The Episcopal Church is part of the Anglican communion. Almost all members of the church are in the United States.
The Episcopal Church is best known for their support of liberal causes including LGBTQ equality, same sex marriages, repeal of the dealth penalty, and racial reconciliation.
Sometimes, the church’s actions have gone against the Anglican Church doctrine, resulting in internal friction and even sanctions from the Anglican leadership. Read on to learn more about the difference between Catholic and Episcopal.
What You'll Learn Today
How Is Episcopalian Similar to Catholicism?
Episcopalians and Catholics have several similarities. They believe in the Holy Trinity, the virgin birth, and the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.
Similar to Catholics, most Episcopalian churches also use rosaries, crosses, statues, and other symbols of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and various saints.
Both Episcopalians and Catholics believe in the second coming of Christ and in heaven as the eternal home of believers.
Both also believe in the importance of baptism, stating that it is the first step of salvation.
They also share certain sacraments such as the Eucharist, marriage (or Holy Matrimony), and confession.
These similarities make it seem like Episcopal and Catholic churches are essential one. But, as we discuss shortly, there are major doctrine differences between the two.
In fact, the Episcopal Church describes itself as ‘Protestant, yet Catholic’, which gives you an idea of how similar yet different the two churches are.
How Are Episcopal and Catholic Churches Different?
LGBTQ and Same-Sex Marriages
If you are a keen follower of religious news, you probably know that the Episcopal Church supports the LGBTQ community, and even ordains gay clergy.
In a major split from the Catholic Church (and the parent Anglican Church), the Episcopal Church in 2015 approved blessing of same-sex marriages. It even removed references to marriage as being ‘between a man and a woman’ in their canon law.
Currently, the Catholic Church accepts and supports the LGBTQ community and prohibits discrimination against them.
However, the Church still condemns gay sex and does not recognize nor bless same-sex marriages.
Another big difference between Catholic and Episcopal is the clergy. Both have priests, deacons, and bishops.
However, the Episcopal Church permits ordination of women. In the Catholic church, only men can be ordained to become clergy.
In 2006, the Episcopal Church elected the first female Presiding Bishop.
Bishops and priests in the Episcopal Church have the freedom to marry, and can be gay or transgender.
Unlike the Catholic Church that has a worldwide leader (the Pope), the Episcopal Church does not believe in a central figure of authority. Instead, they have Bishops.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the spiritual leader of the Anglican Church (including the US Episcopal church), but he is just a symbolic/spiritual leader. He does not have any authority outside England.
Beliefs and Practices
Finally, let’s look at how differently Episcopalians and Catholics do things when it comes to important religious beliefs and practices.
One major difference is the sacrament of penance (Catholic), or reconciliation (Episcopal).
In both churches, you can confess your sins to a priest and receive absolution. However, while penance before a priest is mandatory in the Catholic Church, it’s optional in the Episcopal Church.
Episcopalians have the option to confess their sins privately to God.
You’ll also notice a difference in how Episcopalians and Catholics pray. Catholic prayers are full of requests to Mary and other saints for intercession. Episcopalian prayers? Not so much.
That said, the Episcopalian church still recognizes and honors saints.
Another notable difference in practice between the two churches is Holy Communion. The Catholic Church is very strict in its requirements of who can receive communion – baptized catholics who’ve gone to confession, are not living in mortal sin, and in a state of sanctifying grace.
Officially, the Episcopal church says only baptized believers can receive the Holy Communion. However, most dioceses have open communion, inviting anyone to participate.
Another big difference: the Episcopal Church approves of family planning.
Do Episcopalians Pray the Rosary?
The Anglican Church, which encompasses the Episcopal Church, has a form of rosary called Anglican prayer beads or Anglican Rosary. It is used as an aid for prayer.
However, many Episcopalians rarely use it. But you may find Episcopalians close to Catholicism (Anglo-Catholics), regularly praying the rosary.
Do Episcopalians Believe in Heaven?
Yes, they do as well as hell. But in contrast to the Catholic Church, the Episcopal Church does not believe in the existence of purgatory.
In fact, the main Anglican Communion denounces the teaching and belief of purgatory, though some Anglo-catholics continue to believe in it.
Bottom Line: Catholic vs. Episcopal
The Catholic and Episcopal churches are similar and different in equal measures.
They share the same belief on important matters such as baptism, salvation, forgiveness, and the Holy Trinity.
But they diverge on similarly important matters of Holy Matrimony, homosexuality, clergy, and confession.
We agree with the Episcopal Church’s own description: Protestant yet Catholic.