One of the greatest things about being Episcopalian is that there are all different kinds. Conservatives, liberals, funny people, serious people, black folks, white folks, Hispanics, and Asians can all be Episcopalian. Some are old, and some are young. Some are straight, and some are gay. Some are really sure about their faith, and some find it to be a constant struggle.
What ties us together is our belief in the love of God, especially as Jesus talked about it. Jesus taught us that God's deepest hope for us is that we would love God and love our neighbors (Matt. 22:37-40).
What Episcopalians Believe
Q. Do Episcopalians believe in the Bible?
A. We sure do. We read the Bible aloud in church every Sunday, and if you come for three years straight, you will have heard almost the entire Bible. Some Episcopalians read the Bible literally while others see it as something that requires new interpretation with the passage of time. Either way, we take it very seriously, and we believe that it has much to tell us about who God is, who we are, and how God wants us to live.
Q. Do Episcopalians believe in Jesus?
A. Absolutely we do. We believe, like most other Christians, that Jesus is the clearest picture God has ever given us of who God is. God loves us so much that God came to be one of us, and when we turned against him, crucified, and killed him, God used it as a way to conquer death forever ... not just for himself, but for all of us.
Q. Do Episcopalians believe in sin?
A. Yep, but we also believe very much in a forgiving God. "Sin" is just a churchy word for "missing the mark" or "turning away." God knows that we won't always get everything right, and God is always waiting for us when our greed, busy-ness, and self-centeredness get us off on the wrong track.
Q. What makes Episcopalians different?
A. There are two things that make us different from many other denominations. One is that we usually serve Communion every Sunday. If you're not used to that, it can seem strange at first, but we see it as a great way to worship and the perfect way to remember all that God has done for us.
The other thing that makes us kind of different from many churches around is that most Episcopalians don't spend too much time talking about hell. Some churches make it seem like we were all born evil and have to do a lot of hard work to stay out of hell. We tend to believe that God made us very good, that God's love for us is greater than we can imagine, and that God's grace will ultimately do most of the hard work in keeping us out of hell. Of course, that doesn't mean we get to live crazy, sinful lives. It just means that we believe God is not a God who holds our humanity against us, especially since God's the one who created us.
How Episcopalians Worship
Q. What's a typical service like?
A. At most Episcopal Churches, a typical Sunday service has two parts: the Word and Communion. The Word is where we hear Scripture readings, say our prayers, and listen to the sermon. Communion is where we share the Bread and Wine as Jesus commanded us to do before he died.
Q. What kind of music do Episcopalians use?
A. All kinds. Some Episcopal churches only use the hymnal with an organ and choir. At St. Luke's, we use bells and other instruments, and we sing everything from hymns to bluegrass and gospel songs.
Q. Can anybody come?
A. Oh yes. We believe that God does not restrict anyone from coming to God's table, so neither do we. All are allowed to come and worship, and all are allowed to take Communion with us.
Q. Why are your pastors called "priests"?
A. It's an old tradition that goes way back to our earliest roots when we were once part of the Roman Catholic Church. Really, our priests aren't much different from most pastors. They lead church services; they pray for their congregations and the world; they teach and learn; they counsel; and they visit those in need.
Q. What role do women play?
A. We believe God created both male and female in God's image and therefore do not discriminate. Women can have any role in the Episcopal Church that men can, including deacons, priests, and bishops. In fact, the new presiding bishop of the entire Episcopal Church happens to be a woman.
Q. What about homosexuality?
A. The Episcopal Church is working hard right now to listen to God about homosexuality, and we're doing that by praying and by listening to scripture, tradition, science, and one another. It's hard work, but we feel that it's worth it. At St. Luke's we believe that God does not exclude anyone from God's table, so all are invited to worship and celebrate the gift of life that God has given us.