The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) has recently released its 2019 Book of Common Prayer (BCP).

For most ACNA churches, the revised translation of the Nicene Creed will likely be the most apparent liturgical change on a Sunday morning. This is at least the case for our church (Church of the Redeemer in Nashville, TN).

The Nicene Creed is the Church’s ancient statement of faith.

With the exception of one tiny clause, it can be confessed, or at least its contents affirmed, by every Christian tradition and denomination. The Church has said it as part of our liturgy since the fourth century A.D.

The version of the Nicene Creed we say is, of course, a translation of the Greek original. With all translations, there are certain disputed elements. Revising it, therefore, will continue to happen over time. The translation that Redeemer has used until now was first introduced via the Episcopal Church in 1979.

When I was a kid, I memorized a much older version of the Creed. When the new one came, the one we use now, I had to change. It was a much greater change than the one we’re about to experience. I remember disliking it.

However, since I’ve used this translation of the Creed for 40 years, I’ve grown quite accustomed to it. I expect I will occasionally stumble over the new one.

Below, you’ll see the revised translation next to the current 1979 one. As you compare them side by side, you’ll see there are only a few changes.

I have marked all the changes in red, with the previous words marked in blue. To learn more, read my comments about the changes below.

1979 BCP

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord,
Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate
from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified
under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at
the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father
and the Son.
With the Father and the Son
he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

2019 BCP

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, visible and invisible.

We believe in one Lord,
Jesus Christ,
the only-begotten Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
was incarnate from the Holy Spirit 

and the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified
under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at
the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father
[and the Son],
who with the Father and the Son
is worshiped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Notice the following changes.

1. “Visible and invisible”, rather than “seen and unseen.”

This change aligns the new translation more closely with the original Greek (ὁρατῶν τε πάντων καὶ ἀοράτων). I see it as making the scope larger.

Unseen things may just be things I can’t see right now, but can be seen later. For instance, I can’t see the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville right now, but I can see it later if I want.

Invisible things, however, can be things no human being can ever see. They are spiritual things, things beyond my comprehension.

2. “Only-begotten,” rather than “only.”

Once again, this change aligns the new translation more closely with the original Greek (τὸν μονογενῆ). Also, it is more correct.

Christ isn’t God’s only son in the sense that you and I are also his children (sons). However, he is the Father’s only begotten son.

Of course, we don’t precisely understand what it means that he is begotten. But, whatever it means, he’s the only one.

3. “Was incarnate” from the Holy Spirit, rather than “by the power” of the Holy Spirit.

You guessed it, this is a better translation of the Greek (σαρκωθέντα ἐκ Πνεύματος Ἁγίου).

By removing the “power of the Holy Spirit,” it seems that the newer translation is removing an artificial degree of separation between God and the Virgin Mary at the Incarnation.

4. “And the Son.”

This is the sticky widget of the Nicene Creed, the one phrase that has caused the most historical drama.

The original version of the Nicene Creed did not include this phrase. For the past thousand years or so, the Western Church has included the phrase, while the Eastern Church has not.

Here’s what the ACNA College of Bishops stated about the Nicene Creed in 2013:

RESOLVED, The normative form of the Nicene Creed for the Anglican Church in North America is the original text as adopted by the Councils of Nicaea (325 A.D.) and Constantinople (381 A.D.). This form shall be rendered in English in the best and most ac-curate translation achievable.

RESOLVED, The Anglican Church in North America acknowledges that the form of the Nicene Creed customary in the West is that of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, including the words “and the Son” (filioque), which form may be used in worship and for elucidation of doctrine.

5. “Who” rather than “he.”

OK, just one more time: the new version of the Creed is more faithful to the original Greek.

In the original language of the Creed, the Holy Spirit is, linguistically, neuter (as opposed to masculine or feminine).

While the Holy Spirit is a person and not an “it,” the Bible itself is often non-specific about the Spirit’s gender. Neutral pronouns are often (though not always) used, with both masculine and feminine words and images assigned to the Spirit.

It seems that, for this and possibly other reasons, the original writers of the Creed preferred “who” to “he,” “she,” or “it.”