“The Episcopal Church Welcomes You”

When you spot a red, white and blue sign with this greeting, you are within blocks of one of the approximately 7500 congregations that make up the Episcopal church in the United States (ECUSA). The name “Episcopal” comes from the Greek word for Bishops, and we carry that name for it describes the system of oversight in this denomination. We are part of the world-wide Anglican Communion located in 38 Provinces and 66 Countries, with a membership of over 80 million persons. We are known by several names: the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church, and the Church of England. If you know of Bishop Desmond Tutu, he is one of our Bishops. If you saw part of the memorial service for Princess Diana, it was coming from our Westminster Abbey.

“The Episcopal Church Welcomes You.” More than any other single factor, this is what I would like you to know about us. We are a Church firmly rooted in Holy Scripture, the tradition of the Church passed down from the time of the original Apostles, and Reason; that is to say, we believe that God continues to reveal divine truth through the minds and experiences of followers of Jesus Christ. We sometimes refer to this as “The Three Legged Stool”.

We Episcopalians are a diverse and inclusive lot, not because we seek to be “politically correct” but because we believe diversity and inclusiveness are fundamental to the Christian Gospel or Good News, i.e. Christ was born for all and died for all. We are conservatives and liberals. We are people of every hue and color. We are people from all economic strata of society. We claim to be historically Catholic (part of the continuity of the historic Church as symbolized by our Bishops) and Protestant (claiming roots from the Reformation of the 16th century.

We are often viewed as a “bridge” Church with people from a variety of Christian traditions choosing to make their Church home with us. Indeed, the majority of our members were not born into the Episcopal Church. We are a Church that is very welcoming of doubters and questioners. If you are struggling with Who God Is?  Or even  Is there a God at all? Who is this Jesus and why should I commit my life to following him?  Or indeed,  What is the meaning of life at all?

You are invited to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling...” as St. Paul put it in his letter to the Philippians and to do so within the context of an encouraging, loving, and often challenging community that we call the Episcopal Church.

If you visit an Episcopal Church for the first time, you may be completely turned off by it as so much meaningless folderol. Our hope is to assist the worshipper to experience both the “wholly other” (transcendence) of God in Word, Sacrament, and within each person. In almost every Episcopal Church, Holy Communion (Holy Eucharist - “Thanksgiving”, or the Mass) is the regular service offered on Sundays. The service goes back to its institution by Jesus on the night before he died (“This is my body... This is my blood... Do this in remembrance of me.”) You will also see that we worship from the Book of Common Prayer, one of a succession of Prayer Books dating from the first English Prayer Book of 1549. This book contains the major Rites and Ceremonies of the Episcopal Church, from Marriage, Baptism, and Burial to Daily Devotions for Individuals and Families, as well as Jesus’ own “Prayer Book” the 150 Psalms.

Although I was raised in this Church (the offspring of a Jewish father and Episcopalian mother) I have remained in it because of its essentially inclusive non-dogmatic and non-judgmental approach towards the Christian Faith, towards other people, towards controversial issues, and towards people of other Faith traditions. It is possible, nay probable, that you may find yourself worshipping in the pew next to someone who holds views very much at odds with yours, e.g. on abortion, war, the death penalty, taxes, or on any number of other things. Having said this, those differences we believe, are transcended by our Baptisms, and so we gather around the altar for communion as brothers and sisters in Christ.


The Rt. Rev. Sanford Z.K. Hampton
Bishop Suffragan of Minnesota (resigned)
Assisting Bishop of Oregon
 

Reprinted with Permission