There have been several good, excellent answers to the questions posed in this thread. It is obvious that there are open and honest seekers of answers and there are honest and sincere replies. My purpose in replying is to give answers as directly as I know how, to raise some other issues, and to hopefully clarify some of what has been said. I do not provide my answer(s) or comments with a spirit of contradicting anything or anybody, and if my answers appear to do so, it is certainly not out of any malicious intent on my part.
Firstly, the Episcopal Church - and Anglicans in general - does not, and has not generally engaged in defining their eucharistic beliefs and practices in the way that the Catholic Church has done so - i.e. by canon law, and legal definitions. In some ways the Orthodox Church is similar, although Orthodoxy can express itself more in canons on some issues than Anglicanism does. That being said, in order to get a better grip of Anglican or Episcopalian teachings and/or beliefs, one might do well to exercize the principle of “lex orandi, lex credendi” - i.e. the word that is prayed is the word that is believed. Looking to the “39 Articles” is not particularly useful in other trhan a historical context. It is MY UNDERSTANDING that it is included in current prayer books as a historical document rather than as a definitive standard of current Anglican faith or praxis. I don’t have a personal inside track on the thinking when the newest prayer book was produced, but that is what I’ve been told by some that I believe know.
So, to look at Episcopal Church beliefs about the Eucharist as evidenced by their own prayers, used at every celebration, let us just read what the prayers say. I will quote several sections, and place each within quotation marks, separating them by a double carriage return.
"On the night before he died for us, our Lord Jesus Christ took
bread; and when he had given thanks to you, he broke it, and
gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take, eat: This is my Body,
which is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.”
After supper he took the cup of wine; and when he had given
thanks, he gave it to them, and said, “Drink this, all of you:
This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you
and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink
it, do this for the remembrance of me.”
Therefore, according to his command, O Father,
(Celebrant and People)
We remember his death,
We proclaim his resurrection,
We await his coming in glory;
The Celebrant continues
And we offer our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to you,
O Lord of all; presenting to you, from your creation, this
bread and this wine.
We pray you, gracious God, to send your Holy Spirit upon
these gifts that they may be the Sacrament of the Body of
Christ and his Blood of the new Covenant. Unite us to your
Son in his sacrifice, that we may be acceptable through him,
being sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In the fullness of time,
put all things in subjection under your Christ, and bring us to
that heavenly country where, with [_______ and] all your
saints, we may enter the everlasting heritage of your sons and
daughters; through Jesus Christ our Lord, the firstborn of all
creation, the head of the Church, and the author of our
"We celebrate the memorial of our redemption, O Father, in
this sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Recalling his death,
resurrection, and ascension, we offer you these gifts.
Sanctify them by your Holy Spirit to be for your people the
Body and Blood of your Son, the holy food and drink of new
and unending life in him. Sanctify us also that we may faithfully
receive this holy Sacrament, and serve you in unity, constancy,
and peace; and at the last day bring us with all your saints
into the joy of your eternal kingdom."
"Lord, we pray that in your goodness and mercy your Holy
Spirit may descend upon us, and upon these gifts, sanctifying
them and showing them to be holy gifts for your holy people,
the bread of life and the cup of salvation, the Body and Blood
of your Son Jesus Christ.
Grant that all who share this bread and cup may become one
body and one spirit, a living sacrifice in Christ, to the praise
of your Name."
So - these words certainly indicate the Eucharist is looked on as 1) sacrifice, 2) sacrament, 3) Body and Blood of Christ, 4) becoming such after the invocation of the Holy Spirit (epiklesis) and the “words of institution.”
Now, that being said, these words indicate the nature of the Eucharistic beliefs of the church that uses the words, it does not address the issue of sacramental validity.
I think I’m about to run out of allowed amount of words per post, so I’ll continue in the next message