The Episcopal Church

The Episcopal Church (TEC) is the United States-based member church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. It is a Christian church divided into nine provinces and has dioceses 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. The current presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church is Michael Bruce Curry, the first African American bishop to serve in that position.

The church was organized after the American Revolution, when it became separate from the Church of England, whose clergy are required to swear allegiance to the British monarch as Supreme Governor of the Church of England. The Episcopal Church describes itself as “Protestant, yet Catholic”. The Episcopal Church is an apostolic church, tracing its bishops back to the apostles via holy orders. The Book of Common Prayer (BCP), a collection of traditional rites, blessings, liturgies, and prayers used throughout the Anglican Communion, is central to Episcopal worship.

The Episcopal Church was active in the Social Gospel movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Since the 1960s and 1970s, the church has pursued a decidedly more liberal course. It has opposed the death penalty and supported the civil rights movement and affirmative action. Some of its leaders and priests are known for marching with influential civil rights’ demonstrators such as Martin Luther King Jr.. The Church calls for the full legal equality of gay and lesbian people, a movement partly inspired by their similar call for racial equality during the mid-1950s. In 2015, the Church’s 78th annual General Convention passed resolutions allowing the blessing of same-sex marriages and approved two official liturgies to bless such unions, though they are not yet official rites within the Book of Common Prayer. Due to the complex process of editing or making additions to the Prayer Book, the BCP still describes marriage as being the union of a man and a woman.

The Episcopal Church ordains women and LGBT people to the priesthood, the diaconate, and the episcopate, despite opposition from a number of other member churches of the global Anglican Communion. In 2003, Gene Robinson was the first non-celibate openly gay person ordained as a bishop in documented Christian history.