If you’re looking for a faith that doesn’t operate only in a constructed world of black and white expectations – where you can explore the truth on your own and in community – then the Episcopal style of the Christian faith might be for you.
What it means to be Episcopalian is to follow a faith that is relevant to the world of today.
Because the God we worship is the God of all truth, we do not separate our religious selves from the rest of life.
Episcopal is to be involved in the world we live in, while rising above it in hope and service.
Episcopalians embrace the insights of modern science and psychology.
As God seeks to include all his children in the community called the Kingdom of God, so Episcopalians try to do the same.
Episcopalians can come from different spiritual experiences, yet find common ground in following Jesus. We will find ourselves in different places on our spiritual journey, together.
Most of all, being Episcopal is to be connected to God through Jesus Christ, who has called each of us by name.
Making decisions in the Episcopal Church
In the Episcopal community, who decides what is right? Generally Christian churches have taken one of two options.
The Catholic churches answer that question with a traditional structure, depending on those who hold particular roles and offices to determine the truth. But new situations and experiences often get left out of the picture, leading to an authority that is perceived as out of touch and often simply ignored.
Protestant churches find answers in the Bible, but often forget that like any written document the Bible must be interpreted. Different, even contradictory, answers have been gleaned from its pages at different times, such that what was once “Biblical truth” is now abhorrent.
What it means to be an Episcopalian is to have an authority that embraces this complicated reality.
Episcopalians depend on three sources of authority: Scripture, Tradition, and a third: Reason.
The insights of science and history, personal experience and background all are part of Reason. In the interaction of these three resources, Episcopalians find their answers through conversation and dialogue, insisting not on uniformity or obedience, but community—together we will discern the truth.
Episcopalians recognize that we follow Jesus Christ on his Way, which means we grow together. Episcopalians are not afraid of being wrong, believing that the Holy Spirit will in time lead us into all truth.
Worship in the Episcopal Church
An emphasis on participation, not conformity, leads us to the next marker of what it means to be Episcopalian: Worship, Episcopal style.
In worship we encounter the sacred, that mysterious reality that tells us we are not alone.
Episcopalians use the Book of Common Prayer in worship, the word “common” meaning belonging to all. So the entire community is invited to participate in music, words and silence, using bodies and minds to worship God.
Again, the community tries to include many, so in the Episcopal Church you will find a variety of personal acts of piety and worship styles. Yet the structure of the service remains the same. To learn more about the logic and structure of Episcopal worship, read What We Do on Sundays.
For the same reason of inclusion, Episcopal worship honors tradition. The worship service includes the voices and insights of Christians throughout history. We did not invent this faith, so we find ourselves, 21st Century believers, in community and conversation with those believers who came before. Prayers and hymns in the Episcopal Church present the riches of all the centuries of Christian faith for us to use today.
Being Episcopal means to be connected.
In fact the word Episcopal means ‘bishop’, a subtle reminder that as individual believers we are nonetheless connected with Christians, both in heaven and on earth. We connect out of mutual support in faith, not because we are completely in agreement or because we are completely perfect, or complete in any way.