Episcopal Church of the United States of America

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The Episcopal Church
Coat of arms of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America
Coat of arms of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America
Belief Anglicanism
organization Episcopal Church
distribution United States
and Dioceses in
Taiwan ,
Micronesia ,
Central and South America ,
the Caribbean
and Europe
primate Bishop Michael Bruce Curry
membership Anglican Community
Establishment date 1789
Members 1.8 million followers (2018 estimate)
Also called: TEC
Website episcopalchurch.org
The Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Washington, DC is the National Cathedral of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America.

The Episcopal Church of the United States of America ( English Episcopal Church in the United States of America ) is a member church of the Anglican Community primarily in the United States , but also in Haiti , Taiwan , Colombia , the Dominican Republic , Ecuador , Honduras , Venezuela and continental Europe . The Episcopal Church is one of the oldest churches in what is now the United States; today, with 1.8 million members, it is significantly smaller than some other American churches. Only about 0.5% of US citizens belong to it, but a quarter of all US presidents (most recently George HW Bush ).


The full, official name of the church as a legal person The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America is used extremely rarely. Common abbreviations are both ECUSA ( Episcopal Church in the USA ) and in the 21st century with the growing awareness of the internationalization of the church TEC ( The Episcopal Church ), since the dioceses and parishes in Latin America, Asia and Europe are not in the USA at all lie. Until the middle of the 20th century, PECUSA ( Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America ) was also common.

Church order and structure

The basic unit of the Episcopal Church is the diocese . The consecrated head of the diocese is the bishop. The dioceses are grouped together in provinces, but unlike other Anglican churches, the provinces do not have an archbishop . As a result, there are no authority or jurisdiction in the provinces. The church is organized in nine provinces with 110 dioceses and 7,374 parishes. Other consecrated members of the clergy are priests (or presbyters ) and deacons . Ordination of women is allowed. Lay people participate fully in the life of the church and are also significantly involved in church governance.

The highest authority of the church is a synod that takes place every three years and is called the General Convention . It consists of two houses: the house of the bishops and the house of the deputies. The latter is made up of priests, deacons and lay people: each diocese elects four members of the clergy and four lay people as deputies. The President of the House of Bishops is the Presiding Bishop , who serves as the Primus of the universal Church and is elected every nine years. On June 18, 2006, Katharine Jefferts Schori was elected to this office as successor to Frank Tracy Griswolds , making her the first woman to serve as a primate in an Anglican church. The chairmanship of the House of Deputies is called the President and roughly corresponds to the Preses of a Protestant synod. He can be a priest or a layperson. The current president is Gay Clark Jennings . The last General Assembly met from July 5 to 13, 2018 in Austin (Texas) , the next is to take place in 2021.

Between general assemblies, the Executive Council is the highest body of the whole Church. This consists of 38 members - four bishops , four priests or deacons and twelve lay people who are elected at the general assembly, and 18 other members who are elected at the provincial synods.

The administrative headquarters of the church in New York City , but the Primate ( Presiding Bishop , Presiding Bishop) is in the Washington National Cathedral officially inaugurated into office. The highest body, the General Convention, does not have a permanent seat, but meets every three years in different places. The incumbent Chairman Bishop since 2015 has been Michael Bruce Curry .



The Episcopal Church of the United States has nine ecclesiastical provinces that have numbers instead of names. Provincial boundaries typically follow the boundaries of the US state, as there are hardly any cross-border dioceses (but many US states have multiple dioceses within their borders).

  1. New England
  2. New York , New Jersey , Haiti , US Virgin Islands and Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe
  3. Delaware , District of Columbia , Maryland , Pennsylvania , Virginia , West Virginia
  4. Alabama , Georgia , Florida , Kentucky , eastern Louisiana , Mississippi , North Carolina , South Carolina , Tennessee
  5. Illinois , Indiana , Michigan , eastern Missouri , Ohio , Wisconsin
  6. Colorado , Iowa , Minnesota , Montana , Nebraska , North Dakota , South Dakota , Wyoming
  7. Arkansas , Kansas , western Louisiana , western Missouri , New Mexico , Oklahoma , Texas ,
  8. Alaska , Arizona , California , Hawaii , Idaho , Oregon , Nevada , Utah , Taiwan , Washington
  9. Colombia , Ecuador , Honduras , Puerto Rico , Dominican Republic , Venezuela

Each province is divided into individual dioceses. Unlike in many other Anglican ecclesiastical provinces, there are no archbishops for the respective provinces, as the Episcopal Church has no archbishops.



Each diocese consists of churches having different types: Cathedral, churches, missions and bands.

Most of the parishes are parishes . These are communities that are financially viable without monetary subsidies from the diocese. The community is headed by a priest who is called the rector . In larger parishes, other priests can also work as assistants. Parishioners also elect lay people (often, but not necessarily, twelve) to the parish council, which is called the vestry. Two members are elected from the Vestry, who are referred to as Senior and Junior Warden - alternatively also Rector’s - and People's Warden - and who take on special management functions. For example, the community's contract with the rector is signed by the senior warden ; the junior warden is often responsible for the upkeep of the church building. As with other boards, it is customary to elect secretaries and treasurers.

A cathedral serves as the mother church of a diocese and is the seat of the bishop, but often houses its own parish. Most - but not all - dioceses have a cathedral. A few have two cathedrals, or a cathedral and a pro-cathedral . Some designate the chapel of a church conference center as a cathedral. As a rule, the priest who acts as pastor of the cathedral parish is called the cathedral dean . The lay supervisory body of a cathedral is called a cathedral chapter, but some cathedrals also have a vestry.

A mission is a congregation that is not financially independent, but relies on support from the diocese. The administration of a mission is similar to that of an independent congregation, but the diocese and the bishop have expanded say. The pastor of a mission is commonly referred to as a vicar . Instead of "Vestry", the lay committee that leads the congregation is called either "Mission Committee" or "Bishop's Committee".

A “chapel” is a community that is part of another institution, such as B. a school or a hospital, or that only meets seasonally, such as B. in holiday colonies or summer retreats ("summer chapels"). Here the pastor is usually referred to as a chaplain , although the term vicar is also used in the case of a summer chapel.

Belief and practice

Like many churches in the Anglican Communion, the Episcopal Church also follows a via media or “middle way” between Protestant and Catholic practices. Indeed, the Episcopal liturgy explicitly affirms belief in the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church”. Therefore, many Episcopalians argue that the Roman Catholics are not the only "Catholics", but that Anglicanism is also one of the three branches of Catholicism: the Eastern Orthodox Church , the Roman Catholic Church, and the Episcopal or Anglican Church. The Episcopal liturgy , i.e. the practice of worship, is similar to that of the Roman Catholic Church , with some differences such as the use of the Book of Common Prayer (see below).

Within the Episcopal Church there are different degrees of liturgical practice. Churches or services are often referred to as “low church” or “high church”. According to the theory, a “high church” would be more Catholic , and therefore inclined to use signs of blessing (“smells and bells”), which embellish the basic liturgy with further specializations. In contrast to this, there are fewer such “Catholic” elements to be found in a “low church”; however, these could have other elements, e.g. B. “ Praise and Worship ” music or tend to a more strictly Protestant or even evangelical view. Although many Episcopalians would use these terms to describe their churches, the similarities are still great, and the basic rite is little different: readings from the Bible (both the Old Testament and the Epistles and the Gospels, respectively), followed by a sermon , the creed, intercession and the Eucharist , which is celebrated with wine (and not with water or grape juice as some US Protestants do); Alcoholics and others who want to avoid alcohol are free to forego the cup. A variety of styles of worship can be found within the Episcopal Church: traditional hymns, “praise and worship” music, Anglican chants, liturgical dance, charismatic hand movements, clerics in robes, and clerics in street clothes. As different as the forms of worship may be, there is a central connecting element between them: the Book of Common Prayer and the various supplementary agendas .

The Episcopal Church uses the Nicano-Constantinopolitanum as its main creed; in ecumenical matters, however , she regards the apostolic as sufficient.


The concept of saints in the Episcopal Church is heavily influenced by Catholic tradition. However, the level of veneration of the saints is generally more Protestant. Most Episcopalians do not pray to the saints and do not refer to them as mediators. Instead, the saints are seen as historical examples of good Christians. According to this understanding, a greater variety of people comes to be regarded as "saints" in the Episcopal Church, such as B. Martin Luther , Harriet Tubman or Samuel Seabury . The Church also teaches that all members are among the saints of God and have the potential to serve as examples to others. The Episcopal Church publishes the book Lesser Feasts and Fasts , which mentions the feast days of the various saints, who thereby receive special veneration.

Book of Common Prayer

The Episcopal Church publishes its own Book of Common Prayer (BCP), in which the course of most of the services (or "liturgies") used in the Episcopal Church are recorded. Because of its widespread use in the Church, the BCP is both a reflection and a source of theology for Episcopalians. The current edition is dated 1979 and is more than just a revision of previous books, but aims to revive the practices of the early Church , such as: B. full participation of lay people in all worship services and the resurrection of the Eucharist as the main worship service. Earlier BCPs were issued by the US Episcopal Church in 1789, 1892, and 1928; a proposed BCP was printed in 1786, but not approved by the Church. The BCP is not subject to any copyright; however, proposed changes to the BCP remain protected by copyright until they are approved by the General Assembly. Only then does the respective version of the BCP become public domain .


Colonies and Revolution (1607–1789)

The first community from which the Episcopal Church was built, was in 1607 in Jamestown in Virginia as part of the Church of England established. From there, the church spread through English colonies in North America .

The Church of England became the State Church of Virginia in 1609, New York in 1693, South Carolina in 1706, and Georgia in 1758. This gave local councils taxpayers' money to support the Church. Virginia also tried to make church attendance mandatory, but a lack of priests made the regulations unenforceable.

The Bishop of London was declared responsible for the parishes in the colonies in 1635. Usually he carried out his duties with the help of commissioners appointed by him. James Blair was a major commissioner who served in that role from 1685-1743.

In 1775 there were about 300 independent communities within the Thirteen Colonies . During the American Revolution , the church was stripped of this status in those colonies where it still had state church status. In 1789 the Episcopal Church was founded as an independent church, because only by separating from the Church of England was it possible to circumvent the condition that the British monarch had to be recognized by the clergy as head of the church. When the Connecticut clergy elected Samuel Seabury to be bishop , he first sought episcopal ordination in England . There the Supremateid turned out to be problematic, which is why he traveled on to Scotland . There he was consecrated by the non-sworn Scottish bishops in Aberdeen on November 14, 1784, making him the first Anglican bishop outside the British Isles .

The Church in the United States, 1789-Present

As the territory and population of the United States grew, new dioceses emerged. Outside the USA, too, a few dioceses in Latin America and the Convocation of American Churches in Europe were established . After the first Book of Common Prayer , written for the new Church, appeared in 1789, new revisions appeared in 1892, 1928, and 1979.

In 1873 the Reformed Episcopal Church split off because its members feared a loss of Protestantism due to the growing acceptance of the Oxford Movement in parts of the Episcopal Church .

1974, the feast day of Mary and Martha , eleven were women in the Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia , where Paul Washington held the office of the rector, of four bishops present for the priesthood ordained . This ordination violated current canon law and was declared invalid by the House of Bishops on Assumption . Two years later, in 1976, the general synod decided to allow women to be ordained. Threats from some conservative parishes and dioceses to split off were not implemented. The eleven invalid ordinations and four other ordinations of women, which also took place before admission, were recognized retrospectively in the following year.

In 2003 there was heated argument in the Episcopal Church (and subsequently in the entire Anglican Church Fellowship) over the question of whether Gene Robinson should be ordained bishop, as some members believed that lesbians and gays should remain celibate if they did so Aspired to the office of bishop. However, the majority of the general synod confirmed Robinson's election by the people and clergy of his diocese. A number of conservative congregations split off from the United States Episcopal Church in the course of the dispute; In addition, a number of African and Asian Anglican churches threatened to terminate communion with the American church. However, from the perspective of the Episcopal Church itself, the General Synod declared that the practice of blessing same-sex couples is not church-dividing. By a resolution of the Synod of July 2009, the bishops of the church in their dioceses should decide how to deal with the question of the blessing of same-sex couples. In the next three years the bishops gained experience with the blessings and developed liturgical guidelines. On July 1, 2015, the Episcopal Church made church weddings possible for same-sex couples.


The Church is a member of the US National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches . Full communion fellowship exists with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the member churches of the Churches Uniting in Christ .

Church universities and seminaries


  • Addison, James Thayer. (1951). The Episcopal Church in the United States 1789-1931 . New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
  • Albright, Raymond W. (1964). A History of the Protestant Episcopal Church . New York: Macmillan.
  • Armentrout, Don S., & Slocum, Robert Boak. (Eds.). (1999). An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church: A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians . New York: Church Publishing Incorporated.
  • Armentrout, Don S., & Slocum, Robert Boak. (1994). Documents of Witness: A History of the Episcopal Church, 1782-1985 . New York: Church Hymnal Corporation.
  • Bonomi, Patricia U. (1988) Under the Cope of Heaven: Religion, Society, and Politics in Colonial America
  • Butler, Diana Hochstedt. (1995) Standing against the Whirlwind: Evangelical Episcopalians in Nineteenth-Century America
  • Caldwell, Sandra M., & Caldwell, Ronald J. (1993). The History of the Episcopal Church in America, 1607-1991: A Bibliography . New York: Garland Publishing.
  • Chorley, Edward Clowes. (1946). Men and Movements in the American Episcopal Church . New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
  • The Episcopal Clerical Directory . New York: Church Publishing.
  • Gough, Deborah Mathias. Christ Church, Philadelphia: The Nation's Church in a Changing City (1995)
  • Hein, David. (2001). Noble Powell and the Episcopal Establishment in the Twentieth Century . Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
  • Hein, David, and Gardiner H. Shattuck Jr. (2005). The Episcopalians . New York: Church Publishing.
  • David L. Holmes: A Brief History of the Episcopal Church. Trinitiy Press, Harrisburg 1993, ISBN 978-1-56338-060-0 .
  • Manross, William Wilson. (1950). A History of the American Episcopal Church . New York: Morehouse-Gorham.
  • McConnell, Michael W. (2003) "Establishment and Disestablishment at the Founding, Part I: Establishment of Religion" William and Mary Law Review
  • Mullin, Robert Bruce. (1986). Episcopal Vision / American Reality: High Church Theology and Social Thought in Evangelical America . New Haven: Yale Univ. Press.
  • Nelson, John (2001) A Blessed Company: Parishes, Parsons, and Parishioners in Anglican Virginia, 1690-1776
  • Prichard, Robert W. (1999). A History of the Episcopal Church . Rev. ed. Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Publishing.
  • Prichard, Robert W. (1997). The Nature of Salvation: Theological Consensus in the Episcopal Church, 1801-73 . Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
  • Prichard, Robert W. (Ed.). (1986). Readings from the History of the Episcopal Church . Wilton, CT: Morehouse-Barlow.
  • Shattuck, Gardiner H., Jr. (2000). Episcopalians and Race: Civil War to Civil Rights . Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky.
  • Wall, John N. (2000). A Dictionary for Episcopalians . Boston, MA: Cowley Publications.

Individual evidence

  1. Table of Statistics of the Episcopal Church (2018)
  2. ^ Equal Rites for Women. ( Memento from May 18, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
  3. ^ Claiming the Blessing. ( Memento of the original from September 14, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / claimingtheblessing.org
  4. Episcopalchurch.org ( Memento of the original from August 4, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.episcopalchurch.org
  5. NBCNews: Episcopalians Vote to Allow Gay Marriage in Churches

Web links