Frequently Asked Questions

What does the name “Episcopal Church” mean?

The Episcopal Church is the American member church of the world-wide Anglican Communion, which numbers 60 million members in over 100 countries. “Episcopal” and “Bishop” are both derived from the same Greek word, “episkopos,” which means “leader” or “guardian.” It is sometimes described as the “bridge church,” or “church of the middle way,” because it draws from both Catholic and Protestant traditions. It preserves the ancient catholic (meaning “all-embracing”) faith and sacraments, as well as its traditional structure, with Bishops as its chief pastors. It is at the same time a Protestant denomination, the Anglican Church having separated from the Roman Catholic Church in the sixteenth century. The Episcopal Church’s focus rests in the basic authority of Holy Scripture and the proclamation of the Word of God.

What are the basic beliefs of the Episcopal Church?

Episcopalians make a solemn commitment to follow Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.

Episcopalians believe in:

One God, the Father who created us and all things, the Son who redeems us from sin and death, the Holy Spirit who renews us as the Children of God.

Episcopalians believe the Holy Scriptures to be the Word of God and to contain all things necessary for salvation. We believe God inspired human authors and continues to speak to us through the Bible.

Episcopalians affirm that salvation is the end of our separation from God and the beginning of a new relationship with God and with one another. The Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds are basic statements of our beliefs in God.

How do Episcopalians worship?

In worship, we unite ourselves with others to acknowledge the holiness of God, to hear God’s Word, to offer prayer and praise, and to celebrate the sacraments. The Celebration of the Holy Eucharist (sometimes referred to as Holy Communion) is the central act of worship in accordance with Jesus’ command to His disciples. Three books are used at every service: the Holy Bible; the Book of Common Prayer, (1979), which is composed of both ancient and modern liturgies and prayers; and the Hymnal (1982), which includes both traditional and contemporary Church music. Episcopal services preserve the rich worship and tradition of the historic Church. Everyone present participates actively in this joyous response to God’s love.

What are the Sacraments of the Episcopal Church?

Sacraments are the “outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace.” Grace is God’s love freely given to us for forgiveness and spiritual renewal.

The two sacraments of the Gospel, instituted and ordained by Christ Himself as essential for every Christian’s salvation are:

  • Holy Baptism – administered once as a pledge of repentance and trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Baptism may take place at any age. If an infant or child is baptized, the child’s parents and godparents accept the obligation to see that he or she is encouraged to grow in faith and live a Christ-centered life; to renounce sin and evil, and accept Jesus Christ as his or her Savior. When old enough to take on these responsibilities themselves, those baptized as infants are confirmed (see below). Adults, at baptism, make these pledges for their own lives. So baptism is the means by which God adopts us as His children, making us members of Christ’s Body, the Church.
  • Holy Eucharist – We share bread and wine as part of our worship, for the continual remembrance of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection until His coming again. All baptized Christians are welcome to share in Holy Eucharist, together with our congregation. Through this shared sacrament, we receive forgiveness of our sins and the strengthening of our union with Christ and one another.

 

Does the Episcopal Church offer any other Sacraments?

Yes. There are five other sacramental rites:

  • Confirmation – the rite by which we express mature commitment to Christ, praying for help from God and strength from the Holy Spirit, through the laying on of hands by a bishop.
  • Holy Matrimony – the sacrament of marriage, in which spouses commit their lives to one another and receive God’s blessing.
  • Reconciliation of a Penitent – the confession of one’s sins to God. In the Episcopal Church, this takes the form of a confessional prayer, recited in unison by the congregation as part of the communal service of worship, led by the priest. The congregation as a whole, then receives the assurance of God’s forgiveness and the grace of absolution. Any individual who needs to confess to the priest individually and in private, may also do so.
  • Ministration to the Sick – the anointing of the sick with oil, or the laying on of hands, by which God’s grace is given for the healing of spirit, mind, and body.
  • Ordination – the sacrament that consecrates Christians in service to God, as bishops, priests, and deacons.

 

What is the mission of an Episcopalian?

The mission of an Episcopalian is not simply a matter of “saving souls.” Neither is it simply a matter “feeding the hungry.” Christian mission is seen as the quest for both the spiritual and the physical welfare of mankind, since Christ’s love extends to all aspects of life. The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.