What We Believe

Because of the unique history of the Church of England, you find various mixes of Catholic and Protestant ideas and practices in the Anglican Communion, which includes the Episcopal Church USA. There is no one way to be Episcopalian. One result of this is that we have great opportunities for dialogue about the purpose of the church in the world today, how to approach interpreting the Bible, etc. We should be willing to challenge ourselves constantly as we seek wisdom wherever we may find it, because any human understanding of God is necessarily incomplete.

The Episcopal Church is strongly rooted in Scripture. We think, though, that passages of the Bible do not necessarily yield their meaning right away, especially given the historical and cultural distance between the contexts in which they were written down and our own lives. There is a vital role for reason in interpreting Scripture and in bringing a Christian understanding to those matters on which it is silent. We also look to the traditions of the church for guidance, since many of today's problems have been faced before, but tradition cannot take the place of the living Spirit among us.

The creeds are traditional summaries of Christian beliefs. Though they are not found in the Bible itself, they express vital Biblical themes and tell, in miniature, the story of Christ. They have been refined over many centuries of church history (but not without a great deal of conflict). We say the Nicene Creed at each of our worship services.

It is worth considering closely what each part of the creed means. One thing that may seem odd is the use of the word "catholic" in the last section, since this word is so closely associated with the Roman Catholic Church, and while the Anglican Communion has a great many points of contact with Roman Catholicism, as organizations they are completely separate. There is an older meaning of "catholic" which is something like "universal." That is, we see ourselves as one part of the entire Church, which is all who follow Christ, whatever their differences in ideas and practices.

The Nicene Creed

We believe in one God,
    the Father, the Almighty,
    maker of heaven and earth,
    of all that is, seen and unseen.
 
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
    the only Son of God,
    eternally begotten of the Father,
    God from God, Light from Light,
    true God from true God,
    begotten, not made,
    of one Being with the Father.
    Through him all things were made.
    For us and for our salvation
        he came down from heaven:
    by the power of the Holy Spirit
        he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
        and was made man.
    For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
        he suffered death and was buried.
        On the third day he rose again
            in accordance with the Scriptures;
        he ascended into heaven
            and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
   He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
        and his kingdom will have no end.
 
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, 
    who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
    With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
    He has spoken through the Prophets.
    We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
    We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
    We look for the resurrection of the dead,
        and the life of the world to come. Amen.
(Book of Common Prayer, pp. 358-359)