FOR ROMAN CATHOLICS
As with many churches, St. John’s has people joining our congregation from other Christian denominations. For those joining from the Roman Catholic church, you will find many familiar customs and practices with a few key differences.
Similarities and Differences
In the United States the order of worship in the Episcopal church and the Roman Catholic church is almost identical with only minor differences.
Like the Roman Catholic Church, the Episcopal Church holds to the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed.
The Episcopal Church believes in the seven sacraments, Baptism, Holy Eucharist (the Mass), Confirmation, Marriage, Confession, Unction, and Ordination.
The Real Presence of Christ in Sacrament
Like the Roman Catholic Church, the Episcopal Church believes in the real presence of Christ in the sacrament. However, unlike the Roman Catholic Church, we leave the explanation of how this happens to a mystery instead of trying to define it through a theology such as transubstantiation. However, if the understanding of transubstantiation is important to you, you are welcome to continue that belief. There are, however, Episcopalians who believe the Eucharist is only a memorial act. To quote Queen Elizabeth the 1st, in the Episcopal Church we do not “open windows into men's souls” when they are at the altar rail, but rather pray “common prayer”.
As with the Roman Catholic Church, in the Episcopal Church you may make confession to, and receive absolution from, a priest. However, in the Episcopal Church we believe confession to God alone in prayer is sufficient for the forgiveness of our sins. The adage in the Episcopal Church for private confession is: all may, some should, none must.
The Episcopal Church has the same understanding of saints as the Catholic Church. However, our lists may look a little different for those considered saints after the reformation.
Spiritual Practices (i.e. the rosary)
In the Episcopal Church we have the same spiritual practices and customs as the Roman Catholic Church. St. John’s even has a group that prays the Rosary. However, it is less common to find such practices as benediction, devotions to the sacred heart, and prayers to Mary.
In the Episcopal Church we have married clergy.
In the Episcopal Church female clergy and bishops are common.
Polity and Authority
This is perhaps the main difference between the Episcopal Church and the Roman Catholic Church. In the Episcopal Church the laity have a shared sense of power and vote in the life of the church. Parish rectors are chosen by laity with the bishop’s approval, and bishops are chosen by election of a diocesan convention whose delegates comprise laity and clergy. The entire denomination is governed by its General Convention which, like congress, has two houses: the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies (comprised of laity and clergy). A resolution must pass both houses to be approved.
The Anglican Communion
The Anglican Communion is a worldwide body of believers, comprised of 40 provinces each with their own Archbishop (or in our case a presiding bishop). The head of the Anglican Communion is the Archbishop of Canterbury who is considered a first among equals. Like the Episcopal Church, the polity of the Anglican communion is more democratic than the Catholic Church.
In the Episcopal Church people who have been divorced are permitted to be remarried with the permission of the Bishop. An annulment is not required. Holy Communion is also never withheld from anyone just because they have experienced divorce.
What is A.R.C.I.C.
ARCIC is the Anglican Roman Catholic Innerfaith Commission. It was established by Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey and Pope Paul VI in 1967. The hope of this commission was to bring these two branches of the church into communion with one another.