Episcopalians are members of the Episcopal Church, the main American branch of the Anglican Communion of churches descended from the Church of England. The Episcopal Church is traditionally considered one of the mainstream Protestant churches in the United States, but beliefs can vary greatly from congregation to congregation. Episcopalians typically believe that salvation is an ongoing process that began in the past and continues into the present and the future.
The traditional beliefs of the Anglican Church regarding salvation revolve around the belief that humankind is universally marred by sin, which brings death and eternal suffering in hell. However, the church taught that Jesus, by dying on the cross, opened up a new era in which sinners could be saved from suffering through their belief in Christ. Modern Anglicans and Episcopalians interpret the meaning of salvation in different ways, but all agree that Jesus' sacrifice on the cross was critical to bringing salvation to humankind.
Episcopalians typically consider salvation to begin in each person's life with baptism, the ritual by which a person is granted "rebirth" by the Holy Spirit and destined to live a Christian life. They consider the process to continue with regular celebrations of the Eucharist, which is the sharing of the bread and wine, symbolizing the body and blood of Jesus Christ, during church services. These rituals, along with constant repentance in everyday life, are intended to renew the lives of believers and create a better relationship with God.
The hope for future salvation is also part of most Anglican and Episcopalian beliefs. The church teaches that when Jesus comes again, believers will be taken to heaven where they will be granted eternal life in the presence of God. The exact nature of heaven and the Second Coming are often considered to be mysterious, but there are some Evangelical churches within the Anglican community that believe in a literal interpretation of the Second Coming as described in the Bible's book of Revelation. They believe that Jesus will return to rule the earth in peace for 1,000 years, physically resurrecting believers from the dead and carrying them with the living faithful into heaven.
Some Anglican and Episcopal congregations adhere to a so-called liberal philosophy, meaning they are more willing to accept various interpretations of the meaning of Scripture. Along these lines, some Episcopalians argue that salvation is not primarily about the afterlife, but rather a symbol of the power of good to triumph over evil on earth, whether in creating harmony in society or in freeing oppressed people from tyrants. According to this view, salvation may be a state of the world affecting everyone, rather than a privilege restricted to believers in Christ.
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