Monday, October 8, 2018

What Episcopalians Believe

In our Small Plates adult education class over the last few weeks we have been exploring the basics of what Episcopalians believe.

We have been using the book What Episcopalians Believe: An Introduction by Samuel Wells as the basis of our conversation.

Here is the outline of what Episcopalians Believe:

The Triune God: We believe in one God: Father, Son & Holy Spirit

  • God is in Christ
  • Christ is God
  • God is in Christ today
  • The Holy Spirit is one with God and Christ
Transformation in Christ:

  • God became human
  • Jesus is God; Jesus is also fully human
  • Jesus being fully human transformed both humanity & God
  • Jesus was truly human yet did not sin
  • Jesus' death paid the price for our sins
  • Jesus' resurrection and ascension opened the way to eternal life for us
The People of God:

  • Jesus was a Jew
  • To understand Jesus we must understand
    • Israel
    • The covenants between Israel & God
    • Exodus
    • Prophecy
    • Messiah
The Holy Spirit and the Church

  • The Holy Spirit overcomes the distance in space & time between Christ & us
  • The Holy Spirit is invoked by the Church in baptism, confirmation, Eucharist and ordination
  • The Church represents Christ to the world.  The attributes of the Church are:
    • Unified
    • "Catholic" - universal 
    • Apostolic - connected to the teachings of the apostles who walked with Jesus
    • Holy - set apart for God
Creation was good and tends toward good

The kingdom of God will be complete when Christ comes again, but we can bring echoes of it to being here and now

Salvation: God enters human life & redeems it.  

The Sources of our faith are:

  • Scripture
    • Old Testament
    • New Testament
    • Apocrypha
    • Scripture contains all things necessary to salvation - but not all of Scripture is necessary for salvation
  • Tradition
    • teachings & practices that go back to earliest time
    • teachings & practices that emerged during the fist 1000 years of Christianity
  • Reason
    • Richard Hooker: "When reason tells you tradition is no longer applicable, disregard it"
    • Look at the ways in which God is made know:
    • Revelation is seen to be working within human wisdom & investigation
We live out our faith:

  • Holiness - we obey God & strive to set ourselves apart for God
  • Worship - both corporate & personal
  • Ministry - the service we give within the church
  • Mission - the service we give outside the church
The Character of Episcopal believe is shaped by:

  • Incarnation - that God became human and is with us is the core theology of the Episcopal faith
  • English Legacy - our faith grew & developed in England and was shaped by - among others
    • The Synod of Whitby
    • The struggle with the authority of the Roman Church
    • The English Reformation
    • The Oxford Movement
  • We are an American Church also and so our structures value
    • Representative democracy
    • The role of lay people as well as clergy
    • The primacy of the Diocese as the central unit of the church & the Bishop as the primary authority
    • A relatively weak central authority
Obviously these are only the very basics of what Episcopalians believe.  If you want to go into more details, I recommend the book.   If you want to go into more detail the book Anglicanism by Stephen Neal is a good second step as is the volumes of The New Church Teaching Series by Cowley Publishing.

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