- The Basics
- What Makes Episcopalians Different?
- The Ministry of Bishops, Priests, Deacons, and Each of Us
- How Being Involved Helps our Faith Grow
Christian Faith – St. John’s Episcopal Church promotes the Christian Faith as found in the Bible and expressed in the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. We summarize our faith as follows:
The Holy Trinity – We believe that there is one God who is three Divine Persons: the Father, the Son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit. As the early creed of Nicaea teaches:
- We believe in God the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.
- We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, True God, from True God, begotten not made, of one essence with the father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
- We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father (and the Son). With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the prophets.
Salvation through Christ– The Church and the Scriptures testify that salvation comes to human beings through Jesus Christ, the Lord. We believe that Jesus died on the cross in the year 33 A.D. and that he rose bodily from the grave three days later. This mighty work shows that he is indeed the Son of God; God in human form and likeness. To all who believe in him, he gives power to become children of God–inheritors of heaven, who are forgiven and freed from evil, sin and death.
Our belief in salvation through Christ does not mean that we believe all those who never profess faith in Jesus in this life are unsaved. We entrust all people to the redeeming love of God, “who desires all people to be saved and come to knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4), and we affirm with St. John the Apostle that: “Whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (see 1 John 4:7).
Church – We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. The Church is the assembly of God’s people throughout all time and space, both in heaven and on earth. Although our faith is personal we were not meant to live it alone. Coming together for worship each week is an opportunity to share in God’s praise, hear his holy Word, seek forgiveness and renewal, and offer the hope of salvation to others.
Sacraments and Rites – We believe that there are two sacraments instituted and ordained by Jesus, which are baptism and the Holy Eucharist, and five sacramental rites that developed in the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit; Confirmation, Holy Matrimony, Reconciliation, Holy Unction, and Ordination. The following italics portions are a description of the Sacraments and other rites of the Church from the Catechism of the Book of Common Prayer (1979).
- Sacrament of Baptism – Baptism in water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is a public expression of repentance and our commitment to God. The inward and spiritual grace in Baptism is 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. We baptize infants so that they can share citizenship in the Covenant, membership in Christ, and redemption by God. [ read more ]
- Sacrament of Holy Eucharist – Holy Eucharist is the sacrament commanded by Christ for the continual remembrance of his life, death and resurrection, until his coming again. The outward and visible sign in the Eucharist is bread and wine, given and received according to Christ’s command. The inward and spiritual grace in the Holy Communion is the Body and Blood of Christ give to his people, and received by faith.
- Confirmation – Confirmation is the rite in which we express a mature commitment to Christ, and receive strength from the Holy Spirit through prayer and the laying on of hands by a bishop.
- Holy Matrimony – Holy Matrimony is Christian marriage, in which the woman and man 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.
- Reconciliation – Reconciliation of a Penitent, or Penance, is the rite in which those who 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.
- Unction – Unction is the rite of anointing the sick with oil, or the laying on of hands, by which God’s grace is given for the healing of spirit, mind, and body.
- Ordination – Ordination is the rite in which God gives authority and the grace of the Holy Spirit to those being made bishops, priests, and deacons, through prayer and the laying on of hands by bishops.
Scripture/Tradition/Reason -The Episcopal Church contains a unique blend of ancient Christian beliefs and worship along with an openness to change and an intellectual rigor that engages the modern world. Part of what makes this possible is the unique Episcopal way of approaching theological questions using the “Three-legged-stool” of Scripture, Tradition and Reason. During the Reformation, the theological defender of the English Church, Richard Hooker, proposed these three as the means for formulating answers to the pressing issues of the day. When facing an issue, the first task, Hooker suggested, was to examine Scripture on the topic; if Scripture was unclear then God’s laws of nature, as understood by reason, were brought to bear on the topic; and if that still did not resolve the question, then the traditions of the early Church were to looked to for guidance.
The Book of Common Prayer (1979) says that: The ministers of the Church are lay persons, bishops, priests, and deacons.
Laity or “All Believers”– The ministry of lay persons is to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be; and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church.
Bishops – The ministry of a bishop is to represent Christ and his Church, particularly as apostle, chief priest, and pastor of a diocese; to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the whole Church; to proclaim the Word of God; to act in Christ’s name for the reconciliation of the world and the building up of the Church; and to ordain others to continue Christ’s ministry.
Priests – The ministry of a priest is to represent Christ and his Church, particularly as pastor to the people; to share with the bishop in the overseeing of the Church; to proclaim the Gospel; to administer the sacraments; and to bless and declare pardon in the name of God.
Deacons – The ministry of a deacon is to represent Christ and his Church, particularly as a servant of those in need; and to assist bishops and priests in the proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments.
The Episcopal Church embodies the Latin phrase lex orandi lex credendi “the way we pray is the way we believe.” For the Christian all of life is prayer as St. Paul says: “pray without ceasing.” Because of this, the beliefs of Episcopal Church are best learned though involvement in the Church’s life of prayer and worship. Being involved in Church is a spiritual exercise that brings us greater understanding of our faith. We gain the support and friendship of those around us, we identify more closely with our common Christian heritage, and we strengthen our relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ. Through our involvement in Church the hungry are fed, the sick are visited and the weary are lifted up. The Episcopal Church invites the world to join us in experiencing the grace of God that abounds in his Church.