Episcopalians/Anglicans VS. Catholics

What are the differences and why is the Catholic Church the correct one over the others. What do Episcopalians believe in and how would I describe to a Baptist who might be looking into a liturgical church why the Catholic church is the one. Of course I know that we are the only one that can be traced back to St. Peter but how else can I stop them from going “well this one has the liturgy why can’t I just join them and not worry about the Pope and being called catholic?”

If you really want to know about the Episcopal Church, don’t rely on what you read here. Google “Book of Common Prayer” and “An Outline of the Faith, Commonly Called the Catechism,” or find a hard copy of the BCP and look for it near the back. Keep in mind that individual Episcopalians may not be able to answer your questions, just as individual Catholics might not be able to answer similar questions about the Catholic Church.

Anglicans will, obviously, disagree with what I say here, and in fairness you should see what they say about it too [arrogant sounding remark]and then we can explain here why they’re wrong[/arrogant sounding remark] (That was a joke. Mostly.). What follows is my best attempt at explaining things from a Catholic perspective. As with most Catholic or not issues, it boils down to a question of authority, what that means, and who has it, but in more detail:

I think the short answer is that wanting a valid liturgy without having to “worry about the Pope and being called Catholic” is like wanting to go to the moon without having to worry about whether the rocket will launch or not, and without being called an astronaut. But the short version:

Christ founded a Church and entrusted it to the Apostles led by St. Peter under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The bishops and the Pope are their successors. There have been a couple schisms, most notably with the Orthodox. But the Orthodox maintain the correct understanding of ordination, and so, while no longer under St. Peter, maintain Apostolic Succession (that is, their bishops are actually bishops in the sense of successors of the Apostles). They lack the same authority of the Catholic Church because they have separated themselves from it (not without help from some less than stellar Catholics at the time, I might add), but they maintain sacraments and are not terribly theologically separated from us.

But when the Anglicans split off, they so radically changed their ideas about the Mass and the priesthood that they no longer actually ordain validly - first, because they weren’t trying to do what ordination actually is, then because they did not have validly ordained bishops to do the ordaining. Lacking both bishops that are successors of the Apostles and the special guidance of the Holy Spirit that Christ promised to those successors in union with Peter, their theology has… wandered a bit recently.

Anglicanism also still has the basic authority/personal interpretation problem of Protestantism in general - though their bishops do lead them, they have in the recent past proclaimed contradictory things. What they profess now contradicts what they professed in the past, and there is no particular reason to think that this won’t continue - so we end up with an uncertain faith where there is no particular way for the person in the pew to determine if what their bishops are saying now is actually true or not, except to take his best guess. (Which is not, I think, what the Truth that will set us free is supposed to look like).

So yes, depending on which Anglican community he looks at, he may find one that looks kind of like Catholicism from a superficial external point of view. He may even find one that is reasonably close theologically on many issues. The primary differences lie in the question of authority and what exactly the priesthood is, I believe.

Examining theological issues makes sense, but picking a faith because it is liturgical and you like the ceremonies is like buying a house because you like the wallpaper. Not that the wallpaper isn’t important, but there are more important issues at hand. Again, the liturgy is extremely important, but it has this importance because it helps to reveal and bring us closer to the truth of the faith. Which is much more likely to occur if the liturgy is being celebrated in a Church that holds the true faith.

So I’d suggest that he find a faith that he thinks is true. Not wanting to worry about the Pope or being called Catholic is hiding from the truth. He needs to find out if the Pope is who he says, and if so then he should absolutely “worry” about him. As for worrying about being called Catholic… well, Christ had a thing or two to say about people who didn’t want to bear His name because of the inconvenience it could cause them. Best to worry about whether or not he should be Catholic, then let others call him what they like after he decides.

:thumbsup:

As an Anglican, I would argue that we do have valid sacraments and that our theology (at the core of classical Anglicanism) is not too terribly far off either. Sure, Anglicans can be all over the map, but the core of our teachings are not radically different.

But when the Anglicans split off, they so radically changed their ideas about the Mass and the priesthood that they no longer actually ordain validly - first, because they weren’t trying to do what ordination actually is, then because they did not have validly ordained bishops to do the ordaining. Lacking both bishops that are successors of the Apostles and the special guidance of the Holy Spirit that Christ promised to those successors in union with Peter, their theology has… wandered a bit recently.

How did we radically change our ideas about the Mass and the priesthood? We affirm the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist (per our Prayer Book). What we don’t do is venture off into the realm of philosophy in order to define it. However, the Prayer Book assures us that we do really and truly receive the body and blood of Christ. As far as our ideas of the priesthood, we do affirm the sacrificial nature of the mass (again see the Prayer Book), however, we do define “sacrifice” differently. See this article:

conciliaranglican.com/2012/06/14/on-the-eucharist-the-mass-is-a-sacrifice-its-just-not-a-mass/

We never stopped validly ordaining priests, regardless of the language. The laying of the hands remains to this day. If it is required that we use the so-called 100% correct language, then what do we say of the early church? Did the early apostles/bishops have the same understanding (and use the same language) of the priesthood as the 15th century church?

Anglicans believe that only Anglican priests that have been validly ordained by bishops in Apostolic Succession may preside over and celebrate the Eucharist.

Anglicanism also still has the basic authority/personal interpretation problem of Protestantism in general - though their bishops do lead them, they have in the recent past proclaimed contradictory things. What they profess now contradicts what they professed in the past, and there is no particular reason to think that this won’t continue - so we end up with an uncertain faith where there is no particular way for the person in the pew to determine if what their bishops are saying now is actually true or not, except to take his best guess. (Which is not, I think, what the Truth that will set us free is supposed to look like).

If we take an honest look at history, we will that this is the case in all churches and at all times. Doctrine takes time to develop and the church hasn’t always preached the exact same thing at all times in history with a 100% correct understanding of the truth. IMHO, we get into trouble when we try to define that which should be left a mystery.

So I’d suggest that he find a faith that he thinks is true. Not wanting to worry about the Pope or being called Catholic is hiding from the truth. He needs to find out if the Pope is who he says, and if so then he should absolutely “worry” about him. As for worrying about being called Catholic… well, Christ had a thing or two to say about people who didn’t want to bear His name because of the inconvenience it could cause them. Best to worry about whether or not he should be Catholic, then let others call him what they like after he decides.

Agreed. I would like to point out that my disagreements with Iron Donkey are coming from the Anglican perspective. Iron Donkey is conveying the Catholic position and as a good Catholic, Iron Donkey and any good Catholic should affirm this position.

Roger that.

GKC

From the catholic perspective (Anglicans don’t agree, mind you) the major difference is the Eucharist.

Catholics understand that Jesus established the Eucharist to BE the sacrifice made “once for all” spoken of in Scripture. We understand that Jesus established a priesthood whose purpose is both to protect and preach the faith, but also to be given the supernatural Grace to make the sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ physically present so that the people can enter into that great sacrificial offering (made once for ALL) in atonement for our sins. Ordination to the priesthood supernaturally changes the priest and gives him that gift of being able to consecrate the host. Regular guys like me, if we followed the whole liturgy and said every word properly? Nope. It’s not a magic spell, priesthood is a gift that must be given by a bishop empowered by Christ to give it.

Many Anglicans (not all, mind you) today DO believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Do believe it is his body and blood. But it wasn’t always so. The Vatican document Apostolae Curae tells it in extreme detail, but the bottom line is that there was an entire lifetime in the early period of the Anglican church in which those of a Calvinist bent took over the church and altered the ordination rite for bishops to exclude any reference to this glorious role the priesthood has for offering the mass as The Sacrifice. In essence, they rejected much of what a bishop IS and therefore their ordinations were NOT ordinations. They were just simulations. After a time, the Calvinists lost incluence and the ordination rites were fixed to allow those who DID believe in mass as sacrifice to understand the rite that way if they chose to (these are Anglicans we’re talkin’ bout.). But by then a whole lifetime had passed and the validly ordained bishops had died out. The bishops left had all been ordained under the rite that was NOT an ordination rite at all under the catholic understanding.

This sounds uncharitable, but the Anglicans were left with a theology that is not without significant merit, but no actual priests or bishops and thus (and this sounds so terrible to say bluntly) their masses are just simulations, not actual sacrificial offerings.

So if the protestant fellow in question is just looking for a more liturgical form of worship, an Anglican community is perhaps just what he’s looking for. But if he’s come to recognize John 6 as more than just a symbol and is wanting to be present at the once for all sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Jesus and physically obey Christ’s command in John 6… Well, come on home to Rome!

Anglicans, of course don’t agree with the above and believe their ordinations are valid and apostolic succession intact. GKC can explain their rationale (if he isn’t too exhausted from doing it so many times already) but I have trouble following it, so I won’t try here.

There is certainly a place at which we bump up against the limits of human comprehensions of mysteries. I’d agree that far. But I’ve thought about this one before and don’t remotely see how the doctrine of Transubstantiation is over-stepping this line if the dogmas of the Trinity (and the arguments that were had to get there) don’t. It seems to me that if one rejects the ‘popish’ intellectualizing in regards to the Eucharist then one really has no grounds to demand that nominal Christians believe that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are precisely what the Nicene Creed says they are.

It’s just not a consistent position.

Too exhausted, but thanks for thinking of me. There are those books I often recommend.

GKC

True, but we do not demand that anyone must believe anything in particular, even about the Creed, which we do not require people to recite.

An Anglican may choose to believe, or not to believe, and that is the biggest difference: Anglicanism has more freedom than Catholicism, and all of the virtues and vices of having more freedom.

I think a lot of Catholic/ Lutheran/ Orthodox would agree with you. :wink:

Anglicanism is a Reformed church tradition with catholic (episcopal) order and liturgical worship.

Roman Catholicism seems to build a whole system of extra-biblical doctrine on one verse of the Bible (Matt. 16:18). Anglicanism on the other hand is a sola scriptura church which teaches that only what is contained and can be proved from the Holy Scriptures is necessary to be believed.

manualman:

The insertion of sacrificial language - that the priest is vested with the authority to offer sacrifices for the quick and the dead, and the (in my opinion blasphemous) claim that a priest is ordained to the order of Melchizedek (i.e. the unique priesthood of Christ alone) - were both very late (12th cnetury I think?) additions to the rite.

But yes, the Church of England minister (colloquially “priest” but properly “presbyter”) and Roman Catholic priest are very different. We make no claim that our clergy offer propitiatory sacrifices to God, and we reject the notion that ordination brings about an ontological change in the one being ordained.

No, that isn’t true. The Roman Canon as it stands, which as Luther says “reeks of sacrifice,” mostly dates to about the sixth century, I believe. And all the Eastern liturgies have sacrificial language too. The Fathers talk about the Eucharist as a sacrifice all the time (in fact, it’s easier to show that they are unanimous on this than on the Real Presence, if the Real Presence is defined strictly to exclude a “spiritual presence” view).

But yes, the Church of England minister (colloquially “priest” but properly “presbyter”) and Roman Catholic priest are very different. We make no claim that our clergy offer propitiatory sacrifices to God, and we reject the notion that ordination brings about an ontological change in the one being ordained.

Of course, many Anglicans disagree with you. You insist that the only “real” Anglicanism is your version. :shrug:

Edwin

Believe me when I say that there is nothing you can do to reason with an Anglican that believes that the only “real” Anglicanism is found in the middle part of the 16th century Reformed positions that some Anglican theologians espoused. I consider myself to be a Catholic Anglican with some reformed/protestant leanings (single predestination for example), however, that isn’t good enough for Reformed Anglicans who take an all or none approach.

If one really dives into what may be termed “classical” Anglicanism, they will most likely come away with the opinion that Anglicanism is unique and not bound to strictly Reformed, Catholic, or Lutheran theology.

Motl… Oh, you know.

GKC

For a start, I’m not talking about the Roman Canon (and the historical development of this view of the Eucharist is quite plain, and I think far more pleasing to fallen men than the view that God alone provides the sacrifice) - instead, I’m talking about the specific sentences in the Roman ordination rites in use before the Reformation in England.

“Receive the power to offer sacrifice to God, and to celebrate Masses for the living and the dead, in the name of the Lord.”

This is a very late addition to the rite. I believe it’s one of the main articles of evidence that the late 19th century papal bull marshals against the “validity” of Anglican orders.

As for the Fathers’ unanimity on the eucharistic sacrifice, and the nature of the Roman canon itself, one can I think clearly see how the idea of the Eucharist as a sacrifice of propitiation is completely absent from the Bible (unless one is willing to make a rather tortured case on the basis of “Christ our passover”). The Canon itself primarily speaks of the eucharist as a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, as the Reformers taught, but strays quite obviously into the latterly-developed views on the nature of the rite.

All I know is that the Roman canon goes on and on about us and our offering, whereas the BCP Prayer of Consecration is all about Christ, his work and his institution.

As for my view of Anglicanism being the correct one: if I came on here claiming to be a loyal Roman Catholic and then went on to denounce the pope, the Council of Trent, Mariology, I’m pretty sure I’d be called out on it. As it so happens, I’m an Anglican who, like those who accept these Roman dogmas, accepts the authentic Anglican teaching on these matters.

Oh–OK.

As for the Fathers’ unanimity on the eucharistic sacrifice, and the nature of the Roman canon itself, one can I think clearly see how the idea of the Eucharist as a sacrifice of propitiation is completely absent from the Bible (unless one is willing to make a rather tortured case on the basis of “Christ our passover”).

Or the use of “poieo.” No, clearly this one depends pretty heavily on tradition–but it’s also one of the doctrines that can most consistently be established by tradition.

The Canon itself primarily speaks of the eucharist as a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, as the Reformers taught, but strays quite obviously into the latterly-developed views on the nature of the rite.

All I know is that the Roman canon goes on and on about us and our offering, whereas the BCP Prayer of Consecration is all about Christ, his work and his institution.

Actually, I am not a fan of the Roman canon. I don’t disagree with anything in it, and I think you engage in typical Protestant polemic when you say that it glorifies human beings over against God, given the emphasis on God’s majesty and the fact that only this sacrifice (i.e., the sacrifice of Christ Himself, offered by Christ in the person of the priest) is pleasing to God. In other words, I think your line of criticism is wrong, but I agree that the Canon is theologically truncated.

As for my view of Anglicanism being the correct one: if I came on here claiming to be a loyal Roman Catholic and then went on to denounce the pope, the Council of Trent, Mariology, I’m pretty sure I’d be called out on it. As it so happens, I’m an Anglican who, like those who accept these Roman dogmas, accepts the authentic Anglican teaching on these matters.

You would be called out on it, sure, because this forum is dominated by people who take a very conservative approach. But there are Catholics who have a different understanding of Catholicism than that found on this forum. I find the attitude of the folks on this forum to such Catholics quite obnoxious and unfair.

On the other hand, there’s no denying that the mainstream institutional structures of Roman Catholicism support and to some degree enforce the doctrines you mention. On the other hand, your view of Anglicanism is a minority one with little support from the mainstream structures of the Anglican Communion. That is why the stridency of your tone is so unwarranted. The broad view of Anglicanism which you find reprehensible has triumphed. Your position within Anglicanism is more or less that of the SSPX within Catholicism. That doesn’t make you wrong necessarily. But your posts could easily give the wrong impression to non-Anglicans on the forum, as if your view of Anglicanism were the mainstream.

Edwin

Only a freedom of evil, Darth.

These are fair points. At least in the West, there have been radical shifts in what the Anglican churches have broadly taught and done, especially over the last century but with the seeds being planted much earlier.

My view is by no means the majority. But in the C of E, it is the conservative Reformed churches that are thriving, with most of the other parties either closing their doors or being a sort of social club for old people - themselves rather baffled as to why the clergyman is now a woman and is always going on about feminism and gay rights!

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