Posted by: AJtheIrishLass | June 18, 2007

What Are Anglican/Episcopal Sacraments?

A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual grace. (Book of Common Prayer 1979, p. 857) They are given by Christ as a means by which we receive that grace.


Baptism is how we become members of the Church. When a person is baptized with water in the name of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), he or she is united with Christ in His death and resurrection, born into God’s family- the Church, cleansed from their sins, and given new life in the Holy Spirit. Infants are also baptized so they can become members of the Body of Christ and share in the life of the Risen Christ. (Most Episcopalians and other Christians who teach infant baptism, however, do not teach that infants and children who die before they can be baptized are unable to go to heaven. This is a popular misconception)

When an adult is baptized, he or she renounces Satan, repents of their sins, and accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. When infants are baptized, their parents and sponsors make these promises on their behalf. Those baptized as infants may make a mature commitment when old enough. Those already validly baptized in another church are not baptized but are either confirmed or received (if coming from a Catholic or Orthodox background).

More information on baptism: Matthew 28:16-20 (Jesus’ commissioning of the disciples), Acts 2:37-41(Many baptized at Pentecost), Acts 8:26-40 (Philip baptizes an Ethiopian eunuch), Acts 9:10-19 (Baptism of Saul), Acts 10:44-49 (Cornelius is baptized), Acts 16:25-34 (A jailer and his household are baptized), Acts 19:1-7 (Paul baptizes some disciples in Ephesus), Ephesians 4:1-6 (One Lord, one faith, one baptism).

The Holy Eucharist

The Holy Eucharist, as known as Communion, was instituted by Christ for the remembrance of His life, death, and resurrection. We believe that Christ’s sacrifice is made present in the Eucharist, and we are united to Him in this sacrifice. The bread and wine given represent His Body and Blood.

When we receive Communion, we receive the forgiveness of sins and a stronger union with Christ. In the Episcopal Church, everyone who has been baptized, is welcome to receive communion, and many parishes now practice an open communion policy. Members of other denominations should find out what their denomination’s guidelines are about receiving in other churches. Everyone desiring communion should examine their lives, repent of their sins, and be in love and charity with others.

More on the Holy Eucharist: Matthew 26:26-30 (Last supper), Mark 14:22-26 (Last supper), Luke 22:14-20 (Last supper), Luke 24:29-35 (Jesus recognized in the breaking of the bread), John 6:22-59 (Bread of Life discourse), Acts 2:42-47 (Apostles meeting daily for the breaking of the bread), I Corinthians 11:23-32 (Paul instructs the Corinthians about the Lord’s Supper).

The other sacramental rites are Confirmation, Ordination, Holy Matrimony, Reconciliation, and Unction.


At Confirmation, confirmands make a commitment to Christ and receive strength from the Holy Spirit. Those baptized as infants are expected to be confirmed at a reasonable age. This is done by the laying on of hands by a bishop. Those baptized as adults might be baptized and confirmed at the same service.

More on confirmation: Acts 1:4-8 (Jesus promises His gift of the Holy Spirit)


At Ordination, those being made bishops, priests, and deacons receive authority from God and the grace of the Holy Spirit through prayer and the laying on of hands by bishops.

More information on ordination and the ministry: Matthew 28:18-20 (The Great Commission), Luke 24: 44-49 (Jesus’ appearance to the disciples in Jerusalem), Acts 6:1-7 (The choosing of the first deacons), Acts 20:28-35 (Paul’s farewell speech at Miletus), I Timothy 3:1-13 (Qualifications of ministers), I Timothy 5:17-25 (Advice to presbyters), 2 Peter 1:12-21 (The witness of the apostles).

Holy Matrimony

In Holy Matrimony, or marriage, a couple make a life-long commitment, make vows before God and the Church, and receive God’s blessing. Marriage is for intended for mutual joy, help and comfort of each other in good and bad times, and for the procreation of children when it is God’s will.

More on marriage: Genesis 2:4-9, 15-24 (They become one flesh), The Song of Solomon (A nuptial hymn which also signifies Christ’s love for the Church), Mark 10:6-9, 13-16 (Marriage is intended to be life-long), Ephesians 5:25-33 (Mutual love and respect by spouses).


In Reconciliation (also known as Penance or Confession), a Christian confesses their sins to God in the presence of a priest and receives absolution. It’s also possible to confess sins to another Christian or or for the penitent to confess their sins directly to God. However, only a priest may pronounce absolution.

More on confession: James 5:16-20 (Confession and conversion of sinners), Matthew 18:15-20 (Brothers who sin), John 20:22-23 (Power to forgive sins given to the apostles), I John 1:5-10 (If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves).


At Unction, a sick person is anointed with oil and/or receives the laying on of hands for healing of spirit, mind, and body. The anointing with oil is not intended to be a cure, rather, is is intended to give the sick person a sense of wholeness and forgiveness of sins.

More on unction: Mark 6:7, 12-13 (They anointed many who were sick), James 5:14-16 (Is any among you sick?)

These sacraments all have a part in the lives of Episcopalians, as well as being part of the tradition the early church.

©2000. Written on November 8, 2000*. May not be reproduced without the author’s permission. Information on the sacraments is from the Book of Common Prayer 1979.

*Some minor revisions were made on March 31, 2002, March 11, 2007 and July 1, 2021.


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