About the Episcopal Church

The Anglican Communion has established parameters of its Anglican identity in the document known as “Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral” fully approved in 1888. This document was based in the original document also known as Huntington’s quadrilateral because William Reed Huntington a rector of a parish in Massachusetts believed that the Anglican beliefs could be reduced to four key tenets:

1) the Old and New Testaments as the church’s authoritative scriptures; 2) the primitive creeds (Apostle’s and Nicene)as the church rule of faith ; 3) the two sacraments (Baptism and Eucharist) ordained by Jesus himself as the essential acts of Christian worship; and 4) the episcopate as the cornerstone of church government.

According to Huntington, to be successful in conversations with other denominations, Episcopalians needed to emphasize these central elements of the Anglican tradition. These statements now provide to Anglicanism its distinctive character.

An Anglican spirituality will be recognizable as Anglican when it is practiced in relationship to a discipline of public worship, to a life of common prayer that possesses these four essential tenets or characteristics.

In order to understand Anglican spirituality we need to understand the book that facilitates this corporate worship. The Book of Common Prayer (BCP ) is the collection of worship services that all worshipers in an Anglican church follow. It’s called “common prayer” because we all pray it together, around the world. Its original purpose is to provide in one place the core of the instructions and rites for Anglican Christians to worship together.

The present prayer book in the Episcopal Church went in effect in 1979. Many other worship resources and prayers exist to enrich our worship, but the Book of Common Prayer is the authority that governs our worship. The prayer book explains Christianity, describes the main beliefs of the Church, outlines the requirements for the sacraments, and in general serves as the main guidelines of the Episcopal life.

Communal and personal experience of God

Episcopalians balance their beliefs on something like a camera tripod. The three legs are the Bible, tradition and common sense ( often referred as reason).

  1. The Anglican approach to reading and interpreting the Bible is defined as what the Bible says must always speak to us in our own time and place. The scripture is at the root of the worship and theology.
  2. The church, as a worshiping body of faithful people, has for two thousand years amassed experience of God and of loving Jesus, and what they have said to us through the centuries about the Bible is critical to our understanding it in our own context. The traditions of the church in interpreting scripture connect all generations of believers together and give us a starting point for our own understanding. In keeping with Anglican tradition and theology, the Episcopal Church considers itself “Protestant” yet “Catholic.” Anglicanism stands squarely in the Reformed tradition, yet considers itself just as directly descended from the Early Church as the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches.
  3. Anglicans and Episcopalians believe that every Christian must build an understanding and relationship with God’s Word in the Bible, and to do that, God has given us intelligence and our own experience, which we refer to as Reason or common sense.

Baptism

We believe that all that is said and done by Christians in and through the Episcopal Church is grounded in the sacrament of our baptism into the Body of Christ in the name and by the power of the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Episcopalians are called back to our baptismal covenant, time and time again, as the foundation of all that we are and all that we do.

Eucharistic

The Episcopal Church believes that in and through the power of the Holy Spirit the real presence of Christ is found in the bread and wine of Holy Communion. The Eucharistic Prayer intentionally names the same four things Jesus did at the last supper when he instituted this sacrament; he took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to his disciples. Episcopalians are not required, nor are they prohibited against believing in either consubstantiation or transubstantiation. How Christ comes to us in the Eucharist is less important than the fact that when we receive the bread and wine Christ truly does come to us.

The Episcopal Church’s relationship to the World

The Episcopal Church also is Apostolic, in terms of apostolic succession and in the sense of taking the word of God out into the world. All members of the Episcopal Church are called to be ministers, not just the ordained. The Book of Common Prayer makes it clear that lay ministry comes first and other orders are there to support lay members in their work. Anglican’s believe that the Church is a community of people gathered to worship and serve God both in the church and in the world.

The Book of Common Prayer describes the mission of the Episcopal Church as “restoring all people to unity with God and each other in Christ” (BCP. 855), and at the end of the Sunday liturgy the people are sent out into the world with the charge to “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord”.