Episcopal Questions and Answers

Some folks who are new to St. John’s want to know more about the Episcopal Church. Here are some questions and answers.

What does “Episcopal” mean?
The Episcopal Church comes from the Church of England. After the the Revolutionary War, Church of England congregations established The Episcopal Church, taking the name from the Greek episcopoi, meaning “bishops.” The name reflects our belief that the historic succession of bishops, going back to the apostles and Jesus himself, is an essential part of expressing the fullness of the Church in all times and places. The Episcopal Church is both reformed, believing that Scripture is the ultimate rule of faith, as well as catholic, seeking to be true to the ways Christians have worshiped, governed the Church, and practiced their faith since the apostolic era.

What is the relationship of the Episcopal Church to the Church of England and the Anglican Communion?
The Episcopal Church is “in communion” with the Church of England, meaning that while each national church governs its own affairs, we share Eucharistic fellowship with one another and recognize one another as a part of Christ’s one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, ministering the Gospel in our specific geographical settings. So it is with the Anglican Communion of churches: the Anglican Communion is forty-four regional and national churches in more than 160 countries, comprising more than 80 million members worldwide.

Do Episcopalians believe the Bible?
Episcopalians consider Scripture to be the rule and ultimate standard of faith, above any council or magisterium. Bishop Stephen Neill once summed up the Anglican position as follows: “Show us anything clearly set forth in Holy Scripture that we do not teach, and we will teach it; show us anything in our teaching and practice that is plainly contrary to Holy Scripture, and we will abandon it.” (Stephen Neill, Anglicanism, p. 119) At St. John’s, every sermon is centered on proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ as it comes to us in and through the Bible.

What else do Episcopalians believe?
We believe the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed, these formulates articulating our essential beliefs that God is a Trinity of Persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and that Jesus Christ is fully human and fully divine. United in the basics, Episcopalians allow for different understandings regarding doctrines that are less central to the Christian Faith–questions regarding free will and God’s sovereignty, for example, or how exactly Christ is present in the sacramental Bread and Wine. Episcopalians are therefore rather ecumenically inclined, appealing to the words of Rupertus Meldenius (a Lutheran!): “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

What is a diocese?
A diocese, Episcopalians believe, is the basic unit of the Church: a geographical district of congregations under the pastoral care of a bishop. St. John’s is a church of the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas, under our bishop, the Rt. Rev’d George Sumner.

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