The Episcopal Church considers itself both catholic and protestant. We are proud of our catholic heritage and traditions. We are so similar to Roman Catholicism that a large percentage of our members come from Roman Catholic backgrounds. The Episcopal Church is similar to the Roman Catholic Church in many ways. We have bishops, priests, deacons, sacraments, weekly communion, saints, monks and nuns. We celebrate the same church seasons and share many of the same feast days.
There are some noticeable differences between The Episcopal Church and the Roman Catholic Church: In the Episcopal Church bishops and priests can be both genders and can be married; there is no centralized authority figure like the pope; lay people play a greater role in decision making; sacramental confession is optional not required; married couples are permitted to use responsible means of birth control. We recognize that sometimes marriages die, dissolving the sacramental bond between the couple. Divorced persons are allowed to remarry in the church with the permission of the bishop upon recommendation of the priest who does the couple’s premarital counseling.
What we believe
- We believe the same Nicene, Apostles creeds, and other historic creeds as our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters.
- We believe that the communion bread and wine are not merely symbolic, but that these elements are transformed into the real presence of Christ. Unlike the Roman Catholic Church we don’t define how this happens. We celebrate the Holy Eucharist every Sunday and welcome all who seek a deeper knowledge of God to receive both the consecrated Bread and Wine.
- We celebrate feast days for many saints, including the Blessed Virgin Mary. The saints were the heroes of the church and provide examples of how to live a holy life.
- We believe our bishops share in the unbroken line of succession from Saint Peter as Roman Catholics.
- We believe that everyone is a child of God, including those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer.
- Baptism with water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit makes one a member of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.
How we are organized
St. Thomas’ Parish is a part of the Diocese of Washington. Dioceses are led by bishops in consultation with representative bodies. Our bishops are in the same unbroken line of succession from Saint Peter as Roman Catholic bishops. Bishops are elected and share power with other clergy and lay members in the church.
Our structure allows people at all levels of the church to be held accountable and seeks to prevent any one member abusing his/her power. On the congregational level, the role of the priest is also different than the Roman Catholic Church. Each congregation can choose its own priest through a discernment process. Priests serve under the authority of their bishops and they are also more accountable to their parishioners.