The Episcopal Church, USA is a mainline Protestant denomination connected with the Anglican Communion. The Anglican Communion consists of churches from former English colonies that maintain their local autonomy but look to the Church of England (Anglican Church) and its head, the Archbishop of Canterbury, for spiritual leadership.
Episcopal Church’s History and England
King Henry VIII of England created the Anglican church in the 16th century. The Anglican Church continues many traditions similar to Roman Catholicism and serves as a middle ground between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism.
Episcopalians (people who belong to the Episcopal Church) have communion, or mass, every Sunday, call their ministers “priests” and look to bishops for leadership like Roman Catholics do. Episcopalians also emphasize the Bible and see the Word as central to worship, like other Protestant churches. For example, the first half of Episcopal Sunday worship is devoted to the Word- reading and learning about Scripture. The second half is devoted to the Eucharist, or celebration of Jesus’ life and ministry through the sacrament of communion, known as the Lord’s Supper elsewhere.
Episcopal Church in America
When English settlers came to America, they brought the Anglican Church with them. The church struggled during the American Revolution, as an English church was about as popular as English taxes to the colonists seeking autonomy. The Episcopal Church established itself as connected with the Anglican Communion but an autunomous church in 1789. Today, the Episcopal Church, USA continues the Church of England’s faith and practices in America.
Episcopal Church’s Worship and Beliefs
English Protestant reformers believed every Christian should be able to read the Bible and understand the Church’s teaching. They created a resource book of common prayer, that has served as a guide for Anglican worship and Christian instruction since 1549. The Book of Common Prayer includes worship services (liturgies), collections of prayers, creeds (statements of belief), a catechism (outline of Christian teachings), a psalter (the Biblical Psalms) and a calendar of the Church year (list of dates Christians celebrate, such as Christmas and Easter). Today, the Episcopal Church, USA still uses the Book of Common Prayer as the basis for its communal worship and life.