American Catholics = Episcopalians?


My brother’s wife was originally Presbyterian who was in NO WAY converting to Catholicism when she and my brother went to pre-marriage counseling. The priest told her she was going to go to Hell if she didn’t convert, yadda yadda yadda and she was so hurt and disgusted that any hope that she would convert faded. So, my brother and his wife tried to pick a common ground - “Catholic Light” or Episcopalian.

My brother’s good friend was in town and I heard him also being Episcopalian. I was very surprised. Both he and my brother were very active in the Catholic chruch in high school and even afterwards.

I asked why they were all converting (not being argumentative, but I didn’t understand why). My sister-in-law told me that American Catholics are really more inline with the Episcopalian church b/c of things like birth control and other things (can’t remember what she said).

I guess she was saying that both churches believe most of the same things (some do the Rosary, they believe in Saints, etc…).

I really don’t know much about the Episcopal church, though I’ve been many times for events with my nieces. The service is like a copy of our Mass - which surprised me.

I think the Bishops who started the Episcopal church were originally Catholics who split, but would like to know more info because I think there must be some really important differences between the two churches.


Episcopalians are essentially American Anglicans. (The Anglican Church broke away from the Catholic Church in the 1500s, the Episcopalians changed their name and became pretty autonomous after the Independence of the USA from England).

It has retained some of its Catholic-ness in regards to externals, but they now ordain women, support homosexual unions, contraception, most reject sacramental confession, many reject the Real Presence (they have invalid orders anyway), they approve of divorce, etc. These things are approved positions within the Episcopal Church, not dissenting opinions.

They are called “Catholic lite” because they still retain liturgical worship and a hierarchy, and general Apostolic Christian theology, but that’s about it–but they seem to be drifting farther away in more recent years.

Why anyone would want the lite version of God’s truth and love instead of the complete version He intends us to have is beyond my comprehension…


I am an ex-cradle Catholic turned Episcopalian a few years ago. I can tell you that the two churches agree on about 90% of beliefs. You saw first hand how similar that the services are. I would dare say that the Anglican church is the most similar to the Roman Catholic church of all the Protestant churches. I love the Episcopal church. I have really been connected with the Holy Spirit there. Although many Catholics would disagree with me, I have a much sharper focus on my relationship with Christ and with my Anglican brothers and sisters since being in the church. Of the differences there are, the Assumption, the perpetual virginity of Mary, indulgences, required sacremental confession, the Immaculate Conception. Episcopalians do not regard any of these as church teaching. Does that help??


John Henry Newman (who would later become a Catholic Cardinal) used to try and perceive Anglicanism/Episcopalianism as the “via media” or middle way between Protestantism and Catholicism. He of course found this to be untenable and became a Catholic.


I agree with much of what you said here pertaining to Episcopalians, but many of us in the US are more consistently calling ourselves Anglicans because of many of those things you mentioned. I am not in support of gay unions, ordaining actively gay clergy, rejecting sacremental confession and abortion. many Anglicans here in the US are of those same beliefs.


We are adhering to traditional Anglican church teachings and not the progression of TEC.


The chief ingrediant, and its biggest problem or most attractive feature (depending on whom you ask) is its ability to be all things to all peoples, and has been so since the beginning.

Archbishop Cramner wrote the basis of Episcopalian/Anglican worship, the Book of Common Prayer for King Edward NOT Henry VIII. Henry had made the church in England subervient to him, and had confiscated monastaries, etc. but had no definite program for a church. The Anglican Church basically started as a diocese with the King instead of Pope giving orders (btw, the Queen’s title “Defendor of the Faith” was given by the pope of Rome to Henry VIII for a pamphlet he had written in defense of seven sacraments). But since Henry wasn’t persecuting Protestants as the Latins were doing on the Continent, soon Calvinist, Lutheran and other ideas were floating around in England. When Cramner went about compiling the service book, he had an array of “believers” from those who accepted the king as the head of the church but changed nothing else, to those believed in predesination, denied the Real Presence etc. So the services were based on the rites (i.e. Roman) in use in England at the time, translated into English, and then removing any language that any group on this continuum would object (hence references to the Blessed Virgin, Saints, etc went out, or reworded to be acceptable to everyone). This resulted in some weird combinations, chief being the Anglican continuance of bishops (hence Episcopalian) with a Calvinist theology (Priesthood of All Believers).

Later you got various groups, some moving more Traditional, Catholic (“Anglo-Catholic”) and some going more Protestant. This is sometimes refered to High and Low Church.

The problem is now Episcopalian doesn’t mean anything anymore. There are those who are more Catholic thant the pope, and others more Protestant than Billy Graham. this leads to odd combinations: I once went to a Episcopalian service which was chanted in Gregorian Chant in Latin, where the priest was living with his lover, and most of the congregation were gay.

The Anglican-Episcopalians like to refer to themselves as a bridge, the Western Orthodox or the Catholic Church in England/US. They came up with the branch theory of the Church to explain themselves I guess to themselves, as neither the Latins nor the Orthodox buy it. As the mainstream church has become increasingly liberal various groups are breaking off and getting themselves under conservative bishops in e.g. Africa.

Others have just decided to go East or Swim the Tiber. Some have gone East and Swam the Tiber have taken the BCP with them: in the Orthodox Church there is a Rite with the BCP corrected to agree with Orthodoxy, and their is not exactly a rite but a dispensation in the Latin church with a revision of the BCP called the Book of Worship I believe.


Yes, both are helpful :slight_smile: I’m fully a believer in “freedom of religion” so I respect the religion of my brother (especially for his children). I have to say that I sometimes look forward to going to church with them because I’m with family. For instance, I went to Mass on Easter Sunday (by myself) and then went with them later that day. I personally don’t feel as religiously moved when I go with them (don’t know why), but it’s nice to share the moment with family (we are all praying to the same God), so it’s a very positive experience overall.

I struggle with holding up my part of the debate b/c my brother calls me a Cafeteria Catholic :frowning: (which I suppose I am in some ways). Thanks for the info.


Great information! I know there is much turmoil in the Ep. church. There was a vote at my brother’s church to split. I don’t know what ever became of it, but I suppose we’re watching history in action.


Ah, you hit on something there. Our church REALLY goes all out to amplify the Easter Eucharist. Your post is most cordial.


Very true! I’ve been to Easter services there many times and it’s a wonderful service. I’ve gone for Christmas, Ash Wendesday, First Communions, you name it.

Sometimes I just want to do the Catholic thing and just go by myself to my church and meet for Sunday dinner, but I often don’t mind going to both in one day if I can work it out.

Of course, my brother doesn’t mind going to Catholic Mass with me - but this is usually when we go back home to Boston (we like visiting our old church and Catholic school in the neighborhood where we grew up).


In the early 20th-century, the Episcopalians considered changing their name to “The American Catholic Church”. They decided to remain Episcopalians.:smiley:


The Episcopal Church in the US derives its orders from the Episcopal Church in Scotland, which at that time, as now, was in communion with the Church of England. So it’s Episcopal - but not Anglican; except in the sense that the communion in which it is a Church is the Anglican Communion. (How long this will continue to be so, God alone knows :()

The Episcopalian Church in Scotland is not the same as the Presbyterian Church of Scotland; one is governed by bishops, the other by elders.


The Priesthood of All Believers (actually the Royal Priesthood of the Baptized) is a Catholic belief, not invented by Calvin or any other schismatic. The Early Church Fathers wrote often about how all the baptized (both male and female) share in the one priesthood of Jesus Christ, our High Priest. The only distinctive thing about the Protestant schismatics is that they believe in the Priesthood of the Baptized instead of, rather than in addition to, the Ordained Priesthood.

See The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraphs 1141, 1174, 1268, 1279, 1657 and 1669 for information on the Royal Priesthood of the Baptized.

God bless,


Yes, that’s why I labeled it Calvinist, and used the Protestant term. I don’t recall Protestants using the Royal Priesthood Label (to avoid the word Priesthood I’d thinkz: odd, as it’s Biblical I Peter 2:9). Only Orthodox and Latins use the Biblical term.

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