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The Episcopal Church is a descendant of the Church of England, and part of the Anglican Communion.

The Episcopal Church separated from the Church of England at the time of the American Revolution because the head of the Church of England was the king, with whom the Americans were at war. As the Book of Common Prayer used by the Church of England included prayers for England, the Episcopal Church published its own, based on both the English and Scottish books.

The Episcopal Church teaches that the Bible is the Word of God, but that God inspired people to write the Scriptures. Episcopalians also believe that the biases, prejudices, and limitations of the authors are present in the Bible that we have today. We understand the meaning of the Bible through the assistance of the Holy Spirit, who guides the Church in determining the correct interpretation. The Scriptures are understood to be the standard by which a Christian lives. At the same time, the Bible is a historical document that requires examination and interpretation, and Church traditions have developed through many centuries of contoversies over interpretation.

Episcopalians use The Lectionary during worship, but the lectionary consists of selections of Scripture readings for Sunday worship, but lectionaries are also available for private and corporate worship.

While holding the Bible in high regard, Episcopalians do not describe them as having ultimate authority in all matters. Episcopalians will turn to science rather than Genesis for an explanation of the creation of the world. They also do not look to the Scriptures for the final judgment on every moral or theological issue. Episcopalians consider three sources of authority: Scripture, tradition, and reason. Tradition includes theology, liturgy, canon law, and history.

The Episcopal Church has inherited the inclination of the Church of England to find middle ground between the extremes of Catholicism and Protestantism. Episcopalians are considered Protestants by virtue of being neither Catholic or Orthodox.

Episcopal spirituality is rooted in daily prayers, which are published in the Book of Common Prayer Communal prayer tends to be more ritualistic than in most Protestant churches. While the importance of personal prayer is recognized, there is a concern that prayer not become individualistic.

Episcopalians view the sacraments as outward signs of inward grace. The two chief sacraments are baptism and the eucharist, others including confirmation, ordination, holy matrimony, reconciliation, and unction, each of which help to make Christians aware of God's work in their lives. A Christian becomes an adopted child of God through baptism, which also conveys full membership in the Church. Weekly participation in the Holy Eucharist is also emphasized, through which a Christian's faith is renewed. A variety of names are used in the Episcopal Church for this liturgy, including the Holy Eucharist, the Lord's Supper, Holy Communion, the Divine Liturgy, the Mass, and the Great Offering.

The structure of the Church includes elements of both Catholicism and Protestantism. Like the Catholic Church, its organizational structure includes a hierarchy of bishops, priests, and deacons, who are ordained by bishops who are in the line of succession from the apostles, also known as the apostolic succession. Its Protestant characteristics include a lack of subjugation to the authority of an individual, such as a Pope, as well as the use of the common vernacular in worship services, and the freedom of conscience for Christians.

Church membership is defined by baptism. There are no applications, no screeing process, and no dues. Members who are baptized, attend church regularly, and are faithful in the work of the Church are considered communicant members in good standing.

Parishes, are governed locally. Members of each congregation elect its vestry, or governing body, and appoints representatives to the diocesan convention. However, a congregation is not an independent church, but part of a diocese that may include all or part of a state or country. The work of each diocese is coordinated by an annual convention, which adopts a budget and a program for the following year. The General Convention is the central governing body of the Church.

The Episcopal Church is one of forty-four national and regional churches throughout the world that make. up the Anglican Communion, which is a loosely affiliated fellowship held together by shared distinctive beliefs and practices, in large part as they were spread through the British Empire, and later by Americans.

Topics related to the Episcopal Church or Episcopalians are the focus of the sites listed in this category. Sites representing local congregations or parishes should be listed in the appropriate Local & Global category.



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