Category Archives: Focus On

Dissecting ‘catholic’ in the Apostles’ Creed

by Kimberly Muehling, Paul Walker, and Jessica Wichers, EMC Worship Committee

In the Apostles’ Creed, we agree that we belong to the “holy catholic” church. What does this mean? Are we saying that we are part of the Roman Catholic Church? What does “catholic” mean anyways?

Let’s unpack the grammar first.

Written in Latin sanctam Ecclesiam catholicam, “holy” and “catholic” are adjectives (descriptive). Church is the noun (the thing). So, the church is holy: devoted to the service of God and morally and spiritually excellent, and catholic: including a wide variety of things; all-embracing (see Oxford Living Dictionary).

The exact origin of the Apostles’ Creed has been rather lost to the haze of history. By the 9th century AD, when Charlemagne imposed the version we use today, it was already accepted throughout Christendom. The earlier (AD 381) version of the Nicene Creed uses the phrase “one holy catholic and apostolic church.” As there was only a loose conglomeration of churches at the time, many with differing theology, the council of Nicaea could only have meant the universal church.

Even Martin Luther spoke of and to the church as one general group as he experienced it. While he directed criticism to the Pope and traditional practices, the church was simply the general population. Theological barriers have since gone up on all sides and we now identify ourselves as members of specific church groups, but it is important to recognize that we are still one (albeit messy and often dysfunctional) family in Christ. Karl Barth explains, “The church is universal because it is not limited by any barrier, either of state or of race or of culture” (The Faith of the Church, Wipf and Stock, rep. 2006, 117).

So, reading “holy” and “catholic” as adjectives is very different from agreeing to believe in the Catholic Church. If you capitalize the words, you are implying a proper noun, which would mean the actual organization known as the Roman Catholic Church. Interestingly, within the Roman Catholic Catechism both the adjective and the proper noun are employed. In direct discussion about the Apostles’ Creed, they use the adjective. However, later in the additions from the Second Vatican Council they use the proper noun (Catechism, 1993, see sections 750, 816-819). This change came about gradually as part of the Counter-Reformation.

As the use of catholic is not common in everyday language, some churches have moved to the use of other synonyms in its place, such as global, universal, or diverse. The current Lutheran Service Book uses “holy Christian Church.” While in Living in God’s Kingdom uses “holy catholic church,” EMC churches are free to use different phrasing at their own discretion. After all, we are all translating.

So, however we use the Apostles’ Creed, with our handy lowercase letters, we can freely and confidently agree to participating in the holy catholic church alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ “from every nation, and all tribes and peoples and tongues (Rev. 7:9 NRSV).

Kimberly Muehling (Fort Garry), Pastor Paul Walker (Roseisle), and Jessica Wichers (EFC Steinbach) serve on the EMC Worship Committee under the authority of the Board of Church Ministries. See the Worship Committee’s article Using the Apostles’ Creed in Worship (Jan. 2017).

kim-muehling
Kimberly Muehling
Paul Walker
Paul Walker
jessica-wichers
Jessica Wichers

Charles Koop: C2C and God’s Call

by Charles Koop

The Vision Statement of the EMC specifically states that we want to focus on urban areas for church planting. That’s a bit of a departure from our usual way of doing things. To help us make it happen the Church Planting Task Force has been pursuing a relationship with C2C, and an official agreement has just been made.

C2C is a church planting organization with extensive experience in urban church planting. It has staff in all the major Canadian cities who are available to support EMC church planters. They also work with prospective church planters to help them assess their abilities for church planting and to coach them in growing those abilities.

Another benefit of our association is the annual gatherings organized by C2C. These are a tremendous boost for church planters as they are able to network and learn from each other as well as enjoying the teaching provided. Our agreement with C2C has been in the works for a number of years so we are very excited about arriving at this point.

Along with that development we are also hearing God call us to join his work in a number of communities.

One of these is our growing association with a Chinese group meeting at Fort Garry EMC. Fort Garry is supporting and assisting this young church of approximately 20 believers and another 20 or so seekers. It is really exciting for us to think of having our first Chinese EMC church!

We are also thrilled that God has answered our prayer and brought a church planter couple to Two Hills, Alta. John and Helen Froese, who recently returned from ministry in Bolivia, have committed to a two-year term serving as pastoral couple to this young church group. There are six committed couples at Living Faith Fellowship with a lot of energy to grow this church and be involved in their community.

Another ministry opportunity has developed in Airdrie, Alta., where the Emanuel church family has been leading a Bible study. It has developed to the point that they are prepared to launch this church plant in fall of 2016. There are five committed families in Airdrie, including two leadership couples from Emanuel. This will be a real challenge for Emanuel both financially and in the “loss” of leadership.

There are additional possibilities developing in Winnipeg and communities around Winnipeg so stand by for more to follow.

Charlie Koop
Charles Koop

Seeing new church plants develop like this generates a lot of enthusiasm for us. If it draws you, why not go to c2cnetwork.ca and find out if you’re called to be part of church planting or call me for information specific to the EMC.

We’d also love to have you partner with us financially by contributing to the Church Planting Training and Support Fund through the EMC office; and always, of course, continue to pray that God will grow his church in Canada and the world, and that we can be a part of this.