Who We Are

The Episcopal Church

Who we are

We are rich and we are poor, we are high church and we are low church, we are conservative and we are liberal, we are doctors and we are shoe salesmen, we are the Episcopal Church.

Every Sunday you will find Episcopalians throughout the world standing, sitting, and kneeling in worship of our mutual Lord Jesus Christ. The Episcopal Church, though diverse, gathers around the Eucharist, the Bible, and the Book of Common Prayer which links us all as one people in the Kingdom of God.

The Episcopal Church in the United States was founded in 1785 after the Revolutionary War severed ties with Great Britain and the Church of England. We began small but through God's grace and the our persistent nature the Episcopal Church spread throughout the new nation and across her borders into the world. The Episcopal Church currently consists of 109 dioceses divided into 9 provinces located in the United States, Columbia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Honduras, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, Venezuela, the Virgin Islands, the Navajoland Area Mission, and the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe. The Episcopal Church is a member of the Anglican Communion, a gathering of independent churches who trace their origins to the Church of England, and as such is the third largest Christian tradition in the world.

As Anglicans we recognize the Archbishop of Canterbury, currently the Most Reverend and Right Honorable Rowan Williams, as our moral and spiritual leader and symbol of unity for all Anglicans.

As Episcopalians we look to the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate, as our Chief Pastor and our Christian voice to the world.

What we believe

We are first and foremost Christians and as Christians we are believers and followers of Jesus Christ. We do not pretend to have all the answers about God but what we do know  we confess in the two historic creeds of our church, the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed. These two creeds of the Early Church unite us with Christians from all around the world from the beginnings of Christianity until the return of Christ.

The Apostles' Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty, 
    creator of heaven and earth; 
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. 
    He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit 
        and born of the Virgin Mary. 
    He suffered under Pontius Pilate, 
        was crucified, died, and was buried. 
    He descended to the dead. 
    On the third day he rose again. 
    He ascended into heaven, 
        and is seated at the right hand of the Father. 
    He will come again to judge the living and the dead. 
I believe in the Holy Spirit, 
    the holy catholic Church, 
    the communion of saints, 
    the forgiveness of sins
    the resurrection of the body, 
    and the life everlasting. Amen.

The Nicene Creed 

We believe in one God,
    the Father, the Almighty,
    maker of heaven and earth,
    of all that is, seen and unseen.

 We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
    the only Son of God,
    eternally begotten of the Father,
    God from God, Light from Light,
    true God from true God,
    begotten, not made,
    of one Being with the Father.
    Through him all things were made.
    For us and for our salvation
    he came down from heaven:
    by the power of the Holy Spirit
    he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
    and was made man.
    For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
    he suffered death and was buried.
    On the third day he rose again
    in accordance with the Scriptures;       
    he ascended into heaven
    and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
    He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
    and his kingdom will have no end.

 We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, 
    who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
    With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
    He has spoken through the Prophets.
    We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
    We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
    We look for the resurrection of the dead,
    and the life of the world to come. Amen. 

The Book of Common Prayer

Central to our worship is the Book of Common Prayer, a text which was originally created in 1622 by Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer for the newly formed Church of England. Our Book of Common Prayer is just what is says it is, a book which contains the prayers that are used by all Episcopalians and many Anglicans around the world every Sunday. The prayer book unites us and reminds us that we are just one part of God's mighty people on the Earth. 

The prayer book contains prayers and services for birth, baptism, confirmation, reconciliation, marriage, anointing of the sick, the Eucharist, ordinations, missions, and funerals. Our prayer book takes us from the beginning of this life to the beginning of the next life and is a cherished source of comfort and strenght for all Episcopalians. 

The current Book of Common Prayer, whose full title 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, was accepted by General Convention in 1979.

Click the link to view the Book of Common Prayer online.

The Holy Bible

The Creeds and the Book of Common Prayer are both rooted in the Sacred Scriptures of the Old and New Testments which we call the Holy Bible. Don't let anyone fool you, the Episcopal Church is a Bible reading church. Approximately 70% of our Book of Common Prayer comes directly from the Bible and Episcopalians read and listen to more Scripture on any given Sunday than do most Christian denominations. The Holy Bible is our foundation and interpreted in light of tradition and reason it conatins all things necessary for salvation.

The Episcopal Shield

Probably our most recognized symbol is the Episcopal Shield. You will find it on everything from t-shirts, to church signs, to bumper stickers, and sometimes even on the collar of the well-dressed dog. The shield is not only instantly recognizable and pretty but it is filled with meaning and history.  The red cross that divides the shield is the Cross of St. George, the patron saint of England. This reminds us that the Episcopal Church is connected through history and tradition with the Church of England. The x-shaped cross, called a saltire, in the left quadrant is the Cross of St. Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland. When the Episcopal Church began we elected three men to be consecrated bishops. Because we wanted our bishops in Apostolic Succession we sent them off to England to be consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury. However, at that time bishops had to swear allegience to the English Monarch who was and still is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. The Americans could not do such a thing and while Parliament tried to find a legal way around the oath of loyalty Samuel Seabury went north to Scotland where the bishops there were only too happy to consecrate him. Later on Parliament changed their law and the other two candidates were consecreated giving the new Episcopal Church 3 bishops, enough to consecrate their own. The saltire is made up of nine crosslets which represent the original 9 diocese of the Episcopal Church; those being Massachusetts, Conneticut, Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware, and South Carolina. The colors of the shield (red, white, and blue) remind us of our national flag.

Our Polity

The Episcopal Church is governed by General Convention which meets every 3 years and is made up of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies. The House of Bishops conists of duly elected and consecreated Episcopal bishops and the House of Deputies consists of deacons, priests, and laity (which means non-ordained).

Each diocese is led by a bishop who is consecrated in the line of Apostolic Succession which means that each Episcopal bishop can trace his or her line back to the Twelve Apostles. The bishop serves his or her diocese as a source of unity, as their chief pastor, and as their defender of the Christian faith. The bishop is given the authority to ordain new men and women to the priesthood and the diaconate and bestows the Sacrament of Confirmation of those ready to join the Episcopal Church.

Among the bishops is the Presiding Bishop who is elected by the entire church to preside at the consecrations of new bishops, to visit each diocese, and care for the overall structure, and to be our voice to the world.

Priests and Deacons serve their local parishes and missions by giving the Sacraments, through counseling and prayer, and by being a friend to all.

The real power of the Episcopal Church lies with the laity, the non-ordained, these men and women of God are the ones actively preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ amongst their friends, co-workers, classmates, and even to the strangers. 

The truth is that the Episcopal Church needs all of us to make sure that the entire world knows of the healing and hope found in Jesus Christ. Please join us in spreading God's Kingdom.