What we believe
You may have heard that Episcopalians can believe anything they like – this is not true. While the Episcopal Church is very diverse and many people, some from a variety of other Christian traditions, find the Episcopal Church is wide enough for them to be comfortable, we do have a core set of beliefs:
We believe Jesus is the Son of God, was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and rose from the dead, and will come again to judge the living and the dead.
We believe in the Holy Trinity – Traditionally expressed as God, Father, Son, and Spirit. It means that we experience and encounter the one true God in three distinctive ways – Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier.
We believe that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be the inspired Word of God.
Our beliefs are informed by both Protestant and Catholic traditions. The Episcopal Church has historical roots in the Church of England, and because of this it is a part of the Anglican Communion. Like all Anglican Communion Churches, we have characteristics that are both Protestant and Catholic. We are a church of the Reformation and yet are descended from the early apostolic church in the same way as the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches. We celebrate the Holy Eucharist (Lord’s Supper, Divine Liturgy, Communion) in ways similar to both of these traditions, but we do not recognize a single earthly or institutional authority, such as the Pope.
We also believe that what the Bible says must always speak to us in our own time and place. As such, our faith is informed by three sources – Scripture, Tradition, and Reason, elegantly presented by Richard Hooker, an Anglican theologian from the 16th century.
Scripture – Scripture is the inspired word of God contained in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. The Old Testament contains the story of God’s love from Creation leading up to the birth of his son, Jesus Christ. They contain God’s laws as given to the Hebrew people. The New Testament contains Christ’s teachings, stories about His birth, life and death, as told by His followers, and the beginning of the Church. During an Episcopal worship service, we typically read a passage from the Old Testament, a Psalm, a passage from the New Testament, and a passage containing the teachings of Jesus – this is called the Gospel. In addition, two-thirds of the Book of Common Prayer, our guide to worship, comes directly from the Scripture.
Tradition – The Church, as a collection of faithful people, has a two thousand year experience of God and of loving Jesus, and when we consider our Jewish forbearers the roots go even deeper. What our ancestors-in-the-faith have said to us through the centuries about Scripture, daily living, and matters of faith, are critical to our spiritual journey. The traditions of the Church connect all generations of believers together and give us a starting point for our own understanding.
Reason – We believe that every Christian must build an understanding and relationship with God and God’s people. God has given us intelligence and our own experience, which we refer to as “Reason.” Grounded in the Scriptures and the experience of the Church through the ages, we then challenged relate faith to daily living.
The tenants of our faith are laid out in the following:
The Outline of Faith, or Catechism, in the Book of Common Prayer – our beliefs in Question and Answer form
Creedal Statements – ancient and universal statements of Christian faith – the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed are used by us, and many other Christian churches, in regular worship services. While not used in daily worship, the Athanasian Creed is another important Creed that outlines our beliefs.
The 39 Articles of Religion – as adopted by the Episcopal Church in 1801
Also of interest is the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral – the general ecumenical principles of Anglicans – adopted by the Anglican Communion in 1870
Episcopal Church National web site – Visitors’ Center
Diocese of Michigan – “What Do Episcoplians Believe?” section of website
Book of Common Prayer, 1979 edition