Episcopal vs Assemblies of God: What’s the Difference?


Many people have heard of Episcopal Churches and Assemblies of God churches but don’t know how they compare to each other. Both Christian traditions have a strong presence in America, though their churches can be found around the world as well. What do these denominations have in common? What are their differences?

The Episcopal Church is a member of the global communion of Anglican churches, historically established in England. It is half Catholic, half Protestant. The Assemblies of God, which is Protestant, traces its roots to the Asuza Street Revival in Los Angeles, California, at the beginning of the 20th century.

Is the Episcopal Church growing? What about the Assemblies of God? Is the Episcopal Church half Catholic? What does each tradition believe about the Bible, God, Jesus Christ, and speaking in tongues? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.

Also see Episcopalian vs Eastern Orthodox: What’s the Difference? to learn more.

Assemblies of God church
Is the Assemblies of God denomination in decline? See below

Episcopal and Assemblies of God Churches: Comparison

In recent years, the Episcopal Church has experienced a decline and their numerical losses are expected to accelerate. One political scientist even states, “Barring a tremendous revival, the end is coming very quickly for our friends in the Episcopal tradition.” [1] The Assemblies of God, in contrast, continues to grow:

“The world’s largest Pentecostal denomination, the Assemblies of God has been quietly growing in the US for decades, bucking the trend of denominational decline seen by most other Protestant traditions.” [2]

EpiscopalianAssemblies of God
NameFrom the Greek word for “overseer,” and the Latin word for “bishop,” the term refers to a form of church government that locates ecclesiastical authority in the office of bishop as opposed to the papacy or congregational membership. The term also describes the largest tradition in the Anglican communion in America. “Assemblies” refers to individual churches, as in “bodies” or “congregations.” “God” refers to the denomination’s beliefs about the Creator as he is revealed in the Bible.
OriginThe Anglican tradition dates to the time of King Henry VIII (1491-1547) and his protests against the Catholic church. Anglicanism arrived in America with settlers from England. The label “Episcopalian” dates to the time of the Revolutionary War (1775-1783) when the names “Anglican” and “Church of England” were out of favor.A decade after the Asuza Street Revival in Los Angeles, California, Pentecostal pastors and leaders who had strong convictions that speaking in tongues was the evidence of a post-conversion baptism of the Holy Spirit, organized in Hot Springs, Arkansas, in 1914.
Branch of Christianity Because its part of the Anglican communion, many consider Episcopalianism to be halfway between Protestant and Catholic. Many theologians and historians posit that a church can’t be “halfway Catholic,” so it’s best to consider the tradition Protestant with aspects of Catholicism woven into certain churches.Assemblies of God is Protestant. They believe that salvation is by grace through faith in Christ alone, and not according to works. They reject the authority of the pope and disagree with the theology of the Eucharist in Catholicism.
Early contributorsKing Edward VI (1537-1553), Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603), theologian Richard Hooker (1554-1600) Charles Fox Parham (1873-1929), Agnes Ozman (1870–1937), William Joseph Seymour (1870-1922)
OrganizationThe word “episcopal” comes from the Greek word for “overseer,” and the Latin word for “bishop.” It refers to a form of church government that locates ecclesiastical authority in the office of bishop as opposed to the papacy, like in Catholicism, or the congregation, like in some Protestant traditions.Assemblies of God churches are organized according to presbyterian polity (though not theology) at the national level as well as the regional or district level. Individual churches, however, are congregational, i.e. self-governing.
AuthorityHistorically, Episcopalianism, like the Anglican communion, values the Bible. The tradition affirms the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed. The Book of Common Prayer is also a pivotal document to the heart and identity of the tradition. As Protestants, Assemblies of God churches believe the Bible is their sole authority for establishing doctrine and practice. “The 16 Fundamental Truths” is the name of the denomination’s belief statement.
DivisionsThe denomination called the “Episcopal Church” is the largest in the tradition by a significant margin. Denominations and churches have split over theological, political, and social issues. Examples of contentious topics include women in ministry, allegations of devaluing Scripture, and issues related to same-sex marriage and gender identification. Compared with other large Protestant denominations, the Assemblies of God has been free of significant splits. Internal debates have occurred over a number of issues, but the denomination has avoided large protesting factions.
Social worldview todayThe “Episcopal Church,” the largest communion in America, is socially and theologically liberal. The Assemblies of God denomination is evangelical and conservative, theologically and socially. The denomination ordains women to be pastors, which some Christians consider liberal and progressive.

Episcopalianism in America

Episcopalianism in America is mostly found in the Episcopal Church denomination. However, other, smaller, denominations exist. The differences between them sometimes center on the implementation of certain practices that are historically Catholic. Other times their differences concern political and social matters, with some favoring liberal and progressive priorities and others siding with conservative values.

Episcopal DenominationsReported Membership
Episcopal Church2 million
Anglican Church in North America112,000
Continuing Anglican Churches100,000
Reformed Episcopal Church15,000

Also see Episcopalian vs Pentecostal: What’s the Difference? to learn more.

Episcopal Church in America
Do Episcopalians speak in tongues? See below

Episcopal and Assemblies of God Beliefs: Similarities and Differences

What is the difference between continuationism and cessationism? Continuationists (from the word “continue”) believe all spiritual gifts are operational today. Cessationists (from the word “cease”) believe that only some spiritual gifts are operational today, because the purpose of the so-called “miraculous gifts” was to establish the church and accredit the Apostles, which has been done.

Is Assemblies of God and Pentecostal the same thing? The Assemblies of God and Pentecostalism are closely related but not synonymous. Pentecostalism is a theological system that the Assemblies of God, as well as other denominations, hold as true. For example, The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel and the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee) are also Pentecostal. In other words, all Assemblies of God churches are Pentecostal, but not all Pentecostal churches are Assemblies of God.

EpiscopalianAssemblies of God
View of the BibleHistorically, Episcopalianism has valued Scripture. Recently, liberal and progressive congregations have decentralized Scripture. People can read deutero-canonical literature or the Apocrypha, but they can’t be used to establish doctrine.As Protestants, the Assemblies of God has a high view of Scripture and believe that it’s solely authoritative. #1 of The 16 Fundamental Truths state, “The Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, are verbally inspired of God and are the revelation of God to man, the infallible, authoritative rule of faith and conduct.”
View of GodEpiscopalians believe in the Trinity; there is one God who exists in three persons. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each fully divine. The Assemblies of God denomination is devoutly Trinitarian. There is one God who exists in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
View of ChristHistorically, Episcopalianism has affirmed that Jesus is the second person of the Trinity. He is God in human flesh. He is 100% God and 100% man. Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died as an atonement for sin, was physically resurrected on the third day, and ascended into heaven. Jesus is the second person of the Trinity. He is God in human flesh. He is 100% God and 100% man. Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died as an atonement for sin, and was physically resurrected on the third day. The Assemblies of God believes that Christ’s death was the punishment for sin, and that he took the place of sinners on the cross.
View of salvationEpiscopalianism’s roots in Anglicanism are closer to Calvinism than Arminianism. However, Arminianism grew to characterize and influence the tradition more. Today, liberal and progressive congregations are ecumenical and inclusive of other religions, not just other denominations. #5 of The 16 Fundamental Truths state, “Salvation is received through repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ. By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, being justified by grace through faith, man becomes an heir of God, according to the hope of eternal life.” Assemblies of God is Arminian.
View of the Holy SpiritThe Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. He is fully divine. Episcopalians are historically cessationist (e.g. they don’t speak in tongues), yet some small communions practice charismatic worship (e.g. International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church). The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. He is fully divine. The Spirit applies the salvation that the Father planned and that the Son earned for sinners. He bestows spiritual gifts on believers that they are to use for the edification of the Church. The Assemblies of God believes that speaking in tongues is the initial evidence of baptism in the Holy Spirit, which they believe occurs after conversion.
View of the Ordinances or SacramentsAll Episcopalian expressions recognize baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Those who have convictions that align with the high church, recognize the other five that Catholicism does. The Anglican-Episcopalian tradition teaches that the sacraments are a means of grace, as in Catholicism. The Assemblies of God believes in two sacraments because they are the only ones that Jesus himself taught: water baptism and the Lord’s Supper or Communion.
View of the Lord’s SupperChrist is present in the elements but there is a mystery to it. The tradition doesn’t fully embrace Catholicism’s theology of the Eucharist but affirms that consuming the elements is more than simply a memorial practice. #6 of The 16 Fundamental Truths state, “The Lord’s Supper, consisting of the elements — bread and the fruit of the vine — is the symbol expressing our sharing the divine nature of our Lord Jesus Christ, a memorial of his suffering and death, and a prophecy of His second coming, and is enjoined on all believers ’till He come!'”
View of the BaptismClergy baptize infants and adults; baptized individuals are “grafted into the church.” Sometimes referred to as “credobaptism” (credo = “I believe”), water baptism is for professing believers who have trusted Christ for salvation. The doctrine is often called “Believer’s Baptism.”
View of the end timesEpiscopalians believe in the Second Coming of Christ. The tradition’s eschatology is amillennial, as opposed to premillennial or postmilennial. Premillennial; #14 of The 16 Fundamental Truths state, “The second coming of Christ includes the rapture of the saints, which is our blessed hope, followed by the visible return of Christ with His saints to reign on earth for one thousand years.”

Also see Episcopalian vs Roman Catholic: What’s the Difference? to learn more.

References:
[1] Source
[2] Source

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