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    It's not technically a creed because it doesn't have the 'We/I believe' formula or structure (and it has damnatory clauses unlike Apostles and Nicea).

    Also, since it was not endorsed by any recognised ecumenical council, and given its Western-only formulations (it's largely ignored in the East), which would effectively condemn all Orthodox to hell based upon their rejection of a particular understanding of the trinity, it cannot be seriously considered 'catholic'.

    It has been a problem text since the 16th c when it became clear it had nothing to do with Athanasius. It has continued to be a problem text in Anglicanism, especially from the 19thc onwards, leading to its slow removal from normative Anglican worship. Thus, it cannot really be considered normatively and universally Anglican either.

    So, it is neither universally Anglican, catholic, Athanasian or creedal. I dispute some of its content as even being biblical, and I think that some have even challenged its rationality.
     
  8. Pog

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    Back to focus on the OP, however, it seems like it is somewhat open to interpretation as to whether an ordinand must assent to the Athanasian creed in their declaration.
     
  9. Elizabethan Churchman

    Elizabethan Churchman Active Member

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    Isn't everything "open to interpretation" for Anglican Ordinands these days? Seriously, though, it appears that it would be included in the Church of England's doctrine to which the ordinand accedes. That is, if there is any doctrine to which the ordinand accedes.

    The only people I know who challenge the Athanasian Creed's "rationality" are Unitarian heretics. Whether or not the Athanasian Creed is optional doctrine for Anglicans or not, Trinitarianism clearly is a non-negotiable.
     
  10. Pog

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    Of course, I agree that everything is up for interpretation - which is why I wanted the CofE to give me official confirmation on the matter. They didn't - or wouldn't, which itself speaks volumes.

    It is not only Unitarians who would challenge the Athanasian creed. I've come across Christian philosophers who question it's often contradictory language. And of course it is historically the case that it is neither really a creed or catholic, not by Athanasius. I think JND Kelly wanted to retain it as a useful historical statement, but not a creed.

    But beyond that, it is a clearly problematic document which the Anglican Church since the 19th c has distanced itself from. Indeed, from my researches it does seem as though the Athanasian creed is not longer considered binding or even used by most in the CofE, let alone other provinces.
     
  11. Elizabethan Churchman

    Elizabethan Churchman Active Member

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    The Church of England won't clarify anything in its present state, especially on a matter of actual Christian doctrine. Furthermore, the fact that the CofE has only started distancing itself since the 19th Century is nowhere near a strike against it.

    As far as contradictory statements, I can't help but think these philosophers haven't studied the supposed contradictions in any sort of depth, which is mostly likely due to the fact that their secular colleagues will beat up on them for affirming something so manifestly "contradictory" if they actually got around to defending its sometimes confusing statements. I can't think of a statement in it that isn't an orthodox definition of the Trinity. If the Athanasian Creed is full of contradictions, then so is the traditional doctrine of the Trinity most likely.
     
  12. JonahAF

    JonahAF Moderator Staff Member Typist Anglican

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    For what it's worth, the Athanasian creed will likely be held as required for sububscription on this site for users who are self-identified as Anglicans. Since official authorities choose not to uphold the standards, it remains up to each Anglican community to retain and uphold the markers of classical Anglican identity.
     
  13. Pog

    Pog Member

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    Churchman:

    You're probably right about that :(. A most unsatisfactory thing, either way one goes on the issue. By not being clear they run the risk, or even deliberately encourage, ordinand hypocrisy or variance - which can't be good.

    I'm not a big fan of the Athanasian creed, but because of its damnatory clauses and lack of catholicity, not its Trinitarian elements: I would agree with those scholars who see it as an important historical document that can inform doctrine, but not as a catholic creed in the same category as the Apostle's or Nicene. But regardless of what I think, the CofE should have at least a clear position - even if that clear position is one that allows freedom of conscience on the matter.
     
  14. Pog

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    That's interesting, Jonah. It would be certainly be considered part of Anglicanism up to the 19th c, but I didn't realise this site defined Anglican as that far back.

    That implies, though, that Anglicanism is static and not continually reforming or using developing liturgy as a tool for understanding the faith - which would, perhaps, be in some tension with its roots. And, of course, it's history - where change and variation has certainly been allowed. If, for example, a doctrinal document of the historic Anglican communion was shown to be clearly at fault, historically or biblically, could Anglicanism not deal with that conundrum?
     
  15. JonahAF

    JonahAF Moderator Staff Member Typist Anglican

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    You are right, ad ipsum. On the other hand given the currently fractured state of the Anglican Communion, there is currently no one binding Synodal authority which has the ability to reverse prior authoritative Synodal decisions, among which was the approval of the Creed on historical and biblical grounds. When the Communion reappropriates a binding Synodal authority and if they reverse this or other prior decisions, we will obviously quickly follow suit.
     
  16. Elizabethan Churchman

    Elizabethan Churchman Active Member

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    Ordination vow hypocrisy has become a Christian pastime since the 19th Century. Just looking recently at the Church of England, Bishop Peter Broadbent after the announcement of the now Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's engagement impiously predicted their divorce and revealed himself to be a republican. Church of England Bishops have to expressly uphold the Queen as Supreme Governor, hard to do as a convinced republican.

    I used to be a Presbyterian. Upholding the Westminster Standards outside the smallest fringe denominations is a point of historical anachronism. If you get much lower church than that, it only gets worse, to the point that doctrine begins to mean absolutely nothing other than a vague commitment to Scriptural authority (if that). This is partially a result of the laxity of doctrine and subscription statements in modern Christianity.

    As for the "lack of catholicity" I'm not so sure. I can't think of anything that does not reflect traditional Christian dogma, including the damnatory clauses. There might have always been universalists/inclusivists in Christendom, but they have always been relatively fringe, unorthodox movements.

    Certain elements of Anglicanism are static. If we got rid of the Book of Common Prayer, we would no longer be Anglican. If we decided to adopt a congregational system of government, then we no longer be Anglican. Furthermore, not all reform is salutary. The Church of England was reformed for particular reasons rooted in the Bible and Christian tradition at a particular time. That does not follow that Anglicanism is defined as perpetual reform movement, constantly shifting shapes and totally throwing out older doctrines for newer ones on shaky grounds.
     
  17. Pog

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    It looks like there's a whole load of problems bound up here, and it's interesting that the status of the Athanasian creed shines a light on all of them. Regrading how the practical or disciplinary issues are going to end up be dealt with, if ever or at all, I have no idea - the Anglican communion is nose-diving into oblivion as I'm sure we're all well aware.

    Regrading the Athansian Creeds status, it is simply a matter of fact, as far as I can see, that it isn't catholic because it isn't supported by the East or any ecumenical council - it's Western way of dealing with the Spirit and the Son sees to that. Damning people on that basis also seems to me unbiblical, uncharitable and uncatholic.

    It's certainly true that non-hellism has been part of the church since the beginning, and it's also true that it's been a minority position. It is not true, however, to say that it was fringe (great new historical work can now demonstrate this rather well, see Ramelli and Ludlow), nor do I think it fair to speak of non-hellism as unorthodox - since it doesn't go against the Apostles or Nicene creeds (saying it goes against the Athansian is somewhat question begging :) )

    Regarding the status of the BCP, I think it true to say that that has shifted over time. It is now considered, and probably has for while, an important historical formulation rather than a statement of faith or test of orthodoxy. And, of course, it has not been a unchanging document, even it has been fairly static compared to most similar documents.

    But, yes, certain core things are static in determining Anglican identity. I guess the tension comes twofold: identifying precisely what those static element are; and what to do in the hypothetical situation where one of those static institutions is proved to be unbiblical or unhistorical.
     
  18. Elizabethan Churchman

    Elizabethan Churchman Active Member

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    Not all Eastern Orthodox oppose the idea of the Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son. They are uniform only in opposition to its use in the Western Nicene Creed. Furthermore, I highly doubt the intent of the Athanasian Creed's damnation clauses includes those who don't believe the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. The damnation clauses and the Proceeding clause are somewhat separated.

    As far as "non-hellism" not being fringe and unorthodox, there are whole segments of Church history that feature no discussion about that doctrine in particular, when Hell was virtually a universally accepted idea outside of fringe heretical movements. "Non-hellism," at least non-annihilation forms of it, are implicitly rejected in the Nicene Creed when it says Christ will come to judge the quick and the dead. It seems rather ridiculous to have a judgment where everyone is declared righteous. You might be able to sneak annihilationism in there relatively comfortably, but that wouldn't seem to be at too much odds with the Athanasian Creed either.
     
  19. Pog

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    Regarding the intent of the creed I don't think I can speak with surety, though I think the wording and the time of its development speak for itself. Even if it is only marginalised by a large portion of the East, or even if it only implies damnation for those who reject a highly specific model of the Trinity, I cannot see it being seriously considered catholic. It's provenance and reception are much too dubious for it to be held as a foundational, creedal text.

    On the issue of non-hellism we are just going to have to agree to disagree. This thread certainly isn't the place for such an eschatological debate, though I am confident that I have scholarship on my side regarding the consistent minority, though not marginal, witness of non-hellist Christians, and the possibility (and factuality) of both universalist and annihilationists being able to affirm the Nicene creed in good conscience.