History of the Episcopal Church

History of the Episcopal Church

of the Episcopal Church includes both the cross of St. George and a St. Andrew's cross.] Anglican Portal

The Episcopal Church traces its history from its origins in the Church of England. It stresses its continuity with the early universal Western church and maintains apostolic succession.


The English Church in British North America (1497-1775)

When John Cabot founded the first English colony in North America on 24 June 1497, he must have had some sort of religious service — it was St. John the Baptist's Day and the day was likely not a coincidence — and yet there is no extant record. In any case, Cabot sailed under the authority of King Henry VII and the English Church was still firmly Roman Catholic.

The first Church of England service recorded on North American soil was a celebration of Holy Communion at Frobisher Bay in the last days of August or early September 1578. The Anglican Church of Canada's Prayer Book fixes the day of commemoration as 3 Sept. The chaplain on Martin Frobisher's voyage was,

The first service read from the Book of Common Prayer on American soil occurred on 19 June 1579 in a harbor far north of San Francisco, when the crew of Sir Francis Drake's ship the Golden Hind landed. Drake named the new land Nova Albion or New Albion and claimed it for Queen Elizabeth I. The landing site may have been near Astoria, Oregon or, speculatively, much further north in British Columbia. The exact location has never been certain but isvariously reported as between 48 degrees and 42 degrees north latitude, a range which includes most of Washington, all of Oregon, and a sliver of California. The harbor was reportedly at either, 48, 44, 38 1/2, or 38 degrees. Drake and his crew stayed in this now lost harbor for over five weeks, repairing the Golden Hind. [ [http://www.mcn.org/2/oseeler/drake.htm Sir Francis Drake] ]

The Lost Colony of 1587 at Roanoke - the Roanoke Colony on Roanoke Island off of North Carolina - and the previous colony of 1585 in the same location - may have had recorded Church of England baptisms. There doesn't seem to have been any clergymen within the colonists and the references are vague. For example, one secondary text says that on August 13 1587, an aboriginal man called Manteo who laised with the colonists and surrounding people "was christened and declared Lord of Roanoke and Dasamonquepeuc as a reward for his many services." [cite web |url=http://statelibrary.dcr.state.nc.us/nc/ncsites/English1.htm |title=First English Settlement in the New World |accessdate=2007-10-08 |accessmonthday= |accessdaymonth= |accessyear= |author= |last= |first= |authorlink= |coauthors= |date= |year= |month= |format= |work= |publisher=State Library of North Carolina |pages= |language= |doi= |archiveurl= |archivedate= |quote= ]

The propagation of the Church of England occurred in three ways. One way was by officers of ships and lay military and civil officials reading services from the Book of Common Prayer regularly when no clergy were present. For example, in the charter issued by Charles I for Newfoundland in 1633 was this directive:

A second way was the direct appointing and employing of clergy by the English government on ships and in settlements.

A third way was the employment of clergy by private 'adventurous' companies. The first Church of England parish was founded in Jamestown, Virginia in 1607 under the charter of the Virginia Company of London. [cite book | last =Sydnor | first =William | authorlink = | coauthors = | title =Looking at the Episcopal Church | publisher =Morehouse Publishing | date =1980 | location =USA | pages =72 | url = | doi = | id = | isbn = ] The Hudson's Bay Company sent out its first chaplain in 1683, and where there was no chaplain the officers of the company were directed to read prayers from the BCP on Sundays. In 1836, a Church of England chaplain arrived at the Hudson's Bay Company's Fort Vancouver now Vancouver, Washington. This was the second-to-last Church of England clergyman on what would become American soil after the Oregon Treaty of 1846. The last Church of England clergyman vacated Fort Yukon when the United States government purchased the Russian territory in 1867. The U.S government took possession of Fort Yukon in 1869 although the Hudson's Bay post really should not have been in the Russian territory at all. The chaplain had evangelized well to the First Nations and they carried on in their new faith autonomously for twenty-five years. Then the Episcopal Church sent a bishop and found that they were still praying for Queen Victoria - on American territory - and would not stop insisting that "...we shall continue to pray for Queen Victoria." Thus, England and the English colonists brought the church to all the American colonies. The Church of England became the established church in Virginia in 1609, in the lower part of New York in 1693, in Maryland in 1702, in South Carolina in 1706, in North Carolina in 1730, and in Georgia in 1758. This was a matter of local taxes being given to the vestry for use in the churches and schools. Virginia attempted to make requirements about attendance, but with a severe shortage of clergy, they were not enforced. The vestries and the clergy were from 1635 loosely under diocesan authority of the Bishop of London.

Although the Church of England was theoretically established in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630, in actuality the colony under John Winthrop, who had brought its charter with him, was virtually self-governing civilly and religiously. By the time King's Chapel, the first Anglican Church in Massachusetts was founded in 1686, the Congregational Church had in fact become the established church of the colony.In 1691, toleration was extended to members of all Protestant churches. The Congregational Church was not disestablished until 1833. [ [http://www.churchstatelaw.com/historicalmaterials/8_1_2_11.asp Religious Liberty Archive : Rothgerber Johnson & Lyons LLP, Colorado Springs, CO ] ] [ [http://www.learner.org/biographyofamerica/prog02/transcript/page04.html A Bio. of America: English Settlement - Transcript ] ]

During the English Civil War, the episcopate was under attack. The Archbishop of Canterbury — William Laud — was beheaded in 1645 . Thus, the formation of a North American diocesan structure was hampered and hindered.

In 1649, the same year when King Charles I was beheaded, the Commonwealth Parliament in England gave a charter to found a missionary organization called the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England or the New England Society, for short.

The over-seas development of the Church of England in British North America challenged the insular view of the Church at home. The editors of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer found that they had to address the spiritual concerns of the contemporary adventurer. In the 1662 Preface, the editors note:

Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts.] After 1702 the "Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts" (SPG) began missionary activity throughout the colonies. The ministers were few, the glebes small, the salaries inadequate, and the people quite uninterested in religion, as the vestry became in effect a kind of local government. [cite book | last =Sydnor | first =William | authorlink = | coauthors = | title =Looking at the Episcopal Church | publisher =Morehouse Publishing | date =1980 | location =USA | pages =72 | url = | doi = | id = | isbn = ] One historian has explained the workings of the parish: quote|The parish was a local unit concerned with such matters as the conduct and support of the parish church, the supervision of morals, and the care of the poor. Its officers, who made up the vestry, were ordinarily influential and wealthy property holders chosen by a majority of the parishioners. They appointed the parish ministers, made local assessments, and investigated cases of moral offense for referral to the county court, the next higher judicatory. They also selected the church wardens, who audited the parish accounts and prosecuted morals cases. For several decades the system worked in a democratic fashion, but by the 1660s, the vestries had generally become self-perpetuating units made up of well-to-do landowners. This condition was sharply resented by the small farmers and servants.|Clifton Olmstead|History of Religion in the United States [cite book |last= Olmstead|first= Clifton E |authorlink=
coauthors= |title=History of Religion in the United States |year= 1960
pages=45|publisher= Prentice-Hall|location= Englewood Cliffs, N.J.|isbn=

The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, with the support of the Bishop of London, wanted a bishop for the colonies. Strong opposition arose in the South, where a bishop would threaten the privileges of the lay vestry. [cite book | last =Sydnor | first =William | authorlink = | coauthors = | title =Looking at the Episcopal Church | publisher =Morehouse Publishing | date =1980 | location =USA | pages =72 | url = | doi = | id = | isbn = ] Opponents conjured up visions of "episcopal palaces, or pontifical revenues, of spiritual courts, and all the pomp, grandeur, luxury and regalia of an American Lambeth" ("New York Gazette" or "Weekly Post Boy", March 14, 1768). John Adams later explained, "the apprehension of Episcopacy" contributed to the American Revolution, capturing the attention "not only of the inquiring mind, but of the common people. . . . The objection was not merely to the office of a bishop, though even that was dreaded, but to the authority of parliament, on which it must be founded". [Bonomi 1998, 200]

On the eve of Revolution, a large fraction of prominent merchants and royal appointees were Anglicans—and were Loyalists. About 27 percent of Anglican priests nationwide supported independence, especially in Virginia. Almost 40 percent—approaching 90 percent in New York and New England—were loyalists. Out of 55 Anglican clergy in New York and New England, only three were Patriots, two of those being from Massachusetts. In Maryland, of the 54 clergy in 1775, only 16 remained to take oaths of allegiance to the new government (McConnell 2003). William Smith made the connection explicit in a 1762 report to the Bishop of London. "The Church is the firmest Basis of Monarchy and the English Constitution", he declared. But if dissenters of "more Republican . . . Principles [with] little affinity to the established Religion and manners" of England ever gained the upper hand, the colonists might begin to think of "Independency and separate Government". Thus "in a Political as well as religious view", Smith stated emphatically, the church should be strengthened by an American bishop and the appointment of "prudent Governors who are friends of our Establishment" [Bonomi 1998, 201]

Revolution (1775-1783)

By 1775 about 400 independent congregations were reported throughout the colonies. The church was disestablished in all the states during the American Revolution. The Episcopal Church was formally separated from the Church of England in 1789 so that clergy would not be required to accept the supremacy of the British monarch.

Embracing the symbols of the British presence in the American colonies such as the monarchy, the episcopate, and even the language of the Book of Common Prayer, the Church of England almost drove itself to extinction during the upheaval of the American Revolution.cite book |last=Hein |first=David |authorlink= |coauthors=Gardiner H. Shattuck, Jr. |editor= |others= |title=The Episcopalians |origdate= |origyear= |origmonth= |url= |format= |accessdate= |accessyear= |accessmonth= |edition= |series= |date= |year=2004 |month= |publisher=Church Publishing |location= New York|language= |isbn=0898694973 |oclc= |doi= |id= |pages= |chapter= |chapterurl= |quote= ] More than any other denomination, the War of Independence internally divided both clergy and laity of the Church of England in America and opinions covered a wide spectrum of political views: patriots, conciliators, and loyalists. On one hand, Patriots saw the Church of England as synonymous with ‘Tory’ and ‘redcoat’. On the other hand, about three-quarters of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were nominally Anglican laymen. Men like Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Patrick Henry, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay. Eight of the ten signers of the Declaration of Independence from North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia were Anglicans.

Amongst the clergy, more or less, the northern clergy were loyalist and the southern clergy were patriot. Partly, their pocketbook can explain clergy sympathies, as the New England colonies did not establish the Church of England and clergy depended on their SPG stipend rather than their parishioners’ gifts. When war broke out, these clergy looked to England for both their paycheck and their direction. Where the Church of England was established, mainly the southern colonies, financial support was local and loyalties were local.

Of the approximately three hundred clergy in the Church of England in America between 1776 and 1783, over eighty per cent in New England, New York, and New Jersey were loyalists. This is in contrast to the less than twenty-three percent loyalist clergy in the four southern colonies. In two colonies, only one priest was a patriot; Samuel Provoost - who would become bishop- in New York and Robert Blackwell – who would serve as a chaplain in the Continental Army – in New Jersey. Many Church of England clergyman remained loyalist as they took two ordination oaths very seriously. The first oath arises from the Church of England canons of 1604 where Anglican clergy must affirm that the king,

Thus, each Anglican clergyman was obliged to swear publicly allegiance to the king. The second oath arose out of the Act of Uniformity of 1662 where clergy were bound to use the official liturgy as found in the Book of Common Prayer and to read it verbatim. This included prayers for the king and the royal family and for the British Parliament.

Two oaths and two problems for conscience stricken clergymen, some clergy were too clever by half in their avoidance. Samuel Tingley, a priest in Delaware and Maryland, rather than praying “O Lord, save the King” opted for evasion and said “O Lord, save those whom thou hast made it our especial Duty to pray for.”

In general, Loyalist clergy stayed by their Oaths and prayed for the king or else suspended services. By the end of 1776, Anglican churches were closing. An SPG missionary would report that of the colonies of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut which he had intelligence only the Anglican churches in Philadelphia, a couple in rural Pennsylvania, those in British –controlled New York and two parishes in Connecticut were open. Anglican priests held services in private homes or lay readers who were not bound by the oaths held Morning and Evening Prayer.

Nevertheless, some Loyalists clergymen were defiant, in Connecticut John Beach conducted worship throughout the war, and swore that he would continue praying for the king. In Maryland, Jonathan Boucher took two pistols into the pulpit and even pointed a pistol at the head of a group of patriots while he preached on loyalism. Charles Inglis, rector of Trinity Church in New York persisted in reading the royal prayers even when George Washington was seated in his congregation and a patriot militia company stood by observing the service.cite book |last=Carrington |first=Philip |authorlink= |coauthors= |editor= |others= |title=The Anglican Church in Canada|origdate= |origyear= |origmonth= |url= |format= |accessdate= |accessyear= |accessmonth= |edition= |series= |date= |year=1963 |month= |publisher=Collins|location=Toronto |language= |isbn= |oclc= |doi= |id= |pages= |chapter= |chapterurl= |quote= ]

The consequences of such bravado were very serious. During 1775 and 1776, the Continental Congress had issued decrees ordering churches to fast and pray on behalf of the patriots. From 04 July 1776 onwards, Congress and several states passed laws making prayers for the king and British Parliament acts of treason.

The patriot clergy in the south were quick to find reasons to transfer their oaths to the American cause and prayed for the success of the Revolution. One precedent was the transfer of oaths during the Glorious Revolution in England. Most of the patriot clergy in the south were able to keep their churches open and services continued.

When peace returned in 1783, approximately 80,000 loyalists had left the 13 American colonies, many – about 50,000 - heading for Canada including Charles Inglis who would become the first colonial bishop. By 1790, in a nation of four million, Anglicans were reduced to about ten thousand. In Virginia, less than 42 parishes of the 107 that existed in 1784 were able to support a priest between 1802 and 1811. In Georgia, Christ Church, Savannah was the only active parish in 1790. In Maryland, half of the parishes remained vacant by 1800. For a period after 1816, North Carolina had no clergy when its last clergyman died. Samuel Provoost, one of the first three Episcopal bishops – Bishop of New York - was so disheartened, he resigned his position in 1801 and retired to the country to study botany having given up on the Episcopal Church, which he was convinced, would die out with the old colonial families.

First Four Episcopal bishops (1784-1790)

When the clergy of Connecticut elected Samuel Seabury as their bishop in 1783, he sought consecration in England. The Oath of Supremacy prevented Seabury's consecration in England, so he went to Scotland; the non-juring Scottish bishops there consecrated him in Aberdeen on November 14, 1784, making him the first Episcopal bishop outside the British Isles. [cite book
last =Sydnor | first =William | authorlink = | coauthors = | title =Looking at the Episcopal Church | publisher =Morehouse Publishing | date =1980 | location =USA | pages =73 | url = | doi = | id = | isbn =

for the American bishops:

#Through the non-juring bishops of Scotland that consecrated Samuel Seabury.
#Through the English church that consecrated William White and Samuel Provoost.

All bishops in the American Church are ordained by at least three bishops. One can trace the succession of each back to Seabury, White and Provoost. ("See Succession of Bishops of the Episcopal Church.") In 1789, representative clergy from nine dioceses met in Philadelphia to ratify the church's initial constitution.

The fourth bishop of the Episcopal Church was James Madison, the first bishop of Virginia. Madison was consecrated in 1790 under the archbisop of Canterbury and two other Church of England bishops. This third American bishop consecrated within the English line of succession occurred because of continuing unease within the Church of England over Seabury's nonjuring Scottish orders.

The Church in the American Republic (1790–present)

As the United States grew, new dioceses were established, as well as the Convocation of American Churches in Europe. After the initial Book of Common Prayer written for the new church in 1789, new revisions appeared in 1892, 1928, and 1979.

In 1856 (before the US Civil War) the first society for African-Americans in the Episcopal Church was founded by the Rev James Theodore Holly. Named "The Protestant Episcopal Society for Promoting The Extension of The Church Among Colored People", they argued that blacks should be allowed to participate in seminaries and Diocesan Conventions. The group lost its focus when The Rev. Holly emigrated to Haiti, but other groups followed after the Civil War. The current Union of Black Episcopalians traces its history to the Society. [ [http://www.ube.org/history.html UBE History] ] During the American Civil War, an "Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America" was temporarily formed from the dioceses within the seceded states, but this was viewed as a "separation and not a division", concerning no questions of dogma or practice (other than the prayers for Congress and the President). [ [http://anglicanhistory.org/usa/jbcheshire/confederate1912/ The Church in the Confederate States, by Joseph Blount Cheshire (1912) ] ]

James Theodore Holly went on to found of the Anglican church in Haiti and became the first African-American bishop on November 8, 1874. As Bishop of Haiti, Bishop Holly was the first African-American to attend the Lambeth Conference. [ [http://www.episcopalchurch.org/5888_58502_ENG_HTM.htm UBE History] ] However, he was consecrated by the American Church Missionary Society, an Evangelical Episcopal branch of the Church.

In 1873, the Reformed Episcopal Church broke away from the Episcopal Church over what its members saw as the loss of Protestant and evangelical witness in Episcopalianism.

Samuel David Ferguson was the first black bishop consecrated by The Episcopal Church, the first to practice in the US, and the first black person to sit in the House of Bishops. Bishop Ferguson was consecrated on June 24, 1885, with the then-Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church acting as a consecrator.

The Episcopal Shield, adopted in 1940, is based on the St George's Cross, a symbol of England (mother of world Anglicanism), with a saltire reminiscent of the Cross of St Andrew in the canton in reference to the historical origins of the American episcopate in the Scottish Episcopal Church. [ [http://www.kingofpeace.org/shield.htm Episcopal Shield] ]

In 1976, the General Convention requested that ECUSA's Clergy Deployment Board determine if there were "racial inequities" in clergy placement. It also passed a resolution calling for an end to apartheid in South Africa. The General Convention asked ECUSA "dioceses, institutions, and agencies" to create equal opportunity employment and affirmative action policies in 1985. In 1991, the General Convention declared "the practice of racism is sin". [ [http://www.council-dwtx.org/GenConv/Parish%20conversation%20curriculum/2_2006_GC_session2_support.pdf From "Synopsis of Social Teaching/Contentious Resolutions of the Episcopal Church" (PDF)] , from the "Parish Conversation Curriculum" for the 2006 General Convention of the Episcopal Church, page 5. Retrieved November 5, 2006. ] On June 16, 2006, the Episcopalian House of Bishops endorsed a resolution apologizing for its complicity in the institution of slavery and its silence over “Jim Crow” laws, segregation and racial discrimination. By a unanimous vote, the House endorsed Resolution A123. [ [http://www.livingchurch.org/publishertlc/viewarticle.asp?ID=2189 Bishops Endorse Apology for Slavery Complicity] ]

More than a quarter of all presidents of the United States have been Episcopalians ("see List of United States Presidential religious affiliations").

Recent controversies

Several issues have recently created tensions in the Episcopal Church, including the reliability of scripture and historic church teachings as reliable sources for Church doctrine and the exclusive claims of Jesus regarding salvation [ [http://www.episcopalarchives.org/cgi-bin/acts/acts_resolution-complete.pl?resolution=2003-B001 The Acts of General Convention 2003 of the Episcopal Church] ] and the definition of Christian marriage. [ [http://www.anglicancommunion.org/acns/articles/42/50/acns4259.cfm The Archbishop of Canterbury's Presidential Address, paragraph 5.] ] The two most debated issues have been the ordination of women and the role of homosexuals in the church.

While speaking at a conference at the Vancouver School of Theology in May 2007, Jefferts Schori gave an overview of the Episcopal Church's troubles for a Canadian audience:

cquote|The bishop acknowledged the conservatives in her church - those people jarred by 35 years of constant change from the ordination of women through the inclusion of children to revisions in the prayer book - are fuelling the outrage of some outspoken African bishops over the open acceptance of gays and lesbians.

However, Jefferts Schori, who calculates the disgruntled at one half of one per cent of her 2.4 million-member church, calculates the international disgruntlement at a similar level. [http://www.vancouver.anglican.ca/News/tabid/27/ctl/ViewArticle/ArticleId/503/mid/486/Default.aspx US Primate taks a 'long, calm view" 19 May 2007] ]


cquote|Asked if her position as the first female primate adds fuel to the fire, Jefferts Schori acknowledged female leadership runs out of step with the culture in some places in the Anglican Communion.

But, she added, with a strong glint of humour, “they treated my predecessor (Bishop Frank Griswold) the same way they treated me.”

And, since 14 primates refused to take part in a Eucharist with Bishop Griswold at a previous primates’ meeting, while only seven refused to participate with her in Dar-Es-Salaam, she figures progress is being made..

Women's ordination

In 1976, the General Convention amended Canon law to give women the right to be ordained to the priesthood. The first women were officially ordained to the priesthood that year. (Previously, the "Philadelphia Eleven" were "illegally" ordained on July 29, 1974 in Philadelphia. [The Philadelphia Eleven, and the consecrating bishops, are listed in the [http://www.ecusa.anglican.org/41685_3311_ENG_HTM.htm The Philadelphia 11 article on The Episcopal Church website] (retrieved November 5, 2006).] Other "irregular" ordinations also occurred in 1974, notably in Palo Alto. These "irregular" ordinations were also reconciled at the 1976 GC.) [ [http://www.council-dwtx.org/GenConv/Parish%20conversation%20curriculum/2_2006_GC_session2_support.pdf From "Synopsis of Social Teaching/Contentious Resolutions of the Episcopal Church" (PDF)] , from the "Parish Conversation Curriculum" for the 2006 General Convention of the Episcopal Church, page 14. Retrieved November 5, 2006.]

The first woman bishop, Barbara Harris, was consecrated on February 11, 1989. [ Bishop Harris is also the first African-American woman bishop. [http://www.episcopalchurch.org/5888_3916_ENG_HTM.htm ECUSA site] ] The General Convention reaffirmed in 1994 that both men and women may enter into the ordination process, but also recognized that there is value to the theological position of those who oppose women's ordination. It was not until 1997 that the GC declared that "the ordination, licensing and deployment of women are mandatory" and that dioceses that have not ordained women by 1997 "shall give status reports on their implementation". [ [http://www.council-dwtx.org/GenConv/Parish%20conversation%20curriculum/2_2006_GC_session2_support.pdf From "Synopsis of Social Teaching/Contentious Resolutions of the Episcopal Church" (PDF)] , from the "Parish Conversation Curriculum" for the 2006 General Convention of the Episcopal Church, page 15. Retrieved November 5, 2006. ] This has not ended the controversy over women's ordination.

The 2006 election of Jefferts Schori as presiding bishop was controversial in the wider Anglican Communion because she is a woman. While most dioceses of the Episcopal Church ordain women as priests and bishops, the full Anglican Communion does not universally accept the ordination of women. She is the first and only national leader of a church in the Anglican Communion who is a woman. Previously Bishop of Nevada, Jefferts Schori is the 26th Presiding Bishop. She was elected at the 75th General Convention on June 18, 2006 and invested at the Washington National Cathedral on November 4, 2006.

Jefferts Schori also generated controversy when she voted to confirm Gene Robinson as a bishop and she allowed blessing of same-sex unions in her diocese of Nevada. Certain statements by Jefferts Schori have been the focus of controversy, especially regarding the central Christian teachings on salvation through Jesus alone. [ [http://www.anglican.tk/?page_id=793 Transcript of Bishop Jefferts Schori's interview with NPR] ]

At the present time, three U.S. dioceses do not ordain women at all. Many other churches in the Anglican Communion, including the Church of England, ordain women as deacons or priests, but only a few have women serving as bishops. The election of Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori has drawn attention to this fact; ten other primates of the Anglican communion have stated that they do not recognize Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori as a primate. [ [http://www.anglicansunited.com/2006/10/the_presiding_bishop_elect_mee.html Anglicans United] ] In addition, eight American dioceses have rejected her authority and have asked the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to assign them another national leader. [ [http://www.episcopalchurch.org/3577_77919_ENG_HTM.htm Episcopal Diocese of Quincy seeks alternative oversight] ] On December 2, 2006, the Convention of the Diocese of San Joaquin, one of the most conservative dioceses in the church, passed a series of resolutions which, if confirmed at the convention in 2007, set into motion withdrawal from the Episcopal Church and affiliation with another Anglican Church, "“The diocese shall be a constituent member of the Anglican Communion and in full communion with the See of Canterbury.” This was combined with a resolution which removed the present boundaries of the diocese, theoretically allowing it to absorb other dissenting congregations in the United States. The diocese has 148 parishes and 18,000 members but includes an active caucus which opposes secession. [ [http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/03/us/03episcopal.html?ex=1322802000&en=2b7ab526f61329c4&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss "Episcopal Diocese Votes to Secede From Church" an article in the "New York Times" by Laurie Goodstein and Carolyn Marshall, December 3, 2006] ] The Diocese of Quincy joined seven other dioceses in requesting alternative pastoral oversight.

Some individual parishes are also attempting to leave the Episcopal Church. In the Diocese of Virginia, eight parishes voted to leave The Episcopal Church and formed the Anglican District of Virginia, which is part of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). As church property in the Episcopal Church does not belong to individual parishes, the Diocese of Virginia [ [http://www.thediocese.net/News_services/pressroom/newsrelease25.html Press release by the Diocese of Virginia] ] has taken the first steps to maintain its claim on the church buildings and land. Groups of Episcopalians from the breakaway parishes who were loyal to the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia have begun holding services at alternative sites until their parishes return to the Church. [ [http://www.thediocese.net/News_services/ve/MarVE07_web.pdf Cherry, Emily. "News of the Diocese, Congregations Depart while Churches Continue" Virginia Episcopalian, March 2007. 116(2):17.] ]

Some former Episcopalians have formed other churches in response to women's ordination: for example the Anglican Catholic Church and the Congress of St Louis.


The Episcopal Church affirmed at the 1976 General Convention that homosexuals are "children of God" who deserve acceptance and pastoral care from the church. It also called for homosexual persons to have equal protection under secular law. This was reaffirmed in 1982. In 1994, the GC determined that church membership would not be determined on "marital status, sex, or sexual orientation". The GC also discourages the use of conversion therapy to "change" homosexual and bisexual people to a heterosexual orientation. [ [http://www.council-dwtx.org/GenConv/Parish%20conversation%20curriculum/2_2006_GC_session2_support.pdf From "Synopsis of Social Teaching/Contentious Resolutions of the Episcopal Church" (PDF)] , from the "Parish Conversation Curriculum" for the 2006 General Convention of the Episcopal Church, page 26-29. Retrieved November 5, 2006.]

Despite these affirmations of gay rights, the GC affirmed in 1991 that "physical sexual expression" is only appropriate within the monogamous, lifelong "union of husband and wife." [ [http://www.council-dwtx.org/GenConv/Parish%20conversation%20curriculum/2_2006_GC_session2_support.pdf From "Synopsis of Social Teaching/Contentious Resolutions of the Episcopal Church" (PDF)] , from the "Parish Conversation Curriculum" for the 2006 General Convention of the Episcopal Church, page 23. Retrieved November 5, 2006.] Although some dioceses within ECUSA bless same-sex unions, the church as a whole does not.

The first openly gay priest, Barry Stopfel, was ordained a deacon by Bishop Walter Righter in 1989 [ [http://www.beliefnet.com/story/130/story_13022_3.html "A Bishop Speaks: Homosexual History" by John Shelby Spong, retrieved Nov 4, 2006.] ] and a priest by Bishop John Shelby Spong in 1990. Because the priest in question was not celibate, this resulted in a trial under canon law. The church court dismissed the charges on May 15, 1996, stating that "no clear doctrine" [ [http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_epis2.htm The Episcopal Church And Homosexuality: Activities during 1996.] ] prohibits ordaining a gay or lesbian person in a committed relationship. [ [http://anglicansonline.org/archive/news/articles/1997/righter.html Anglicans Online: The Trial of Bishop Walter Righter] .]

The first openly homosexual bishop, Gene Robinson, was elected on June 7 2003 at St. Paul's Church in Concord, New Hampshire. Thirty-nine clergy votes and 83 lay votes was the threshold necessary to elect a bishop in the Diocese of New Hampshire at that time. The clergy voted 58 votes for Robinson and the laity voted 96 for Robinson on the second ballot. Consent to the election of Robinson was given at the 2003 General Convention. The House of Bishops voted in the affirmative, with 62 in favor, 43 opposed, and 2 abstaining. The House of Deputies, which consists of laypersons and priests, also voted in the affirmative: the laity voted 63 in favor, 32 opposed, and 13 divided; the clergy voted 65 in favor, 31 opposed, and 12 divided. Robinson was consecrated on November 2, 2003 in the presence of Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold and 47 bishops. [cite book |last=Adams |first=Elizabeth |authorlink= |coauthors= |editor= |others= |title=Going to Heaven: The Life and Election of Bishop Gene Robinson |origdate= |origyear= |origmonth= |url= |format= |accessdate= |accessyear= |accessmonth= |edition= |series= |date= |year=2006 |month= |publisher=Soft Skull Press |location=Brooklyn, NY |language= |isbn=1933368225 |oclc= |doi= |id= |pages= |chapter= |chapterurl= |quote= ] Since the ratification of Robinson as bishop, some clergy and lay members have left the Episcopal Church (see Anglican realignment). In October 2003, an emergency meeting of the Anglican primates (the heads of the Anglican Communion's 38 member churches) was convened. The meeting's final communique included the warning that if Robinson's consecration proceeded, it would "tear the fabric of the communion at its deepest level." [ [http://www.anglicancommunion.org/acns/articles/36/25/acns3633.html Anglican Communion News Service] ]

According to the Windsor Report of the Anglican Communion, the 2003 consecration of Robinson, an openly gay man living in a committed relationship, was a landmark event for those on both sides of the issue.

On one side of the debate, the 1998 Lambeth Conference 1.10 is quoted, which states:

In answer, at the request of the Anglican Communion's Lambeth Commission, the Episcopal Church released "To Set Our Hope on Christ" on June 21, 2005, which explains "how a person living in a same gender union may be considered eligible to lead the flock of Christ." [ [http://www.episcopalchurch.org/3577_63039_ENG_HTM.htm Theologians offer response to Windsor Report request: Paper cites 40-year consideration of same-gender relationships] from Episcopal News Service.]


Further reading

Chronological order of publication (oldest first)

* David Hein and Gardiner H. Shattuck, Jr., "The Episcopalians" (New York: Church Publishing, 2005).

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Guild of Scholars of The Episcopal Church — The Guild of Scholars of the Episcopal Church is a society of lay Episcopal academics which meets annually at General Theological Seminary in New York in November of each year.HistoryIt was founded in 1945 and has included such eminent members as …   Wikipedia

  • Historical Society of the Episcopal Church — Anglicanism portal The Historical Society of the Episcopal Church (HSEC), formerly the Church Historical Society, was founded in Philadelphia in 1910. This voluntary society includes scholars, writers, teachers, ministers as well as others… …   Wikipedia

  • Episcopal Church (United States) — For other uses, see Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church The arms of the Episcopal Church includes both the cross of St. George and a St. Andrew s cross. Primate Katharine Jefferts Schori …   Wikipedia

  • Episcopal Church in the United States of America — Infobox Anglican Church‎ show name =The Episcopal Church caption =The Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Washington, D.C., is referred to as the Washington National Cathedral. primate=Katharine Jefferts Schori main classification …   Wikipedia

  • Episcopal Church in the USA — Die Episkopalkirche der Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika (engl. Episcopal Church in the United States of America) ist ein Teil der anglikanischen Kirchengemeinschaft, die vornehmlich in den Vereinigten Staaten, aber auch in Haiti, Taiwan,… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • History of the Anglican Communion — The History of the Anglican Communion may be attributed mainly to the worldwide spread of British culture associated with the British Empire. Among other things, the Church of England spread around the world, and, gradually developing autonomy in …   Wikipedia

  • History of the Scottish Episcopal Church — The history of the Scottish Episcopal Church ( gd. Eaglais Easbaigeach na h Alba) is traced by the church to ancient times. The Church today is a Christian denomination in Scotland and a member of the Anglican Communion. It has enjoyed a distinct …   Wikipedia

  • The Falls Church — refers to both an Anglican and Episcopal church in the city of Falls Church, Virginia near Washington, D. C.. The city takes its name from the church, and the church takes its name from being on the road to the Great Falls of the Potomac… …   Wikipedia

  • History of the Eastern Orthodox Church — The Eastern Orthodox Churches trace their roots back to the Apostles and Jesus Christ. Eastern Orthodoxy reached its golden age during the high point of the Byzantine Empire, and then continued to flourish in Russia after the Fall of… …   Wikipedia

  • History of the Roman Catholic Church — The History of the Catholic Church from apostolic times covers a period of nearly 2,000 years, [August Franzen, Kleine Kirchengeschichte Neubearbeitung, Herder,Freiburg,1988, p.11] making it the world s oldest and largest institution. It dates… …   Wikipedia