As a pastor with numerous years of evangelical experience, a common conundrum new believers face is choosing which denomination to follow. Many churches have similar doctrines and beliefs, which can confuse the masses. This is particularly true for denominations such as Episcopalianism and Protestantism. Both were formed from the Protestant Reform of the early 16th century, but does that mean they are identical? To find the answer to that, I had to look at Episcopalian vs. Protestant. Let’s look at their main difference.
Episcopalians and Protestants have some differences but are actually quite similar. For example, they both believe in the Trinity, Final Judgments, and the importance of the Creeds and allowing women in ministry. However, they do not hold common views on matters, such as sacraments and inclusivity. Episcopalians believe in 7 sacraments, while Protestants believe in two. Episcopalians are closer to Catholics theologically.
Come with me as I take a comprehensive look at Episcopalianism and Protestantism, their differences, similarities, and everything in between. I also researched their historical backgrounds, organizational structures, and leadership. Expect to learn all about these topics and so much more.
Episcopalian vs. Protestant: Difference in Definition
By definition, an Episcopalian is a follower of the Protestant Episcopal Church, which is a branch of the larger Anglican Communion in the United States. The Episcopal Church describes itself as “Protestant yet Catholic” that walks the “middle way” between Catholic and Protestant beliefs. On the other hand, a protestant is a follower of Protestantism, a religious rebellion against the doctrine and practices of the Roman Catholic faith. It is one of the major branches of Christianity that developed from the Protestant Reformation. Protestantism has many sub-branches, such as the Lutheran Church and Presbyterian Church. In fact, Episcopalianism is classified as part of Protestantism by many Catholics, Protestants, and Anglicans.
What’s the Difference Between Episcopalian And Protestant?
Came to be after Anglicanism reached America during the Revolution (1765-1791). Anglicanism stems from the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s.
Founded by Martin Luther in 1517 in Northern Europe when he opposed the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. After a series of religious wars, Protestantism spread around the world.
Stems from the Late Latin word ‘episcopalis,’ which means “overseer.” It refers to the bishops of the Anglican churches in America and Scotland.
Protestant comes from the German or French word ‘protestant’ or Latin ‘protestantem.’ It has mainly German roots and means ‘to publicly declare or testify.’
It is divided into 112 dioceses – 99 in the United States, 2 in Europe, and 11 in other countries.
Protestantism has 30,000+ denominations, with each having its organizational structures.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop, although he is considered the “first among equals.”
Protestantism does not have a head governing clergy member/s due to its numerous denominations.
Differences in The Beliefs Between Episcopalian And Protestant
While Episcopalians and Protestants have more in common than they do differences, some disparities can be drawn between these two types of Christians, especially when it comes to beliefs. Here are some of them:
Sacraments are described as outward expressions of spiritual grace. While Episcopalians accept Holy Baptism, the Eucharist, Confirmation, Penance, Matrimony, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick as important sacraments in their faith, many Protestants (e.g. Lutheran) only recognize Baptism and the Eucharist. This is positioned on the belief that Jesus only administered those two ordinances (Matthew 28:19 and Luke 22:19).
Proximity to Catholicism
The Episcopalian Church is a cross between Protestant beliefs and Roman Catholic doctrine. It shares similar sacraments, liturgies, and prayers with Catholicism. Because of its fair proximity to the Catholic faith, Episcopalianism is considered a High Church. On the other hand, most Protestants completely oppose the teachings of Catholicism. Protestantism has very different theological positions from Catholicism.
Supremacy of the Bible
Since Episcopalianism incorporates Catholicism in its beliefs, it also holds ecclesiastical traditions such as sainthood to high value. The church considers these traditions in combination with Scripture to develop beliefs and interpret the faith. Protestants are different. They rely on Biblical Scripture entirely. Protestantism considers the Bible as the only source of faith and as the only authority to be relied on.
With Episcopalianism being based mainly in the USA, it has embraced several social issues, such as the LGBTQ debate. Episcopalians are explicitly clear that they celebrate diversity irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Protestants’ views on such issues are not linear. However, it is overwhelmingly clear that homosexuality and gender diversity are not accepted.
What Are the Similarities Between Episcopalian And Protestant?
Episcopalians and Protestants are similar in many ways. Aside from their common origin (the Protestant Reformation), here are some of their other commonalities:
- Both churches revere the Creeds i.e., the Nicene and Apostle’s Creed. These prayers are considered declarations of their basic beliefs in God, and so they are regularly recited during ordinary service and special events like baptisms.
- Both Episcopalianism and Protestantism believe in the Holy Trinity, with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
- Both churches believe in life after death. They acknowledge the existence of Heaven, Hell, and Final Judgments. They also trust in the Second Coming of Christ.
- Both Episcopalians and Protestants celebrate Baptism and Holy Communion. They both hold Baptism in great esteem because it is seen as one’s formal entry into the church.
- Both Protestants (most of them) and Episcopalians allow women in ministry and for their clergy to marry and have children.
What Do Protestants Think of Episcopalian?
Many Protestants think of Episcopalians as a hybrid of the Protestant and Catholic churches, making it a High Church. So, what is a High Church? In denominationalism, Low and High Church were terms coined by Anglicans but spread and are now used by non-Anglicans. By definition, High Church denominations place a lot of emphasis on rituals and sacraments. They are more methodic in their procedures and have a more organized structure.
Meanwhile, Low Churches are more liberal in their ways. They do not value strict ceremonies and ecclesiastic hierarchy as much. They tend to focus on Biblical Scripture and worship. High Churches refer to denominations that retained a sizeable amount of Catholic doctrine, while Low Churches are far removed from it. Examples of High Churches are Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Orthodox, and Episcopal. Low Churches include most Protestant and Evangelical denominations such as Baptist, Quacker, Methodist, Lutheran, and Pentecostal. The distinction between High and Low Churches has created a divide in Protestantism, so many Low Church Protestants regard High Churches like Episcopalians as “too Catholic.”
Do Episcopalian And Protestant Use the Same Bible?
No, Episcopalians and Protestants do not use the same Bible. Protestants use the New International Version (NIV) Bible. This Bible has 66 books and does not include the Apocrypha. Alternatively, Episcopalian churches mainly use the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) for official readings on Sundays, weekdays, and feast days. They may also read from the Revised Standard Version (RSV), which is a version of the American Standard Version (ASV). The NRSV is a Catholic Bible with 73 books, including Apocrypha. Apocrypha is a collection of additional books that are not considered canonical Scripture except by Catholicism. Protestants completely reject these writings. While Episcopalians do not regularly draw from Apocrypha, they are not opposed to them. That is another illustration of how Episcopalianism titters between Catholicism and Protestantism.
Which One Is More Popular Between, Episcopalian And Protestant?
If numbers are anything to go by, Protestantism is more popular than Episcopalianism. Protestants are approximately 900 million worldwide. It is a collective number of all the Christians that are not subject to the Pope. Since the Episcopalian church is localized in North America, particularly the United States, it has fewer members. Statistically, this sub-denomination has between 2-3 million followers spread in about 7,500 congregations in America, Haiti, the Virgin Islands, and some parts of Europe. Currently, Episcopalians are the 14th largest Christian community in the US. It is part of the larger Anglican community with over 70 million members. Additionally, the Episcopalian church also has 17 college ministries, over 60 schools, and more than 1000 service centers, meaning it still has a profound influence.
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.