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Episcopal History & Traditions

The Church of the Incarnation in Great Falls, Montana is an Episcopal Church under the Episcopal Diocese of Montana.

Not sure what Episcopal means, believes, or where it comes from? 

Read on to learn more about our story and consider if joining our community is right for you.

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At Church of the Incarnation,
we welcome all to join in the beauty of timeless ritual,
seek Christian connection, and share God’s abundance.



1.  of or relating to a bishop

2.  of, having, or constituting government by bishops
3   capitalized : of or relating to the Protestant Episcopal Church representing the Anglican communion in the U.S.


Middle English, from Late Latin 'episcopalis', from 'episcopus'  bishop


The Episcopal Church calls itself “Protestant, yet Catholic,” going back to its roots in the Church of England, which also describes itself as “Reformed and Catholic.”

Henry VIII established the English Church in 1534, when the Roman Catholic Church (pope) would not annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Intending for the church to remain Catholic but without papal authority, the king himself became head of the church. After Henry VIII’s death, many Protestant reforms (such as lifting the celibacy requirement for priests) were adopted under Edward VI, but Mary I then reinstated Roman Catholicism. It was not until Elizabeth I became queen that the Church of England was re-established and a compromise made — the Elizabethan Settlement in 1558 — between the church’s Protestant and Catholic factions
To this day, in the Church of England and national churches within the Anglican Communion (such as the Episcopal Church of America), congregations may emphasize either the Catholic or Protestant side of their Anglican faith.

In summary, we are led by a bishop, not a Roman Catholic pope, and our congregations are a mix between Catholic and Protestant beliefs.

As Episcopalians, we believe in and follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, whose life, death, and resurrection saved the world.  


We believe that  God loves you – no exceptions.   

The Episcopal Church embraces a legacy of inclusion, aspiring to tell and exemplify God’s love for every human being; people of all genders and sexual orientations serve as bishops, priests, and deacons in our church. Laypeople and clergy work together in leadership and governance.

Core to our Beliefs:

Book of Common Prayer 
“It is a most invaluable part of that blessed ‘liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free,’ that in his worship different forms and usages may without offense be allowed, provided the substance of the Faith be kept entire” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 9). 

The Book of Common Prayer is a treasure chest full of devotional and teaching resources for individuals and congregations, but it is also the primary symbol of our unity. We, who are many and diverse, come together in Christ through our worship, our common prayer. 

The Bible 
“Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 236).  

The Bible is our foundation, understood through tradition and reason, containing all things necessary for salvation. Our worship is filled with Scripture from beginning to end. Approximately 70% of the Book of Common Prayer comes directly from the Bible. 

Baptismal Covenant 
“Do you reaffirm your renunciation of evil and renew your commitment to Jesus Christ?” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 292). 

A mini-catechism used at baptisms and on Easter and other special occasions, the baptismal covenant opens with a question-and-answer version of the statement of faith that is the Apostles’ Creed and adds five questions regarding how we, as Christians, are called to live out our faith.  

The Catechism 
Offered in a question-and-answer format, the catechism found in the back of the Book of Common Prayer (pp. 845-862) helps teach the foundational truths of the Christian faith. 

The Creeds 
“The Creeds are statements of our basic beliefs about God” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 851). 

In the two foundational statements of faith—the Apostles’ Creed used at baptism, and the Nicene Creed used at communion—we join Christians throughout the ages in affirming our faith in the one God who created us, redeemed us, and sanctifies us. 

The Sacraments 
“Sacraments are outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 857). 

Besides baptism and the Eucharist (Holy Communion), the church recognizes other spiritual markers in our journey of faith.  

Found in the Book of Common Prayer, these include: 

  • Confirmation (the adult affirmation of our baptismal vows), pp. 413-419  

  • Reconciliation of a Penitent (private confession), pp. 447-452 

  • Matrimony (Christian marriage), pp. 422-438 

  • Orders (ordination to deacon, priest, or bishop), pp. 510-555 

  • Unction (anointing with oil those who are sick or dying) pp. 453-467  


Catholic Church Column

What's the Difference Between Catholic and Episcopalian?

The Episcopal Church considers itself both catholic and protestant.  We are proud of our catholic heritage and traditions. We are so similar to Roman Catholicism that a large percentage of our members come from Roman Catholic backgrounds. The Episcopal Church is similar to the Roman Catholic Church in many ways. We have bishops, priests, deacons, sacraments, weekly communion, saints, monks and nuns. We celebrate the same church seasons and share many of the same feast days.

There are some noticeable differences between The Episcopal Church and the Roman Catholic Church: In the Episcopal Church bishops and priests can be both genders and can be married; there is no centralized authority figure like the pope; lay people play a greater role in decision making; sacramental confession is optional not required; married couples are permitted to use responsible means of birth control. We recognize that sometimes marriages die, dissolving the sacramental bond between the couple. Divorced persons are allowed to remarry in the church with the permission of the bishop upon recommendation of the priest who does the couple’s premarital counseling.


Our Leadership & Staff

Here to Guide You

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The Rev. Donna Gleaves


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Peter Jennings

Senior Warden

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Sara Quay

Episcopal Church Women President

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