What Does It Mean That the Charismatic Episcopal Church Is Autocephalous?

The Charismatic Episcopal Church appoints its own head.
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The Charismatic Episcopal Church is officially known as the International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church (ICCEC). With followers in many parts of the world, the church presents certain characteristics that mark it as separate from other Christian denominations and practices. One way that it maintains its independence is through an autocephalous structure.

1 An Autocephalous Church

An autocephalous church is one that appoints its own leader. The Charismatic Episcopal Church website explains that the church is run by "the orders of Bishops, Priests, Deacons and Laity. All baptized Christians are ministers of the church." This means that, officially, the church operates on a consensus basis, with no individual like the pope or a single archbishop determining its direction. Believers rely directly on the Bible as the only source of absolute truth, although early Christian teachings not contained in the Bible are also considered for guidance.

2 Episcopal Polity

Each diocese has a bishop in charge of administering the region's affairs. Essentially, a diocese is a collection of parishes, usually located within a physical area. Among those bishops, archbishops take on additional responsibilities; they take care of archdiocese, which may have some historical or religious importance. In some cases, bishops are under the authority of these archbishops. Although independently operated, the Charismatic Episcopal Church shares this structure, known as episcopal polity, with other churches.

3 Relationship to Other Churches

The ICCEC maintains that it is not connected from other contemporary Christian churches. It also denies any ties with the Episcopal Church USA or the Anglican Communion. In spite of its independent status, the Charismatic Episcopal Church does follow some traditions that appear in other churches. For example, Holy Communion is a fundamental practice that helps believers approach Jesus. The church bases its beliefs on early Christian practices, at a time when the religion was not divided. It was established in the United States on June 26, 1992, when Father Randolph Adler officially became bishop. Although information about Adler is scant, it is known that he belonged to a group of clergy from various churches who worked together to create the ICCEC.

4 Three Streams of Worship

One way that the Charismatic Episcopal Church deviates from many other Christian churches is that it attempts to combine the three main streams or formats of worship. These are typically known as charismatic, evangelical and sacramental. Charismatic worship supports the belief that the Holy Spirit continues to communicate through people who are alive today. Evangelical practices base their beliefs on the original gospel and other early Christian teachings. Finally, sacramental churches tend to use physical rituals to bring Christ or grace into their lives.

Marion Lougheed is a world citizen with a B.A. (Hons.) in social and cultural anthropology. She also holds a diploma in professional writing. She has visited or lived in more than 12 countries since the age of seven.