Bible Class Curricula - Denominational Doctrines (Part 1) - Lesson #5 - The Episcopal Religion

  1. History of the Episcopal Denomination
    1. When did the denomination start? 1532
    2. Where did this movement start? England
    3. How did this movement start? The beginning of the Episcopal denomination is shrouded in adultery and stained in blood. Church historian A.A. Davis records the following:

      There does not seem to have been any doctrinal matter involved at all when the Church of England was born. Luther objected to the doctrines and the practices of Rome, but the Church of England seems to have come about purely by accident. King Henry VIII of England had become dissatisfied with one of his wives, and incidentally he only had six of them. I learned a little ditty many years ago concerning the fate of the wives of Henry VIII. It went like this "Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived." He divorced the first one; he beheaded the second one; the third one was fortunate to die a natural death; the fourth one he divorced; the fifth one he beheaded; but, the sixth one outlived him. He had fallen in love with beautiful Anne Boleyn. He wanted a divorce from Katherine. The pope claimed the right, as he has until this day, as supreme authority in domestic affairs. When the prime minister chided the king regarding his desires, and the pope would not grant him a divorce, Thomas Cromwell said to him: "You are the King of England. Why don’t you just write a letter to the pope, and in your own way tell him to go jump in the lake, then organize a church of your own; write yourself a bill of divorcement, go marry the woman of your choice." He said it was a pretty good idea. That is just about what happened in history. He wanted another wife and he got her. And the world got another church. That is just as plain and blunt as I know how to put it. There is not a historian of any reputation that will refute one statement that I have made.1

    4. Who founded the Episcopal religion? King Henry VIII of England founded this movement in order to overrule the Catholic pope on the issue of divorce and remarriage so that he (Henry VIII) could live in an adulterous marriage with Anne Boleyn.234
    5. Who is the head of the Episcopal denomination? The British monarch (the current king or queen) has the constitutional title of "Sovereign by the grace of God, and Supreme Governor of the Church of England." In practice, however, the administrative leadership of the church falls elsewhere: "The Archbishop of Canterbury is generally considered the honorary head of the Anglican Communion" across the world, which includes "the Episcopal Church in the USA."5
    6. What is their authority? In preparing this material, I spoke with an Episcopal “priest” who informed me of their three sources of authority. His words were, "In the Episcopal Church there are three sources of authority: Scripture, reason, and tradition. None of these outweighs the other."6
  2. Episcopal Doctrine vs. Biblical Doctrine
    1. What we should follow:
      1. Episcopal Church doctrine teaches that human creeds should be received and believed by adherents. Concerning this belief, Article VIII of the Thirty Nine Articles of Belief states, "The Nicene Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles’ Creed, ought thoroughly to be received and believed: for they may be proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture."7 Also, the Episcopal Church has a Common Book of Prayer that tells a person what to say, when to say it, and how to say it in worship to God.
      2. The Bible teaches that it is the only book men should follow in matters of salvation and worship (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3; 1 Corinthians 4:6; Revelation 22:18-19; 2 John 9; Matthew 15:7-9).
    2. Bishops and elders:
      1. In the Episcopal denomination, one bishop rules over a congregation or even a diocese (several congregations in a general area).
      2. In the New Testament, there is no distinction made between bishops and elders. Both terms are used to describe the same office (Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5-7; 1 Peter 5:1-5). Also, in the New Testament, a plurality of elders guided within each local congregation (Acts 14:23; 15:2, 22, 23; 16:4; Philippians 1:1).
    3. Free will:
      1. Episcopal Doctrine teaches that man has no free will, and as such is wholly dependent upon God’s grace. Concerning this, the Thirty Nine Articles of Faith says, "The condition of Man after the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and good works, to faith; and calling upon God."8
      2. The Bible teaches that man is a free moral agent and that he can and must call on God out of his own free will (Joshua 24:15; Acts 10:34; Galatians 2:6; 1 Timothy 2:4-6).
    4. Our nature at birth:
      1. The Episcopal doctrine states that we are born with a natural tendency to commit sin and evil.
      2. The Bible teaches we are born upright and created holy in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27; Ezekiel 18; 28:15; Ecclesiastes 7:29; Matthew 18).
    5. Faith only:
      1. The Episcopal religion teaches that we are justified by faith only. Concerning this, their Thirty Nine Articles of Faith says, "Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only, is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification."9
      2. The Bible says that faith alone will not save (James 2:24; Luke 6:46; Matthew 7:21; Hebrews 5:8-9; John 3:36; Mark 16:16; Luke 13:3; Romans 10:10).
    6. The church:
      1. Concerning the church, the Episcopal denomination makes some amazing statements that reveal serious inconsistency between what the church teaches and what the church practices. Consider the following:

        The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.

        As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch have erred, so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith.10

        It is interesting to note that although the Episcopal denomination condemns the Catholic Church, it follows the Catholic Church in much of what it does.

      2. Truly, the church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men and women who hold to the Bible (Acts 2:42, 47; Matthew 16:13-18).
    7. Homosexuality:
      1. The Episcopal Church is leaning more toward accepting homosexual unions and even homosexual priests every day. Concerning their view, in the Lambreth Conference they noted that the Church:

        … recognises that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God’s transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ.11

      2. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that homosexuality is a sin that, if participated in, will cause one to be an unfaithful member of the Lord’s church. God has offered the final word on this subject, and we must listen to Him only (Leviticus 18:22; 20:12-13; Romans 1: 26-29; 1 Corinthians 6:9ff.).
    8. Saints and animals:
      1. One of the more interesting “saint’s days” observed by the Episcopal Church is Pet’s Day. Pet’s Day (October 4) is in honor of St. Francis of Assisi (who apparently was a real pet lover). His dying words are supposed to have been, "I have sinned against my brother the ass." On Pet’s Day, Episcopalians may bring their animals to be blessed by the priest, who then offers a prayer (with included instructions) such as the following:

        The blessing is usually done with the sprinkling of water over the animal and the owner.

        "Blessed are you, Lord God, maker of all living creatures. You called forth fish in the sea, birds in the air and animals on the land. You inspired St. Francis to call all of them his brothers and sisters. We ask you to bless this pet. By the power of your love, enable it to live according to your plan. May we always praise you for all your beauty in creation. Blessed are you, Lord our God, in all your creatures! Amen."12

      2. There are no passages in the Bible that authorize naming a day after such a person as a “saint.” Nor is there any authority for the spiritual blessing of any type of animal. Such spiritual matters as God’s blessings are reserved for those with an immortal soul (unlike animals, which cease to exist after they die, Ecclesiastes 3:21).
  3. How to Convert Episcopalians
    1. Help them see when the church began (Acts 2:47), Who started the church (Matthew 16: 18), where the church began (Isaiah 2:1-2; Acts 2), and how the church began (Acts 20:28).
    2. Help them see that the Bible is the only source of religious authority for humankind (1 Corinthians 4:6; Revelation 22:18-19; Leviticus 10:1-2; Proverbs 30:6).
    3. Help them see that human tradition has always led to people being lost (Matthew 15:7-9; 2 Kings 5).
    4. Help them see the necessary steps in the plan of salvation (John 3:5; Luke 13:3; Romans 10:10; Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16).
    5. Help them see how the church of the New Testament worshiped and how first-century worship differs from their worship today (John 4:24; Acts 2:42; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2; Ephesians 5:19).

Study Questions

  1. It is evident from history that this denomination’s origin is stained with sin and impure motives. Discuss King Henry VIII and his motives for beginning the Episcopal church. What other religious men started groups out of impure motives?
  2. Discuss the difference between the head of the Episcopal religion and the New Testament church. What passages teach Jesus is still head of the church?
  3. What is wrong with Scripture, reason, and tradition being the authority for the church? Is human reasoning infallible? What about tradition? See Matthew 15:7-9.
  4. Do we need other books like the Nicene Creed, Apostles’ Creed, or a Common Book of Prayer to be right with God?
  5. What is wrong with the hierarchy of the Episcopal religion?
  6. List passages that teach man does have a free will and must make his own choice to be saved.
  7. Is man born with a natural tendency toward sin (born wanting to commit sin)?
  8. Where is the only time in the Scriptures that "faith only" is mentioned? What does that text say?
  9. Can a person be a full member of the body of Christ and be in a homosexual relationship?
  10. Do you believe such mundane religious holidays like Pet’s Day illustrate just how far some people will go in religion to make themselves happy? Can you think of other ways that people are making "merchandise" out of religion today?
  11. What things could you mention when studying with an Episcopalian to help them see the truth?


  1. 1As quoted from online: (, retrieved March 1, 2006 , as quoted from online: (, retrieved March 25, 2014 .
  2. 2Online: (, retrieved March 25, 2014 .
  3. 3Online: (, retrieved March 25, 2014 .
  4. 4Online: (, retrieved March 25, 2014 .
  5. 5Online: (, retrieved March 27, 2014 .
  6. 6From a conversation with Ernie Madden of St. Phillips Episcopal Church in Ardmore, Oklahoma ( September 20, 2005 ).
  7. 7Online: (, retrieved March 1, 2006 .
  8. 8Ibid.
  9. 9Ibid.
  10. 10Ibid.
  11. 11Online: (, retrieved March 1, 2006 .
  12. 12Online: (, retrieved March 27, 2014 .
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