The Episcopal Church is founded on the principals of the catholic faith, lived out in the Protestant tradition. We believe the Bible to be the Word of God and the primary source of God’s revelation to God’s people, most particularly through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, as proclaimed in the four Gospels of the New Testament.
With the Scriptures as our foundation, we live into our belief in God using the traditions of our ancestors as well as our own experiences. Having almost 2000 years of history, the Church has developed certain ways of expressing, celebrating and sharing our faith. These rituals help us make meaning and sense of certain occasions in life, as well as help us develop our faith for everyday living.
The Episcopal Church is a sacramental church, meaning we follow the tradition of understanding our faith through the 7 sacraments of:
- Baptism – full initiation into the Body of Christ, the Church
- Eucharist – sharing the consecrated bread and wine in remembrance of Jesus’ love for us
- Confirmation – an adult profession of faith (if a person was baptized as an infant or young child)
- Reconciliation of a Penitent – private confession
- Matrimony – Christian marriage
- Ordination as a deacon, priest, or bishop
- Unction – anointing with oil those who are sick or dying.
It is through baptism that people become members of the Church, declaring their faith in Jesus Christ and making a commitment to follow his teachings in their lives. The Episcopal Church has developed a Baptismal Covenant we state at all baptisms and other important occasions (Easter, All Saint’s Sunday, Baptism of Jesus) to express our understanding of what we believe and how we live into those beliefs. In particular, we state the importance to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves” and “to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.”
A person can be baptized at any age. For those who are baptized as infants or young children, the vows of the Baptismal Covenant are made on their behalf by their parents and godparents, as well as the community of the church, who all promise to support the child in his or her formation as a Christian. When that person is of an age that she or he feels ready to take on the commitment of their faith themselves, they make their Confirmation.
Once a person is baptized, he or she is welcomed to receive the Eucharist, or Holy Communion. It is the parents’ decision about whether or not they choose to allow their child to receive, but as far as the church is concerned, they are full members and are welcomed to receive. While the Episcopal Church does not recognize “first Holy Communion” as an “official” occasion, such instruction can be offered by the priest if requested.
The Episcopal Church is also a confessional Church, meaning we recognize the Nicene Creed as a complete statement of our basic beliefs about God and joins Christians throughout the ages in affirming our faith in the one God who created us, redeemed us, and sanctifies us.
As a way to compliment the Creed and Baptismal Covenant, the Episcopal Church has developed a Catechism to articulate more about our understand of the Christian faith through a series of questions and answers that build upon one another.