I’ve been teaching our congregation from the Apostle’s Creed since some time last Spring (though not weekly and often only taking a short 10-15 minutes before we move into our intensive time of prayer for the remainder of our time together). I have personally been deeply enriched by this study which is definitely outside of the norm for Assembly of God fellowhips. In fact, I don’t remember ever hearing anything about the creed in the numerous Assemblies that I’ve attended since childhood and most certainly we never confessed it together (that would have seemed to be too ‘liturgical’…or in otherwords…too ‘religious’ and not nearly Pentecostal enough). It is troubling to me to consider my wider Fellowship’s failure to study, teach, preach, confess, and pray this creed (as well as the other ecumenical creeds). I believe we have done ourselves a deep disservice and separated ourselves from the wider Church by doing so.
The founders of the Assemblies of God (more specifically, the early Pentecostals) desired to cut out any creed as being ‘man-made’. After but a few years, however, they formulated what they considered to be a Biblical statement of beliefs (though the language of a ‘creed’ was excluded, because there was still a rejection of things creedal as being ‘human’). This was a travesty…to say the least. In rejecting credalism (which I believe may justifiably be rejected), our fellowship rejected the historic creeds of the Church and replaced them with our own (non-)creeds (which in some degree bore a similar structure to elements of the historic creeds, but in a less memorizeable, less confessional, and less ecumenical form).
The form which the ‘Fundamental Truths’ (the title of our doctrinal statement) took was utterly lacking in memorability and thus incapable of truly serving a catechetical function (not to mention the numerous doctrines which may receive more emphatic clarity than is Biblically warranted and serves a more distinguishing purpose rather than a more ecumenical one).
I was pleased to discover that the Assemblies of God has recently released an abbreviated form of the ‘Fundament Truths’ (intended for children and fitted onto a single small wall-poster) which moves in a positive direction for actually making our confession to be more readily memorizeable. While this is a long-awaited move that may in fact enhance the confessional nature of our statement of faith, this still stands in place of such confessions as the Apostle’s Creed which are central to the life and history of the wider Church (and which the Assemblies seems oblivious towards). Perhaps in this move there will be a wider embracing of a confession which is better suited to discipleship (if it can be adapted to adult curriculum), but I would personally like to see the Apostle’s Creed incorporated into our confession of faith as central and our distinctives as remaining in a more secondary/supportive role (and in this way these distinctives may be rightly emphasized as important, but also recognized as not holding the same status as the core of the Gospel).