What is Episcopal?
The word “episcopal” refers to governance by bishops. The historic episcopate (bishops) continues the work of the first apostles in the Church: guarding the faith, unity and discipline of the Church, and ordaining men and women to continue Christ’s ministry. An Episcopalian is a person who belongs to The Episcopal Church, which encompasses churches in the United States and 16 countries. These include: Taiwan, Micronesia, Honduras, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Churches in Europe, (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland). The Episcopal Church is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion — a fellowship of churches that trace their roots to the Church of England and have flourished around the world.
- the Holy Scriptures are the revealed word of God, which inspired the human authors of the Scripture, and which is interpreted by the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
- the Nicene Creed is the basic statement of our belief about God.
- the two great Sacraments given by Christ to the Church are Baptism and the Holy Eucharist.
- The teachings and beliefs of the Episcopal Church are articulated in an “Outline of the Faith” in our Book of Common Prayer
- Learn more about what we believe.
The Episcopal Church follows the “via media” or middle way in our theology and discussions because we believe that, whether or not we agree on a particular topic, we all are beloved by God and can have thoughtful and respectful discussions. There are no prerequisites in the Episcopal Church — everyone is welcome and we are companions in holy transformation.
Historically, bishops oversee the Church in particular geographic areas, known as dioceses. In the worldwide Anglican Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury occupies a special position by virtue of history and tradition, but he does not hold a governing position.
Bishops from the Anglican Communion meet regularly for the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury. Collegiality among bishops is the substitute for authority, and communal discernment is the substitute for decision-making power.
Each bishop and diocese, operating through a local annual council, determine the character of life and work in that diocese within a set of general decisions made by a triennial General Convention of The Episcopal Church. These decisions are formalized as canons, or rules that govern. Each diocese elects and sends clergy and lay representatives to the General Convention. The annual Convention of the Diocese of Arizona takes place each fall.
The Episcopal Church celebrates diversity of people and worship styles, yet all worship follows the form set out in the Book of Common Prayer. We are known for our engaging and beautiful worship services — and for our work in our communities promoting justice and peace. For those who have grown up Roman Catholic, the service, known as the Mass, Eucharist, or Holy Communion, will be familiar. For those of reformed tradition or those with no religious tradition, we think you may find a spiritual home in a church that respects its tradition and maintains its sense of awe and wonder at the power and mystery of God.
We honor tradition and strive to live by the example of Jesus Christ, welcoming the stranger and the outcast, helping our neighbors, and offering love and forgiveness. The Episcopal Church has 2 million members in 7,500 congregations. In the Diocese of Arizona we also have college ministries, schools, numerous social service agencies, and countless ministries that reach out to help make our communities better and more caring places to live.
The Anglican Communion worldwide has more than 70 million members.
Scripture, Tradition, and Reason
In the Episcopal Church, we are called to live out our faith on a daily basis, whether we are at home, school, work, or recreation. The cornerstones of our faith are Scripture, tradition, and reason.
Scripture is the word of God contained in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. The 39 books of the Old Testament contain the story of God’s love from the time of creation to the birth of his son, Jesus Christ. The books contain God’s laws as He gave them to the Hebrew people.
The New Testament contains Christ’s teachings, the accounts of his life as told by his followers, and the beginning of his Church. It is written in 27 books. Within an Episcopal worship service, Scripture is read in the lessons, the Gospel (the teachings of Jesus), the Psalms (poems from the Old Testament) and other prayers. Additionally, two-thirds of our guide to worship, the Book of Common Prayer, comes directly from the Old and New Testaments.
We are not Christians in isolation but are part of a living faith that spans 2000 years. Tradition is the embodiment of our experience as Christians throughout the centuries. The heart of our tradition is expressed through the Bible, the Creeds (statements of faith, written in the first centuries of the Church’s existence), the Sacraments of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism, and the ordained ministry passed on by Christ to his Church.
Our particular tradition is inherited from the Church of England and is marked by a synthesis of both Protestant and Catholic thought that reflects not compromise for the sake of “getting along” but comprehensiveness in pursuit of shared truth.
Our tradition is expressed with many voices, among which are a variety of worship styles, languages, cultures, architecture, and music. Our tradition encourages this diversity. We seek to value the life and story each person brings to the community of faith. As in a multi-textured tapestry, each person’s offering is woven into the life of the whole, making it stronger and more beautiful.
Each one of us, with God’s help, makes a decision about how we use tradition and Scripture in our lives. A relationship with God allows us to realize and celebrate our lives to the fullest. The gift of reason, as a complement to Scripture and tradition, leads us to seek answers to our own questions and to grow spiritually. Being active in a community of faith strengthens us to carry our faith into the world. Weaving Scripture, tradition, and reason together, we strengthen our faith and grow as children of God.