Wednesday, June 12, 2013

ACNA and the Filioque

There is a stir about ACNA considering reducing the filioque to a footnote.  Among draft liturgies are a Nicene Creed without the filioque.  A footnote adds:

The filioque clause “and the Son” may be added here. It is not included in the text above for ecumenical purposes, in accordance with the 1978 Lambeth Conference, though the ACNA does not disagree with the theology of the filioque.

There is not a little unhappiness about this.  I am not among the unhappy. However, I think keeping the filioque in the Creed but with parentheses around it may be wiser for reasons I will now summarize.

As most readers know, the filioque was not in the original Nicene Creed.  It was added later by Rome without the consent of the Eastern church.  This episode contributed to the later split between Rome and Constantinople.

Putting it in parentheses or even removing it is not a theological statement as ACNA is making clear.  The authority of scripture is not explicitly mentioned in either the Nicene or Apostles’ Creed neither, but no reasonable person would interpret that as a denial or downplaying of the authority of scripture.

It is instead an effort at greater unity, particularly with our Orthodox friends, without sacrificing truth.

But unity is the reason I think putting the filioque in a footnote (instead of in the Creed but with parentheses) may be going too far.  The creedal Western church almost unanimously retains the filioque.  We need to be concerned about unity with them, too.  And judging from the upset about possibly reducing the filioque to a footnote, so doing could result in as much division as unity.

Now I hesitate to insist that the draft liturgy is therefore flat out wrong.  For the leadership of ACNA has excelled at ecumenical efforts.  And I am certainly not privy to all of the said efforts.  So it could be that removing the filioque and putting it in footnote with the option of still using it has already been worked out ecumenically more thoroughly than I know.  But the unhappiness within ACNA is indisputable.

So I am writing from partial ignorance perhaps.  But it does seem to me that retaining the filioque but putting it in parentheses is a better and less divisive way than removing it to a footnote.  The footnote option would surely make some in ACNA reject a new Book of Common Prayer out of hand.

There will no doubt be much discussion of this at the Provincial Council next week.

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