Outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means for receiving God's grace. Baptism and Eucharist are the two great sacraments given by Christ to his church. (BCP, pp. 857-858). The Episcopal Church recognizes that five other sacramental rites evolved in the church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, including Confirmation, Ordination, Holy Matrimony, Reconciliation of a Penitent, and Unction (the anointing of the sick with oil, or the laying on of hands) (BCP, pp. 860-861).
This is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ's Body, the church. God establishes an indissoluble bond with each person in baptism. God adopts us, making us members of the church and inheritors of the Kingdom of God (BCP, pp. 298, 858). In baptism we are made sharers in the new life of the Holy Spirit and the forgiveness of sins. Baptism is the foundation for all future church participation and ministry. Each candidate for baptism in the Episcopal Church is to be sponsored by one or more baptized persons. Sponsors (godparents) speak on behalf of candidates for baptism who are infants or younger children and cannot speak for themselves at the Presentation and Examination of the Candidates. During the baptismal rite the members of the congregation promise to do all they can to support the candidates for baptism in their life in Christ. They join with the candidates by renewing the baptismal covenant. The water of baptism may be administered by immersion or affusion (pouring) (BCP, p. 307). Candidates are baptized "in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," and then marked on the forehead with the sign of the cross. Chrism may be used for this marking. The newly baptized is "sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ's own for ever." When all baptisms have been completed, the celebrant and congregation welcome the newly baptized into the household of God.
The sacrament of Christ's body and blood, and the principal act of Christian worship. The term is from the Greek, "thanksgiving." Jesus instituted the eucharist "on the night when he was betrayed." At the Last Supper he shared the bread and cup of wine at a sacred meal with his disciples. He identified the bread with his body and the wine with his blood of the new covenant. Jesus commanded his disciples to "do this" in remembrance of him (see 1 Cor 11:23-26; Mk 14:22-25; Mt 26:26-29; Lk 22:14-20). Christ's sacrifice is made present by the eucharist, and in it we are united to his one self-offering (BCP, p. 859). The Last Supper provides the basis for the fourfold eucharistic action of taking, blessing, breaking, and sharing. Christ's body and blood are really present in the sacrament of the eucharist and received by faith. Christ's presence is also known in the gathered eucharistic community.
The sacramental rite of the church in which a woman and a man "enter into a life-long union, make their vows before God and the Church, and receive the grace and blessing of God to help them fulfill their vows" (BCP, p. 861). The union of husband and wife is understood to be intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God's will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord (BCP, p. 423). At the Declaration of Consent, both the woman and the man promise to love, comfort, honor, and keep their spouse, in sickness and in health, and, forsaking all others, to be faithful to their spouse as long as they both live (BCP, p. 424). The congregation witnesses the couple's promises, and the members of the congregation promise to do all in their power to uphold the couple in their marriage.
The Episcopal Church's theology of Confirmation has continued to evolve along with its understanding of baptism. Confirmation is no longer seen as the completion of Christian initiation, nor is Confirmation a prerequisite for receiving communion. Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ's body the church (BCP, p. 298). Accordingly, Confirmation has been increasingly understood in terms of a mature, public reaffirmation of the Christian faith and the baptismal promises. Some dioceses require that candidates for Confirmation be at least sixteen years old to insure that the candidates are making a mature and independent affirmation of their faith. There is considerable diversity of understanding and practice concerning Confirmation in the Episcopal Church. Confirmation has been characterized as "a rite seeking a theology."
In the Episcopal Church the ordained ministry is normally seen as a life-long vocation. Careful selection, discernment, and preparation are required before ordination takes place. The canons call for theological instruction in the Holy Scriptures; church history, including the ecumenical movement; Christian theology; Christian ethics and moral theology; studies in contemporary society, including racial and minority groups; liturgics and church music; and theory and practice of ministry. The requirements and standards of learning may be modified in the ordination of local priests and deacons.
Sacramental use of oil as an outward sign of God's active presence for healing, initiation, or ordination. Anointing with oil by smearing or pouring may accompany prayers for healing (unction) and the laying on of hands in the rite for Ministration to the Sick (BCP, p. 453). The signing with the cross of the newly baptized may be done by anointing with the oil of chrism, which signifies that the person is "sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ's own for ever." (BCP, p. 308). The oil for anointing may be scented, with different fragrances used in services for healing, initiation, or ordination.
Reconciliation of a Penitent
Sacramental rite in which those who repent may confess their sins to God in the presence of a priest and receive the assurance of pardon and the grace of absolution (BCP, p. 861). It is also called penance and confession. The church's ministry of reconciliation is from God, "who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation" (2 Cor 5:18). The ministry of reconciliation has been committed by Christ to the church. It is exercised through the care each Christian has for others, through the common prayer of Christians assembled for public worship, and through the priesthood of the church and its ministers declaring absolution (BCP, p. 446). The Reconciliation of a Penitent is not limited to times of sickness. Confessions may be heard at any time and any place.