Church's new creed has Virgin cohabiting

November 16 1999


A PROPOSED change to the Creed in the new Church of England prayer book will make it sound as if the Virgin Mary is "cohabiting" with the Holy Spirit, members of the General Synod were told yesterday.

The synod will today debate what version of the Nicene Creed should appear in its new service book, Common Worship, which succeeds the 1980 Alternative Service Book next year.

At a special meeting at Church House, Westminster, yesterday, called to debate the Creed, members of the laity challenged the bishops to justify why they wanted to amend the text regarding the conception of Jesus. Currently, the Church uses a version of the Creed that emerged from the Council of Constantinople in 381, which states: "By the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary." The bishops favour a version that says Jesus was "incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary".

This version is supported by many on the Church's Catholic wing, but disliked by evangelicals because it appears to give Mary an equal role in the conception.

The dispute centres on whether the Greek preposition "ek" should be translated as "by", "from" or "of". George Phythian, former headmaster of Ripley High School in Lancaster, and representing the Blackburn diocese on the synod, called on the bishops' version to be rejected. "It sounds as if the two are cohabiting," he said. "I can imagine the sorts of comments that are going to be bandied about. Why can't we say, 'Conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary'? That's perfectly clear to me."

The Bishop of Chester, Dr Peter Forster, said: "We are not dealing with something that was just dropped down from Heaven, but which emerged from the life of the early Church. It took nearly 400 years to reach the form it now inhabits. It is a moving symbol of the emerging belief of the Church."

A call for the Bank of England to make a grant to Worcester Cathedral for the use of the cathedral's image on the new 20 note was made at the General Synod yesterday. The Ven David Gerrard, Archdeacon of Wandsworth, called on the bank to donate funds to the church "in view of the symbolic juxtaposition of the House of God and the House of Mammon." He also called for a campaign to encourage increased giving by churchgoers with the slogan: "Put a Worcester on your plate."

His call came after the Bank of England replaced Michael Faraday with Sir Edward Elgar and the "magneto-electric spark apparatus" with engravings of Worcester Cathedral and St Cecilia, patron saint of musicians, on the new 20 note, issued this summer.

Busy bishops

Bishops in the Church of England, whose mission for centuries has been to "seek the lost", drive or are driven 1.7 million miles across England a year, according to a report published last night. It shows that on average a bishop will spend up to 2 days a week with clergy and laity in the parishes, which will involve preaching at least 150 sermons and addresses a year.

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