The Episcopal Church
The Episcopal Church is a part of the one church that began two thousand years ago
when Christ commissioned his apostles to go into all the world under the guiding power of the Holy Spirit. Within a hundred
years the apostles or their close associates and followers had carried the life and worship of the church in many directions
and had written the books and letters which we now know as the New Testament.
As early as the third century, Christianity
was in Britain. By the sixth century, invading tribes of Angles and Saxons had almost extinguished the British church, but
a remnant survived, joined by a mission from Rome, the church gradually converted the barbarian invaders, Thus began the church
in England through which the Episcopal Church eventually came to America.
The eastern part of the church, centered
in Constantinople, resisted the domination of Rome; in 1054, communion between Rome and Constantinople was broken. To this
day the great Eastern Orthodox Church, numbering millions in its many national branches, maintains its ancient faith apart
Communion between the English church and the papacy was broken in the sixteenth century when the English
church found it necessary to resist encroachments and claims of the papacy and finally refused to tolerate them. Many reforms
took place in England, made necessary because the Christian faith in the course of fifteen centuries had become obscured and
overlaid with erroneous additions. This was reform from within, which in no way interrupted the continuity of the church nor
broke any of its connecting links with the earliest days. Although the English church won her centuries-old struggle against
Roman domination in Henry VIII's reign, Henry VIII did not found a new church.
The worldwide Anglican Communion,
of which the Episcopal Church is a part, has preserved the faith and order that in the early days was taught everywhere: the
threefold ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons; the sacraments of baptism and the eucharist; the creeds, as the brief
record of certain truths on which the church is based; and the holy scriptures.
The Anglican Communion has also
dispensed with certain abuses of the Middle Ages, and to this day seeks to be directed by the Holy Spirit into the ways of
truth and Christian fidelity.
When English colonists came to what is now the United
States, they brought the church with them and organized its temporal affairs at the same time the United States government
was taking form. Many of the country's leaders of state were church members, and the governments of church and state have
many similarities, notably in their legislative bodies, with two houses. The Episcopal Church is governed by its General Convention
which has a House of Bishops and a House of Clerical and Lay Deputies, constituted of lay people and clergy. General Convention
meets every three years.
English missionaries were responsible for much of the work of the church in the colonies.
The Episcopal Church held its first General Con¬vention in Philadelphia in 1785. It began to spread westward with the
pioneers, out over the trails of the covered wagons, up into the Northwest, along the California coast, down into Texas. During
the Civil War, the Episcopal Church was divided, but the division was not continued after the war, and beginning with the
General Convention of 1865, northern and southern bishops and deputies met together as before.
The Episcopal Church
has 2,500,000 baptized members, about 200 bishops, and 14,000 other clergy in some 7,500 parishes and missions. Local churches
have all vital basic elements in common, but they also include different points of view and such a wide variety of ceremony
that the underly¬ing unity is not always evident to a visitor.
Cont'd to Page 2
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