Like all churches, we are often asked, “What do you believe?” What Episcopalians believe is simple (to some extent) but not simplistic.
A true answer might be to say that we believe in God, in Jesus Christ the Son of God, and in the Holy Spirit.
But in our world today, full of division and uncertainty, many people find that simple answer unsatisfying. After all, don’t ALL Christians believe those things? People want to know precisely what a church believes about God, not just that we believe in God. People want to know specifics, so that they can decide if we’re “right” or “wrong,” if we have the right understanding, the right interpretation.
That is not how The Episcopal Church tends to approach faith and belief. Our list of “non-negotiable” points are very few, and largely shared with most every other Christian tradition. Those relatively few points are:
There is one God, who is a Trinity of Persons.
The First Person of the Trinity, traditionally called “Father,” created all things at the beginning of time.
Jesus Christ, the very human rabbi from 2000 years ago, was and is the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, and our Savior.
The Holy Scriptures (the Bible) are the revealed word of God, written by human beings under the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit, who is the Third Person of the Trinity. The Bible contains all things necessary for salvation.
Certainly there is more to be said, more that can be believed about God and Jesus. Many denominations or church traditions take very specific stances on issues or questions concerning things such as (for example) the nature of God or the method of salvation.
The Episcopal Church, though, is not bound together by a shared position on academic theological questions or by tests of doctrine. We are bound together by our love of God in Christ Jesus, by our shared traditions and experiences of God in the worship and the life of the community.
That is not to say that Episcopalians don’t believe specific or particular things. It is just that each member of our community is able to think for herself or himself, to wrestle with doubt and the questions of faith, and to arrive at conclusions which may be different than those of other members within the community.
This openness has led The Episcopal Church to a number of positions, what you might call beliefs, that actually are somewhat unique among Christian churches. These ideas and practices are not so much points of doctrine, like you might learn in Sunday School or a theology class, but they are defining characteristics of our church.