August 7, 2016
When did the Nicene Creed change from "I believe" to "We believe?"
It is true that in the BCP 28 and, as an option for Rite 1, in the BCP 79 the Nicene Creed begins with the "I believe" statement. But the more historically accurate question is, "when was the Nicene Creed changed from 'We believe?'"
The Nicene Creed is an important historical statement of faith and has been used in liturgy of the Western Church and Eastern Churches to guard against theological concepts outside the boundaries (i.e. heresies).
The Creed was written and adopted primarily by Bishops in what is now called the Eastern Orthodox Church. It was, in the Greek, a "we believe" statement, and was changed to "I believe" in the Latin Church. That is the form which the English Church received and made a part of its liturgy.
Once again, being a church of the Protestant Reformation, our church leaders since our own founding have been looking to eliminate liturgical and theological aberrations introduced over time in the Western Church. In short, we keep thinking we will find and perfect the liturgy we have to that of the primitive Church. We won't. What we have is a liturgy somewhat like that of the Period of the Church between 350 A.D. and 700 A.D., with some more modern innovations thrown in.
For the BCP 79, the General Conventions over a period of years agreed to adopt the older and Greek form of the Creed. The reasons for that adoption are: 1) The Creed in liturgy is really a corporate statement of the congregation, not simply a statement of a group of individuals; and 2) By being a corporate statement, the body of the people is able to more closely approximate the fullness of the statement, no matter the doubts any person or multiple persons may have.
In closing, a thought about the "believe" part of this statement. The words comes from pistos (faith). That kind of believing is both intellectual ascent and more. The more is more along the lines of: "We give our hearts, souls, and beings" to this faith . . . And in this sense, our faith is stronger together as in when two or three are gathered.
The Rev. David Lucey