The Episcopal Church’s History and Beliefs: What Christians Should Know

The Episcopal Church was founded after the American Revolution when it broke away from the Church of England. It is a Christian church with authority in the United States, Taiwan, Micronesia, the Caribbean, Central and South America, as well as the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe and the Navajoland Area Mission.

Find out what Christians should know about The Episcopal Church.

The definition of “Episcopal” is “of or pertaining to bishops”

In Greek, the word for “bishop” is “Episkopos,” which literally translates as “overseer.” The Episcopal Church was named after the practice of installing bishops as ecclesiastical rulers.

Other churches with bishops include Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Lutherans, to name a few. Bishops are ordained women and men who have a unique responsibility in overseeing and governing the Church at the regional level. According to the Episcopal tradition, the twelve Apostles were the first bishops of the Church, and all bishops since then have served as their successors in this capacity.

During the American Revolutionary War, the Episcopal Church split from the Church of England

The Episcopal Church evolved from the Church of England, which evolved from the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant Reformation. During the American Revolution, The Episcopal Church was created as a separate entity from the Church of England. Many of the United States’ founding fathers were Episcopalians.

Similar to how the United States was the first of many former colonies to seek independence from England, The Episcopal Church paved the way for the establishment of a series of separate churches of English tradition all over the world.

The Episcopal doctrine holds that Scripture is the revealed word of God

The Holy Scriptures, according to Episcopalians, are God’s revealed word and “contain all things necessary for salvation.” Far from Biblical fundamentalism, Episcopalians believe that the revealed word is best interpreted within the context of the Church, guided by tradition, reason, and the Holy Spirit’s continuing guidance.

The “Nicene Creed” is central to the Episcopal tradition

The “Nicene Creed,” a confession of faith, is an integral part of the Episcopal tradition. A “creed” is simply a statement of what an individual or group of people believes. The term “Nicene” relates to the ancient city of Nicea in Eastern Europe, where it was legally adopted. The Nicene Creed is a basic understanding of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Church expressed in the Nicene Creed, which is a foundational text for most Christian denominations.

The Book of Common Prayer contains public worship “instructions.”

More than 350 years ago, the first Book of Common Prayer was published in England, with the objective of presenting the prayers of worship in the language of the gathering people rather than the language of the educated elite.

This tradition of common-language worship is still practiced today, with the Book of Common Prayer being translated into practically every spoken language on the planet. The Episcopal Church’s most recent version of the Book of Common Prayer was in 1979, and it allowed for the use of either “traditional” or “contemporary” language.

Episcopal Church Foundation

The Rt. Rev. Henry Knox Sherrill (1890-1980) established the Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF) in 1949, at a time when The Episcopal Church, like the country, was growing in size and embracing centralized, corporate structures of governance and administration. Sherrill was a visionary and a role model for the Christian faith. He was a dedicated leader of the ecumenical movement on both the national and international levels.

Sherrill established ECF after being elected Presiding Bishop and constantly searched for new ways to disperse resources to help the wider Church’s mission. The Board of Directors, with the exception of the Presiding Bishop, was comprised of lay people from the Church, business, and government sectors from across the country. ECF is committed to the ministry of all the baptized and the promotion of effective lay–clergy relationships.

Today, the Episcopal Church Foundation stands high as a non-profit organization dedicated to the growth, revitalization, and transformation of Episcopal faith communities. The organization is succeeding in its purpose to inspire and nurture church leaders, aid in the acquisition and administration of financial assets, and provide high-quality and innovative resources and ideas for use throughout the Church.