Last modified on January 8, 2024, at 03:16

Episcopal Church in the United States of America

The Episcopal Church in the USA (ECUSA), now also known as The Episcopal Church (TEC), is a liberal mainline Protestant church. It is the (official) American branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion. From its founding until the middle of the twentieth century, the church was named the "Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America."

In 2005 the Church reported 7200 churches in the U.S., with 1.8 million full members and 15,900 clergy. It has been steadily shrinking in membership since its peak of 3.6 million in 1966 and, by 2011, had lost over 40 percent of the churchgoers it counted in the mid-1960s. It is undergoing a theological split as traditionalists break off over a number of concerns, most notably the issue of homosexual bishops. It sponsors Sewanee University in Tennessee and a number of other colleges and seminaries across the United States.

Episcopalians reject some of the doctrines held by Protestants such as Martin Luther and share some traditions with the Roman Catholic Church. In the current Episcopal Church, mainly liturgical practices are shared.


Worship in the Episcopal Church is according to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, a book of worship services for use in the church. The previous edition was published in 1928. Worship styles within the Episcopal Church can range from "high church" (emphasizing ritual, sung liturgy, candles and incense, genuflecting, etc. with services resembling a Roman Catholic service before 1960) to "low church" (emphasizing preaching and personal conversion and eschewing elaborate ceremony, with services resembling other evangelical Protestant denominations). Many Episcopal churches have a "broad church" stance, meaning they take a middle ground and incorporate elements of both high and low church styles. The Episcopal Church has been active in ecumenical movements, and in 1948 it became a founding member of the World Council of Churches.


Episcopal theology is summarized by the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, principally written by Thomas Cranmer. The Articles were adopted by the Church of England in 1563 and by the new Protestant Episcopal Church in 1801. The influence of the Articles has decreased dramatically over the last few centuries, as the Anglican Communion has gradually moved further away from Protestantism and closer to Catholicism.


The National Cathedral in Washington is an Episcopal church and is the official seat of the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the USA. Twelve of the forty-three Presidents have been Episcopalians, including George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, George H. W. Bush, and Gerald Ford.


Changes made in the church during the 1970s, specifically the ordination of women and the adoption of a new Book of Common Prayer in 1979, led to a movement of breakaway churches called the Continuing Anglican movement.

There is currently an additional area of controversy in the Episcopal Church concerning the role of homosexuals within the church. The dispute involves both the establishment of rites for the blessing of same-sex marriages in the church and the consecrating of non-celibate homosexual persons as Episcopal bishops. The church was given until September 30, 2007 to determine whether or not it would continue to consecrate homosexuals but replied that it would not yield its autonomy. In 2010, a lesbian priest became the second openly homosexual priest in the church to be approved for consecration as a bishop. The Episcopal Church's liberal stance has alienated it from some other churches of the Anglican Communion, specifically national churches in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America which have broken intercommunion with ECUSA while remaining with her as provinces of the Anglican Communion.

Some U.S. Episcopal congregations and dioceses opposed to the consecration of practicing homosexuals to the episcopate have removed themselves from ECUSA and instead placed themselves under the authority of Anglican churches in Africa, Latin America, or Southeast Asia, thus attempting to remain (unlike the churches in the Continuing Anglican movement) in full communion with the worldwide Anglican Communion. Along with the Reformed Episcopal Church and parishes established in North America by various overseas Anglican provinces, these Anglicans in 2010 formed themselves into the new "Anglican Church in North America" and won recognition from a majority of the provinces of the Anglican Communion.

Some of the churches which formerly belonged to ECUSA are currently involved in legal struggles with ECUSA over the fate of their historic church buildings. Most often, the courts have held in favor of ECUSA and against the various churches that have declared their independence from her.

Same-sex marriage

In July 2015, the Episcopal Church overwhelmingly approved to allow same sex marriages to be performed in its churches.[1] [2]

Prominent Episcopalians

See also


  1. [1]
  2. [2]

Further reading

  • Hein, David, and Gardiner H. Shattuck Jr. The Episcopalians. (2004) 336pp online edition, the best place to begin
  • Holmes, David. A Brief History of the Episcopal Church. (1993). 239 pp.


  • Butler, Diana Hochstedt. Standing against the Whirlwind: Evangelical Episcopalians in Nineteenth-Century America. (1995). 270 pp.
  • Hein, David. Noble Powell and the Episcopal Establishment in he Twentieth Century. (2001). 182 pp.
  • Luker, Ralph. A Southern Tradition in Theology and Social Criticism, 1830-1930: The Religious Liberalism and Social Conservatism of James Warley Miles, William Porcher Dubose, and Edgar Gardner Murphy. (1984). 463 pp.
  • Mullin, Robert Bruce. Episcopal Vision/American Reality: High Church Theology and Social Thought in Evangelical America. (1986). 247 pp.
  • Prelinger, Catherine M., ed. Episcopal Women: Gender, Spirituality, and Commitment in an American Mainline Denomination. (1992). 363 pp.
  • Prichard, Robert W. The Nature of Salvation: Theological Consensus in the Episcopal Church, 1801-73 (1997). 217 pp.
  • Rankin, Richard. Ambivalent Churchmen and Evangelical Churchwomen: The Religion of the Episcopal Elite in North Carolina, 1800-1860. (1993). 203 pp.
  • Shattuck, Gardiner H., Jr. Episcopalians and Race: Civil War to Civil Rights. (2000). 298 pp.