THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH
St. Martin’s is a parish church of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island. Episcopalians are Christians faithful to the historic Catholic and Apostolic faith as defined by the Ecumenical Councils of the Early Church. The bishops of the Episcopal Church stand in the historic line of apostolic succession and the Church maintains the historic three-fold orders of bishop, priest and deacon. While its structure and theologies of authority, ministry and sacrament remain catholic, much of the Church’s theology in other areas of Christian life show the influence of the Reformation. Hence the Episcopal Church along with its sister churches of the Anglican Communion are known as or churches of the middle way, having incorporated reformed theologies into a catholic structure and practice. The Episcopal Church defines itself principally as a community that worships together — as we worship so we believe — in contrast to other church communities, which tend to define themselves by shared statements of belief. Consequently, Episcopalians are able to encompass and welcome considerable diversity, being held together by the willingness to worship and pray together.
The Episcopal Church finds its roots in the Church of England, and is thus a part of the worldwide Anglican Communion. During the sixteenth century, the Church of England, under Henry VIII, broke ties with the Church of Rome. From that time, except for the reign of Mary, the Church of England has been established as a separate communion from Rome. We still consider ourselves as part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church as affirmed in the Nicene Creed, but we find our authority in scripture, tradition, and reason, rather than in the magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church. The origins of the Episcopal Church lie in the period following the Revolutionary War when the previous Church of England in the 13 Colonies became the Episcopal Church of the United States. Many of the principal figures involved in this transformation were also among the Founding Fathers of the Republic. The Church takes its name from the Episcopal Church of Scotland. Because of the Declaration of Independence, English bishops could not ordain an American as bishop; therefore, it was necessary for the first American seeking Episcopal ordination to go to the Anglican Church in Scotland, whose bishops ordained Samuel Seabury as first bishop of the newly formed Episcopal Church of the United States.
The Episcopal Church welcomes all who worship Jesus Christ, in 109 dioceses and three regional areas in 17 nations around the world. The Episcopal Church is a member province of the worldwide Anglican Communion, which is the second largest single denomination of Christians in the world. Each province of the Anglican Communion is autonomous with the Archbishop of Canterbury serving as its spiritual head.
The Episcopal Church has members in the United States, as well as in Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Honduras, Micronesia, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, Venezuela, and the Virgin Islands. It also has Diocese of Europe providing churches and chaplaincies in most Western European Countries.
Our manner of life centers on worship and faithfulness in prayer as we seek individually, and as a community, to live out the five areas of our baptismal covenant: fidelity to the teaching of the apostles and in the breaking of the bread, repentance as an essential element of life, proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, service to Christ in loving all persons as oneself, striving for justice and peace respecting the dignity of every human being.
Our liturgy retains ancient structure and traditions and is celebrated in many languages.
We put our faith in God as revealed through scripture, tradition, and human reason. All three are held in dynamic tension with one another, no one being more important than the other two. This relationship is known as the three-legged-stool. We uphold the Bible and worship with The Book of Common Prayer. The Book of Common Prayer provides us with structure for our common worship in the Eucharist and in the daily office of common prayer.
Click | To visit the Episcopal Church web site.
THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION
The Anglican Communion comprises 38 self-governing member churches or provinces that share several things in common including doctrine, ways of worshiping, mission, and the spiritual leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Formal mechanisms for meeting include the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council, and the Primates’ meetings together constitute the Instruments of Communion.
Most Communion life however, is found in the relationships between Anglicans at all levels of church life and work around the globe. Strong ties of shared heritage and affection link dioceses and parishes in different parts of the Communion, furthering God’s mission in the World. There are around 85 million people on six continents that call themselves Anglican (or Episcopalian), in more than 165 countries. These Christian brothers and sisters share prayer, resources, support and knowledge across geographical and cultural boundaries.
As with any family, the Anglican Communion’s members have a range of differing opinions. This means that the Anglican Christian tradition has always valued its diversity, and has never been afraid to publicly tackle the hard questions of life and faith.
Click | To visit the The Anglican Communion web site.