The Episcopal Church is a Christian body whose basic beliefs in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are stated in the historic creeds of Christendom.
Historically, the American Episcopal Church is descended from the Church of England, although its membership currently embraces, not just those with British ancestry, but people from virtually all national origins and all races. The Episcopal Church in the United States is an independent part of the world-wide Anglican Communion, in fellowship with the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Anglican Communion is an international Christian system of cooperation and interchange, but we are an autonomous part of it, having severed jurisdictional ties with the Church of England at the time of the American Revolution. Two-thirds of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were Episcopalians and 11 presidents have been members of the Episcopal Church.
Contrary to misinformed opinion, England’s King Henry VIII did not “start” our church. Our church was formed and sent on its way to love and to serve by someone a lot more reputable than King Henry! Our roots go all the way back to our Lord Jesus Christ and his holy apostles. The Bishops, or chief ministers of our church, and the priests and deacons who serve under them, are in an unbroken line of ordination to the Lord and his apostles. What Henry VIII and his advisors did was to demonstrate again in the 16th century what the Eastern Orthodox Churches had shown in the 11th century—that it is possible to be Catholic without being Roman Catholic.
We are a reformed church, and we share a rich Reformation heritage with our Protestant sisters and brothers. We are Catholic in that we have retained the historic ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons; the seven Catholic Sacraments; and the historic Creeds as expressions of our Catholic faith. We have that in common with our Catholic brothers and sisters of the Roman and Eastern Orthodox Communions. But we owe no allegiance to any pope, and we differ from Rome on several points of theology and practice. Sometimes we are referred to as a “bridge church” between Protestantism and Catholicism.
We are a “free church” in that we claim the freedom proclaimed by the Gospel to choose our own behavior and to be responsible for it. While it would certainly not be accurate to say we have no stated discipline (our baptismal vows serve as a clear statement for how we are to live our lives), Episcopalians view their church participation as a privilege instead of an obligation. We have no long lists of “dos and don’ts” by which we presume to prefabricate morality or regulate behavior. Rather, we stress the loving and responsible use of freedom in response to the Gospel.
We are diverse. Some of us are liberal, some conservative, some moderate, and many of us defy labeling. We are rich and poor and in-between. We are multiracial. Some of us tend to be rather literal in our interpretations of scripture and doctrine, while others of us are more “liberal” scripturally and theologically. Our educational levels run all the way from pre-kindergarten to post-doctoral. Some of us put great emphasis on the Catholic nature of our Church, while others of us stress the importance of our Protestant heritage. We celebrate our differences. Our unity is not in how much we agree with each other, but in how much we love each other. Our differences make our shared life in Christ complete. If you are different, or if you think of yourself as rather “ordinary,” you’ll be special and valuable to us.
How to Become a Member of The Episcopal Church
If you’re not an Episcopalian and would like to be—or even if you’re just interested in learning more about the meaning of the Gospel and how this church responds to it—please let us know. We’re glad to have you share with us in the life of Christ to whatever degree you choose. Full participation in parish life as a communicant member follows a period of instruction in the Christian faith, the nature of the Episcopal Church, and Confirmation. We’d be pleased to give you more details.
Episcopal News Service
The official news agency of The Episcopal Church from the National Church Headquarters in New York City.
The Episcopal Church
The official website of The Episcopal Church from the National Church Headquarters in New York City. Lists Church governance documents, Churchwide ministries and networks, ecumenical and interfaith relations agencies, dioceses and cathedrals.
Diocese of Kansas
Contains material on the Kansas Episcopal Church Women, congregations in the Diocese of Kansas, diocesan resources and institutions, diocesan calendar, online forms.