Are Episcopalians Required to Follow Their Church Teachings?

One thing I am very confused about when looking at the Anglican Communion in general, but especially the Episcopal Church, is that there is such a wide array of views. I don’t understand how this can be. What does the Episcopal Church ask believers to actually believe? For instance, if I oppose homosexuality in the Episcopal Church, is that against church teachings in the same way it is in the Catholic Church? What if I don’t believe in baptism or the Eucharist? Can an Episcopalian explain this to me?

The Anglican Communion has a very wide range of believers. Some are high church Anglicans, so much more similar to Catholicism in terms of liturgy and customs. Others are much more low-church (and I don’t mean “low church” in a disparaging way, of course) and therefore closer to Evangelicalism.

While the Episcopal Church is extremely liberal, opening up with regards to subjects such as homosexuality, abortion, and women bishops, others Anglican groups in the United States are far more traditional, such as the Anglican Church in North America. And while the liberal groups like the Episcopal Church and the Church of England are in free-fall in terms of membership, the breakaway conservative groups are growing strong.

We should note that the Anglican Communion has no real overarching authority like the Roman Catholic Church. More than anything, they are a series of Anglican churches that are in* communion* with one another. The Archbishop of Canterbury has no real influence or say in what the other communities do.

There still are some more conservative parishes within the Episcopal Church itself, in opposition to the new general consensus, but they are steadily dwindling (unsurprisingly).

The Anglican church lacks the authority to bind its members to believe anything.

Thanks for the reply and the information! Very interesting to hear that. Anyone else have a view on the matter? I would still like to hear from an actual Episcopalian.

Well, in my parish there is a great deal of good humour about our awkward place in the Church. I asked one of the churchwardens about it and he summed it up as ‘We don’t like the Diocese, and the Diocese don’t like us!’

One of our priests, after congratulating Rome for appointing two new bishops ‘who actually believe in the Christian religion’, asked us to pray that the Queen might do the same in the Canterbury successor.


That is why I became a Catholic 20 years ago.

I think most Episcopalians would say that what unites them are the historical creeds and the faith espoused in the Book of Common Prayer (lex orandi, lex credendi). Everything else is up for discussion and debate. And I don’t think they would see that as a bad thing.

If someone said they don’t believe in baptism or the Eucharist (whatever it means to “believe in” those things) they certainly wouldn’t be excommunicated, but I think people would simply wonder what that person like that is doing in a liturgical church when they would have much more in common with non-sacramental Christians.

I am not an actual Episcopalian. But have you ever seen me use the word “motley”?


The post is accurate. It could also mention the Continuing Anglicans, but what the heck.


Don’t forget the Anglican Churches in Africa, Asia, and South America tend to be very traditional.

The first thing to understand is that Anglicans including US Episcopalians have, since the beginning of the Oxford Movement in England, held a variety of views about any number of topics, but principally regarding the sacraments. There are those who believe that there are only two (Eucharist and Baptism) and those, like me, who hold that there are the full seven. Also, I believe in the Real Presence and I think my belief is fully in line with Roman Catholic positions. There is a wide range of beliefs in this area.

In modern times, the wide variety of belief was extended to beliefs associated with the ordination of women, the service in the church of those who engage in homosexual relationships, and “gay marriage”.

I personally do not approve of gay marriage or of ordination of homosexuals who are not celibate. I am ambivalent about women’s ordination, but I recognize that for the greater goal of Christian unity, that particular application of women’s equality needs to be sacrificed.

So, unlike the Catholic Church which has a well defined set of beliefs, the Episcopal Church has an ill defined set of beliefs. I think that in each case, one would look at the people in the pews and wonder what, exactly, they believe.

Oh, we do affirm every line in the Nicene Creed. Do all Anglicans believe what they pronounce? Do all Catholics?

I’m a thinkin’ I might like your parish!

Very good point…Strange how that has occurred. I wonder how liberalism has inserted itself so successfully in so many of these mainline protestant churches compared to other churches.

Very good post. I am certainly gathering that there is a wide range of views, but I guess what I still don’t understand is, if the Episcopal Church says gay marriage is ok, for instance, and you believe its wrong, does it matter at all? What is the point of the Episcopal Church leadership making decisions about anything if no one has to listen to them?

This is precisely what I mean! Very strange how in the Anglican Communion, everyone in a parish can say their superiors are wrong but still choose to stay in their church. Again, what is the point of church leadership making decisions if no one has to listen to them? If it’s all just kind of “up for debate,” why are they even making definitive pronouncements?

The Episcopal Church has recently permitted the development of ceremonies for Gay Unions, specifically not called “marriage” or “wedding”.

Most of what the Episcopal Church leadership does is run things. They run dioceses, they run seminaries, they run cathedrals, they run dioceses that try to retain orthodox belief out of the church. They run toward controversy.

I understand your point about belief. I believe we are in a transitional phase at present. I am trying to see how to either remain Episcopalian or swallow the pill and become Catholic (perhaps a bad analogy but there you have it).

I live near the epicenter of gay marriage, and seeing gay couples and families where there are two mothers is no longer surprising or shocking. I am in favor of tolerance and against prejudice. But I am not prepared to call their unions “marriage”.

In my parish, a traditional and fairly conservative one, there is a lesbian couple whom I personally love. They are mature and elegant, and they encounter little if any prejudice.

I agree. It is strange for Catholics. But it is really the norm in The CofE, the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, and of Australia (excepting the Diocese of Sydney).

This wide divergence of opinion in matters of doctrine at least is a product of the fact that the Church of England was born out of a compromise between the people who felt that Christianity in England needed more reform and those who felt it had had enough reform. I imagine there was a pretty loud and raucous faction who felt that England didn’t need an official state church at all, that that was too similar to what they had already rejected in the form of Rome.

I am sure this is, at the very least, partially true. But still, I would like to hear from an Anglican or Episcopalian on why they believe that it is ok to reject their church’s teachings.

I think whether you’re aware of it or not you’re imposing a Catholic ecclesiology on an essentially non-Catholic entity.

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