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Many of the questions and answers that follow are based on the Episcopal Catechism, or Outline of the Faith, which can be found on pages 843-862 of the Book of Common Prayer (Church Hymnal Corporation, 1979). Please note that the Book of Common Prayer states that the catechism “is a commentary on the creeds, but is not meant to be a complete statement of belief and practices; rather, it is a point of departure for the teacher” (BCP, p. 844).

In that same spirit, the responses to the questions that follow are not offered as definitive answers, but rather as general background information on the traditions and customs of the Episcopal Church, and while content is factual and duly referenced, it does contain certain interpretations by the author and does not necessarily represent the official viewpoint of the Episcopal Church.– Fred Vergara (2010)

History

Where did the Episcopal Church originate?

Early English settlers established the Church of England in the original colonies of the United States, and in 1789, after the American Revolution, an assembly met in Philadelphia to unify all Anglicans in the United States into a single national church. A constitution was adopted along with a set of canonical laws, and the English Book of Common Prayer of 1662 was revised, principally by removing the prayer for the English monarch. Samuel Seabury was ordained in Scotland as the first American bishop.

Who is the head of the Episcopal Church?

The General Convention, comprised of the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops, is the governing and legislative body of the Episcopal Church. The Presiding Bishop is the Chief Pastor and Primate of the Church. Michael Bruce Curry is the 27th and current Presiding Bishop of the The Episcopal Church. Elected in 2015, he is the first African American to serve in that capacity. He was previously bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina.

What is a primate?

A primate is the chief bishop or archbishop of one of the thirty-eight churches of the Anglican Communion.

What is the Anglican Communion?

An international association composed of over 80 million people in 44 regional or national churches all in full communion with the Church of England and, more specifically, with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Who is the current Archbishop of Canterbury?

The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. The current archbishop is Justin Welby. He shares the primacy of the Church of England with the Archbishop of York.

What are the four Instruments of Communion in the Anglican Communion?

In the Anglican Communion, there is no one single authoritative leader. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the symbolic head of the Communion, the Focus for Unity among the other three Instruments of Communion, and the “first among equals” among the Primates of the Anglican Communion. The Anglican Communion is governed by three consultative and collaborative international bodies: the Anglican Consultative Council, the Primates Meeting, and the Lambeth Conference. Together with the Archbishop of Canterbury, these four institutions function as the Instruments of Communion (or Instruments of Unity) of the Anglican Communion.

Theology

What does theology mean?

The Greek word theos means “God,” and logos means “study,” so theology means, literally, the study of God.

What are the Four Marks of the Christian Church?

The Four Marks of the church are expressed in the Nicene Creed: “We believe in [1] one, [2] holy, [3] catholic, and [4] apostolic Church” (BCP, p. 358).

What does “via media” mean?

Via media is Latin for “middle road,” which refers to the tendency of Anglican theology to strike a middle ground between reformed Protestantism and Roman Catholicism.

What are the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed?

These two creeds state the Episcopal Church’s basic beliefs about God. The Apostles’ Creed (BCP, p. 96) is the ancient creed of baptism and is used in the church’s daily worship to recall our Baptismal Covenant. The Nicene Creed (BCP, p. 358) is the creed of the universal church and is used at the Eucharist.

What is the Holy Trinity?

The Holy Trinity is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (BCP, 852).

Mission & Ministry

What is the mission of the Episcopal Church?

To “restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ” (BCP, p. 855).

What are the Five Marks of Mission adopted by the Episcopal Church in 2009?

  1. To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom;

  2. To teach, baptize, and nurture new believers;

  3. To respond to human need by loving service;

  4. To seek to transform unjust structures of society;

  5. To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.

What are the four orders of ministry in the Episcopal Church?

The four orders are: bishops, priests, deacons, and lay leaders. “Bishop” is from the Greek word episcopos, or “overseer”; “priest” is from the Greek word presbyteros, or “elder”; “deacon” is from the Greek word diakonos, or “intermediary”; and “lay” comes from the Greek laos, which means “the people.”

What is “the priesthood of all believers?”

This phrase is based in part on 1 Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” The priesthood of all believers refers to the belief that all baptized Christians have been given direct access to God, just as a priest would have, and that God is equally accessible to all the faithful, and every Christian has equal potential to minister for God.

How does the church pursue its mission?

The church pursues its mission as it prays and worships, proclaims the gospel, and promotes justice, peace, and love (BCP, p. 855).

What is the duty of all Christians?

The duty of all Christians is to follow Christ; to come together week by week for corporate worship; and to work, pray, and give for the spread of the kingdom of God (BCP, p. 856).

What are the nine virtues that St. Paul called the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22)?

  1. Love

  2. Joy

  3. Peace

  4. Patience

  5. Kindness

  6. Goodness

  7. Faithfulness

  8. Gentleness

  9. Self-control

Why did St. Paul describe the church as the “Body of Christ,” with Christ as its head?

Saint Paul was referring to the way in which all members of the church are united with Christ. “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26).

What is the Great Commission to the Church according to Matthew?

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). This is called the Great Commission.

WORSHIP

What is the Episcopal Church’s main guide to worship and liturgy?

The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) is the official book of worship of the Episcopal Church. The BCP provides liturgical forms, prayers, and instructions so that all members and orders of the Episcopal Church may appropriately share in common worship.

What are the major gestures or actions in the Episcopal liturgy?

  • Standing to praise God

  • Sitting to listen to God’s Word

  • Kneeling to pray for the church and the world

  • Bowing in reverence

  • Lifting hands in prayer, or “orans”

  • Making the sign of cross, usually with the right thumb on the forehead or with the right hand on the forehead, chest, and shoulders

  • Genuflecting, or bending the knee in reverence

  • Giving and receiving a kiss of peace, a sign of greeting and reconciliation

  • Elevating the bread and wine during the Eucharist, offering them to God or showing them to the people

  • Extending hands in greeting, (e.g., when the priest says, “The Lord be with you”)

  • Laying on of hands or extending them over people as a sign of blessing and authorization at baptism, confirmation, ordination, and other sacraments.

What is the chief worship service in the Episcopal Church?

The Holy Eucharist, also known as the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, the Mass, Divine Liturgy, and the Great Offering (BCP, p. 859).

What are the liturgical seasons?

The Christian calendar divides the year into six liturgical seasons: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost. The season after the Day of Pentecost is often called “Ordinary Time,” although this term is unofficial and does not appear in the Book of Common Prayer. Every season has a designated color, which is displayed on clergy vestments and altar veils during that season.

  • White signifies purity and joy and is used during Christmas and Easter, and on All Saints’ Day and other joyous occasions such as weddings. White is also used during funerals because death is viewed in relation to Christ’s resurrection.

  • Purple and blue signify penitence and patient waiting and are used during Advent and Lent. These colors also suggest royalty, indicating that during Advent we await the return of Jesus Christ, the King of kings and the Lord of Lords.

  • Red symbolizes the fire of the Holy Spirit and is used on Pentecost Sunday and for the ordination of bishops, priests, and deacons. It also signifies the blood of Christ and is used in the festival of martyrs.

  • Green suggests hope and growth and is used during the weeks after Epiphany, Trinity Sunday, and Pentecost.

THE WORD OF GOD

What is a lectionary?

A lectionary is a table of readings from Scripture appointed to be read at public worship. Although there are several lectionaries contained in the Book of Common Prayer, the Episcopal Church now follows the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL), which was officially adopted at General Convention in 2006. The Revised Common Lectionary, like the lectionaries in the Book of Common Prayer, is a three-year cycle of Sunday Eucharistic readings in which Matthew, Mark, and Luke are read in successive years with some material from John read in each year.

How many books are in the Bible?

Protestants traditionally have recognized 66 books in total, including 39 books of the Hebrew Scriptures or the Old Testament and 27 books of the New Testament. Roman Catholics accept as authorized texts an additional number of books in the Old Testament. The Episcopal Church commends these additional books, which are often called the pseudo-canonical books or the Apocrypha, for private study and also uses them in public liturgy.

What is the Pentateuch?

The Pentateuch is the name for the five books of the Bible attributed to Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

What are the four books of the gospel?

The books of the gospel are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

What are the Ten Commandments?

The Ten Commandments are a list of laws that God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai for the People of Israel (Exodus 20:1-17).

1. I am the Lord thy God and thou shalt not have other gods besides me.
2. Thou shalt not make for thyself any graven image.
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
4. Remember the Lord’s Day to keep it holy.
5. Honor thy Father and Mother.
6. Thou shalt not kill.
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
8. Thou shalt not steal.
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
10. Thou shalt not covet.

How did Jesus summarize the Ten Commandments?

According to the Gospel of Matthew, Christ summarized the Ten Commandments into two Great Commandments: “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matthew 22:37); and “Love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:39).

SACRAMENTS

What is a sacrament?

A sacrament is “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace” (BCP, p. 857).

How many sacraments does the Episcopal Church observe?

Seven. In addition to baptism and the Eucharist, which are the two great sacraments given by Christ to his church (BCP, pp. 858-859), the Episcopal Church also recognizes five other sacramental rites: confirmation, ordination, holy matrimony, reconciliation of a penitent, and unction of the sick (anointing the sick with oil, or the laying on of hands) (BCP, pp. 860-861).

What is the sign of baptism?

Water is the outward and visible sign, and “union with Christ in his death and resurrection, birth into God’s family, the Church; forgiveness of sins and new life in the Holy Spirit” (BCP, p. 858) constitute the inward and spiritual grace.

What are the signs of the Eucharist?

Bread and wine are the outward and visible signs. “The Body and Blood of Christ given to his people and received by faith” (BCP, p. 859) constitute the inward and spiritual grace.

What is the sacrament of confirmation in the Episcopal Church?

Confirmation is the opportunity for those who are baptized as infants, children, or adults to make a public confession of their faith and to renew their baptismal vows. Traditionally, a bishop lays hands on the confirmed in a public ceremony as a symbol of support for their spiritual journeys.

Who can be ordained in the Episcopal Church?

According to the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church, Title III.1.2, no person shall be denied access to the discernment process. The Office of Transition Ministry explains that “in most dioceses, there are discernment programs to assist both the aspirant and the church in reaching agreement about those called to the priesthood”

What is the sacrament of marriage?

The sacramental rite of the church in which two persons “enter into a life-long union, make their vows before God and the Church, and receive the grace and blessing of God to help them fulfill their vows” (BCP, p. 861). The Episcopal Church has made tremendous strides in previous years to affirm marriage equality for all adults in the Episcopal Church, as stated in Acts of Convention: Resolution # 2015-A03.

What is the sacrament of reconciliation?

Sometimes called the sacrament of penance, this is a rite by which those who truly repent of their sins may confess them to God in the presence of a priest and receive the assurance of pardon, and the grace of absolution (BCP, p. 861).

What is the sacrament of unction?

The word “unction” comes from the Latin word unctum, “to anoint.” Unction is a rite of anointing the sick with oil or performs the laying on of hands with prayer that God will grant the healing of spirit, mind, and body.

PRAYER

What is prayer?
Prayer is responding to God, by thought and by deeds, with or without words. Christian prayer is “response to God the Father, through Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit” (BCP, p. 856).

What is the Lord’s Prayer?

In Matthew 6:9b-13 and Luke 11:2-4 Jesus taught his disciples the following prayer, which is called the Lord’s Prayer:

TRADITIONAL  LANGUAGE


Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Amen (BCP, p. 364)

CONTEMPORARY LANGUAGE


Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your Name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those
who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial,
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours,
now and for ever. Amen.

What are the four types of prayers?

According to the Book of Common Prayer (BCP, p. 856), the four principal kinds of prayer are adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication (ACTS). Adoration means praising God for what and who God is. Confession is expressing sorrow for sins and asking God’s forgiveness, mercy, and pardon. Thanksgiving is thanking God for all the blessings received and giving thanks to God in all circumstances. Supplication is asking God to provide for our needs and the needs of the world.

BECOMING AN EPISCOPALIAN

Who is welcome in the Episcopal Church?

All are welcome. Anyone can join an Episcopal parish or mission and be received by the bishop.

What is the Service of Reception by the bishop?

Baptized persons who have been members of another Christian fellowship and who wish to be affiliated with the Episcopal Church may make a public affirmation of their faith and commitment to the responsibilities of their baptism in the presence of a bishop. The bishop lays hands on each candidate for reception and says, “We recognize you as a member of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church, and we receive you into the fellowship of this Communion” (BCP, p. 418).

What is the Service of Confirmation?

A diocesan bishop may confirm all those who have been baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit by laying on of hands and praying this: “Strengthen, O Lord, your servant, [name], with your Holy Spirit; empower him/her for your service; and sustain him/her all the days of his/her life” (BCP, p. 418).

Can an Episcopalian who has not been to church for many years return to the Episcopal Church?

Yes, the person will be welcomed in any parish or mission, and he or she may choose to renew or reaffirm baptismal vows.

What is baptism?

Holy Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body the Church. The bond which God establishes in Baptism is indissoluble (BCP, p. 298).

Who can administer baptisms in the Episcopal Church?

Baptism is usually administered within the Eucharist as the chief service on a Sunday or other feast by a bishop or priest. Water is used either for immersion or pouring, along with the words of administration, “I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

What vows are made by the person being baptized?

The baptismal vows include repentance of sins, renouncing the devil and all sinful desires, acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior, and obedience to Jesus as Lord.

What is the Baptismal Covenant?

The Baptismal Covenant is a set of promises made by people being baptized, along with the members of the congregation. The promises include believing in God as Creator, Reconciler and Sustainer; continuing the apostle’s teaching, fellowship and prayers; persevering in resisting evil and repenting and returning to the Lord if one falls into sin; proclaiming the Good News of God; serving Christ in all persons; striving for justice and peace for all; and respecting the dignity of every human being (BCP, pp. 304-305).

Page compliments to the Episcopalchurch.org, Diocese of Rhode Island, Diocese of Texas, & Diocese of Missouri

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