Frequently Asked Questions (see answers below)

1. What is the Episcopal Church?

2. Does that mean the Archbishop of Canterbury is the Pope of the Episcopal Church?

3. Then how is the Episcopal Church governed?

4. What does “Episcopal” mean?

5. Can a woman be ordained a bishop, priest, or deacon in the Episcopal Church?

6. What are the differences between the Roman Catholic Church and the Episcopal Church?

7. Are all welcome in the Episcopal Church?

8. May I receive communion in the Episcopal Church?

9. How do I become of member of St Paul’s and the Episcopal Church?

10. How do I get Baptized or have my infant or child baptized at St Paul’s?

11. We live out of town, but our parents or grandparents live in Delray Beach and we would like our child baptized at St. Paul’s. Is this possible?

12. Why does the Episcopal Church baptize infants. They don’t know what it’s all about?

13. How do I get married at St Paul’s?

14. Does St Paul’s marry or bless same-sex couples?

15. I am divorced, will you still allow me to be married at St Paul’s?

16. What does St Paul’s offer besides worship opportunities?

1. What is the Episcopal Church?

We are a Church that understands God as Trinity (Three in One and One in Three), follows Jesus Christ and encourages others to follow Jesus as well. We are a Church that understands the Bible as the Word of God and central to our faith but we read it critically, not literally. Though not Roman Catholic, we are a “catholic” church, meaning that we are a repository of the whole of the faith and its traditions- Scripture, sacraments, creeds, and apostolic succession that includes bishops in this historic line. In our theology and practice, we understand the traditional “three-legged stool” of Anglicanism to be essential to understanding. This “three-legged stool” consists of Scripture, Tradition and Reason. All three must be employed when considering important matters of faith and life, not one may stand alone. The Episcopal Church is a part of the worldwide Anglican Communion, meaning those churches that find their roots in the Church of England and who are in full communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

2. Does that mean the Archbishop of Canterbury is the Pope of the Episcopal Church?

No, there is no equivalent of the Pope in the Episcopal Church or in the wider Anglican Communion. Each branch of the Anglican Communion is autonomous and self-governing. The Archbishop of Canterbury is a spiritual figure-head of the Anglican Communion but has no formal authority in any branch except his own Church of England.

3. Then how is the Episcopal Church governed?

The Episcopal Church is governed democratically at every level by bishops, priests, deacons and lay people. The Episcopal Church is an international entity made up of dioceses not just in the United States, but also in Central America, Haiti and the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe. It is governed by a body called General Convention which meets every three years. General Convention was established in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania after the American Revolution and during the same period the United States Constitution was being drafted in the same city. Our governance reflects the spirit of the period. Like the United States Congress, General Convention is bi-cameral (two houses) and is made up of the House of Bishops (comprised of all of the Bishops of the Episcopal Church) and the House of Deputies (made up of equal numbers of clergy and lay deputies elected by each diocese). All policies, rules and positions of the Episcopal Church are democratically determined by General Convention operating, we pray, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Between General Conventions, the business of the Episcopal Church is conducted by an Executive Council made up of elected bishops, priests, deacons and lay people representative of the different regions of the church. Each diocese of the Episcopal Church is governed by a bishop accountable not only to the Episcopal Church, but also to regional diocesan conventions and diocesan governing boards that consist of lay people and clergy working together.

4. What does “Episcopal” mean?

The word “episcopal” means “bishop” and comes from the Greek word for “overseer.” The Bishop is the chief pastor, teacher and administrator of his or her diocese. There are 111 dioceses in the Episcopal Church (100 domestically and 11 overseas). St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is a part of the Diocese of Southeast Florida. The Right Reverend Leo Frade is our bishop and his office is in Miami. The Rev David Knight is  the interim Rector of St. Paul’s. As Rector, he is the head pastor and administrator of the parish, representing the bishop of the diocese and working with the wardens and vestry (lay people who are the board of directors of the church), as well as the staff and committees of St. Paul’s to govern the local parish church and oversee the carrying out of its ministry.

5. Can a woman be ordained a bishop, priest or deacon in the Episcopal Church?

Women are active in all levels of ministry in the Episcopal Church. We have women bishops, priests, deacons and lay persons who are part of the governance at every level. In June 2006, Katharine Jefferts-Schori was elected Presiding Bishop (chief pastor and bishop) of the Episcopal Church. She is the first woman to be elected Primate (chief bishop) in any branch of the Anglican Communion.

6. What are the differences between the Roman Catholic Church and the Episcopal Church?

Although the Episcopal Church is closest in form and worship to the Roman Catholic Church than any of the churches that emerged from the Protestant Reformation, there are still many significant differences. Like the Roman Catholic Church, we have bishops, priests and deacons. We have seven sacraments (Holy Baptism, Holy Eucharist, Confirmation, Marriage, Ordination, Reconciliation and Unction – anointing of the sick with oil). Unlike the Roman Catholic Church we are governed democratically at every level and do not have a Pope or any equivalent of the Pope. While some of our clergy may feel called to a life of celibacy, clergy in the Episcopal Church are allowed to marry. Many have families. Like our wider culture, the Episcopal Church has been addressing questions of human sexuality for many years. As a result of our struggle, openly gay and lesbian clergy are accepted in many, though not all, parts of the Episcopal Church. In the Episcopal Church we have openly gay bishops. The Right Reverend V. Gene Robinson, retired Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire, consecrated in 2003, was the first openly gay bishop of the Episcopal Church. This caused some turmoil and anguish for some who saw this as contrary to Scripture. For others it has been a sign of openness and a pointer to the inclusive reign of God. Typical of the Episcopal Church, most have learned to live in the tension of differing opinions while we seek God’s continuing guidance and revelation on the matter. While we have a rite of confession to a priest, we do not require anyone to use this rite. Our rule of thumb for confession to a priest is, “all may, some should, none must.” There are many other differences that become clearer after spending time with us. One of our bishops once described the Episcopal Church as “a catholic church in love with freedom.” It is a fair description.

7. Are all welcome in the Episcopal Church?

All persons of any age, race, ethnic group, sexual identity or even different religion are welcome in the Episcopal Church.

8. May I receive communion in the Episcopal Church?

In the Episcopal Church all are welcome to the Lord’s table and those who have been baptized in the name of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) in any Christian denomination are welcome to make their communion. Others may receive a blessing.

9. How do I become of member of St Paul’s and the Episcopal Church?

The best way to become a member of St Paul’s and the Episcopal Church is to start worshiping with us and joining us for parish events and activities. In this way you will discover if we are a “good fit” for you. If you feel we are a good fit and you would like St Paul’s to be your church home, then you will want to attend the Foundations Course which is offered three times per year – fall, winter and spring. The Foundations Course takes place on consecutive Tuesday nights for one hour. During the course videos, books and discussion are used to explore the basics of the Christian faith through the eyes of the Episcopal Church. After completing the Foundations Course, you will be asked if you want to be Baptized, Confirmed or Received by the bishop during his visitation to St Paul’s. This would formalize your membership both in St Paul’s and as an Episcopalian.  Please call the Church Office (561-276-4541) for additional information.

10. How do I get Baptized or have my infant or child baptized at St Paul’s?

At St Paul’s we welcome the opportunity to baptize infants, children and adults who have not previously been baptized. For adults, participation in the Foundations Course is recommended prior to Baptism. In lieu of this, for adults, an appointment may be made with one of the clergy for private instruction and preparation. Parents and families wishing to have an infant or child baptized should call the church office to set date for Baptism and one session of required instruction for parents and godparents. Generally, baptism is offered once a month. Baptism is always offered on the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord (the first Sunday following January 6), Easter Eve, the Feast of Pentecost (50 days after Easter – sometime in May or June), All Saints’ Sunday (the first Sunday in November) and whenever the bishop visits St. Paul’s (usually on a Sunday in February or March). Except in an emergency, baptisms always take place during a regular worship service of the church. There are no private baptisms at St Paul’s (‘Private Baptism’ is an oxymoron – baptism is an outward and visible sign of God’s grace and welcomes one into the household of God.). At St Paul’s, the community takes seriously its vow made during baptism, to support all persons in their new life in Christ. The newly baptized and their families are invited to participate fully in the life of the church. It is expected that persons being baptized will be active members of the church following baptism as they live into their baptismal covenant. Parents are especially invited into the life of the church both for their children and for themselves. It does indeed take a village, a church to raise a child. It is expected that parents of infants and children who are baptized at St Paul’s will keep the promise they make during the service of Holy Baptism “to see that the child they present is raised in the Christian faith and life” by being active members of St Paul’s. For additional information or to schedule a baptism, please call the church office (561-276-4541).

11. We live out of town, but our parents or grandparents live in Delray Beach and we would like our child baptized at St Paul’s. Is this possible?

Yes, we frequently baptize infants and children who are grandchildren of or otherwise related to St Paul’s members. It is our expectation that the parents of an infant or child who reside in a different part of the country or the world, but who wish to be have their child baptized at St Paul’s will be active members of a church in their home community and be prepared to keep the promise they make during the service of Holy Baptism “to see that the child they present is raised in the Christian faith and life” by being active members of their local church.

12. Why does the Episcopal Church baptize infants. They don’t know what it’s all about?

We believe that Baptism is a grace of God and gift of the Holy Spirit and that it has its own efficacy that is objective. Through Baptism and by God’s grace, one is given a Christian identity and becomes part of the Christian story. We believe that in baptism any person is made a member of the Church, the body of Christ, regardless of when this occurs. We also believe that parents, godparents and family members of a baptized infant or child have a holy responsibility to raise and nurture their child in the Christian faith and life. Raising the child as a Christian represents a sacred partnership between the home and the congregation.

13. How do I get married at St Paul’s?

St Paul’s would welcome the opportunity to perform your marriage and we do this as part of a wider faith experience. We recommend you contact us at least 6 months before the scheduled date of the wedding. At St Paul’s, while we believe your wedding is important, we are much more concerned about your marriage. Recognizing that we are living in a society with a very high rate of divorce, we want to do our best to give each couple the best start we can in addition to offering you support after your wedding. We expect that you will be an active part of the church both before and after marriage. We are confident that being an active part of a church community will strengthen your marriage. Research supports this conclusion. Prior to your wedding, you will be required to undergo pre-marital counseling and instruction. This generally involves four or more sessions with the priest who will officiate at the wedding. In addition, you will be asked to take The Myers- Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI) and to meet with a certified MBTI counselor who will review the MBTI results with you. You will also be required to obtain a valid Florida marriage license. To discuss your marriage at St Paul’s, please call the church office (561-276-4541) and make an appointment to meet with one of the clergy. Under the canons of the Episcopal Church, a clergy person may decline to solemnize any marriage and, for possible pastoral/moral concerns, the clergy of St. Paul’s reserve that right at all times up to the day and time of the wedding itself.

14. Does St Paul’s marry or bless same-sex couples?

At the 2012 General Convention held in Indianapolis, Indiana, The Episcopal Church approved for “provisional use” rites of blessing for same-sex couples beginning in Advent of 2012 (December 2, 2012) where the Bishop authorizes such rites to be used. Bishop Frade has authorized clergy to use these rites and, so, St. Paul’s is pleased to offer the blessing rite for same-sex couples. Because this is the blessing of a life-long commitment, it requires serious preparation. As with marriages performed at St. Paul’s, couples desiring to have their life-long commitment witnessed and blessed will be required to undergo a period of preparation and instruction with a member of the clergy of St. Paul’s prior to the rite. This will consist of four or five sessions as well as administration of the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator. The State of Florida does not allow same-sex couples to be married, so the clergy of St. Paul’s cannot perform such marriages. Clergy are, however, permitted to bless the marriages of same-sex couples whose civil marriages have been performed in states where it is allowed by law.

15. I am divorced, will you still allow me to be married at St Paul’s?

Understanding that brokenness is a part of the human experience and that the church is called to a pastoral role of healing and reconciliation, the Episcopal Church does allow for marriage after divorce. We recognize and celebrate second chances in life as a grace and a gift from God. The statements made in #13 above apply equally to a marriage after divorce. In addition, any clergy person officiating at the marriage of a person who has been divorced will require copies of all divorce documents and must also obtain the permission of the bishop of the diocese at least 30 days in advance of the scheduled wedding. In some instances, the clergy person of St. Paul’s may require you and your intended spouse to meet with a trained marriage counselor selected by the clergy person as a prerequisite or in place of pre-marital counseling at St. Paul’s. This determination is made solely at the discretion of the clergy person. If this recommendation is made, it is intended for your well-being and for the health of your marriage. In any instance where there has been more than one previous marriage that ended by divorce or annulment, this outside counseling will be a mandatory prerequisite for marriage at St. Paul’s. In all instances, the cost of outside counseling is paid by the couple seeking to be married.

16. What does St Paul’s offer besides worship opportunities?

St Paul’s Episcopal Church offers participation in an inclusive and welcoming community of faith. There are a wide range of programs and activities for people of all ages: educational courses, small groups, opportunities to serve in pastoral care or outreach to the poor and needy. We offer mission trip opportunities and faith pilgrimages. St. Paul’s is committed to creating the possibility for people to have a lively experience of God and to building people up in the Christian faith and life. There is something for almost everybody to grow in the knowledge, love and service of the Lord. For complete information, explore our Parish Life Catalog or, better yet, make an appointment with one of the clergy so they can discuss how St. Paul’s can be a church for you. St Paul’s Episcopal Church in Delray Beach truly is a church where tradition meets today! You are welcome!