The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States
The American Episcopal Church was organized in 1783 when it
became clear that it wouldn't make any sense for the Church
of England to have a presence in the United States.
Remember that the monarch of England is the official head
of the CoE.
The Episcopal Church keeps many of the traditions of the
CoE. The church uses a Book of Common Prayer derived from
original produced by Thomas Cranmer and friends during the
Most importantly, the Episcopal church traces the lineage of
its bishops directly back to the Apostles. Before the
American Revolution, the American colonies had no bishops:
ALL the English colonies were assumed to be a part of the
Diocese of London. The Bishop of that Diocese administered
the affairs of the Church in the colonies by Commissaries,
who supplied to some extent the office of a bishop, although
they could not administer the rite of confirmation, or
ordain or depose priests or deacons. No person could
be confirmed in the Anglican or Episcopal Church in America
until after the consecration of Bishop Seabury in 1784. If a
person desired confirmation, or if the ordination of a
priest or deacon was required, it could be accomplished only
by crossing the ocean to a bishop in England. This caused
many of the clergy to omit that part of the baptismal
service which required the sponsors to take the baptized
child to the Bishop for confirmation at a suitable age. (1)
The English bishops refused to consecrate any bishops who
did not take an oath of allegiance to the English monarch as
head of the church, so the first American bishop, Samuel
Seabury had to go to Scotland to be consecrated. Later,
the English government changed its mind and allowed
foreigners to be exempt from the loyalty oath. But in the
end, the apostolic succession was preserved. The
apostolic succession is the main thing that sets the
Episcopal Church apart from other protestant
Officially, the Episcopal church's beliefs are very close to
that of any other protestant church. The Church holds the
scripture to be the literal word of God, but no individual
in the church really believes this.
For instance, it is a commonly held heresy that no God that
is all-powerful and all-loving could ever let anyone burn in
hell forever. Therefore: There is no hell, and
purgatory is like a rehab clinic for unrepentant sinners.
The governing body of the Episcopal Church is the General
Convention, which is made up of two parts, the House of
Bishops and House of Deputies (sound familiar?). The
House of Deputies consist of eight representatives from each
diocese, four laymen and four clergy. The House of Bishops
is made up of all Bishops in the church.
The General Convention meets every three years.
The primate of the church is the Presiding Bishop, who
serves a nine year term of office. The General Convention
elects the Presiding Bishop.
The Episcopal Church is a member of the Anglican
Communion, but is completely autonomous.
The church is made up of many dioceses. Each is run by one or more bishops and is made up of many parishes. Each parish is run by a rector who may be assisted by assistant and associate rectors (all priests) and deacons (clergy of a lesser order than priests). The rector and other clergy answer to the vestry, a group of laymen elected by the members of the parish.
All very democratic.
(1) The Book Of Common Prayer: Its Origin And Growth By J. H. Benton, LL.D.
Episcopal Church E2 Writeup, Copyright 2002 Frank Grimes.
This writeup is dedicated to the public domain. Do with it what you will. (For details, see http://creativecommons.org/licenses/publicdomain/ )
--Frank Grimes, 2007