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Last updated: Apr 7th, 2013

Creeds in Church

A stone church in winter, with a large leafless tree, taken from a low angle.
Episcopal Church of Our Savior, Jenkintown, PA

Creeds are statements of beliefs that are sometimes read during religious services, especially in Christian churches. One of the most common and widely used creeds is the Nicene creed; slightly less common but still widespread is the Apostle's creed. These creeds often start something like:

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things seen and unseen...

I strongly dislike creeds, and I recommend churches to not use creeds at all in their services. I think it is important for churches to have statements of shared belief--and display them publicly, such as on their website or in their church bulletin. However, I think that it is counter-productive and quite harmful to include creeds in the church service, especially in services that are open to the general public.

Why do I not like creeds?

I think creeds are harmful for a variety of reasons, including making newcomers and people with different beliefs feel unwelcome, creating insincerity in people's beliefs as they profess beliefs out of social pressure rather than genuine belief, and emphasizing points that divide people with different beliefs, rather than unify them.

There are many examples of churches and religious organizations that have chosen to forsake creeds. I attended a Baptist church in Ohio, Peace Community Church, which did not use creeds for many of these same reasons. Quakers or the Society of Friends is an example of a large-scale denomination or religion which avoids the use of creeds.

What is lost by not reciting creeds?

In my opinion, nothing is lost. If you think that people in your congregation need the continuous reinforcement of reciting a statement of faith over and over again so that they keep believing a certain thing, then maybe it would be a good idea to re-examine your church and its belief system on a deeper level. If a belief is really sincere, there will be many other ways it can be reinforced without resorting to social pressure or rote recitation.

As I said above, a church can still have statements of faith, even without reciting them in the service. There might be certain rituals, ceremonies, or other times, like when someone is becoming a member of a church or becoming confirmed somehow, when reciting these statements of faith is important. But I think it's important to keep them out of aspects of the church that are intended to be open to a general audience.

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