The Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States

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Audrey Rochester

The Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States is an American offshoot of the Church of England, which was started by Henry VIII in 1534. Those who adhere to the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States are known as Episcopalians. According to Webster’s Dictionary, the first use of the word ‘Episcopalian’ was in 1659. The Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States became a unified national church in the United States of America in 1789, as a result of a meeting in Philadelphia. 

Both the Church of England and the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States use the Book of Common Prayer, seventy percent of which is directly derived from the Holy Bible itself, during worship. The first American Book of Common Prayer was published in 1789. A revised version of the American Book of Common Prayer was published in 1928. Alan Jacobs’ The Book of Common Prayer: A Biography had this to say about the 1928 edition of the American Book of Common Prayer:

The Standard Book of the 1928 American prayer book, designed by Daniel Berkeley Updike and printed by the Merrymount Press, is a masterpiece of American bookmaking.

(Jacobs, 180)

Another revision of the Book of Common Prayer used in America was published in 1979. The Book of Common Prayer can also be found online at https://www.bcponline.org.

Episcopalians are Baptized, similar to Baptist denominations of Christianity. In addition to Baptisms, Episcopalians also partake in Holy Communion, which is sometimes called the Eucharist. Episcopal worship also involves Baptismal Covenant, Catechism, Creeds, and Sacraments. The Baptismal Covenant involves a series of questions a new Christian must answer during Baptism; the questions, some of which are modeled after the Apostles’ Creed, are about what it means to be a Christian. According to Webster’s Dictionary, the word Catechism is believed to have first been used in 1502. Catechism is defined as: oral instruction, often in the form of questions and answers, summarizing religious doctrines.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, a Creed is a formal statement of Christian beliefs. One of the Creeds used in Episcopal worship is the Apostles’ Creed. The Apostles’ Creed is a statement of belief in the Holy Trinity and acknowledgement of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection which led to the forgiveness of sins and salvation of a new Christian. Other Creeds used in the Episcopal Church include the Nicene Creed, used during Communion, and the Creed of Saint Athanasius, which also acknowledges the Holy Trinity. The Creed of Saint Athanasius is also sometimes called Quicunque Vult. The Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed hold special significance to Episcopalians.

The Apostles’ Creed is as follows:

I believe in God, the Father almighty,

creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord.

He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit,

and born of the Virgin Mary.

He suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended to the dead. 

On the third day he rose again.

He ascended into heaven,

and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the holy catholic church,

the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

The Nicene Creed is as follows:

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.

The Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed have many similarities to each other. Additionally, the Creeds appear to be somewhat poetic and involve the use of repetition. 

Oxford Dictionary defines Sacrament as a religious ceremony or a religious ritual that is meant to impart God’s grace. Sacraments relating to Episcopal worship include: Confirmation, Matrimony, Reconciliation of a Penitent, Unction, and Orders. The Orders Sacraments are used for the ordination of bishops, priests, and deacons. Unction involves the anointing of the ill and dying with oil. The Sacraments for Confirmation and Matrimony are likely the Sacraments that the general public is most familiar with. An altered version of the Matrimonial Sacrament is often used in the wedding scenes of various motion picture films and television episodes.

Episcopalians, despite being Protestant, appear to favor more traditional worship, as opposed to more hardcore branches of Protestantism that tend to distance themselves from the worship style of the Catholic Church. However, the Episcopal Church appears to blend more traditional and more modern forms of worship. The Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States separates itself from other denominations of Christianity, and is a subject of fascination for some.

References

https://www.episcopalchurch.org/posts/publicaffairs/episcopal-church-core-beliefs-and-doctrines

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/catechism

https://www.episcopalchurch.org/baptismal-covenant

https://www.ccel.org/creeds/apostles.creed.hmtl

https://www.episcopalchurch.org/history-american-church

http://www.episcopalresources.us/WhatWeBelieve/Creeds.html

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definitiion/creed

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/sacrament