About the Episcopal Church
The Episcopal Church is an American manifestation of the Anglican tradition and the local branch of the Anglican Communion. We were founded in the thirteen original American colonies as the local Church of England parishes by clergy and lay people who came to these shores, along with other immigrants, seeking various lives and ministries in “the New World”. The first uses of the prayer book on this continent were in 1578 (in Canada), 1579 on the California Coast and in 1607 in Jamestown, Virginia. After the beginning of the United States, American members of the English Church sought to establish their own church governance and so began The Episcopal Church.
Today our two-million member family extends from Caribbean Islands to the Alaskan Coast and from parts of Central America to the Hawaiian Islands, Guam and beyond. We are part of the world-wide Anglican Communion, a fellowship of independent churches that all acknowledge the English Church as their mother in the faith while developing local flavour, traditions and governance.
The Episcopal Church is focused on worship and it is through our worship that you will find out what we believe. “The Law of prayer is the law of creed” as one of the saints has said (Lex orandi lex credendi). This teaching means different things to different Christian denominations. For Anglicans and Episcopalians, it means that rather than a check list of doctrines, it is the doing of our worship that shows who we are.
The traditional source of our worship is the Book of Common Prayer. First drafted by the English Reformation in the 16th Century, this text has come to each of the local churches of the Anglican Communion and has been adapted by local forms, translated into local language (usually in a traditional form and a modern form), filled with local music and traditions and moulded into a local liturgy. But in all its local manifestations you can still see the work of those 16th Century saints who brought the English Church through turbulent political and theological waters under the protection of prayer. You may read the American Book of Common Prayer online.
“Episcopal” refers to having bishops – not being “governed” by them as some say. Our Church is governed by the Holy Spirit, acting in and through the voice of all members of the Church: Laity, Bishops, Priests and Deacons. While each group (or “order”) has specific duties, all are responsible for the governance of the church. Each parish is governed by a vestry of, mostly, lay people and the priest. This structure is mirrored on the other two levels of structure: the Bishop of the Diocese and her Standing Committee, and, at the national level, the Presiding Bishop and the Executive Council. Once every three years the entire church meets in General Convention, again, laity take an active role. Our Bishops – indeed all the clergy – are elected by action of all the people of the Church as they were through the history of the early Church.
For more information on the Episcopal Church – including information on our beliefs, our traditions and our structure – visit this online Visitors’ Center or the website of the national offices, The Episcopal Church Center in New York City. There is also more about our history in the Wiki. There is a national newspaper, Episcopal Life, a news service and several websites where discussion, fellowship and debate happen. This recent article (25 May 2008), by an Episcopal Priest, may also be of interest to you.
Episcopalians and Anglicans world-wide are an open church – “A big tent” – seeking to work our our salvation with God. We struggle with our faith, with what it means and with how to live it in the world. We are conservatives and liberals, traditionalists and progressives, praying, serving and seeking communion together. We do not always agree, as you may read in the papers. We are not perfect as you will see with your own eyes. We are not “the True Church™” nor have we ever claimed to be so. We are a community of faithful people seeking to follow the calling of God in the way of Jesus. St Andrews is thankful to be part of such a diverse and growing family.
We welcome you to join us.