What do members of the Episcopal Church believe?
Episcopalians believe that God has revealed himself as Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. The more traditional language is "God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." This means that God is the source of all life, and that through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our sins are forgiven and we are brought into closer union with God.
We believe in the church as the body of Christ, one that is holy, catholic (or universal), and apostolic, and it is the church that Jesus charged with the responsibility of spreading the Good News to all people. The Holy Spirit sustains the church despite all the difficulties and fractures it has experienced down through the centuries. Indeed, we believe that the church is the holy creation of God and through the church God provides life-renewing grace in the sacraments.
The Nicene Creed and the Apostles' Creed, which are in the Book of Common Prayer and often recited in our liturgy, spell out the beliefs we share with the majority of Christians. Specific explanations of the beliefs of Episcopalians can be found in the catechism (or outline of faith) that is also in the Book of Common Prayer. Most Christians hold these creeds in common.
How did the Episcopal Church in this country originate?
In one sense, there was an Episcopal Church here as soon as people arrived from England as members of the Church of England in the 1600s. But in 1789, at the American Revolution, the church here became jurisdictionally independent as a separate branch of the Church of England.
While autonomous, or self-governing, the Episcopal Church maintains a relationship, based on common faith and practice, such as use of the Book of Common Prayer, with the Church of England and more than 30 other Anglican churches all over the world. All churches in this tradition make up what we call the Anglican Communion.
How large is the Episcopal Church today?
In 2010, the Episcopal Church had a baptized membership of 2,125,012 both inside and outside the U.S. In the United States, it had a baptized membership of 1,951,907, making it the nation's 14th largest denomination. Although we are not one of the larger churches in America, as part of the Anglican Communion, we make up one of the larger Christian traditions in the world. The fastest growing branches of the Anglican Communion are in Africa and Asia. With a current membership of over 85 million members worldwide, the Anglican Communion is the third largest Christian communion in the world, following the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches..
What is the mission of the Episcopal Church?
The mission of the whole church is to seek and serve Christ, and we do this by teaching, working, and forming our lives according to Christian belief.
The mission of the Episcopal Church is to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of world, making disciples whereever we can. This mission, based on Matthew 28, is usually called "the Great Commission."
Generations ago, people in this church spoke of the purpose of the church to be the "cure of souls." That language has faded in recent years but it captures the essence of the mission of the church.
The goal of Christian formation is wise, resilient, and playful Christians. Under the Spirit's guidance, the church attempts to form people so that the forgiveness embodied in Christ can restore broken sinners.
Formation includes education but also the spiritual growth of the whole person. Christian wisdom interprets the world with a sense of humor and the grace to see in a broken world God's continuing creation.
As a result, members of the Episcopal Church have been active in applying the gospel to a variety of social causes as well. We don't always get the causes right, and we often disagree on what they should be, but we still attempt to bring God's message of forgiveness and justice to the world.
Names are important in Christian belief, and we believe that God knows each of us by name and loves us more than we can imagine.
Jesus loves the children of St. Peters and, indeed, all of God's children! That expresses the mission of the church about as well as any lofty theological proposition!
With forgiveness and restoration to spiritual health comes the recognition that we have obligations to other children of God, to minister to them as we have been ministered to.
What is the point of living out our lives in the church?
God both calls us to live vibrant lives here and to anticipate the life that has been created for us after this one.
In the liturgy each Sunday, we celebrate the life that God has created for us now and anticipate the new life that God intends for us in the future. Each liturgy affirms our baptism and gives us a glimpse of the kingdom to come. We are always both in the present and anticipating the future, when all will come together in the final consummation of God's passionate love for creation.
From baptism to the commendation at a funeral, where Christian brothers and sisters gather to commend the deceased to the safekeeping of God, a member of the church knows that he or she belongs to God. As the Psalmist puts it, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
How does a person become a member of the Episcopal Church?
You should talk with the rector or priest in charge of your local Episcopal parish. If you are already baptized, you can be confirmed or received into the church, and if not, you will find help in preparing for baptism.
However, you are always invited to join us for worship. You are bound to find people who will greet you and welcome you into the community of faith. We are on much the same road, searching and questioning and helping each other along so that we live our lives in the wise, loving way God wishes.
God bless you in your journey!