The Apostles’ Creed 13: I believe in the holy Catholic Church

The word, Catholic, comes from the Greek, katholiky, which in turn is derived from the Greek preposition kata, meaning according to, or to do with: and the noun holos meaning whole. Used of the church it means worldwide, universal, all-inclusive. This clause indicates that the church in which we believe is universal and all- inclusive, as opposed to say, national and sectarian. Roman Catholic might be thought an oxymoron, and often it is. The Anglican Communion is almost as bad, dragging echoes of colonialism. The Church of Scotland is a modest title which however allows a lot of scope for being national rather than universal in outlook. Some local baptist churches are concerned only with the salvation of their members, and the sinfulness of abortion and homosexuality. This is a populist sectarianism.

Still, I believe in a Catholic Church, where all are welcome to worship father son and holy spirit, one God, and are encouraged to live in justice, peace and love for the planet and its creatures. It may never wholly exist but it does at various times and in various places show itself in its true beauty.

It can be seen coming into existence in the Acts of the Apostles and in the letters of St Paul, who never ceases to urge his local assemblies to be Catholic by remembering other assemblies in their prayers and by contributing to the relief of poverty in Jerusalem. The local church can be universal in its worship, and its communion across distance. The world church on the other hand, is not a mighty army, but a communion of local churches, concerned with the specifics of local existence. It may be essential that the world church has no power structures.

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