Although I was raised in the United Methodist Church, I am now a confirmed and devout Episcopalian. I was drawn to this Christian denomination roughly two or three years ago (though I still see much value in the Methodist tradition which molded me over the years).
If you aren’t quite sure what an Episcopalian is, allow me to enlighten you. Simply put, the Episcopal Church is the primary American branch of the global Anglican Communion (not counting, for the pedants among you, the ACNA or other “continuing Anglican” groups in the USA).
The Anglican Communion is a worldwide fellowship of churches that are all descendended from the Church of England. Generally, Anglicans worldwide share similar liturgical and spiritual traditions, style, and practice. One of the best shared features of the Communion is its reliance on the “three-legged stool” to determine what comprises church authority; to Anglicans, the Bible, Church Tradition, and Human Reason are those three legs.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the symbolic head of this Communion.
That said, there is no ecumenical body or individual person with doctrinal authority over the whole communion as there is in the Roman Catholic Church. This has led to there being a very wide range of beliefs, practices, and worship styles within the Anglican Communion.
This variation even exists from parish to parish within each province. Some parishes are more low-church or Evangelical leaning; some are more high-church or Catholic-leaning. However, as stated before, all of the constituent autonomous churches (also known as “provinces” of the Communion), and all of the parishes within each province, are still similar to one another in many ways.
The Episcopal Church (aka, the “TEC”) in the United States is likely the most progressive province in the Anglican Communion. Time and time again, TEC has viewed itself as the “prophetic voice” in the Communion. Since the 1960s, TEC has made many radical changes to church policy, oftentimes leading the way for the other Anglican churches to follow suit.
That said, the tendency for TEC to act in this manner has oftentimes caused division within the global Communion and within its own jurisdiction. TEC made early waves by being the first in the Communion to ordain women as priests and bishops. More recently, they made even larger waves with the ordination of an openly-gay man as a bishop.
Reactions to these dramatic changes in church policy have been extreme and varied. Many of the more traditional Episcopalians left the church and founded their own, more conservative Anglican churches.
However, many have stayed–even some of the more traditional or conservative Members.
The most special thing about The Episcopal Church, you see, is its policy of radical hospitality. All are welcome–even those who disagree with the majority of other Episcopalians. Indeed, the Church’s national slogan is, “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You!”
What this means is that no matter where you are on your journey with God, how literally you feel we should take the Bible, or what your personal opinions are on gay marriage or the filioque, YOU ARE WELCOME.
In my opinion, this radical hospitality is the foundational principle upon which all Anglican provinces–and indeed all Christian Churches–should be based. Jesus invited everyone to come and learn from him, regardless of their background or personal opinions.
My fingers are getting tired from typing, so I’ll return to this topic again later. However, before I go, I would like to personally invite YOU to come and experience the Episcopal Church. No matter where you are on your journey with the Divine, YOU ARE WELCOME!