Friday, November 21, 2014


Here are answers to some of the questions we hear from newcomers--or that we remember we had when we became Episcopalians (most of us are not "cradle Episcopalians"). For even more information, check out our Glossary page and our Links to other sites.



What is the Episcopal Church about, really? What's your "claim to fame?" Here's the Episcopal Church's "Brand Strategy Statement:"

For those looking for more meaning and deepened spirituality, The Episcopal Church offers honest and unconditional acceptance, which removes barriers to Jesus Christ and permits belonging to an authentic church community.
What do you believe about homosexuals? The Episcopal Church has determined that church membership will not be determined on "marital status, sex, or sexual orientation."

The Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio has authorized its clergy to conduct blessings of same-gender unions.

Grace Church prides itself on having active members who are young and old, male and female, black and white, native-born and immigrant, and yes, gay and straight. In recent years, Grace has called two gay men to be our priests.
What about the role of women in the church? At this time, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church is a woman. Need we say more?
I was baptized elsewhere (in another church, in a lake by a friend, etc). Do you recognize my baptism?

Very probably. The Episcopal Church, along with the Roman Catholic Church and most other main line churches, recognizes any baptism done with the water in the name of the Trinity (Father, Son & Holy Spirit).  

Thus, there’s no such thing as being baptized twice.  If you're not sure you've been baptized, then a conditional baptism can be done, saying, “If you are not already baptized, then I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

The Episcopal Church believes that becoming a Christian means becoming a member of a Christian community. In the Episcopal Church, baptism is normally done during a regular worship service so the congregation can welcome the newly baptized person into the community. 

There is nothing that a baptized person needs to do to become a member of the Episcopal Church (other than to ask that his or her name be put on the register, and to participate). However, if a person wants a more formal recognition of his or her decision to join the church and community, the rite of Confirmation or Reception is available.

Why do you have Communion every Sunday? Doesn't that cheapen it? We have Eucharist (Communion, the Lord's Supper) almost every Sunday in celebration of Christ's resurrection on the first day of the week.  This practice dates from the first century, and originated in the meals to which Jesus invited all sorts and conditions of people.  God's saving act reconciling the world to himself is so important and yet so hard to internalize that it bears repeating.
Do you really say the same words every Sunday?  Where does spontaneity come in? There are variations, but we do pretty much follow the script in the Book of Common Prayer during our public worship. Having a script allows everyone, clergy and laity, to learn their parts and to participate, and participation not only makes for great worship, it expresses the meaning of being part of a Christian community  The texts used have developed over a period of 2000 years and are deep enough and subtle enough to be inspirational over a lifetime of use. 
Do you really drink wine at Communion? Yes we drink wine and eat bread at Communion.  If either presents a problem for you, it is ok to take just the other.
How do I receive Communion?

When you kneel or stand at the altar rail, you will be offered a wafer of consecrated bread and a sip of consecrated wine from the common cup (chalice).

The usual way to receive the bread is to place your one hand in the other, palms up, and then extend your open palms toward the server. To receive the wine from the chalice, it is helpful if you guide the chalice from the base of it to your lips.

If you prefer to dip the wafer into the wine, you may dip it yourself or you may hand it to the chalice bearer to dip into the wine.

Or you may choose not to receive the wine.

If you do not wish to receive communion, you are still invited to come to the altar rail to receive a blessing from the priest. Please indicate this by folding your arms across your chest.

Isn't sipping wine from a common cup unsanitary? Those who have studied the question tell us that this practice is no more dangerous than the usual contact with other people, such as shaking hands. We know of no instance where disease has been spread through use of the common cup. If you are uncomfortable with this practice, you may take bread only at Communion
You do a lot of kneeling, standing and sitting.  How do I know what to do when?  And what's it all about anyway? Traditionally, we have said that we stand to sing, kneel to pray and sit to listen.  But sometimes we stand when we pray and sit when we sing.  And sometimes some people stand while others are kneeling.  What you are seeing is a mixture of traditions, especially with respect to prayer, where both standing and kneeling are considered to be respectful postures.

Don't worry getting it "right."  Episcopalians usually grant others the independence of thought and action that they expect for themselves.
What do I call the clergy? The only way to really know what to call an ordained person is to ask. Episcopal clergy may want to be called "Father Jones" or "Father Joe" or "Ms" or "Mrs." or "Mother" or "Mr." or "Joe," or "Mary." 

There is one almost-certain rule: Episcopalians never address their priest as "Reverend."  "The Reverend" is used as a title when referring to a priest in the third person.
Where did the Episcopal Church come from? The Episcopal Church in the United States inherits many centuries of catholic and apostolic tradition. Missionaries brought Christianity to England in the second century. The faith flourished and became organized as the Church of England in the 16th century.  English colonists brought the Anglican (English) Church to the United States. After the American Revolution, we separated from the Church of England and became known as the Episcopal Church.
But King Henry the VIII was your founder, right? It would be more accurate to say that Christ was our founder. 

The roots of the Anglican Church (and thus the Episcopal Church) go back to the English Christian Church founded in the the second century or so, which, over time, became subservient to the bishop in Rome.  What Henry and his Parliament did was to declare that the English Church was again independent from and equal to the Roman Church as had been other national churches (the Greek and the Ethiopian churches, for example) since the beginning.
I see people crossing themselves.  Am I expected to?  What's it mean? As with many Episcopal customs, crossing oneself is optional.  Making the sign of the cross was used from the earliest times to sanctify every action of daily life from morning to night.  Presently it usually signifies giving or receiving a blessing.
Do you have a pope?

No. In fact Anglicans (which includes Episcopalians) have no central authority as such.  A worldwide Anglican Church does not exist, at least not in the form that one might think. There are nearly 40 independent Anglican churches, none of which has authority over any other. The Episcopal Church in the United States is one of these Anglican churches. The Anglican Communion has no Pope, no Patriarch, no overall director nor any Parliament or Congress either. See Anglican.

Then you're Protestants, right? Not really, even though the name of the Episcopal Church used to contain the word "protestant."  We like to think of ourselves as the "via media"--the middle way-- between protestants and Roman Catholics.  We are both catholic and evangelical with roots going back to the historic Episcopate of the Apostles. We are one part of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
What do you believe?

The Episcopal Church will not tell you what to believe. We offer a thoughtful approach to religion. We believe faith involves a measure of reason as well as emotion. Our doctrine is designed to point out, not dictate, your response to God's continuing revelation.

That being the case, individual Episcopalians' beliefs will differ from one another's and from what the Church proclaims. That's ok, we're all on a lifetime journey.

The Episcopal Church's intent is to focus is on God's love and on His invitation to respond in mature freedom, in thanksgiving, and in loving devotion.

The Episcopal Church teaches that morality is positive, rather than negative. It is rooted in Jesus' summary of the law: "to love God with heart, mind and soul and to love one's neighbor as oneself." The focus of Christian morality is not on laws and restrictions but on free and mature response to God's love and in responsibility to our neighbors.

The Episcopal Church proclaims one God,
• the Father who creates us and things,
• the Son who redeems us from sin and death
• the Holy Spirit who renews us as the Children of God.

The Episcopal Church holds the Holy Scriptures (the Bible) to be the Word of God and to contain all things necessary for salvation. We believe God inspired the Bible's human authors and continues to speak to us through the Bible.

The Episcopal Church affirms that salvation is the end of our separation from God and the beginning of a new relationship with God and one another. The Apostles' and Nicene Creeds are basic statements of our beliefs in God.”

Finally, perhaps the best way to discover what Episcopalians believe is to participate in our worship and join us in our work in the world.

For more on what we believe, see "What we believe" on the Southern Ohio Diocese website here.

On a lighter note, you might enjoy Top 10 Reasons to be an Episcopalian by Robin Williams.

Do you have private confession?  Are Episcopalians expected to go to confession? Yes we have private confession, which we call Reconciliation of a Penitent, and any priest can and will offer you this sacrament.  But we don't have confessionals and we don't require private confession.  Virtually every public worship service we do contains a prayer of confession followed by an absolution.
How do I join the Episcopal Church?

We expect all Episcopalians to be Baptized. Nothing more is required to participate in the life of the church. If you have not been baptized, and you want to join up,  contact us to make arrangements.

If you wish to make a public, adult, affirmation of faith, you may choose to be Confirmed at the next bishop's visitation. If you have made a mature public profession of faith in another tradition and desire to affiliate with the Episcopal church may choose to be Received into the Episcopal Church rather than Confirmed.

In any case, you always have the option of publicly reaffirming your baptismal vows, even after confirmation, if you so choose--but this is a highly personal matter, and not in any way required.

How do I join Grace Church? It's simple: Let us know you want to be a member, and we'll add you to our membership list.

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