The Episcopal Church is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
Our theology is based on what many Episcopalians call a three-legged stool:
- Holy Scripture
- The tradition of the Church
- Our God-given ability to reason, to think.
The Holy Scriptures are the living Word of God, through which God still speaks to us today. The tradition of the church guides our understanding and application of Holy Scripture. Our ability to reason, to think, is given to us by God, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, guides the Church in the interpretation of the Scriptures.
The following are basic beliefs and doctrines of The Episcopal Church:
“Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them.” (The The Book of Common Prayer, p. 236).
The Bible, the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is our foundation, understood through tradition and reason. The Bible contains all things necessary for salvation. Our worship each day and on Sunday is filled with readings and references to Holy Scripture from beginning to end.
At least 70% of The Book of Common Prayer – our guide to worship and faith – is taken directly from the Bible, with the remaining portion being directions and instructions for daily and Sunday worship, and statements and explanations of faith. All things in The Book of Common Prayer are in conformity with Holy Scripture and basic orthodox Christian beliefs.
Episcopalians read and study more Holy Scripture in Sunday worship than most other denominations. (For a list of readings appointed for our worship services, see the Revised Common Lectionary of readings).
“In him, you have brought us out of error into truth, out of sin into righteousness, out of death into life.” (The The Book of Common Prayer, p. 368).
We are followers of Jesus Christ. Our worship and our mission are in Christ’s name. In Jesus, we find that the nature of God is love, and through baptism, we share in God’s love and Jesus’ victory over sin and death.
“Holy Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body, the Church.” (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 298).
Christ commanded: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20.
In the waters of baptism, we are joined with Christ in his death and resurrection; we are adopted as God’s children; we are made members of Christ’s body on this earth, the Church; we are given the promise of forgiveness of sin and eternal life with God, and we receive new life in and through the Holy Spirit.
We enter and become part of an extended family, one with Christians throughout the ages and across the world, what we call the “one, holy, catholic [meaning ‘universal’], and apostolic Church.”
The Holy Communion, The Holy Eucharist
“We thank you … for assuring us in these holy mysteries that we are living members of the Body of your Son, and heirs of your eternal kingdom.” (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 366).
On the night before he died for us, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread and took the wine and he commanded: take, eat, drink, do this in remembrance. The Holy Eucharist (which literally means holy “thanksgiving”) is also called Holy Communion, The Mass, and The Lord’s Supper.
It is a prayer of thanksgiving of all members of the church and also a sacrament, a holy action, and sign, commanded by Christ first to the apostles and through the apostles to the Church for the continual remembrance of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, until his coming again.
Episcopalians believe that Christ is present in the bread and wine sanctified by and through the Holy Spirit (though we do not try to explain what is impossible to explain: this mystery of faith.) We come to Holy Communion praying not only for solace, but for strength, not only for pardon but for renewal, that we may be one with Christ, one body, and spirit, and that we may worthily serve the world in His name.
Through Holy Communion with Christ, we receive the forgiveness of sins and union with Christ and with one another, a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. To come to Holy Eucharist, it is required that we examine our lives, repent of sin, and be in love and charity with all people.
All baptized Christians no matter the church or denomination are invited to receive the bread and wine and be in communion with God and each other, in the Episcopal Church.
“Sacraments are outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace.” (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 857).
In addition to the two great sacraments of the Gospels, Holy Baptism, and Holy Eucharist, the church recognizes other sacraments as spiritual markers in our journey of faith. These include:
- Confirmation (the adult affirmation of our baptismal vows) The Book of Common Prayer pp. 413-419
- Reconciliation of a Penitent (private confession) The Book of Common Prayer pp. 447-452
- Holy Matrimony (Christian marriage)
- The Book of Common Prayer pp. 422-438
- Holy Orders (ordination to deacon, priest, or bishop)
- The Book of Common Prayer pp. 510-555
- Unction (anointing with oil those who are sick or dying)
- The Book of Common Prayer pp. 453-467
These sacraments are part of our worship of God and help us to be sacramental people, seeing and experiencing God always at work around us.
(source material is taken partially from http://www.episcopalchurch.org and primarily from The Book of Common Prayer.)