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Episcopal Church (United States)

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Title: Episcopal Church (United States)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: List of Anglo-Catholic churches, Current members of the United States House of Representatives, List of Vice Presidents of the United States by religious affiliation, Christianity in the United States, Arthur C. Lichtenberger
Collection: 1789 Establishments in Pennsylvania, Anglican Denominations in North America, Anglican Organizations Established in the 18Th Century, Anglicanism in the United States, Christian Denominations Established in the 18Th Century, Christianity in the United States, Episcopal Church (United States), Members of the National Council of Churches, Members of the World Council of Churches, Protestantism in the United States, Religious Organizations Established in 1789
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Episcopal Church (United States)

Episcopal Church
The St. Andrew's cross composed of nine cross crosslets
Founded 1789
Primate Katharine Jefferts Schori
Polity Episcopal
Headquarters 815 Second Avenue
New York, New York
United States
Territory The United States and dioceses in Taiwan, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Europe
Members 2,009,084 baptized, as of 2013[1]
Website .orgepiscopalchurch

The Episcopal Church (TEC) is a United States-based member church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. It is divided into nine provinces and has dioceses in the U.S., Taiwan, Micronesia, the Caribbean, Central and South America, as well as the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe and the Navajoland Area Mission. The current Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church is Katharine Jefferts Schori, the first female primate in the Anglican Communion.

The Episcopal Church describes itself as being both "Protestant and Catholic". Some refer to Anglicanism as a major branch of Christianity in its own right, alongside Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, and Orthodoxy. In 2013, the Episcopal Church had 2,009,084 baptized members, of whom 1,866,758 were in the U.S. In 2011 it was the nation's 14th largest denomination.[2]

The church was organized after the American Revolution, when it separated as a separate church within the Anglican Communion from the Church of England, whose clergy are required to swear allegiance to the British monarch as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and became the first Anglican Province outside the British Isles. The Episcopal Church has become a rich and, considering its comparatively small size, one of the most prominent of United States churches.

The Episcopal Church was active in the Social Gospel movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.[3] Since the 1960s and 1970s, the Church has pursued a more liberal course than that of most other churches in the Anglican Communion. It has opposed the death penalty and supported the civil rights movement and affirmative action. Some of its leaders and priests marched with civil rights demonstrators. Today the Church calls for the full legal equality of gay and lesbian people, a movement partly inspired by their similar call for racial equality during the mid-1900s. The church's General Convention has passed resolutions that allow for the blessing of same-sex partnerships in states in which it is legal. The convention also approved an official liturgy to bless such unions, though it is not an official liturgy within the Book of Common Prayer. On the question of abortion, the church's current Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori has adopted what she calls a "nuanced approach".[4] The Episcopal Church ordains women to the priesthood as well as the diaconate and the episcopate.


  • Official names 1
  • History 2
    • Colonial era 2.1
    • Revolutionary era 2.2
    • Early Republic era 2.3
    • Nineteenth century 2.4
    • Era of change (1958-1970s) 2.5
    • Recent history 2.6
      • Revised prayer book 2.6.1
      • Ordination of women 2.6.2
      • Stance on homosexuality 2.6.3
      • Separations from the church 2.6.4
      • Church property disputes 2.6.5
  • Membership 3
  • Structure 4
    • Parishes and dioceses 4.1
    • National church 4.2
  • Worship and liturgy 5
    • Book of Common Prayer 5.1
  • Belief and practice 6
    • Social issues 6.1
  • Agencies and programs 7
    • SIM - The Society for the Increase of the Ministry 7.1
    • Episcopal Relief and Development 7.2
    • Scholarships 7.3
  • Ecumenical relations 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • Further reading 11
  • External links 12

Official names

Flag of the Episcopal Church

There are two official names of the Episcopal Church specified in its constitution: "The Episcopal Church" and the "Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America".[5] "The Episcopal Church" is the more commonly used name.[6][7][8] Other languages also use equivalents of "The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America" and "The Episcopal Church." In Spanish the church is called La Iglesia Episcopal Protestante de los Estados Unidos de América or La Iglesia Episcopal[9] and in French L'Église protestante épiscopale dans les États Unis d'Amérique or L'Église épiscopale.[10]

Until 1964, the only official name in use was "Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America". In the 19th century, High Church members advocated changing the name, which they felt did not acknowledge the church's Catholic heritage. They were opposed by the church's evangelical wing, which felt the "Protestant Episcopal" label accurately reflected the Reformed character of Anglicanism. After 1877, alternative names were regularly proposed and rejected by the General Convention. A commonly proposed alternative was "the American Catholic Church". By the 1960s, opposition to dropping the word "Protestant" had largely subsided. In a 1964 General Convention compromise, priests and lay delegates suggested adding a preamble to the church's constitution, recognizing "The Episcopal Church" as a lawful alternate designation while still retaining the earlier name.[11]

The 66th General Convention voted in 1979 to use the name "Episcopal Church" (dropping the adjective "Protestant") in the Oath of Conformity of the Declaration for Ordination.[12] The evolution of the name can be seen in the Episcopal Church's Book of Common Prayer (BCP). In the 1928 BCP, the title page said, "According to the use of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America." In contrast, the change in self-identity can be seen in the title page of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, which states, "'According to the use of The Episcopal Church."[13]

The alternate name "Episcopal Church in the United States of America" (ECUSA) has never been an official name of the Episcopal Church but is commonly seen in English. Since several other churches in the Anglican Communion also use the name "Episcopal," some groups, for example Anglicans Online, add the phrase "in the United States of America."[14] A common mistake by non-Episcopalians is over the use of the words "Episcopal" and "Episcopalians". An Episcopalian is a member of the Episcopal Church but it is not the Episcopalian Church. Likewise, a member is not called an Episcopal, like a Methodist is a member of the Methodist Church. Episcopalian is a noun; Episcopal is an adjective.[15]

The full legal name of the national church corporate body is the "Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America",[5] which was incorporated by the legislature of New York and established in 1821. The membership of the corporation "shall be considered as comprehending all persons who are members of the Church".[5][16] This, however, should not be confused with the name of the church itself, as it is a distinct body relating to church governance.[5]


Colonial era

St. Luke's Church, built during the 17th century near Smithfield, Virginia. It is the oldest Anglican church building to have survived largely intact in North America.

The Episcopal Church has its origins in the Church of England in the American colonies, and it stresses its continuity with the early universal Western church and maintains apostolic succession.[17]

The first parish was founded in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607 under the charter of the Virginia Company of London. The circa 1639–43 tower of Jamestown Church is one of the oldest surviving Anglican church structures in the United States. The church itself is a modern reconstruction.[18]

Although there was no American bishop in the colonial era, the Church of England had an official status in several colonies, which meant that tax money was paid to the local parish by the local government, and the parish handled some civic functions. The Church of England was designated the

  • Official website
  • Profile of the Episcopal Church on the Association of Religion Data Archives website
  • Resources at the Archives of the Episcopal Church

External links

  • Anglican & Episcopal History—The Journal of the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church (articles, church reviews, and book reviews).
  • Articles on leading Episcopalians, both lay (e.g., Franklin D. Roosevelt, Frances Perkins) and ordained, in American National Biography. (1999). Edited by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes. New York: Oxford Univ. Press. Also 100 biographical articles in Hein and Shattuck, The Episcopalians: see below.
  • A Brief History of the Episcopal Church. Holmes, David L. (1993). Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International.
  • Standing against the Whirlwind: Evangelical Episcopalians in Nineteenth-Century America. (1996) Butler, Diana Hochstedt.
  • A Dictionary for Episcopalians. Wall, John N. (2000). Boston, MA: Cowley Publications.
  • Documents of Witness: A History of the Episcopal Church, 1782–1985. Armentrout, Don S., & Slocum, Robert Boak. (1994). New York: Church Hymnal Corporation.
  • Readings from the History of the Episcopal Church. Prichard, Robert W. (Ed.). (1986). Wilton, CT: Morehouse-Barlow.
  • The Episcopal Clerical Directory. New York: Church Publishing.
  • An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church: A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians. Armentrout, Don S., & Slocum, Robert Boak. (Eds.). ([1999]). New York: Church Publishing Incorporated.
  • About the Concordat: 28 Questions about the Agreement between the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Church of America [i.e. the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America], prepared by the Ecumenical Relations Office of the Episcopal Church. Cincinnati, Ohio: Forward Movement Publications, [1997?]. 43 p. Without ISBN
  • A Commentary on [the Episcopal Church/Evangelical Lutheran Church in America] Concordat of Agreement, ed. by James E. Griffes and Daniel Martensen. Minneapolis, Minn.: Augsburg-Fortress; Cincinnati, Ohio: Forward Movement Publications, 1994. 159 p. ISBN 0-8066-2690-9
  • Concordat of Agreement [between the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America]: Supporting Essays, ed. by Daniel F. Martensen. Minneapolis, Minn.: Augsburg-Fortress; Cincinnati, Ohio: Forward Movement Publications, 1995. 234 p. ISBN 0-8066-2667-4
  • The Episcopalians. Hein, David, and Gardiner H. Shattuck Jr. (2005). New York: Church Publishing.
  • "Episcopalian Crisis: Authority, Homosexuality & the Future of Anglicanism". Seltser, Barry Jay Commonweal CXXXIII, 10 (May 19, 2006). An essay on Hooker and the present discontents, accessed December 19, 2006.
  • The History of the Episcopal Church in America, 1607–1991: A Bibliography. Caldwell, Sandra M., & Caldwell, Ronald J. (1993). New York: Garland Publishing.
  • Episcopalians and Race: Civil War to Civil Rights. Gardiner H. Shattuck (2003)
  • Jamestown Commitment: the Episcopal Church [i.e. the Protestant Episcopal Church in the U.S.A.] and the American Indian, by Owanah Anderson. Cincinnati, Ohio: Forward Movement Publications (1988). 170 p. ISBN 0-88028-082-4
  • Mullin, Robert Bruce. "Trends in the Study of the History of the Episcopal Church," Anglican and Episcopal History, June 2003, Vol. 72 Issue 2, pp 153–165, historiography
  • New Georgia Encyclopedia article on the Episcopal Church in the U.S. South
  • "The Forgotten Evangelicals: Virginia Episcopalians, 1790–1876". Waukechon, John Frank. Dissertation Abstracts International, 2001, Vol. 61 Issue 8, pp 3322–3322
  • Tarter, Brent (2004). "Reflections on the Church of England in Colonial Virginia".  
  • Noble Powell and the Episcopal Establishment in the Twentieth Century. Hein, David. (2001, 2007). Urbana: University of Illinois Press; paperback reprint, Eugene, Ore.: Wipf & Stock.
  • Rewriting History: Scapegoating the Episcopal Church. Savitri Hensman. Ekklesia. 2007.
  • A War of Religion: Dissenters, Anglicans, and the American Revolution. James B. Bell. (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008). 323 pp. ISBN 978-0-230-54297-6

Further reading

  1. ^ a b c [Category:All articles with dead external links] Statistical Totals for the Episcopal Church by Province and Diocese: 2012-2013] (PDF), The Episcopal Church, 2014, p. 5, retrieved October 27, 2014 
  2. ^ "Trends continue in church membership growth or decline, reports 2011 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches", News from the National Council of Churches (National Council of Churches News Service), February 14, 2011, retrieved December 29, 2011, 14. The Episcopal Church, 2,006,343 members, down 2.48 percent.  Note: The number of members given here is the total number of baptized members in 2012 (cf. Baptized Members by Province and Diocese 2002–2013).
  3. ^ Bourgeois, Michael (2004). All Things Human: Henry Codman Potter and the Social Gospel in the Episcopal Church. Studies in Anglican History. University of Illinois Press.  
  4. ^ Kaleem, Jaweed (27 March 2012). "Katharine Jefferts Schori, Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop, Speaks About Gay Clergy And Birth Control". Huffington Post (AOL). Retrieved 2 January 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Constitution & canons (2006) Together with the Rules of Order for the government of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America otherwise Known as The Episcopal Church" (PDF). The General Convention of The Episcopal Church. 2006. Retrieved 7 September 2007. 
  6. ^ a b "Episcopal Church USA". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved 2014-05-03. 
  7. ^ a b F. L. Cross, E. A. Livingstone, ed. (13 March 1997). The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd edition. USA: Oxford University Press. p. 554.  
  8. ^ a b "Episcopal Church". The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Columbia University Press. May 2001. Archived from the original on 2008-12-05. Retrieved 2007-09-09. 
  9. ^ "Episcopal Church webpage in Spanish". Archived from the original on 2011-06-11. Retrieved 2008-11-16. 
  10. ^ "Episcopal Church webpage in French". Archived from the original on 2011-06-11. Retrieved 2008-11-16. 
  11. ^ White, Edwin; Dykman, Jackson (1981). The Annotated Constitution and Canons for the Episcopal Church. New York: Church Publishing Incorporated. pp. 4–6.  
  12. ^ 1979 "Acts of Convention # 1979-A125". 
  13. ^ Zahl, Paul F. (1998). The Protestant Face of Anglicanism. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publish Company.  . The author is the former dean of Cathedral Church of the Advent, Birmingham, Alabama and the Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry. Quotes: "Protestant consciousness within ECUSA, which used to be called PECUSA (i.e., the Protestant Episcopal Church in the U.S.A.) is moribund" (p. 56); "With the approval and lightening ascent of the 1979 Prayer Book came to the end, for all practical purposes, of Protestant churchmanship in what is now known aggressively as ECUSA" (p. 69).
  14. ^ "Anglicans Online|The online centre of the Anglican / Episcopal world". Retrieved 2008-11-16. 
  15. ^ A New Dictionary for Episcopalians. HarperCollins. 1985. p. 71. 
  16. ^ "About Us—The Episcopal Church: History/Profile". The Episcopal Diocese of Chicago. Archived from the original on 2011-07-26. Retrieved 7 July 2007. 
  17. ^ Sydnor, William (1980). Looking at the Episcopal Church. USA: Morehouse Publishing. p. 64.  
  18. ^ Sydnor 1980, p. 72.
  19. ^ Roozen, David A.; Nieman, James R., eds. (2005). Church, identity, and change : theology and denominational structures in unsettled times. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. p. 188.  
  20. ^ Bell, James B. (2008). A war of religion : dissenters, Anglicans, and the American Revolution. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire [England]: Palgrave Macmillan.  
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Hein, David; Shattuck, Gardiner H. ,Jr. (2004). The Episcopalians. New York: Church Publishing.  
  22. ^ Piepkorn, Arthur Carl (1977). Profiles in Belief: The Religious Bodies of the United States and Canada. Harper & Row. p. 199.  
  23. ^ CLARK, JENNIFER (June 1994). "'Church of Our Fathers': The Development of the Protestant Episcopal Church Within the Changing Post-Revolutionary Anglo-American Relationship". Journal of Religious History 18 (1): 27–51.  
  24. ^ The Archbishops' Group on the Episcopate (1990). Episcopal Ministry: The Report of the Archbishops' Group on the Episcopate, 1990. Church House Publishing. p. 123.  
  25. ^ "A history of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington". History of the Diocese. Episcopal Diocese of Washington. Retrieved 26 December 2011. 
  26. ^ "UBE History". The Union of Black Episcopalians – National. The Union of Black Episcopalians. Retrieved 2012-07-17. 
  27. ^ "UBE History". Archived from the original on 2008-07-10. Retrieved 2008-11-16. 
  28. ^ Mason, Lockert B. (Sep 1990). "Separation and Reunion of the Episcopal Church, 1860–1865: The Role of Bishop Thomas Atkinson". Anglican and Episcopal History 59 (3): 345–365. 
  29. ^ Butler, Diana Hochstedt (1995). Standing against the whirlwind : evangelical Episcopalians in nineteenth century America. New York [u.a.]: Oxford Univ. Press.  
  30. ^ Williams, Peter W. (Jun 2006). "The Gospel of Wealth and the Gospel of Art: Episcopalians and Cultural Philanthropy from the Gilded Age to the Depression". Anglican and Episcopal History 75 (2): 170–223. 
  31. ^ Hein 2004, p. 134.
  32. ^ Hein 2004, p. 135.
  33. ^ Hein 2004, p. 136.
  34. ^ Hein 2004, p. 137-8.
  35. ^ Hein 2004, p. 138.
  36. ^ "News Coverage from the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church". Archived from the original on 2011-01-17. Retrieved 2010-11-28. 
  37. ^ Rose, Christopher (1995-02-26). "He's a Walking Contradiction". The Living Church 210 (9): 11. 
  38. ^  
  39. ^ "Episcopal Church Women's Ministries: The Philadelphia 11". Archived from the original on 2010-10-19. Retrieved 2008-11-16. 
  40. ^ "Episcopal Church Women's Ministries: The Washington 4". Archived from the original on 2011-01-14. Retrieved 2008-11-16. 
  41. ^ "Office of Black Ministries". 2009-08-08. Retrieved 2014-07-26. 
  42. ^ The Archives of the Episcopal Church, Acts of Convention: Resolution #1997-A053, Implement Mandatory Rights of Women Clergy under Canon Law. Retrieved 2008-10-31.
  43. ^ "Episcopal Diocese of Quincy seeks alternative oversight". September 19, 2006. Retrieved 2008-11-16. 
  44. ^ "Last Episcopal Holdout Ordains Female Priest". Retrieved 2014-08-12. 
  45. ^ "Acts of Convention: Resolution # 1991-A104". Retrieved 2014-07-26. 
  46. ^ Navarro, Mireya (1989-12-17). "Openly Gay Priest Ordained in Jersey". The New York Times. 
  47. ^ Adams, Elizabeth (2006). Going to Heaven: The Life and Election of Bishop Gene Robinson. Brooklyn, NY: Soft Skull Press.  
  48. ^ "ANGLICAN COMMUNION NEWS SERVICE". Archived from the original on November 3, 2003. 
  49. ^ Resolution C056 "76th General Convention Legislation". Archived from the original on April 24, 2012. 
  50. ^ a b c Goodstein, Laurie (2009-07-15). "Episcopal Vote Reopens a Door to Gay Bishops".  
  51. ^ Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. "Episcopal Church Takes Action Against the Bishop and Diocese of SC". Retrieved 2013-06-25. 
  52. ^ "Anglican Church in North America". Retrieved 2014-07-26. 
  53. ^ "Twenty-First Century Excommunication". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 29 October 2012. 
  54. ^ Reeder, Kathleen E. (2006). "Whose Church Is It, Anyway? Property Disputes and Episcopal Church Splits". Columbia Journal of Law & Social Problems 40 (2): 125–171. 
  55. ^ a b Harmon, Kendall (2009-08-03). "TitusOneNine - The Presiding Bishop Writes the House of Bishops". Retrieved 2014-02-04. 
  56. ^ Conger, George (2009-08-07). "Presiding Bishop steps in to prevent church sales". Church of England Newspaper. p. 7. Retrieved 24 November 2012. 
  57. ^ "Episcopal Church—Rates of Adherence Per 1000 Population (2000)". The Association of Religion Data Archives. Retrieved 7 July 2012. 
  58. ^ "Episcopal Church States (2000)". The Association of Religion Data Archives. Retrieved 7 July 2012. Congregational "adherents" include all full members, their children, and others who regularly attend services. 
  59. ^ "Mainline Protestant churches no longer dominate". Retrieved 2008-11-16. 
  60. ^ a b "Data from the National Council of Churches' Historic Archive CD and Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches". 
  61. ^ "Table of Statistics of the Episcopal Church". Archived from the original on November 7, 2011. 
  62. ^ "Is the Episcopal Church Growing (or Declining)? by C. Kirk Hadaway Director of Research, The Episcopal Church Center". Archived from the original on November 7, 2011. Retrieved 2007-10-25. 
  63. ^ "Q&A Context, analysis on Church membership statistics". Archived from the original on 2007-10-13. Retrieved 2007-10-25. 
  64. ^ "Episcopal Fast Facts: 2005". Archived from the original on October 28, 2008. Retrieved 2007-10-25. 
  65. ^ "Text Summary of Episcopal Statistics 2005". Archived from the original on 28 October 2008. 
  66. ^ Articles by John Dart (2006-11-14). "'"Episcopal membership loss 'precipitous. The Christian Century. Retrieved 2014-07-26. 
  67. ^ Louie Crew (1996-02-14). "Who Caused the Decline in Membership in the Episcopal Church?". Retrieved 2012-04-23. 
  68. ^ Irving Lewis Allen, "WASP—From Sociological Concept to Epithet," Ethnicity, 1975 154+
  69. ^ Hacker, Andrew (1957). "Liberal Democracy and Social Control".  
  70. ^ Baltzell (1964). The Protestant Establishment. p. 9. 
  71. ^ Davidson, James D.; Pyle, Ralph E.; Reyes, David V. (1995). "Persistence and Change in the Protestant Establishment, 1930-1992".  
  72. ^ a b c B.DRUMMOND AYRES Jr. (2011-12-19). "THE EPISCOPALIANS: AN AMERICAN ELITE WITH ROOTS GOING BACK TO JAMESTOWN". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-08-17. 
  73. ^ US Religious Landscape Survey: Diverse and Dynamic (PDF), The Pew Forum, February 2008, p. 85, retrieved 2012-09-17 
  74. ^ Leonhardt, David (2011-05-13). "Faith, Education and Income". The New York Times. Retrieved May 13, 2011. 
  75. ^ Podmore, Colin (May 2008). "A Tale of Two Churches: The Ecclesiologies of The Episcopal Church and the Church of England Compared". International Journal for the Study of the Christian Church 8 (2): 130.  
  76. ^
  77. ^
  78. ^ "The Anglican Communion Official Website: Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba". Retrieved 2008-11-16. 
  79. ^ Roozen and Nieman 2005, p. 212.
  80. ^ a b c
  81. ^ "Church Governance". Archived from the original on October 31, 2010. 
  82. ^ The Episcopal Church (2009), Constitution and Canons, Title I Canon 2.
  83. ^ Roozen and Nieman 2005, p. 202.
  84. ^ "What's Happening at 815?". Archived from the original on 2008-07-09. Retrieved 2008-11-16. 
  85. ^ The Archives of the Episcopal Church, Acts of Convention: Resolution #2000-B034, Apologize to Those Offended During Liturgical Transition to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. Retrieved 2008-10-31.
  86. ^ "A Basic Introduction to Christianity". Archived from the original on August 18, 2010. 
  87. ^ Joseph Buchanan Bernardin, An Introduction to the Episcopal Church (2008) p. 63
  88. ^ "Visitors' Center". Archived from the original on 2011-06-11. Retrieved 2008-11-16. 
  89. ^ "What makes us Anglican? Hallmarks of the Episcopal Church". Archived from the original on 2011-06-12. Retrieved 2008-11-16. 
  90. ^ Authority, Sources of (in Anglicanism) on the Episcopal Church site, accessed on April 19, 2007, which in turn credits Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY, from An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians, Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.
  91. ^ Anglican Listening on the Episcopal Church site goes into detail on how scripture, tradition, and reason work to "uphold and critique each other in a dynamic way".
  92. ^ As stated in section 2.16 of To Set Our Hope On Christ (PDF), because "the biblical writers [...] write at different times and in different circumstances, they do not always agree with one another. [...] For example, it is helpful to know that when Ezra (chapter 10) commands the men of Israel to divorce their wives, it is because they had married foreign wives, who are seen to be a danger to Israel in exile. But there is another belief about foreign wives in the Book of Ruth, probably written at about the same time. [...] Today, in some situations, it may be faithful to follow Ezra, while in most situations it is faithful to follow Ruth."
  93. ^ Robin Williams: Live on Broadway
  94. ^ General Convention Resolution 1991-D066 Support a Policy of Pay Equity in the Church and Society
  95. ^ General Convention Resolution 2003-D040 Reaffirm Commitment to Provide Affordable Housing for the Poor
  96. ^ General Convention Resolution 1997-D030 Challenge Congregations to Establish Direct Ministries to the Poor
  97. ^ General Convention Resolution 1997-D082 Urge Church-wide Promotion of the Living Wage
  98. ^ General Convention Resolution 2000-A081 Urge Bishops and Diocesan Leaders to Support the National Implementation of a Just Wage
  99. ^ General Convention Resolution 2003-A130 Support the Establishment of a Living Wage
  100. ^ General Convention Resolution 2003-C030 Urge Legislation to Raise the Federal Minimum Wage
  101. ^ "Religious Groups’ Official Positions on Same-Sex Marriage". Pew Research Center. December 7, 2012. Accessed October 28, 2014.
  102. ^ Wan, William (2009-07-16). "Episcopalians in Va. Divided Over Decision Allowing Ordination of Gay Bishops". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-05-02. 
  103. ^ "Religious Groups’ Official Positions on Abortion". Pew Research Center. January 16, 2013. Accessed October 28, 2014.
  104. ^ "Religious Groups’ Views on End-of-Life Issues". Pew Research Center. November 21, 2013. Accessed October 28, 2014.
  105. ^ G.W. Hyer, Bishop Hopkins' Letter on Slavery Ripped up and His Misuse of the Sacred Scriptures Exposed by a Clergyman of the Protestant Episcopal Church (New York: John F. Trow, 1863).
  106. ^ The 70th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, "Resolution #1991-B051, Call for the Removal of Racism from the Life of the Nation", Acts of Convention (The Archives of the Episcopal Church), retrieved 2008-10-31 
  107. ^ "Bishops Endorse Apology for Slavery Complicity". Archived from the original on 2007-10-13. 
  108. ^
  109. ^ "Episcopal Relief & Development". Retrieved 2010-11-28. 
  110. ^ "Young Adults". Retrieved August 19, 2010.
  111. ^ Scholarship Trust Funds. Retrieved August 19, 2010.
  112. ^ The Indigenous Theological Training Institute. Retrieved August 19, 2010.
  113. ^ Office of Black Ministries. Retrieved August 19, 2010.
  114. ^ "Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (2001)". Office of Ecumenical & Interreligious Relations of The Episcopal Church. 2001. Archived from the original on 2009-11-25. Retrieved 2009-10-06. 
  115. ^ Schjonberg, Mary Frances (10 September 2010). "Moravian Church's Southern Province enters full communion with Episcopal Church". Episcopal Life Online. Archived from the original on 28 October 2011. Retrieved 11 September 2010. 


See also

The Episcopal Church was a founding member of the Consultation on Church Union and participates in its successor, Churches Uniting in Christ. The Episcopal Church is a founding member of the National Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches, and the new Christian Churches Together in the USA. Dioceses and parishes are frequently members of local ecumenical councils as well.

Historically Anglican churches have had strong ecumenical ties with the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and the Episcopal Church particularly with the Russian Orthodox Church, but relations in more recent years have been strained by the ordination of women and the ordination of Gene Robinson to the episcopate. A former relation of full communion with the Polish National Catholic Church (once a part of the Union of Utrecht) was broken off by the PNCC in 1976 over the ordination of women.

The Episcopal Church maintains ecumenical dialogs with the United Methodist Church and the Moravian Church in America, and participates in pan-Anglican dialogs with the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Roman Catholic Church. In 2006 a relation of interim Eucharistic sharing was inaugurated with the United Methodist Church, a step that may ultimately lead to full communion.

Like the other churches of the Anglican Communion, the Episcopal Church has entered into full communion with the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht, the Philippine Independent Church, and the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar. The Episcopal Church is also in a relationship of full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America[114] and the Northern and Southern Provinces of the Moravian Church in America.[115]

Ecumenical relations

There are about 60 trust funds administered by the Episcopal Church which offer scholarships to young people affiliated with the church. Qualifying considerations often relate to historical missionary work of the church among American Indians and African-Americans, as well as work in China and other foreign missions.[110][111] There are special programs for both American Indians[112] and African-Americans[113] interested in training for the ministry.


Episcopal Relief and Development is the international relief and development agency of the Episcopal Church of the United States. It helps to rebuild after disasters and aims to empower people by offering lasting solutions that fight poverty, hunger and disease. Episcopal Relief and Development programs focus on alleviating hunger, improving food supply, creating economic opportunities, strengthening communities, promoting health, fighting disease, responding to disasters, and rebuilding communities.[109]

Episcopal Relief and Development

SIM is the only organization raising funds on a national basis for Episcopal seminarian support. SIM's founding purpose in 1857 – "to find suitable persons for the Episcopal ministry and aid them in acquiring a thorough education." SIM has awarded scholarships to qualified, full-time seminary students.[108]

SIM - The Society for the Increase of the Ministry

Agencies and programs

In 1861, a pamphlet titled A Scriptural, Ecclesiastical, and Historical View of Slavery written by John Henry Hopkins attempted to justify slavery based on the New Testament and gave a clear insight into the Episcopal Church's involvement in slavery. Bishop Hopkins Letter on Slavery Ripped Up and his Misuse of the Sacred Scriptures Exposed, written by G.W. Hyer in 1863, opposed the points mentioned in Hopkins' pamphlet and revealed a startling divide in the Episcopal Church over the issue of slavery.[105] In 1991, the General Convention declared "the practice of racism is sin"[106] and in 2006 a unanimous House of Bishops endorsed Resolution A123 apologizing for complicity in the institution of slavery and silence over "Jim Crow" laws, segregation, and racial discrimination.[107]

The Episcopal Church's official position on the controversy over abortion is that while a woman has the right to terminate her pregnancy; nevertheless, it does not approve of the use of abortion as a means of birth control or family planning. Abortion is condoned only in cases of rape, incest, fetal abnormalities, or when a mother’s physical or mental health is at risk.[103] The Episcopal Church disapproves of assisted suicide and other forms of euthanasia, but it does teach that it is permissible to withdraw medical treatment, such as artificial nutrition and hydration, when such treatment imposes more burdens than benefits to an individual.[104]

Since December 2012, the Episcopal Church has had an official liturgy for the blessing of same-sex relationships. This liturgy is not a marriage rite, but the blessing includes an exchange of vows and the couple agrees to enter into a lifelong committed relationship. The blessing of same-sex relationships is not uniform throughout the Episcopal Church. Bishops determine whether churches and priests within their dioceses are permitted to use the liturgy. Also, no Episcopal priest can be required to perform a blessing ceremony, even in dioceses where blessings are permitted. The Episcopal Church also opposes any state or federal constitutional amendments designed to prohibit same-sex marriages or civil unions.[101] Gay and lesbian individuals are eligible to be ordained.[102]

In 1991, the Convention recommended parity in pay and benefits between clergy and lay employees in equivalent positions.[94] Several times between 1979 and 2003, the Convention expressed concern over affordable housing and supported the church working to provide affordable housing.[95] In 1982 and 1997, the Convention reaffirmed the Church's commitment to eradicating poverty and malnutrition and challenged parishes to increase ministries to the poor.[96] The Convention urged the church in 1997 and 2000 to promote living wages for all.[97][98] In 2003, the Convention urged legislators to raise the US minimum wage and to establish a living wage with health benefits as the national standard.[99][100]

Social issues

Comedian and Episcopalian Robin Williams once described the Episcopal faith (and, in a performance in London, specifically the Church of England) as "Catholic Lite – same rituals, half the guilt."[93]

A public example of this struggle between different Christian positions in the church has been the 2003 consecration of the Right Reverend Gene Robinson, an openly gay man living with a long-term partner. The acceptance/rejection of his consecration is motivated by different views on the understanding of scripture.[92] This struggle has some members concerned that the church may not continue its relationship with the larger Anglican Church. Others, however, view this pluralism as an asset, allowing a place for both sides to balance each other.

This balance of scripture, tradition and reason is traced to the work of Richard Hooker, a 16th-century apologist. In Hooker's model, scripture is the primary means of arriving at doctrine and things stated plainly in scripture are accepted as true. Issues that are ambiguous are determined by tradition, which is checked by reason.[91] Noting the role of personal experience in Christian life, some Episcopalians have advocated following the example of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral of Methodist theology by thinking in terms of a "Fourth Leg" of "experience." This understanding is highly dependent on the work of Friedrich Schleiermacher.

The Anglican balancing of the sources of authority has been criticized as clumsy or "muddy." It has been associated with the Anglican affinity for seeking the mean between extremes and living the via media. It has also been associated with the Anglican willingness to tolerate and comprehend opposing viewpoints instead of imposing tests of orthodoxy or resorting to heresy trials.

A broad spectrum of theological views is represented within the Episcopal Church. Some Episcopal theologians hold evangelical positions, affirming the authority of scripture over all. The Episcopal Church website glossary defines the sources of authority as a balance between scripture, tradition, and reason. These three are characterized as a "three-legged stool" which will topple if any one overbalances the other. It also notes[90]

The Episcopal Church follows the via media or "middle way" between Protestant and Roman Catholic doctrine and practices: that is both Catholic and Reformed. Although many Episcopalians identify with this concept, those whose convictions lean toward either evangelicalism or Anglo-Catholicism may not.[89]

The full catechism is included in the Book of Common Prayer and is posted on the Episcopal website.[88] The threefold sources of authority in Anglicanism are scripture, tradition, and reason. These three sources uphold and critique each other in a dynamic way.

The center of Episcopal teaching is the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ.[86] The basic teachings of the church, or catechism, include:

Interior of Trinity Parish Church in Seattle, Washington
Exterior of Trinity Parish Church in Seattle, Washington

Belief and practice

The 1979 edition contains a provision for the use of "traditional" (Elizabethan) language under various circumstances not directly provided for in the book, and the Anglican Service Book was produced accordingly, as "a traditional language adaptation of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer together with the Psalter or Psalms of David and Additional Devotions."

The current edition dates from 1979 and was marked by a linguistic modernization and, in returning to ancient Christian tradition, it restored the Eucharist as the central liturgy of the church. The 1979 version reflects the theological and worship changes of the ecumenical reforms of the 1960s and 1970s. On the whole, it changed the theological emphasis of the church to be more Catholic in nature. In 1979, the Convention adopted the revision as the "official" BCP and required churches using the old (1928) prayer book to also use the 1979 revision. There was enough strife in implementing and adopting the 1979 BCP that an apology was issued at the 2000 General Convention[85] for any who were "offended or alienated during the time of liturgical transition to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer". The 2000 General Convention also authorized the occasional use of some parts of the 1928 book, under the direction of the bishop.

Previous American BCPs were issued in 1789, 1892, and 1928. (A proposed BCP was issued in 1786 but not adopted.) The BCP is in the public domain; however, any new revisions of the BCP are copyrighted until they are approved by the General Convention. After this happens, the BCP is placed into the public domain.

The full name of the BCP is: The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church Together with The Psalter or Psalms of David According to the use of The Episcopal Church.

The Episcopal Church publishes its own Book of Common Prayer (BCP) (similar to other Anglican prayerbooks), containing most of the worship services (or liturgies) used in the Episcopal Church. Because of its widespread use in the church, the BCP is both a reflection of and a source of theology for Episcopalians.

Book of Common Prayer in the Church of Saint Mary, Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines. The Episcopal Church of the Philippines is an offshoot of the ECUSA, and thus models most of its liturgical texts on American versions.

Book of Common Prayer

The veneration of saints in the Episcopal Church is a continuation of an ancient tradition from the early Church which honors important people of the Christian faith. The usage of the term "saint" is similar to Catholic and Orthodox traditions. Those inclined to the Anglo-Catholic traditions may explicitly invoke saints as intercessors in prayer.

In the Eucharist or Holy Communion service, the Book of Common Prayer specifies that bread and wine are consecrated for consumption by the people. A valid communion is made in either species, so those wishing for whatever reason to avoid alcohol can decline the cup and still make a valid communion. A Eucharist can be part of a wedding to celebrate a sacramental marriage and of a funeral as a thank offering (sacrifice) to God and for the comfort of the mourners.

A majority of Episcopal services could be considered to be "High Church" while still falling somewhat short of a typical Anglo-Catholic "very" high church service. In contrast, "Low Church" services are somewhat rarer. However, while some Episcopalians refer to their churches by these labels, often there is overlapping, and the basic rites do not greatly differ. There are also variations that blend elements of all three and have their own unique features, such as New England Episcopal churches, which have elements drawn from Puritan practices, combining the traditions of "high church" with the simplicity of "low church". Typical parish worship features Bible readings from the Old Testament as well as from both the Epistles and the Gospels of the New Testament. Some latitude in selecting Bible readings is allowed, but every service includes at least a passage from one of the Gospels, as well as the praying of the Lord's Prayer.

High Church, especially the very high Anglo-Catholic movement, is ritually inclined towards the use of incense, formal hymns, and a higher degree of ceremony. In addition to clergy vesting in albs, stoles and chasubles, the lay assistants may also be vested in cassock and surplice. The sung Eucharist tends to be emphasized in High Church congregations, with Anglo-Catholic congregations and celebrants using sung services almost exclusively.
Low Church is simpler and may incorporate other elements such as informal praise and worship music. "Low" congregations tend towards a more "traditional Protestant" outlook with its emphasis of Biblical revelation over symbolism. The spoken Eucharist tends to be emphasized in Low Church congregations.
Broad Church incorporates elements of both low church and high church.

Often a congregation or a particular service will be referred to as Low Church or High Church. In theory:

Varying degrees of liturgical practice prevail within the church, and one finds a variety of worship styles: traditional hymns and anthems, more modern religious music, Anglican chant, liturgical dance, charismatic prayer, and vested clergy of varying degrees. As varied as services can be, the central binding aspect is the Book of Common Prayer or supplemental liturgies.

A procession in St. Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, Memphis, Tennessee, in 2002.

Worship and liturgy

A system of ecclesiastical courts is provided for under Title IV of the canons of General Convention. These courts are empowered to discipline and depose deacons, priests, and bishops.

The Presiding Bishop is elected from and by the House of Bishops and confirmed by the House of Deputies for a nine-year term.[81] The Presiding Bishop is the chief pastor and primate of the Episcopal Church and is charged with providing leadership in the development of the Church's program as well as speaking on behalf of the Church.[82] The Presiding Bishop does not possess a territorial see; since the 1970s, however, the Presiding Bishop has enjoyed extraordinary jurisdiction (metropolitical authority) and has authority to visit dioceses for sacramental and preaching ministry, for consulting bishops, and for related purposes.[83] The Presiding Bishop chairs the House of Bishops as well as the Executive Council of the General Convention. In addition, the Presiding Bishop directs the Episcopal Church Center, the national administrative headquarters of the denomination. Located at 815 Second Avenue, New York City, New York, the center is often referred to by Episcopalians simply as "815".[84]

The real work of General Convention is done by interim bodies, the most powerful being the Executive Council, which oversees the work of the national church during the triennium. The council has 40 members; 20 are directly elected by the General Convention, 18 are elected by the nine provinces, and the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies are ex officio members.[80] Other interim bodies include a number of standing commissions which study and draft policy proposals for consideration and report back to General Convention. Each standing commission consists of three bishops, three priests or deacons, and six laypersons. Bishops are appointed by the Presiding Bishop while the other clergy and laypersons are appointed by the president of the House of Deputies.[80]

The highest legislative body of the Episcopal Church is the triennial General Convention, consisting of the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. All active (includes diocesan, coadjutor, suffragan, and Assistant Bishops) and retired bishops make up the over 300 members of the House of Bishops. Diocesan conventions elect over 800 representatives (each diocese elects four laity and four clergy) to the House of Deputies. The House of Deputies elects a president and vice-president to preside at meetings. General Convention enacts two types of legislation. The first type is the rules by which the church is governed as contained in the Constitution and Canons; the second type are broad guidelines on church policy called resolutions.[79] Either house may propose legislation.[80] The House of Deputies only meets as a full body once every three years; however, the House of Bishops meets regularly throughout the triennium between conventions.

The Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington, located in Washington, D.C., is operated under the more familiar name of Washington National Cathedral.

The National Cathedral is the seat of the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church as well as the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.

National church

There are 110 dioceses in the United States, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Honduras, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, Venezuela and the Virgin Islands. The Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe and the Navajoland Area Mission are jurisdictions similar to a diocese.[6][7][8] The Presiding Bishop is one of three Anglican primates who together exercise metropolitan jurisdiction over the Episcopal Church of Cuba, which is an extraprovincial diocese in the Anglican Communion.[78]

The provinces. Each province has a synod and a mission budget, but it has no authority over its member dioceses.

At the local level, there are 6,622 Episcopal congregations, each of which elects a vestry or bishop's committee. Subject to the approval of its diocesan bishop, the vestry of each parish elects a priest, called the rector, who has spiritual jurisdiction in the parish and selects assistant clergy, both deacons and priests. (There is a difference between vestry and clergy elections – clergy are ordained members usually selected from outside the parish, whereas any member in good standing of a parish is eligible to serve on the vestry.) The diocesan bishop, however, appoints the clergy for all missions and may choose to do so for non-self-supporting parishes.

Parishes and dioceses

As its name suggests, the Episcopal Church, as are other Anglican churches, is governed according to dioceses led by bishops in consultation with representative bodies. It is a unitary body, in that the power of the General Convention is not limited by the individual dioceses. The church has, however, a highly decentralized structure and characteristics of a confederation.[75]


[74].high-income earners as well as the most [73] degrees per capita of any other Christian denomination in the United States,post-graduate and graduate The Episcopal Church also has the highest number of [72] and are disproportionately represented in the upper reaches of American [68] Episcopalians tend to be considerably wealthier and better educated than most other religious groups in America,

The Episcopal Church experienced notable growth in the first half of the 20th century, but like many mainline churches, it has had a decline in membership in more recent decades.[59] Membership grew from 1.1 million members in 1925 to a peak of over 3.4 million members in the mid-1960s.[60] Between 1970 and 1990, membership declined from about 3.2 million to about 2.4 million.[60] Once changes in how membership is counted are taken into consideration, the Episcopal Church's membership numbers were broadly flat throughout the 1990s, with a slight growth in the first years of the 21st century.[61] [62][63] [64][65] A loss of 115,000 members was reported for the years 2003–05, which has been attributed in part to controversy concerning ordination of homosexuals to the priesthood and the election of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire.[66] Other theories about the decline in membership include a failure to sufficiently reach beyond ethnic barriers in an increasingly diverse society, and the low fertility rates prevailing among the predominant ethnic groups traditionally belonging to the church. In 1965, there were 880,000 children in Episcopal Sunday School programs. By 2001, the number had declined to 297,000.[67]

According to data collected in 2000, the District of Columbia, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Virginia have the highest rates of adherents per capita, and states along the East Coast generally have a higher number of adherents per capita than in other parts of the country.[57] New York was the state with the largest total number of adherents, over 200,000.[58] In 2013, the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti was the largest single diocese, with 84,301 baptized members, which constitute slightly over half of the church's foreign membership.[1]

As of 2013, the Episcopal Church reports 2,009,084 baptized members. The majority of members are in the United States, where the Church has 1,866,758 members, a decrease of 27,423 persons (-1.4 percent) from 2012. Outside of the U.S. the Church has 142,326 members, a decrease of 30,203 persons (-17.5 percent) from 2012. Total average Sunday attendance (ASA) for 2013 was 657,102 (623,691 in the U.S. and 33,411 outside the U.S.), a decrease of 3.4 percent from 2012.[1]

St. Marks Episcopal Cathedral in Shreveport, Louisiana


There are two historical societies of American Episcopalianism: Historical Society of the Episcopal Church or National Episcopal Historians and Archivists (NEHA).

Before Schori took this stand, prior Bishops had treated parish property disputes as internal diocesan matters that are "not subject to the review or oversight of the presiding bishop." One example was when then-Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold told the Diocese of Western Louisiana on May 11, 2006 that the national church involved itself in parish property disputes only upon invitation of the local bishop and diocesan standing committees.[56] Schori's letter stated that her firm stance was the consensus of the Council of Advice and expressed hope that "those who have departed can gain clarity about their own identity".[55]

In a letter to the House of Bishops during summer 2009, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori instructed local dioceses not to sell parish property to departing groups. "We do not make settlements that encourage religious bodies who seek to replace The Episcopal Church".[55]

Church property disputes

Differences over social issues led to the formation of the Continuing Anglicanism and Anglican Realignment movements and the development of the Anglican Church in North America which has over 900 parishes.[52] Episcopal Church leaders, particularly the presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, responded by taking a firm stance against the separatists, initiating litigation against departing dioceses and parishes that has cost all parties over $22 million. Litigation has largely centered around church properties, with the Episcopal leadership asserting ownership of buildings occupied by separatist congregations.[53][54]

Many of those who separated themselves have joined churches of the Continuing Anglican movement or advocated Anglican realignment, claiming alignment with overseas Anglican provinces including the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone of America and the Church of Nigeria.[51]

After considerable internal debate, some members of a number of congregations and six dioceses left the Episcopal Church, most after Gene Robinson in 2003 became the church's first openly gay and non-celibate bishop.

Separations from the church

This vote ended a moratorium on ordaining gay bishops passed in 2006 and passed in spite of Archbishop Rowan Williams's personal call at the start of the convention that, "I hope and pray that there won't be decisions in the coming days that will push us further apart."[50]

On July 14, 2009, the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops voted that "any ordained ministry" is open to gay men and lesbians.[50] The New York Times said the move was "likely to send shockwaves through the Anglican Communion."[50]

In 2009, the General Convention charged the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to develop theological and liturgical resources for same-sex blessings and report back to the General Convention in 2012. It also gave bishops an option to provide "generous pastoral support", especially where civil authorities have legalized same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships.[49]

The Episcopal Church affirmed at the 1976 General Convention that homosexuals are "children of God" who deserve acceptance and pastoral care from the church and equal protection under the law. Despite the affirmation of gay rights, the General Convention affirmed in 1991 that "physical sexual expression" is only appropriate within the monogamous, lifelong "union of husband and wife".[45] The first openly homosexual priest, Ellen Barrett, was ordained in 1977.[46] The first openly homosexual bishop, Gene Robinson, was elected in June 2003.[47] Robinson's election caused a crisis in both the American church and the wider Anglican Communion. In October 2003, an emergency meeting of the Anglican primates (the heads of the Anglican Communion's 38 member churches) was convened. The meeting's final communiqué included the warning that if Robinson's consecration proceeded, it would "tear the fabric of the communion at its deepest level".[48]

Stance on homosexuality

At the time of the formation of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), three U.S. dioceses did not ordain women as priests or bishops. These were San Joaquin, Quincy, and Fort Worth. All dioceses now ordain women. With the October 16, 2010, ordination of Margaret Lee, in the Peoria-based Diocese of Quincy, Illinois, women have been ordained as priests in all 110 dioceses of the Episcopal Church in the United States.[44]

In 2006, the General Convention elected Katharine Jefferts Schori as Presiding Bishop. She is the first and, currently, the only woman to become a primate in the Anglican Communion. Schori's election was controversial in the wider Anglican Communion because not all of the communion recognizes the ordination of women. .[43]

At the same time, there was still tolerance for those dioceses who opposed women's ordination. In 1994, the General Convention affirmed that there was value in the theological position that women should not be ordained. In 1997, however, the General Convention then determined that "the canons regarding the ordination, licensing, and deployment of women are mandatory" and required noncompliant dioceses to issue status reports on their progress towards full compliance.[42]

[41], was consecrated on February 11, 1989.Barbara Harris In the wake of the controversy over the ordination of the Philadelphia Eleven, the General Convention permitted the ordination of women in 1976 and recognized the ordinations of the 15 forerunners. The first women were canonically ordained to the priesthood in 1977. The first female bishop, [40] On July 29, 1974, a group of women known as the

Ordination of women

In 1976, the General Convention adopted a new prayer book, which was a substantial revision and modernization of the previous 1928 edition. It incorporated many principles of the Roman Catholic Church's liturgical movement, which had been discussed at Vatican II. This version was adopted as the official prayer book in 1979 after an initial three-year trial use. Several conservative parishes, however, continued to use the 1928 version. The 1976 General Convention also passed a resolution calling for an end to apartheid in South Africa and in 1985 called for "dioceses, institutions, and agencies" to create equal opportunity employment and affirmative action policies to address any potential "racial inequities" in clergy placement.

Revised prayer book

In recent decades, the Episcopal Church, like other mainline churches, has experienced a decline in membership as well as internal controversy over women's ordination and the place of homosexuals in the church. Because of these and other controversial issues including abortion rights, individual members and clergy can and do frequently disagree with the stated position of the church's leadership.

Recent history

The first women were admitted as delegates to General Convention in 1970.[36] In 1975, Vaughan Booker, who confessed to the murder of his wife and was sentenced to life in prison, was ordained to the diaconate in Graterford State Prison's chapel in Pennsylvania, after having repented of his sins, becoming a symbol of redemption and atonement.[37][38]

The liberal policies of Presiding Bishop Hines and the General Conventions of 1967 and 1969 led to a conservative reaction. Facing declining membership and a one million dollar budget cut, the Special Program became an easy target for conservatives, who succeeded in drastically reducing the financial support for the program in 1970. It was finally ended in 1973 with little protest. A year later, Hines was succeeded by John M. Allin, the bishop of Mississippi and a conservative.[35]

In 1967, Lichtenberger's successor, John Hines led the Episcopal Church to implement the General Convention Special Program (GCSP). The Special Program was designed to redirect nine million dollars over a three-year period (a quarter of the church's operating budget at the time) to fund special grants for community organizations and grassroots efforts facilitating black empowerment in America's urban ghettos.[33] The effectiveness of the GCSP was limited due to the reluctance of conservative bishops in southern dioceses, who objected to the awarding of grants to groups perceived as radical. The GCSP also drew opposition from the recently formed Foundation for Christian Theology, a conservative organization opposed to "involv[ing] the Church in the social, political, and economic activities of our times". The tension between liberal and conservative constituencies in the church erupted during the Special General Convention of 1969. The convention was disrupted by black militants who demanded that the Episcopal Church hear their concerns. When white deputies objected to allowing the militants a hearing, African-American deputies walked out of the convention. The Special General Convention also witnessed protests of the Vietnam War. During this time period, African-American clergy organized the Union of Black Episcopalians to achieve full inclusion of African Americans at all levels of the Episcopal Church [34]

At the 1958 General Convention, a coalition of liberal church members succeeded in passing a resolution recognizing "the natural dignity and value of every man, of whatever color or race, as created in the image of God". It called on Episcopalians "to work together, in charity and forbearance, towards the establishment ... of full opportunities in fields such as education, housing, employment and public accommodations". In response, the Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity (ESCRU) was founded in December 1959 in order to eliminate racial, ethnic and class barriers within the Episcopal Church. Opposition from southern church leaders prevented the Episcopal Church from taking a strong stand on civil rights prior to 1963. One prominent opponent of the movement was Charles C. J. Carpenter, the bishop of Alabama.[31] By 1963, many church leaders felt more comfortable speaking out in support of racial equality. That year, Presiding Bishop Arthur Lichtenberger wrote a pastoral letter urging Christians to work "across lines of racial separation, in a common struggle for justice", and the House of Bishops endorsed civil rights legislation.[32]

Era of change (1958-1970s)

During the Henry Ford, and art collector Isabella Stewart Gardner played a central role in shaping a distinctive upper class Episcopalian ethos, especially with regard to preserving the arts and history. These philanthropists propelled the Episcopal Church into a quasi-national position of importance while at the same time giving the church a central role in the cultural transformation of the country.[30] Another mark of influence is the fact that more than a quarter of all presidents of the United States have been Episcopalians (see religious affiliations of Presidents of the United States). It was during this period that the Book of Common Prayer was revised, first in 1892 and later in 1928.

Samuel David Ferguson was the first black bishop consecrated by the Episcopal Church, the first to practice in the U.S. and the first black person to sit in the House of Bishops. Bishop Ferguson was consecrated on June 24, 1885, with the then-Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church acting as a consecrator.

By the middle of the 19th century, evangelical Episcopalians disturbed by High Church Tractarianism, while continuing to work in interdenominational agencies, formed their own voluntary societies, and eventually, in 1874, a faction objecting to the revival of ritual practices established the Reformed Episcopal Church.[29]

When the American Civil War began in 1861, Episcopalians in the South formed their own Protestant Episcopal Church. However, in the North the separation was never officially recognized. By May 16, 1866, the southern dioceses had rejoined the national church.[28]

St. John's Episcopal Church in Montgomery, Alabama, established in 1834. The church building was completed in 1855. The Secession Convention of Southern Churches was held here in 1861.

Episcopal missions chartered by African-Americans in this era were chartered as a Colored Episcopal Mission. All other missions (white) were chartered as an Organized Episcopal Mission. Many historically Black parishes are still in existence to date.

In 1856 the first society for African Americans in the Episcopal Church was founded by James Theodore Holly. Named The Protestant Episcopal Society for Promoting The Extension of The Church Among Colored People, the society argued that blacks should be allowed to participate in seminaries and diocesan conventions. The group lost its focus when Holly emigrated to Haiti, but other groups followed after the Civil War. The current Union of Black Episcopalians traces its history to the society.[26] Holly went on to found the Anglican Church in Haiti, where he became the first African-American bishop on November 8, 1874. As Bishop of Haiti, Holly was the first African American to attend the Lambeth Conference.[27] However, he was consecrated by the American Church Missionary Society, an Evangelical Episcopal branch of the Church.

St. John's Episcopal Church, built in 1816 in Washington, D.C., is known as the "Church of the Presidents" for the many presidents who have worshiped there.

Nineteenth century

On 17 September 1792, at the triennial General Convention (synod) of the Episcopal Church at Trinity Church on Wall Street in New York City, Thomas John Claggett was elected the first Bishop of Maryland. He was the first bishop of the Episcopal Church ordained and consecrated in America and the fifth Bishop consecrated for the Episcopal Church in the United States.[25]

In 1789, representative clergy from nine dioceses met in Philadelphia to ratify the Church's initial constitution. The Episcopal Church was formally separated from the Church of England in 1789 so that clergy would not be required to accept the supremacy of the British monarch. A revised version of the Book of Common Prayer was written for the new church that same year. The fourth bishop of the Episcopal Church was James Madison, the first bishop of Virginia. Madison was consecrated in 1790 by the Archbishop of Canterbury and two other Church of England bishops. This third American bishop consecrated within the English line of succession occurred because of continuing unease within the Church of England over Seabury's nonjuring Scottish orders.[21] The Episcopal Church thus became the first Anglican Province outside the British Isles.[24]

In 1787, two priests – William White of Pennsylvania and Samuel Provoost of New York – were consecrated as bishops by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop of York, and the Bishop of Bath and Wells, the legal obstacles having been removed by the passage through Parliament of the Consecration of Bishops Abroad Act 1786. Thus there are two branches of Apostolic succession for the American bishops: through the non-juring bishops of Scotland that consecrated Samuel Seabury and through the English church that consecrated William White and Samuel Provoost. All bishops in the American Church are ordained by at least three bishops. One can trace the succession of each back to Seabury, White and Provoost. (See Succession of Bishops of the Episcopal Church.)

By 1786, the church had succeeded in translating episcopacy to America and in revising the Book of Common Prayer to reflect American political realities. Later, through the efforts of Bishop Philander Chase (1775–1852) of Ohio, Americans successfully sought material assistance from England for the purpose of training Episcopal clergy. The development of the Protestant Episcopal Church provides an example of how Americans in the early republic maintained important cultural ties with England.[23]

When the clergy of Connecticut elected Samuel Seabury as their bishop in 1783, he sought consecration in England. The Oath of Supremacy prevented Seabury's consecration in England, so he went to Scotland; the non-juring Scottish bishops there consecrated him in Aberdeen on November 14, 1784, making him, in the words of scholar Arthur Carl Piepkorn, "the first Anglican bishop appointed to minister outside the British Isles".[22] On August 3, 1785, the first ordinations on American soil took place at Christ Church in Middletown.

Trinity Church in Swedesboro, New Jersey. Originally serving a Church of Sweden congregation, it became an Episcopal church in 1786, when this building was completed.

In the wake of the Revolution, American Episcopalians faced the task of preserving a hierarchical church structure in a society infused with republican values.

Early Republic era

Of the approximately three hundred clergy in the Church of England in America between 1776 and 1783, over 80 percent in New England, New York, and New Jersey were loyalists. This is in contrast to the less than 23 percent loyalist clergy in the four southern colonies.[21] Many Church of England clergy remained loyalists as they took their two ordination oaths very seriously. Anglican clergy were obliged to swear allegiance to the king as well as to pray for the king, the royal family, and the British Parliament.[21] In general, loyalist clergy stayed by their oaths and prayed for the king or else suspended services.[21] By the end of 1776, some Anglican churches were closing.[21] Anglican priests held services in private homes or lay readers who were not bound by the oaths held morning and evening prayer.[21] During 1775 and 1776, the Continental Congress had issued decrees ordering churches to fast and pray on behalf of the patriots.[21] Starting July 4, 1776, Congress and several states passed laws making prayers for the king and British Parliament acts of treason.[21] The patriot clergy in the South were quick to find reasons to transfer their oaths to the American cause and prayed for the success of the Revolution.[21] One precedent was the transfer of oaths during the Glorious Revolution in England.[21] Most of the patriot clergy in the south were able to keep their churches open and services continued.[21]

Old North Church in Boston. Inspired by the work of Christopher Wren, it was completed in 1723.

It was often assumed that persons considered "High Church" were Loyalists, whereas persons considered "Low Church" were Patriots; assumptions with possibly dangerous implications for the time. [21], the Church of England almost drove itself to extinction during the upheaval of the Book of Common Prayer Embracing the symbols of the British presence in the American colonies, such as the monarchy, the episcopate, and even the language of the

Revolutionary era

Bruton Parish Church in Colonial Williamsburg, established in 1674. The current building was completed in 1715.

From 1635, the vestries and the clergy were loosely under the diocesan authority of the Bishop of London. After 1702, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG) began missionary activity throughout the colonies. On the eve of Revolution about 400 independent congregations were reported throughout the colonies.


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