Who are We?


The Episcopal Church is made up of over two million worshipers in about 7500 congregations across the United States and in fifteen other dioceses outside the US.

The Episcopal Church is a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion, the churches around the world that trace their roots to the Church of England, and maintain a "communion" with it, hence the name "Anglican." There are more than 80 million members of the Anglican Church worldwide. In addition, the Episcopal Church is in full Communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Old Catholic Church, and the Moravian Church, and is in the process of becoming in full Communion with the United Methodist Church.

What Makes Us Anglican?

The Episcopal Church, having its roots in the Church of England, is also an Anglican Church. Like all Anglican churches, the Episcopal Church is distinguished by its standing in both Protestant and Catholic traditions, its insistence that people be able to worship in their first language, their use of a Book of Common Prayer, and their reliance on Scripture, Tradition, and Reason in interpreting God's Word.

The Book of Common Prayer

Unique to Anglicanism, though, is the Book of Common Prayer, the collection of worship services that all worshipers in an Anglican church follow. It's called "common prayer" because we all pray it together, around the world. It was first compiled in the 16th Century, and has undergone some revisions over time, but its original purpose has remained the same: To provide in one place the core of the instructions and rites for Anglican Christians to worship together. The present prayer book in the Episcopal Church was published in 1979.

Scripture, Tradition and Reason

While Christians universally acknowledge the Bible as the Word of God and completely sufficient to our reconciliation to God, what the Bible says must always speak to us in our own time and place. The Church, as a worshiping body of faithful people, has for two thousand years amassed experience of God and of loving Jesus, and what they have said to us through the centuries about the Bible is critical to our understanding it in our own context. The traditions of the Church in interpreting Scripture connect all generations of believers together and give us a starting point for our own understanding.

Episcopalians believe that every Christian must build an understanding and relationship with God's Word in the Bible, and to do that, God has given us intelligence and our own experience, which we refer to as "Reason." Based on the text of the Bible itself, and what Christians have taught us about it through the ages, we then must sort out our own understanding of it as it relates to our own lives.

Information from

Anglican Approach to Scripture

Anglicans have a high regard for the Holy Scriptures, but we do not describe them as having ultimate authority in all matters, nor do we assert that everything found within them is binding on us. We are a biblical tradition, but we have no doctrine of biblical supremacy, literal inspiration, or verbal inerrancy. While not accepting the Scriptures as our sole authority or guide, we do believe they provide the Church with the primary criteria for its teaching and the chief source of guidance, in terms of principles and norms for its life.

We believe the Holy Scriptures are the Word of God. That is, they contain the revelation of God. God inspired their human authors and God still speaks to us through them. We understand their meaning through the aid of the Holy Spirit who guides the Church in their true interpretation. These Scriptures, while not a text providing final judgements on every ethical or theological question or issue, contain all that is needed to be known or believed for our salvation.

The Scriptures taken as a whole are foundational in God's revelation. Each part is to be heard in relation to every other part. Christianity is a religion of a person, Jesus Christ, and not a book. Because this is so, special authority is given to the Gospels which contain the narrative of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and of his teachings. While Christ is the head (mind and heart) of the “Church, which is his body” (Ephesians 1:23), even he did not claim to know the mind of God fully (Mk. 13:32). He did promise, however, that “the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you” (John 14:25-26).

The Scriptures emerged from the experience of a community who believed that God had been and was mysteriously, but clearly, present and active in their midst. Beginning as an oral tradition, the Hebrew people and the Church gradually gathered and developed its sacred texts and established a final, unchanging canon to be a measuring rod or standard for the Christian life of faith. These Scriptures, however, were intended to be interpreted and reinterpreted over and over again in the light of contemporary knowledge and experience within a believing and worshiping community open to the leading of God's Spirit into new truth.

From Called to Teach and Learn: A Catechetical Guide for the Episcopal Church, 1994, pages 66-67

See also