Many people have come across the Episcopalian and Anglican religions or churches. Still, when they don’t belong to or associate with either religion, it becomes confusing to tell someone else what these churches are all about and how they differ. Even people from most parts of the world recognize that both churches are Christian churches governed by traditional Christian beliefs. But without the details about the specific churches, an Episcopalian vs. Anglican comparison is necessary.
The main difference between the Episcopalian and Anglican Churches is that the Episcopalian church was born out of the Anglican Church (Church of England) in 1789, while the Anglican Church was officially formed in 1534. Both churches follow a protestant religious belief, although the Episcopalians hold more liberal than the Anglican church, which tends to be a lot more conservative
That said, how did these churches come to be? Why is the church called Episcopalian or Anglican? Is one a ‘high church’ and the other a ‘low church’? Which doctrines govern these churches? Which of the two came first, and what do they have in common? Keep reading to learn all about these churches.
What is the difference between Episcopalian and Anglican?
Meaning of the names of the Churches
Episcopal is derived from the Greek word, Overseer, or the Latin word that means Bishop. Away from the root of the name and what it means, it is worth noting that the Episcopal Church is essentially some Church government whose ecclesiastical authority resides in the Bishop’s office rather than the papacy as is the case in Catholicism or even Congregations as is the case in some of the Protestant traditions.
The church name Anglican derives from the phrase ecclesia Anglicana, Latin for the English Church. However, this term is more widespread in England than in America. Even so, the Episcopalian churches and denominations are considered part of the Anglican Communion worldwide.
In the same breath, it is essential to note that the Anglican church is sometimes called the Church of England. This term is used to define the Christianity branch of Protestantism established in the 16th century by King Henry VIII and several of his successors.
History of Episcopalian and Anglican Churches
The history of the Anglican and Episcopalian churches is interesting, long, and winded, but it’s worth noting that the Anglican Church is much older than the Episcopalian church. While the Anglican church was officially founded in 1534, after King Henry VIII severed ties with the Roman Catholic church (read the Pope) through the Act of Succession – this decision came to be following the Pope’s refusal to annul the King’s marriage because the wife, Catherine of Arragon couldn’t bear sons. Before this time, the Roman Catholic Church was the primary church, and the protestant faith, informally formed in the 2nd century, wasn’t popular. After the passing of the act, the Anglican church became an official religious church whose doctrines differed from Roman Catholicism.
Years later, late in the 17th and 18th centuries, when people sought opportunities to make money, and with the establishment of the Virginian Company of London, more people moved from the UK and other English nations to explore new places, landing in the Americas. Here, they formed American colonies, and the church was a big part of it all. However, they couldn’t have Bishops to lead the churches, and after the American Revolution, the church previously known as the Church of England or the Anglican church was renamed. Its beliefs changed somewhat to form the Episcopalian church in 1789 with a new Bishop to lead the church. The church was headquartered in Philadelphia, under the leadership of Bishop Samuel Provoost. So, in many ways, the main differences in the churches’ histories lie in the time they have formed and the reason for breaking away from the parent church or belief system.
Church centers or headquarters
While the Episcopalian church is headquartered in the US and is led by a presiding Bishop, who is regarded as the chief pastor of the church, the Anglican Church is headquartered in the United Kingdom and is run by Archbishop Canterbury.
The Episcopalian church is governed by a Presiding Bishop, the elected head of the church, the spiritual head, and the chief administrator of the Episcopal church. However, the church doesn’t use the archbishop title for its head bishops. Parishes are led by rectors, supervised by the elected Bishop. On the other hand, the leadership of the Anglican church is much more comprehensive and led by a sovereign.
The Anglican Church’s leadership order includes priests (presbyters), bishops, and deacons. They don’t hold a strong view of succession from Apostles and aren’t committed to the theory of the apostles leading the church as the Catholics do. That said, The Church of England recognizes His Majesty the Kind as the Church’s Supreme Governor for the Church of England. The King is the one that appoints the church’s archbishops, bishops, as well as cathedral deans. Though appointed by the King, these church leaders follow the Prime Ministers’ advice.
Church’s Leadership Structure/ Hierarchy
The bicameral General Convention governs the Episcopalian church. This Convention meets every 3 years and is run by an Executive Council. It consists of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies. The House of Bishops consists of diocesan bishops, co-adjudicator bishops, suffragan, retired, and all other elected bishops. On the other hand, The House of Deputies features 4 lay and 4 deputy clerks from local and international jurisdictions.
On the other hand, the Anglican church is administered by a church council called the National Church Institutions or NCIs, whose role is to help run the church’s day-to-day operations across England. The council is the church’s central offices, finances, communications, and education, among other areas of the church’s activities across parishes, schools, dioceses, and other ministries. These councils fall into seven groups: The Archbishop’s Council, Lambeth Palace, Bishopthorpe Palace, The Church’s Commissioners, The Church of England’s Pension Board, National Society Promoting Religious Education, and the Church of England’s Central Services.
There is no doubt that, unlike the protestant church, the Episcopalian beliefs tend to be more liberal than those held by the Anglican church. Episcopal Churches are pro-gays, and the church is recognized as an autonomous denomination in the US that’s a little more liturgical than other churches, albeit in the theological liberal Protestantism orbit. On the other hand, Anglicans are significantly conservative, with the church widespread in Africa besides the UK and the fact that they are against homosexuality.
Common Prayer Book
The Episcopal Church adopted a prayer book similar to the liturgical book used by Catholics, Reformed, and Lutheran churches in 1976. However, some conservative Episcopalian churches still use the liturgies from 1928.
In contrast, the Anglicans still use a version of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer that was created after the English broke off ties with the Catholic Church. But a modern version of the 1662 prayer book called the Book of Common Prayer was approved in 2000 by the Church of England.
What are the similarities between Episcopalian and Anglican?
Branches of Christianity
Granted that the Episcopalian church is part of the Anglican Communion, it is primarily regarded as a halfway Christian religion whose doctrines fall between Catholicism and Protestantism. In other words, both churches have some aspects of Catholicism woven into them, but not all.
View of God and Christ
Both the Episcopalian and Anglican churches believe in the Trinity. Episcopal Churches believe in the Trinity as is the case with other Christian religions – meaning that they believe in the existence of a God whose existence is in 3 primary forms – The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit and that they are all divine. The church also affirms Christian belief that Christ is ‘The Son’ in the Trinity and that He is God in the form of Human Flesh – so, Episcopalian beliefs note that Jesus is 100% man and 100% God. Additionally, they believe that Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, led a life without sin, and died to atone for the sins of humankind and that on the third day, he resurrected and then ascended to heaven.
Anglicans also believe in and revere the Trinity and emphasize that Christ was incarnated, the second divinity in the Trinity. Anglicanism further affirms the works and nature of Christ, focusing on his sinlessness, physical resurrection, and atonement.
Episcopalian believers deem baptism a rite that grafts adults and infants into the church. Similarly, the Anglicans baptize infants to ensure their spiritual regeneration, for the forgiveness of sins, and to introduce them to the church.
View of the holy spirit
Episcopalians and Anglicans agree that the Holy Spirit is the third divination in the Trinity and that the holy spirit is God. This follows the Anglican (and, by extension Episcopalian) belief in major Creeds – the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed.
Views on end times
The Episcopal and the Anglican Churches believe in Christ’s second coming, with the millennium understood per the theology of Millenarianism. Both churches believe in the Scripture’s forewarning of the end times as specified in Revelation 20-21, where it notes that Christ and the saints will rule for 1000 years and that Satan is to be unbound from his chains at the millennium’s end; but that Christ will be victorious at the end. The Bible further implies that no one knows when the End times will come – Mark 13:32-37.
In Episcopalian and Anglicanism, especially early Anglicanism, there was a lot of tension between the Reformed (Calvinist) and Arminian beliefs that salvation to humankind comes through having faith in Jesus Christ. Episcopalian and Anglicanism acknowledge the Lord’s Prayer and believe that salvation comes through the believers’ participation in the Way of life set by God, through Christ, as is written in John 3:16.
Which came first between Episcopalian and Anglican?
Anglican came first in the 16th century after the Acts of Succession and Supremacy were passed, and King Henry VIII severed the ties between Catholics and non-Catholics in 1534. The Episcopalian church (of America) was founded in 1789.
What do Anglicans think of Episcopalians?
Although Anglicans and Episcopalians are both Protestant Anglicans, Anglicans tend to deem Episcopalians as liberal Anglicans. This is mainly because the Episcopalians ‘borrow’ a lot from the Catholic church, from takes on Bible to the holy spirit liturgies. The fact that they support homosexuality, which the Anglicans strongly oppose, is also why they don’t often see eye-to-eye.
Can Anglicans attend Episcopalian churches?
Anglicans can attend Episcopalian churches, especially if they agree with Episcopalian teachings, whether they are baptized or not. However, Anglicans cannot receive holy communion in the Episcopal Church unless they are baptized.
History of the Episcopal Church
History of the Anglican Church
They say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, right? Being raised by Christians significantly impacted my life since I started professing Christ from a young age. My passion for the Christian faith made me pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology. I am a believer and pastor dedicated to spreading the word of God. I have been in the Christian ministry for over a decade and am currently ministering in Life Christian Church. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Please check the About Us Page for more details.