The Episcopal Church is part of the Anglican Communion, which has 70 million members all over the world. “Episcopal” refers to the church’s particular form of government, which is led by bishops. One of the distinguishing characteristics of the Episcopalian Church is its openness, diversity and inclusiveness. It is not as strict as other denominations on the doctrines and lifestyle preferences of its members. The Episcopalian Church sees itself as a middle way between the Protestant and Catholic churches, practicing elements from both of them. Episcopalians believe in some of the core Protestant and Catholic doctrines, such as the Trinity, and also some doctrines more strongly associated with Catholic Christianity, such as the sacraments.
Trinity of Persons
Episcopalians believe in the Trinity of Persons. They believe that the First Person of the Trinity, God the Father, created the universe; the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son, Jesus Christ, entered the creation as savior, and the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, inspired men to write the Holy Scriptures. This is a core doctrine of both Protestant and Catholic Christians.
Book of Common Prayer
Episcopalian Christians read both the Holy Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. The structure of worship services is based on the Book of Common Prayer. The Episcopal Church claims that its denomination reads more Scripture in its worship services than “almost any other denomination.” The Book of Common Prayer -- which consists of 70 percent Scripture -- is filled with devotional and teaching resources to help Christians understand and apply the teachings of the Bible.
Diversity in Leadership
The Episcopal Church proudly embraces the diversity of its members and gives church leadership opportunities to both men and women. The Episcopal Diocese of Texas says that it “celebrates” diversity, with people of different races, sexual orientations and socioeconomic classes worshiping together.
Observing the Sacraments
The Episcopal Church recognizes various sacraments, which are outward markers of the internal growth of the Christian believer. The most important sacrament is the Eucharist, or Holy Communion. This is a special family meal for Christian believers, characterized by the consumption of bread and wine. The Episcopal Church welcomes all Christian believers who have been baptized to participate in the Eucharist, not confining it to members of the Episcopal Church.
Episcopalians also believe in other sacraments, such as Reconciliation of the Penitent, a private confession, and the sacrament of unction, an anointing of the sick with oils.
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images