The Episcopal Church is one of 46 self-governing churches, or provinces, which make up the worldwide Anglican Communion. The Communion’s provinces are national and multinational, operating from 165 nations on six continents. They are linked by their proclamation of the Catholic and Apostolic faith; their common ecclesiastical (church order or governance) structure, including the historic episcopate (bishops); their theological grounding in scripture, tradition and reason; their use of liturgies derived from The Book of Common Prayer; their recognition of the Eucharist as the central act of worship; and through their ties to the Archbishop of Canterbury who serves as the primate (primary leader) of the Church of England and spiritual leader of the Communion.
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The Episcopal Church shield was adopted in 1940 as the official logo of the church.
Members of the Episcopal Church and their Anglican sisters and brothers believe that God is a divine person who created everything that is. Now to call God a person does not mean that God has a body as we do. Instead, it means that God is relational. We are creatures of relationship because God, who is relational, made us. Believing that God made us does not mean that we must disagree with the scientific discoveries of fossils or evolutionary theories.
As Christians, members of the Episcopal Church and of other Anglican churches believe that the life of one extraordinary human being whom, we discover, is also God, can turn the world's disharmony into harmony. In Jesus Christ, life is a joyous mystery. In Jesus Christ, religion is not about being good so a heavenly Father will love us. Religion is about living fully and freely in the power that created us. In Jesus Christ, we are not defined by our mistakes or weaknesses but by the fact that God loves us.
The act of praying is central to our identity as Christians and as members of the Anglican Communion. Other Christian traditions assert that the Bible alone shapes their identity. It was the church, however, which compiled the Bible and not the Bible which created the church. The authors of the Bible were inspired by God because God cared to have a relationship with them; a relationship which they experienced in their lives through their prayer. Still other Christian traditions use statements of belief (called doctrines) to tell them who they are. But again, we feel that one cannot express one's belief without first having a relationship with God and that entails prayer. A relationship with God experienced and expressed through prayer, is the foundational human activity which gives rise to our scriptures, our traditions and our doctrines. The Episcopal Church and her Anglican sisters and brothers express this truth through one of our favorite phrases; praying shapes believing.
Because praying shapes believing, we work as a community to compile the prayers which we use for worship. Thus, our worship is shaped by The Book of Common Prayer. It is common prayer because we compiled it as a community and we pray it together, in common. And it is prayer because, as we have said before, praying shapes believing. The first Book of Common Prayer was compiled in England in 1549, when the English Catholics decided to break away from the Pope. The current Book of Common Prayer used in the Episcopal Church in the United States became official in 1979. Each province of the Anglican Communion either has its own Book of Common Prayer or uses the prayer book of one of the other provinces. Sometimes we use our own prayer books and borrow from the prayer books of our sister provinces.
--based on an essay by the Rev. Dr. Randall Warren, Diocese of Eastern Michigan
The Episcopal Church came into being in 1784 through the consecration of its first bishop, Samuel Seabury, by bishops of the Episcopal Church of Scotland. The formal establishment of the Episcopal Church came in 1789 with the church’s first General Convention and adoption of its constitution and canons, one year after the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. The General Convention is the primary governing authority in the Episcopal Church and—because of the church’s origins—reflects the structure of the U.S. Congress. The Convention is composed of a House of Deputies (lay and ordained deputies from each diocese) and a House of Bishops (all active and retired bishops). The Convention meets every three years to enact legislation, elect representatives to its governing boards and agencies, issue statements on matters of public policy and faith, and strengthen fellowship between its members and its Anglican, ecumenical and interfaith partners.
The president of the House of Bishops—known as the presiding bishop—also serves as the chief executive of The Episcopal Church, which is officially incorporated as The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. The Episcopal Church headquarters is located in New York City, but there are field offices in Washington D.C. (Office of Governmental Affairs); and New Bern, North Carolina (Office of Pastoral Care). As of 2015, The Episcopal Church numbers 1.6 million members worshipping and witnessing in 6,400 congregations organized in 111 dioceses and three regional areas in the United States, and in 17 other countries in Central and South America, the Caribbean, Europe and Asia.
The Most Rev. Michael Curry currently serves as the church’s presiding bishop. He was elected at the 2015 General Convention and installed as 27th presiding bishop and primate on November 1, 2015. His nine-year term ends with the 2024 General Convention.
The Five Marks of Mission, developed by the Anglican Consultative Council and endorsed by the General Convention, serves as a template for developing, adapting and funding programs in The Episcopal Church:
The Most Rev. Michael Curry, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church