Thursday, July 12, 2018

Bishop’s Note: July 12, 2018 – The "Jerusalem Declaration" and The Creeds and Councils


Bishop Eric Menees

As we continue our exploration of the "Jerusalem Declaration" (full text here: https://www.gafcon.org/resources/the-complete-jerusalem-statement), we examine the third proposition of the declaration: “We uphold the four Ecumenical Councils and the three historic Creeds as expressing the rule of faith of the one holy catholic and apostolic church.”

People often ask us: “What does the Anglican Church Believe?” And we are often at a loss as to what to say; but my answer is quick and easy: “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.” You may recognize this as the opening line to the Apostles Creed. To be an Anglican Christian is to be a “Creedal” Christian – meaning that the historic faith of the Church is bound in the three historic creeds of the church: the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds. These creeds are what united the Church into a common faith by the end of the fifth century, and, quite frankly, still define what a Christian is. Therefore, to move away from the three creeds is to move away from the Christian faith; and it is for that reason that the Mormon Church, among others, is not considered Christian – because the Mormon Church does not believe in the doctrine of the Trinity, which is clearly outlined in the three historic creeds.

Each of these creeds were developed and ratified when the bishops and leading theologians from around the world gathered in a council in order to define the faith; doing so primarily in response to false teachings.

The four foundational Ecumenical Councils (there were seven in total) took the names of the cities where the council took place: Nicaea in 325, Constantinople in 381, Ephesus in 431, and Chalcedon in 451. These councils are called “ecumenical” because they represented the universal church and laid out the true or orthodox faith.

Dr. Stephen Noll has given a wonderful short synopsis of the three creeds that I would like to share with you:

The Apostles Creed – is the shortest creed and outlines briefly the nature of God the Father, Maker of heaven and earth. It recounts the key moments of Jesus’ life, His Virgin Birth, His suffering and death under Pontius Pilate, His going down into hell (the place of the dead), His Rising to life and going up into heaven, and His Second Coming in glory. It then turns to God the Holy Spirit in the universal church, which includes the communion of saints across space and time. It concludes with several other key teachings: the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body at the end of this age and life everlasting in the age to come.

The Nicene Creed – includes the teachings of the Apostles’ Creed, but adds an explanation of the Trinity, particularly saying that Jesus is fully God, of one being or nature with the Father, and that the Holy Spirit is Lord, proceeding from the Father and the Son.

The Athanasian Creed – not used as often in church due to its length and complexity. It expands on the nature of the Trinity and Divine Manhood of Jesus Christ, and clarifies that right belief is necessary for salvation, and that those who deny orthodox belief cut themselves off from the true church.

Each of the three creeds are grounded in the Word of God and submit to the Authority of God’s Word, both for us as Christians in general, and as Anglicans in specific!

I pray you all a very blessed week!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Bishop’s Note: July 05, 2018 – The “Jerusalem Declaration” and the Bible


Bishop Eric Menees

I pray that your Independence Day celebrations were blessed and relaxing. The whole question of freedom is an important one that often gets overlooked in the spiritual life. As Christians, we are free in Christ, as St. Paul wrote in his epistle to the church in Galatia: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

This week in the “Bishop’s Note,” we continue our examination of the “Jerusalem Declaration” at point #2:

We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God written and to contain all things necessary for salvation. The Bible is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual reading.

As a bishop, I wear a mitre. A mitre is a pointed hat that has two tassels hanging down the back of the neck. This is to remind me, and others, that my apostolic ministry is fueled by the Holy Spirit; the point signifying the tongues of fire described in the books of acts with the coming of the Holy Spirit. My apostolic ministry is also and under the authority of the Holy Scriptures; the two tassels represent the ribbons in a bible signifying the Old and New Testaments. Of course, it is not only bishops who are under the authority of scripture – in the baptismal rite, and again in the confirmation rite, the candidates proclaim their submission to Jesus and his Word. From the baptismal liturgy:


Question: Do you turn to Jesus Christ and confess him as your Lord and Savior?
Answer: I do.
Question: Do you joyfully receive the Christian Faith, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments?
Answer: I do.
Question: Will you obediently keep God’s holy will and commandments, and walk in them all the days of your life?
Answer: I will, the Lord being my helper.

The Word of God provides the believer with instructions on how we are to relate to God and to one another. In simple terms, the Word of God is the rudder on a sailboat. When a sailboat has a rudder, the course can be charted in safe waters and progress can be made. When a sailboat has no rudder, the boat is at the mercy of the seas and the winds, unable to chart a course or stay away from the shoals.

Freedom in Christ is found in our submission to Jesus and his Word. All of us are under authority. However, when we believe the lie that we are our own authority, then rather than being free we find ourselves under the yoke of slavery – slavery to self and slavery to sin.

My hope and prayer are that we can all live into our baptismal vows, honor God, and live fruitful lives through submission to the Word of God.

I pray you all every blessing and peace.