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Priests' picking their own ‘creed’

21 November 2014


Does Canon B5 give the priest discretion to set aside all the authorised Creeds and Affirmations of Faith in Common Worship and to introduce instead an alternative of his or her own choosing?

Canon B5.1 does give the minister conducting worship discretion to "make and use variations" to any authorised service. This, however, extends only to those variations "which are not of substantial importance". Common Worship sets out in its rubrics and notes those elements of the service where the minister may exercise discretion.

First, page vii of the Main Edition contains a note saying that it comprises "material, the use of which falls under the discretion allowed to the minister under the provisions of Canon B5"; so it is clear that any discretion to vary important elements (such as the Creed) extends only to those alternatives provided within Common Worship itself. In respect of the Creed specifically, the rubric covering use of Creeds and Authorised Affirmations of Faith on page 138 of CW Main Edition says: "At a celebration of Holy Communion, the Apostles' Creed or the Athanasian Creed in an authorized form may be used in place of the Nicene Creed, or an authorized Affirmation of Faith may be used." Further, on page 173 the rubric that appears before the (Nicene) Creed in the Order One service reads: "On Sundays and Principal Holy Days an authorized translation of the Nicene Creed is used, or on occasion the Apostles' Creed or an authorized Affirmation of Faith may be used." The rubric for the Order Two service suggests that no variation from the printed Creed is permissible.

I was taught that, in the main, the Nicene Creed should be used on Sundays and holy days, but it was permissible for the minister to exercise his or her discretion on occasion and to use an alternative Creed or authorised Affirmation of Faith as long as this was done only infrequently. Midweek communions can use any authorised Creed or Affirmation of Faith. But that is the limit of any minister's discretion. It is not permissible under the rubrics or Canon B5 for a minister to use a Creed or Affirmation of Faith that is not authorised in accordance with Canon B2.

Ultimately, if your correspondent is concerned that a priest may be acting outside permitted discretion, Canon B5 itself provides a way to resolve the matter. B5.4 says that any question about permitted levels of discretion "may be referred to the bishop in order that he may give such pastoral guidance, advice or discretions as he may think fit".

(The Revd) Alan Fraser
Great Barr, Birmingham


. . . It is a matter of substantial importance in the terms of Canon B5, that in order to exhibit unity in the faith, credal statements in worship should never be private or locally contrived compositions, but those universally recognised by the Church - or at the very least have been carefully crafted as scriptural affirmations that express that faith in due proportion.

(Canon) Terry Palmer
Magor, Monmouthshire


Is Advent still a fast? If so, to what extent? M. G.

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