What do Episcopalians believe?
Sharing the traditions of our “common prayer” with reason, respect, love and openness
Scripture—the Bible—is the primary guide for the faithful. Text from it makes up a large proportion of the Book of Common Prayer.
The Bible speaks to us on many levels. To fully understand and interpret its meaning, the Church relies on tradition, the teaching about it from past ages, and reason, our continuing reflection on its meaning in the light of new knowledge as it appears in human history.
Tradition ensures that new understandings of the Bible and Christian behavior are guided by those of the church throughout history. Changes in interpretation are not undertaken lightly or in response to passing ‘fads’ — the Church rather seeks to discern, within the changes, the fundamental consistencies in the continuing revelation of God’s purpose and will. The process takes place in community, informed by a knowledge of history, language and culture.
Reason is the human faculty by which we are able to discern the will of God, attempt to understand it and apply it to our daily lives. Prayerful thinking — and listening — are essential obligations. Episcopalians treasure the work of scientists, historians, artists and other seekers of truth within nature, history and culture, believing that no truth or excellence from any source could possibly threaten or diminish God, the ultimate Source of all truth, beauty and community.
Episcopalians believe that the best way to arrive at truth in belief and action is to respect the interplay and even the tension among differing views. We seek to include as many perspectives as possible within our basic consistency of Christian belief, and to guard against extremes. This is the Anglican via media or middle way.
Openness to inquiry, and to the views of others with whom we share our ‘common prayer’, as well as those outside our fellowship, is essential for growing in the faith. No matter how many questions we ask about religious faith or the physical universe, the answers will always lead ultimately to ever-deeper appreciation of the mystery and majesty of God.
The union of human beings with God is a life-long spiritual journey requiring discipline, inquiry, prayer and an openness to change—including our own.
Although human beings continually violate the will of God for us, the natural world and the societies we create, God remains committed to engagement with human history. We are likewise commanded to treat the material world and the people in it as the cherished creations of a loving God. We are to honor the image of God in each other through self-sacrificing love and through our respect and care for all creation.
What we pray is what we believe. Common — shared — prayers throughout the church, not a list of doctrine, binds us together. These are found in the Book of Common Prayer.