What Is the Episcopal Church?

The Episcopal Church is the American branch of a global fellowship of churches in over 165 countries, known as the Anglican Communion.  Anglican or Episcopal churches trace their origins to the Church of England, which separated from the Roman Catholic Church in the sixteenth century during the Protestant Reformation.

If you were to visit an Episcopal congregation on Sunday, you would notice both Catholic and Protestant elements, such as the centrality of baptism and the Eucharist (also called the Mass or Holy Communion) and a serious engagement with the Bible as a source of faith, instruction, and ethical living. The Episcopal Church values both tradition and new understandings of how God works in the world.  We immerse ourselves in the teachings of Jesus and the historic creeds of the Church, while also reflecting on the new things God may be telling us.

Anglicanism is grounded in the belief that there are several sources for accessing the truth and wisdom of God. Scripture, tradition, and human reason all have a part to play.  We also look to the lessons that human experience, individual and collective, has to teach us, both in our own time and place and over many generations.  The Episcopal Church is democratically governed, with responsibilities shared by bishops, clergy, and laity. "Episcopal" refers to the key leadership role that bishops (Latin, episcopus) play in each geographic region, known as a diocese.

The Episcopal Church commits to respecting the dignity of every human being, and so extends the sacraments, including ordination and marriage, to all peoplewomen and men, gay and straight.  It also speaks out on critical issues related to human rights and social justice, environmental sustainability, and economic concerns.

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