Sue Elwyn (Anglican Nun)—A Creed for the Twenty-First Century

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I believe in God, I guess

well no. I am pretty sure.

I do believe in God.

I don't know

who God is


what God is


how God is


I believe in God.

I guess.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesAnglican Church of Canada* Theology

Posted March 29, 2010 at 9:51 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Fr. Dale wrote:

“Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)
We all waiver in our certainty. This is perhaps a little less.

March 29, 10:18 am | [comment link]
2. Paula Loughlin wrote:

[Comment deleted by Elf]

March 29, 10:39 am | [comment link]
3. Dilbertnomore wrote:

[Comment deleted by Elf]

March 29, 10:49 am | [comment link]
4. paradoxymoron wrote:

[Comment deleted by Elf - would commenters please read and consider the whole of the article before making rash comments which may come across as cynical and mean-spirited]

March 29, 10:58 am | [comment link]
5. Dee in Iowa wrote:

All the “I guesses”.......for me you say a creed of belief and faith….the “I guesses” come before, after, but never during….but that’s just me…...when I recite the creed, at that very time, I believe and my faith is very strong….perhaps this statement is just as “wondering” as hers….

March 29, 11:10 am | [comment link]
6. Archer_of_the_Forest wrote:

When I first read this, I chuckled because I assumed it was one of Dr. Harmon’s satirical “Don’t take yourself too seriously” posts. Then I read the article in context, and it does make sense considering she had grown up with Communist Atheist parents.

March 29, 11:16 am | [comment link]
7. phil swain wrote:

Twenty-first century or first century, belief is always fraught with difficulties.  The key is whether at the Father’s request did we go to work in his vineyard today?

March 29, 11:23 am | [comment link]
8. graydon wrote:

Taken ar face value, I give her credit for saying what others would not dare to say.  There is far too many recitations of verbiage for sake of recitation.  I will pray for her to relationship into a deeper trust of our Lord and her ability to trust her own faith.

March 29, 11:27 am | [comment link]
9. Paula Loughlin wrote:

Well if the creed is a reflection of her actual beliefs I stand by my deleted comments.  If it is a creed meant to show those who do not believe or those who are having a crisis of faith that doubts plague even the most faithful of Christians I better understand what she is saying.

March 29, 11:39 am | [comment link]
10. David Keller wrote:

graydon—We used to have a Rector who would have to restrain himself from laughter everytime we read or sang the Song of Mary.  All the mink coats and BMW’s saying “He has filled the hungry with good things and the rich he has sent away empty” was almost too much for him. Sadly, I think the creeds are mere rote to most Episcopalians.

March 29, 11:42 am | [comment link]
11. A Senior Priest wrote:

A good start she’s making. I wish her well and pray God’s blessing on her pilgrimage toward a saving faith.

March 29, 11:45 am | [comment link]
12. graydon wrote:

#10 David, I had a rector who used to wink at me during the liturgy.  Weekly he declared at the Invitation, “Know that in the Episcopal Church, all are welcome to come and receive”.  I asked him is he mean “the baptized’ in accordance with the BCP.  He congratulated me for noticing, and from that time forward continued to encourage open Communion, but would look at me and wink.  I took to calling it “Liturgy by the Wink”.

March 29, 11:56 am | [comment link]
13. Truly Robert wrote:

After reading the article (Yes, KH, I read it!) I can see that the writer’s “I guess” part is ambiguous at best. The main thrust of the story is conversion, but…

How often have we read stories like this: “X was once a rabid proponent of view A. But now, X is a rabid proponent of view B, which is entirely the opposite of A.”

Sound familiar? It could be the conversion of St. Paul. It could be some drug user who did 12 steps and now is a Biblical literalist (specifically in the translation used by 12 steps, all other translations being evil). It could be the person whom you almost married except that one day, that person suddenly thought you were absolute dirt (I am charitably assuming that you didn’t marry that person).

I’ve come to think that many of us are pre-disposed to total commitment so some cause or other. Details of the cause do not matter. Whichever cause, or belief system, comes along is just as good as any other. One day it changes, but the change will again be total commitment to the new cause. This is to be distinguished from con artists, who do not actually believe anything, merely reciting what others wish to believe.

March 29, 12:05 pm | [comment link]
14. Philip Snyder wrote:

I have to admit that when I first read the “creed” I wanted to post some snarky comment like “Gee, something new for what follows the Sermon in the 2015 BCP.”
But then I read the story and thought.  “Well, this woman has had an incredible journey from atheistic/communist to “Christian/communalist” and this “creed” summarizes where she is. 
It is a true statement that “We don’t know who God is.”  We can never know God as He is in His essence.  While we can know God personally, that knowledge will never approach Who God Is. 
We tend to think that statments “we don’t know who God is” will be followed by “so we can make god up to be what we want.”  The Truth is that we don’t know Who God Is, so we must rely on the whole Church to help us understand Who God Is and not rely on ourselves and our own experience.  It sounds to me like she is trying to learn Who God Is by her life in her monastic community.

Phil Snyder

March 29, 1:50 pm | [comment link]
15. drjoan wrote:

Many years ago a Christian teacher encouraged his audiences to “put a stake in the place you first believed.”  Both my husband and I took him at his word: my stake is planted (figuratively, to be sure) at the top of the Marquam Bridge in Portland, OR.  Whenever I am led to doubt my salvation or my savior or my God, I point to that stake, reminding myself of the time of my belief and the person in whom I placed that belief: Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior. 
I don’t really think God wants us to waiver: He has given us the Holy Spirit to remind us of our position with Him.  We don’t HAVE to “guess” at our relationship with God. 
I don’t have to “know him in his essence” to know Him personally.  It is my relationship with Him that “counts,” NOT how I can intellectually describe him.

March 29, 2:17 pm | [comment link]
16. Dan Crawford wrote:

I thought she was poking gentle fun at the general silliness of our age which embraces “spirituality” but hasn’t a clue.

March 29, 4:37 pm | [comment link]
17. Ross Gill wrote:

Interesting piece.  I immediately connected it to a lovely passage I read just an hour or so ago.  As I was waiting for new tires to be installed on my car I finally cracked the cover of ‘Lenten Lands’ by Douglas Gresham which I had picked up at a used book store a few months ago.  About his Mother Gresham writes:

Sometime around this stage in my life, a shadowy insubstantial influence began to appear.  It grew and gained in strength and solidity.  Mother was philosophically and spiritually travelling through the long tunnel which leads from angry atheism through bewildered agnosticism out into the huge dim cavern of admission of the existence of God, thence to emerge blinking and blinded by the full light of Christianity, that sudden revelation for which our human tongues have no words of description.

March 29, 5:40 pm | [comment link]
18. Fr. Dale wrote:

#18. Ross Gill,
Your comment was absolutely apt.

March 29, 6:03 pm | [comment link]
19. SC blu cat lady wrote:

She guesses?? Lord have mercy.  Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy on her soul.

March 29, 6:14 pm | [comment link]
20. Knapsack wrote:

Marvelous, Ross. I will dig out my copy for this week’s reading at your inspiration—thank you!

March 29, 7:02 pm | [comment link]
21. Sick & Tired of Nuance wrote:

I am pleased for her journey toward saving faith.  I suspect that we will be in heaven together someday.  However, I don’t think that I could look to her as a spiritual leader or advisor if her creed is that she “guesses there is a God.”  The horror of contemplating that there is no God is enough to cause spiritual vertigo.  I don’t think, based on this article, that she understands the ramifications of life without God.  Everything becomes meaningless and irrational.  Nihilism is all that is left if the materialistic worldview is true.  There is no love, no freedom, no independence…

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men…I guess.

All creation testifies to the glory of God.  I literally cannot look up at the stars and not know that there is a God…there must be.  The evidence is absolutely overwhelming.  The fine tuning of the entire universe to less than the mass of a dime, without which we would never and could never exist…  The precise location of the earth away from the galactic core, and not too high or too low from the glactic plane…  The ex nihlo singularity 13.73 Billion years ago that defied inertia…the whole creation cries out in a deafening crescendo; “WHAT WAS THE CAUSE IF NOT GOD?”

And then, there is that still small voice within me…that knowing, that tug, that song of deep calling unto deep…

I guess.

March 29, 7:21 pm | [comment link]
22. Fr. Dale wrote:

I think that the church would classify her as being in the “Purgative” stage of spiritual development. Although her journey has been lengthy, her arrival is more recent. Would she be mature enough to sit on the average vestry?

March 29, 7:32 pm | [comment link]
23. Philip Snyder wrote:

I think it is a mistake to take poety for expository writing.  What she writes is clearly poetry - expressing doubt, but faith in the midst or in spite of that doubt.
I don’t think I would ever have the cajones to write my credo as a poem.

Phil Snyder

March 29, 8:23 pm | [comment link]
24. centexn wrote:

At Judgment, I hope I make the cut.

March 29, 8:58 pm | [comment link]
25. teatime wrote:

Um, I didn’t take the “creed” as the current description of her spiritual life and belief. She seems to be writing about a spiritual journey, maybe hers and maybe not, in the post-modern age. Hence the name of the poem.

That is a poorly written article, unfortunately. I wish there was more meat on the bones.

March 29, 9:43 pm | [comment link]
26. Philip Snyder wrote:

Of course, that reminds me of my pseudo-cartesian phrase:  “Cogito ergo sum - cogito.”

Phil Snyder

March 29, 10:24 pm | [comment link]
27. Dilbertnomore wrote:

Elf, sorry to have offended. Seems terribly easy to do here.

My point was the ‘creed’, even within her personal context, seems rather insufficient for one who presumably has chosen the honorable role of the nun, taking the very serious step of dedicating her life and soul to Jesus Christ (if that is indeed what she endeavors). Or perhaps the standard of faith accepted within the Anglican jurisdiction of the subject nun is intentionally quite relaxed for those who pledge their lives to Jesus Christ or whatever concept they hold to as an article of faith.

The ‘creed’ would make a fine parody or irony or satire, however. As a true creed of earnest faith, not so much. At least, not for a faithful nun of the church of Jesus Christ.

March 29, 10:36 pm | [comment link]
28. dwstroudmd+ wrote:

Here, however, we have a real belief in action:
I guess.

March 29, 10:53 pm | [comment link]
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