Metropolitan Jonah, primate of the Orthodox Church in America, spoke at last week's provincial Assembly of the Anglican Church in North America. In his address he reminded Anglicans of the necessity of removing the Filioque clause from the Nicene Creed if there is to be reunion with the Eastern Churches. The Nicene Creed, or more properly the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed was written by the Council of Nicea in 325 and the Council of Constantinople in 381, two of the undisputed seven Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Church. What is the Filioque clause? Filioque is Latin for "and the Son." The Nicene Creed as found in the Book of Common Prayer says that Holy Ghost "proceedeth from the Father and the Son." In the Liturgy booklet used at the Assembly last week the words "and the Son" were in brackets, indicating that they really didn't belong in the text.
Some Anglicans are confused about this, and a few are indignant. But Metropolitan Jonah and the Eastern Orthodox are right about the Filioque clause, and the Anglican Communion has been in agreement with them for decades about this matter. It has only been the internal turmoil in the Anglican Communion over the last three and a half decades that have caused a delay in its removal. The Filioque clause was not in the Nicene Creed as originally written, does not belong in the Nicene Creed, and the sooner that it is officially removed the better it will be for our Church and for the cause of Christian unity.
The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church says, "It [the Filioque clause] is no part of the original Creed, but is first met with as an interpolation (acc. to the usual texts) at the Third Council of Toledo (589)." The Third Council of Toledo was a Spanish synod called to combat a revival of the Arian heresy in Spain. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church continues, "In 796 its use was defended by Paulinus of Aquileia at the Synod of Friuli and from c. 800, when the Creed began to be generally chanted in the Mass throughout the Frankish Empire, the words became widely familiar. Its introduction by Frankish Monks in 807 into their monastery at Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives aroused strong but easily understandable opposition from the Eastern monks of St. Sabas, and when the matter was referred to [Pope] Leo III he tried to suppress the addition to the formula while approving the doctrine. He caused the Creed in its original form to be engraved on two silver tables deposited at the tomb of St. Peter. The 'Filioque', however, continued to be sung and soon after 1000 had been adopted also at Rome."
The change in the Creed as formally adopted by the Ecumenical Councils of Nicea and Constantinople was the ultimate cause of the Great Schism or division between Eastern and Western Christendom in 1054. At the time of the Reformation, when the Anglican Church was finally able to regain her self-governing status that had been lost to Rome as a result of the Norman invasion of 1066, the Church of England had been reciting the Filioque clause in the Creed for centuries. We received this interpolation by inheritance from Rome, and continue to include it in our Prayer Books.
More than a century ago the Anglican Communion and the Eastern Orthodox Churches began to dialogue with one another. Soon a great interest in regaining the unity that was lost in 1066, led to serious reunion conferences. Repeatedly over the past century, in the days of its orthodoxy, the Anglican Communion has agreed that the Filioque clause was not part of the original Creed, was uncanonically interpolated into the Creed centuries after it was written, is the cause of division among Christians, and must be removed.
For instance, The Moscow Agreed Statement of 1976 says, "The Anglican members therefore agree that:
(a) because the original form of the Creed referred to the origin of the Holy Spirit from the Father,
(b) because the Filioque clause was introduced into this Creed without the authority of an Ecumenical Council and without due regard for Catholic consent, and
(c) because this Creed constitutes the public confession of the faith of the people of God in the Eucharist,
the Filioque clause should not be included in this Creed."
The last Anglican-Orthodox agreed statement was in 1984. With the ordination of women by the Church of England in 1994, all serious reunion dialogue ended. The Dublin Agreed Statement of 1984 says, "Further discussions on the Filioque led to the reaffirmation by both Anglican and Orthodox of the agreement reached in Moscow in 1976 that this phrase should not be included in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. Certain Anglican Churches have already acted upon this recommendation, whilst others are still considering it.
"From the theological point of view the Orthodox stated that the doctrine of the Filioque is unacceptable, although as expressed by Augustine, it is capable of an Orthodox interpretation. According to the Orthodox understanding the Son cannot be considered a cause or co-cause of the existence of the Holy Spirit. In spite of this we find certain Fathers, for example St. Maximus the Confessor (7th century), as explained by Anastasius the Librarian (9th century), the opinion that the Filioque, as used in early Latin theology, can be understood in an Orthodox way. According to this interpretation a distinction should be made between two senses of procession, one by which the Father causes the existence of the Spirit and the other by which the Spirit shines forth from the Father and the Son. This second sense of procession must be clearly differentiated from the later Western use of the Filioque which observed no distinction but rather confused 'cause of existence' with 'communication of essence'. Some Orthodox theologians, while affirming that the doctrine of the Filioque is unacceptable for the Orthodox Church, at the same time, having in mind the position of Professor Bolotov (1854-1900) and his followers, regard the Filioque as a 'theologoumenon' in the West."
St. Augustine and other early Western Church Fathers may have used the Filioque in their theological writings, but they did not recite it in the Creed. As The Dublin Agreed Statement of 1984 says, "the Filioque, as used in early Latin theology, can be understood in an Orthodox way." The problem is that the Filioque clause was added to the Creed uncanonically, and that after the Great Schism the Western use of the Filioque changed theologically in a way that could no longer be considered orthodox, although some Orthodox theologians are willing to regard the Filioque as a Western theologoumenon (theological opinion). It is sometimes argued that the Athanasian Creed contains the Filioque clause so it must have been used anciently, and it does in the West just as it is included in the Nicene Creed, but the Eastern Orthodox Churches also make use of the Athanasian Creed in the Liturgy of the Hours where it is found without the Filioque clause.
The goal of the English Reformation was to restore the Faith of the undivided Church. In 1562, Anglican Bishop John Jewel wrote, "We have returned to the Apostles and the old Catholic Fathers. We have planted no new religion, but only preserved the old that was undoubtedly founded and used by the Apostles of Christ and other holy Fathers of the Primitive Church" (Apologia Ecclesiae Anglicanae).
Metropolitan Jonah has given us an opportunity to complete the reunion talks that were ended after the introduction of the purported "ordination" of women years ago. The Anglican Church in North America must do three things: 1) abolish the ordination of women to the diaconate and presbyterate, 2) remove the Filioque clause from the Creed, and 3) reaffirm the Faith of the undivided Church. After decades of study and dialogue, the Anglican Communion agreed to remove the Filioque clause in The Moscow Agreed Statement of 1976, and reaffirmed that agreement in The Dublin Agreed Statement of 1984. There is really nothing more to discuss. We have rightly agreed to remove an interpolation from the Creed, and it is time that we fulfill our promise.
Let us move swiftly in completing the New Reformation and the renewal of the Anglican Church so that we may fulfill our mission to be a bridge Church, healing the Great Schism between East and West. What a blessing it will be to live in a new era of the undivided Church and to feel the renewed strength of the Body of Christ breathing again with both lungs, Eastern and Western. That will be a New Springtime for the Church, a grace-filled restoration of Christendom, a new hope for the world, and the flowering of the new evangelization. May God speed the day, and may we do our part. Amen and Amen!