A: It means that our church is governed by bishops. The word 'episcopal' means 'oversight' in Greek. Even though the Bishops are the overseers of the church, each Parish is governed by its own elected Vestry members and is the direct responsibility of the Parish Rector who may have one or more priests or deacons as assistants.
Q: What does 'Church' mean?
A: The word church means a 'gathering' and refers to the place where the members meet to worship and it also refers to the members themselves.
Q: How is the Episcopal church governed?
A: Without getting into too much detail, the basic organization of the Episcopal church begins at the Parish level (the individual church) which is included in a Diocese (there is at least one Diocese in each state) and Dioceses are organized into Provinces. The Church has a national convention every three years and it is attended by all the Bishops, many priests and hundreds of lay persons. This convention has the final authority to consider and implement changes in the Church's rules of operation.
Q: What is the history of the Episcopal Church?
A: The Episcopal Church was started in the USA in 1789 by members of the Church of England. ALthough we are self-governing, we maintain strong ties with the Church of England and conduct many activities in concert with them.
Q: How large is the Episcopal Church?
A: We have 7,500 parishes and missions in the USA at which more than 2.5 million people worship. Worldwide, we are part of the Anglican communion which counts more than 75 million people as members.
Q: How does a person become an Episcopalian?
A: The first step to take is to simply visit your local Episcopal Church and talk with the priest. You are welcome to visit the church as many times as you wish before deciding to join. The priest will be happy to discuss all the issues of membership with you.
Q: Do I have to be baptized to take communion at your church?
A: We believe that the sacrament of Communion should only be shared with baptized Christians - regardless of the church in which they were baptized. However, if you are visiting an Episcopal Church and are not baptized but would like to participate at the communion rail, please simply fold your arms over your chest and the priest will say a brief blessing or prayer over you without serving the elements to you.
Q: If I join the Episcopal Church will I have to be baptized?
A: If you have never been baptized, we require that you be baptized in a public worship service to demonstrate your belief in Jesus Christ and to symbolize your cleansing of sin by that belief. If you have been baptized in any other Christian church, you are not asked to be baptized again to join an Episcopal Church.
Q: Is the Episcopal Church Protestant or Catholic?
A: We are both protestant and catholic. The word catholic means universal and we believe that we are members of Christ's universal church. More specifically, the Anglican Church moved away from the Roman Catholic Church in 16th century to avoid being overseen by the Pope but it did not reject the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. We are often referred to as the 'via media' or 'middle way' between Catholics and Protestants.
Q: I have heard Episcopalians talk about a three legged stool. What does that have to do with the Church?
A: It is said that our faith rests on a 'three legged stool': Scripture, Tradition and Reason. (Or as some say, a rope that is made strong by having three strands.) We feel that our tradition lends meaning to the scriptures and that use of our God-given reason allows us to understand God and our Holy Scriptures and to worship God more fully.
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