The three basics
In a nutshell, we believe the Holy Scriptures contain all things necessary for salvation. We affirm our God given reason and intellect to discern God’s will for us in the world and we see ourselves and those who have come before us as potters molding the clay of the tradition we have received.
Common prayer rather than doctrine
It can be confusing for people outside the Episcopal Church to put their finger on what we are and what we believe. That’s because, unlike other denominations, we don’t have any documents which lay out exactly what the teachings of the church are on most matters.
Instead, our central document is the Book of Common Prayer, which defines our worship rather than our doctrines as what unifies us. Episcopalians worship together, in common. During the service, the Nicene or Apostles’ Creed will be recited, which are the only doctrinal statements we have. There are no requirements that a layperson believes a particular doctrine to become an Episcopalian. It has been said, “You can believe pretty much anything you want, so long as you enjoy going to services together with us.”
What we do agree on
Episcopalians consider themselves one part of the catholic (with a small-c meaning “universal”) church, of which all baptized Christians are members, not separate from or superior to other denominations. And we do not insist that ours is the only or even the best way.
So what is the minimum amount of agreement we need? Here’s what’s been offered:
1. The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the revealed Word of God.
2. The Nicene Creed is the sufficient statement of the Christian Faith.
3. There are two sacraments, Baptism and the Supper of the Lord, ministered with unfailing use of Christ’s words of institution and of the elements ordained by Him.
4. The Historic Episcopate (Bishops), locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called by God into the unity of His Church.
If we talk in terms of dogma (which are core beliefs that are non-negotiable) as opposed to doctrine (on which different positions may be held), there are really only two for Episcopalians: the doctrines of the Trinity, and of the two natures (both human and divine) in one person in Jesus Christ. All the rest, while important, are not core to Episcopal identity. The other doctrines, such as the Resurrection, are implied by these two.
Questions are welcomed and encouraged
As Episcopalians, we believe that our faith journey lasts a lifetime, and that there will be questions and doubts along the way. We welcome thoughtful questions and debate and we always try to provide a loving and accepting environment in which we all can explore and deepen our faith.