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Thomas Ryan, CSP Answers:
Question: What is the difference in belief between Roman Catholics and Episcopalians? I was once told, “All the ceremony and half the guilt” but there must be more to it than that.
Indeed, there is more to it than that, though your pithy line has some validity to it as far as it goes. A large part of the Episcopal Church (its styles vary from the simple to the elaborate, from Evangelical to Catholic) has retained rich and reverent ceremony as part of its Catholic heritage. Because Roman Catholics have a pope and bishops it’s often pretty clear who has teaching authority in the church. The Episcopalians’ hierarchy is less clear as they don’t have a figure like the pope at the head of their church.
Belief-wise, Episcopalians (Anglicans) uphold and proclaim the Catholic and Apostolic faith, based on the same creeds and scripture, and interpreted in the light of Christian tradition, scholarship, and reason. They recognize seven sacraments (the same sacraments as the Catholic Church) and hold roughly the same moral values as Catholics with a few exceptions.
Differences relate to recognition of the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome (the pope) as holding an authoritative teaching office for the whole church; the ordination of women as deacons, priests, and bishops; the use of contraception, divorce, and remarriage.