The Episcopals' Beliefs on the Afterlife

The afterlife remains a mystery to Episcopalians.
... Hemera Technologies/ Images

The Episcopal Church and most Christians share similar beliefs in the afterlife. In particular, they share beliefs with “mainline” Protestants such as Presbyterians, Methodists and others. Essentially, Episcopalians believe in life after death, and most share a belief in some sort of heaven and hell. The basic beliefs of the Episcopal Church are stated in the Apostles’ Creed, Nicene Creed and the Episcopal Catechism, all of which emphasize life after death.

1 The Episcopal Church

The Church of England, or Anglican Church, began during a schism with the Catholic Church in the 16th century, an era knows as the Reformation. The Church of England arrived in North America during British colonization. The Episcopal Church began in the 1780s as an American movement away from the Anglican Church when anti-British sentiment was high following the American Revolution. Episcopal is a term that refers to an “episcopal” form of church government run by bishops.

2 Mainline Theology

Protestant churches can be classified into two broad categories: mainline and fundamentalist. The Episcopal Church is one of the larger groups of mainline Protestants. Though mainline and fundamental Protestants share similar Christian beliefs, there are significant differences. Mainline churches have a broader theology that allows for a variety of beliefs. Mainline Protestant beliefs are more uncertain and varied in regard to the afterlife. In contrast, fundamentalist Protestant beliefs are more rigid.

3 The Episcopal Catechism and the Afterlife

The Catechism is essentially an instruction guide to the Episcopal Church. It contains essential doctrines of faith and the basic Episcopalian belief in the afterlife. According to the Catechism, everlasting life, for believers, is a new existence of being reunited with God. Within the Episcopal Church, believers have a great deal of latitude in interpreting the afterlife. To Episcopalians, much of the afterlife remains a mystery, and specific beliefs about the afterlife vary widely.

4 Diversity in Afterlife Beliefs

Although accepting that there is an afterlife, Episcopalians hold a diversity of beliefs about life after death. How one thinks of the afterlife is an amalgamation of traditional Catholic, Anglican and mainline Protestant beliefs. Some believe in both a heaven and a hell, but others believe hell is simply an eternal death. Some believe that one goes straight to the afterlife at the moment of death, yet others believe there is a resurrection of all believers at a final judgment.

John Peterson published his first article in 1992. Having written extensively on North American archaeology and material culture, he has contributed to various archaeological journals and publications. Peterson has a Bachelor of Arts from Eastern New Mexico University and a Master of Arts from the University of Nebraska, both in anthropology, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in history from Columbia College.