Essay, Research Paper: Catholics And Episcopalians


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Catholics vs. Episcopalians, is there truly a distinction? When I recollect on
my religious tradition, Catholicism, I ponder on just how different it is in
practice and theology from that of protestant traditions. When examining I came
to compare how deeply Catholics and Episcopalians are divided on questions of
political and religious leadership? Through research I have concluded that
Catholics and Episcopalians are vastly separated in political and religious
leadership and this factor is the foremost distinction between the two
traditions. Since the establishment of the Episcopalian Church we can see the
link between the Church of England and further with the Roman Catholic Church as
stated, “It was part of the Anglican Communion, formally organized in
Philadelphia in 1789 as the successor to the Church of England in the American
Colonies. In points of doctrine, worship, and ministerial order, the church
descended from and has remained associated with the Church of England. The
history of the church began with the first permanent English settlement at
Jamestown, Va., in 1607.” (Encyclopedia Britannica Online) The establishment
of the Episcopalian Church was in fact for political and religious leadership
freedom from its ties with The Church of England and in conjunction freedom from
the Catholic Church. The differences in church organization are prevalent and
are the main distinction between the two traditions. The Episcopalian
organization is described as; In the organization of the church, each
self-supporting congregation (parish) elects its lay governing board (vestry)
for temporal affairs and its rector as spiritual leader. Congregations that are
not self-supporting (missions) are directed by the bishop of the area. In a
given area the parishes and missions make up a diocese, headed by a bishop. All
clergy and laity representing all congregations meet annually in convention to
conduct the business of the diocese. The convention elects the bishop to serve
until death or retirement. The dioceses and mission districts belong to the
General Convention, which meets triennially. All bishops are members of the
House of Bishops, and the House of Delegates is made up of equal numbers of
clergy and laity. The Executive Council, the administrative agency of the
General Convention, is headed by the Presiding Bishop (elected by the House of
Bishops), who also presides over the House of Bishops. (Encyclopedia Britannica
Online) In contrast the Catholic Church’s political and religious leadership
is organized in a manner that follow a distinct order. This order can be grouped
by papal authority, the Roman Curia and the college of Cardinals, the college of
bishops, ecumenical councils and the priesthood. Catholics also hold the Vatican
as the capital for Catholicism and place it as a global leadership source. The
study of these two traditions consisted of two visits to St.John’s Episcopal
Church and two visits to St.Thomas Moore Catholic Church. The comparison of
these traditions stimulated interest in me due to two factors. First, I am
Catholic and have been raised in the Catholic tradition, which stimulates much
interest in the Episcopalian tradition. This will allow me to play both roles as
an insider when I attend Catholic Church and as an outsider in the Episcopal
Church. Secondly, until this religion course I was unaware of the details in the
Episcopal Church and wanted to further examine the tradition. In preparation to
visit St.John’s Episcopal Church I felt a discomfort due to unknown rituals,
physical appearance of the church and it’s location in the downtown area. I
thought a good method of visiting the church would be to invite an Episcopalian
friend of mine. He agreed to visit the church with me and addressed the concerns
I had in visiting the church. As I soon learned the issues I was concerned
about, should not have been a concern at all. I found that the rituals were
almost identical to that of the Roman Catholic faith. Rituals such as spoken
prayers, hymns that were sung and receiving communion were done in an almost
duplicate manner. I was fortunate enough to visit St.John’s Episcopal Church
on two special occasions. On my initial visit they had baptism of newborn
infants. This was performed in the same manner as the Catholic method with the
exception that Catholics do not perform baptisms during the regular Sunday mass.
On my second visit it was Saint’s Sunday in both traditions. This experience
almost leads me to conclude that there was no difference in practicing rituals.
Both traditions reflected on given Saints during the mass and explained how one
should try to follow the examples of these Saints. The appearance of both
churches truly enhanced my experience as a visitor. Visiting these local
churches reminded me of the pulchritude I witnessed visiting Catholic churches
in Spain this past summer. Both churches are laid out similar in that they are
in a “T” shape. The pulpit was located in the middle where everyone is
allowed to view the priest at the pulpit, although if you are seating along the
sides, you would have a side view of the mass. The method in which the pews,
windows and ceiling were constructed were also arranged similarly. The two
noticeable differences were the way the choirs were seated and the absence of a
statue of Jesus on the cross. The choir in the Episcopal Church was seated to
face each other and was significantly larger in quantity than that of the
Catholic Church. After researching why the Episcopalian Church does not have a
statue of Jesus on the cross, I was unable to determine the reason, however I
thought that it is a notable difference. Being raised in a middle class family,
I was accustom to attending church in a casual style wearing jeans and a nice
shirt. My expectation of the attire at this particular Episcopal Church followed
was correct, formal dress. Everyone in the church was in formal wear, males wore
suits, and females wore long dresses. This dress phenomenon I do not believe is
linked to a particular faith, more to the social class that makes up the church
members. One aspects that Catholics seem to appraise more than Episcopalians is
the Virgin Mary. It is not that Episcopalians do not recognize the Virgin Mary,
however they generally do not hold the caliber of importance as Catholics. In my
visits to the Catholic Church, I found statues of the Virgin Mary and people
praying over her statue. Other ritual practices which I noted to be different
was how Catholics have confession and pray the rosary. Though Episcopalians do
not practice confession, it should also be noted that the Catholic Church as
changed the magnitude of confession in the late twenty century. I have found
that Catholics are adopting the protestant way of belief of forgiveness which
has the general idea that God gave us Jesus to have a one-on-one relationship
with God through Jesus therefore eliminating the need to confess to a priest.
This argument is quite controversial and will continue to be a topic of
discussion for decades. When discussing the use of the rosary to a Episcopalian
friend of mine he stated that the tradition does not practice the use of a
rosary. This coincides with not having confession, since praying the rosary is
often something done after confession. In concluding I would have to say my
experience in surveying these different traditions was extremely educational. It
is interesting how much one can learn by exposing themselves to other traditions
and learning unfamiliar aspects of one’s tradition. The research conducted led
me to affirm my statement that there is a strong divison on political and
religious leadership between these two traditions. However, I must say what
intrigued me the most was how similar a protestant tradition is to the Catholic
tradition and the only separation being the leadership and politics.

Bibliography"Protestant Episcopal Church" Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
[Accessed 15 November 1999]
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