The most succinct summary of our beliefs is contained in the Nicene Creed which we recite at every service:
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.
Here are five basics that guide us on our faith journeys:
- We are a worldwide church and we always try to bring a global perspective to our thoughts and actions while being drawn together by a shared liturgy and texts.
- We celebrate our diversity. Tolerance is not an excuse or a sign of weakness, it is an essential ingredient in the pursuit of truth.
- We are a "seeker-friendly" church. We do not push our beliefs because we know that God will meet us wherever we are on our spiritual journey. God is love.
- We are idealists. We take concepts like peace, equality, justice, mercy, and grace as marching orders. We believe these things are achievable in this fallen world.
- We are OK with questions. We have an intense respect for thoughtful holiness. Asking, pondering, wondering and digging into issues is a form or worship, not a form of blasphemy. We see the work of the Holy Spirit in science, philosophy, law and human excellence. We are not in opposition to any constructive field of inquiry.
- We believe that a spiritual journey is a communal activity. We are all walking together and we try to strengthen and encourage our fellow travelers.
The Baptismal Covenant
These solemn words are a clear statement of our vows to follow Jesus. They remind us what the Christian life looks like, and they clearly reiterate what we believe. Every member of the congregation recites these vows several times a year, and promises to live up to them while helping one another live up to them as well:
Do you believe in God the Father?
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.
Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?
I will, with God’s help.
Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
I will, with God’s help.
Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
I will, with God’s help.
Celebrant: Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
I will, with God’s help.
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
I will, with God’s help.
(Book of Common Prayer, pp. 304-305)
We follow The Book of Common Prayer
The Book of Common Prayer, is the collection of prayers, services, and liturgies that all Anglican worshipers follow. It is called “common prayer” because we all pray it together, around the world.
The Prayer Book of today's Episcopal Church was published in 1979. There are many resources and prayers to enrich our worship, but the Book of Common Prayer is the authority that preserves our tradition.
We rely on a balance of Scripture, Tradition and Reason to explain life's mysteries
Episcopalians value Scripture, Tradition and Reason equally. We often use the metaphor of a three-legged stool, with each leg of the stool contributing equally to our balanced approach.
The Anglican approach to reading and interpreting the Bible is unique compared to many other denominations. While we, like all Christians, acknowledge the Bible (or the Holy Scripture) as the Word of God and completely sufficient to our reconciliation to God, we strongly believe that the Bible should be considered in the context of our own time and place.
Christianity has amassed two thousand years of experiencing God, of reading scripture, and of following Jesus. What these wise and loving people have said to us through the centuries is critical to our understanding and our behavior. The traditions of the Church connect all generations and give us guidance to continue the dialogue. We believe that a doctrine of biblical inerrancy can be a hindrance to spritual growth, and rarely a help.
Episcopalians believe that every Christian must build an understanding and relationship with God, and to do that, God has given us intelligence and our own experience, which we refer to as “Reason.” Based on the text of the Bible itself, and what Christians have taught us about it through the ages, we then must sort out our own understanding of it as it relates to our own lives.
We are not afraid of a challenge.
Episcopalians have always valued the life of the mind and we maintain a frank dialogue with fields of secular study. Isaac Newton was an Anglican clergyman and theologian, as were several of the founders of the Royal Society, which was the earliest institution organized for the promotion of science. Charles Darwin studied at the University of Cambridge to become an Anglican clergyman and agonized over the effects his theory would have on traditional church teachings.
The Episcopal Church maintains this tension. We seek the truth as it is, not as we would like it to be. We routinely require our clergy to hold university, as well as seminary, degrees, and we support many university groups, editorial discussions, and encourage a lively debate.
We are both Protestant and catholic*
So what does that mean? The Episcopal Church is sometimes referred to as the “middle way,” since it contains elements of both the Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions.
The Protestant Episcopal Church of America stands squarely in the Reformed, or Protestant, tradition. We are as equally descended from early Christianity as the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches.
While our worship is quite similar to the Roman Catholic tradition, we put our own spin on it, and we do not recognize a single authority, such as the Pope.
*The word catholic (with a small "c") comes from the Greek kata meaning “throughout”, and holos, meaning “whole”. It was originally used by Ignatius of Antioch as early as the year 100 to precisely include all followers of Jesus and can be defined as "all-embracing, inclusive".
Who is the head of the EPISCOPAL Church?
Well, Jesus, of course. But he's counting on all of us to do his work of love here on Earth. So, to properly serve Jesus, we have to have some type of organization. Here's how we Episcopalians chose to set it up:
The term "Episcopal" , which is a Greek word, simply means "to have bishops", so it's an adjective, not a noun. Bishops in the American Episcopal Church are elected by individual dioceses and are consecrated into the "Apostolic Succession".
We feel that these are two very important concepts, and are somewhat rare in the traditional concept of a church:
(1) the highest church leadership is elected by us, the members,
(2) our clergy form an unbroken line of tradition, love, charity, and leadership that we can trace back to the original Apostles of Christ Jesus. So, when a Bishop blesses and lays hands on a new priest, the line extends all the way back to Jesus. (That is not a typo. This is very important to us.)
And, by the way, for more than four decades, (since 1974) the American Episcopal Church has ordained women to the priesthood with full authority and to the highest levels of leadership. We understand that the world needs more of the strong feminine wisdom that has helped girls grow into womanhood for thousands of years. We know that the feminine side of creation adds a richness, and depth that there is no other way to experience.
Both lay (non-ordained) and clergy share leadership in the Episcopal Church. The Vestry is the governing body of our church and oversees the property and assets, approves all major initiatives and expenditures, and can actually remove a rector with the approval of the Bishop. The Rector is a priest, who usually has education outside of theology, and who is charged with the day to day administration of the worship, structure, and music of the church. The rector, hires, fires, and manages the entire staff.
Every parish is connected to an even larger structure, but is autonomous in many respects. The basic unit of ministry in the Episcopal Church is the "diocese," which is simply a region of a reasonable number of Episcopalians that can be managed by one experienced, God-fearing, human being. So each diocese is presided over by a "diocesan Bishop" who may have help from a variety of other kinds of bishops, depending on the circumstances.
The Diocesan Bishop chooses and ordains priests and deacons to serve the "parishes," or congregations, of the diocese, which carryout the ministry of the diocese in their local communities. The priests lead the parish in worship, make decisions related to the sacramental life of the parish, and in general, supports the ministry of the worshiping Christians there.
The Episcopal Church is governed by a Constitution and a set of laws (known as "canons") which it establishes for itself by Convention, but the diocesan bishop is the ecclesiastical (or "church") authority in his or her particular diocese. The bishops of the Episcopal Church have no jurisdiction outside of their dioceses, so they meet together twice per year to pray and make decisions about the life of the Church. Every nine years, the Church elects a "Presiding Bishop" who represents the Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion and "presides" over meetings of the bishops, known as the "House of Bishops."
Every three years, delegations (or "deputations") from all the dioceses, along with the House of Bishops, gather to worship and pass legislation for the Church. This General Convention is where broad decisions are made about policy and worship, as well as revitalizing the Christian community for ministry "back home."
Statements Regarding Common Questions:
- We are followers of Jesus Christ, our Lord, and we believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
- We strive to love our neighbors as ourselves and respect the dignity of every person.
- The Episcopal Church is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and traces its heritage to the beginnings of Christianity.
- Our liturgy retains ancient structure and traditions and is celebrated in many languages.
- Both men and women, including those who are married, are eligible for ordination as deacons, priests and bishops, and all are encouraged to marry and have families.
- We believe in amendment of life, the forgiveness of sin, and life everlasting.
- We believe that lay people exercise the vital role in the governance and ministry of our church. We elect our leaders and follow canons and rules which are voted on by us.
- Holy Communion may be received by all baptized Christians, not only members of the Episcopal Church.
- We uphold the Bible and we worship using the Book of Common Prayer.
- We affirm that committed relationships are lifelong and monogamous.
- We allow divorce and re-marriage under consent and guidance of clergy. We recognize that there is grace after divorce and we do not deny the sacraments to those who have been divorced.
- We affirm that issues such as birth control are matters of personal informed conscience. We do not discourage family planning including the use of contraceptives.
- We celebrate our unity in Christ while honoring our political, philosophical, and lifestyle differences. We strive to always put the work of love before uniformity of opinion.
- All are welcome to find a spiritual home in the Episcopal Church.
- We welcome those of all sexual orientations to share their sacred worship and to marvel with us at the glory of God's creation and the love of Christ Jesus.
Some well-known Episcopalians include:
Robin Williams, Judy Garland, Sam Waterston, Cecil B. DeMille, Charlton Heston, Raymond Massey, Courtney Cox Arquette, Bono, Fred Astaire, Roseanne Cash, Judy Collins, David Hyde Pierce, Thurgood Marshall, David Souter, Sandra Day O'Connor, Eleanor Roosevelt, Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright, James Baker, John Steinbeck, Madeleine L'Engle, William Faulkner, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Tennessee Williams, Margaret Meade, Buzz Aldrin, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Nat "King" Cole, Reese Witherspoon,
Along with 31 signers of the Declaration of Independence, over 1/4 of US Presidents, including, George Washington, Franklin (and Eleanor) Roosevelt, Gerald Ford, George H. W. Bush. Also James Madison, William Henry Harrison, James Monroe, Zachary Taylor, and Henry Ford.
Robin Williams Ten Best things about being Episcopalian:
10. No snake handling.
9. You can believe in dinosaurs.
8. Male and female God created them; male and female we ordain them.
7. You don't have to check your brains at the door.
6. Pew aerobics.
5. Church year is color-coded.
4. Free wine on Sunday.
3. All of the pageantry - none of the guilt.
2. You don't have to know how to swim to get baptized.
And the Number One reason to be an Episcopalian:
1. No matter what you believe, there's bound to be at least one other Episcopalian who agrees with you.
Copyright © 2002 St. Augustine by-the-Sea