(The Episcopal Church)
*Distribution (membership outside the USA) :
- 90,052 in the Caribbean
- 46,242 in Latin America.
**Dioceses outside the United States are: Haiti, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecudaor Central and Ecuador Litoral, Honduras, Venezuela, Convocation of American Churches in Europe, Episcopal Church in Micronesia.
The origins of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America go back to the British colonial period at the beginning of the 17th century. The church was established by law and supported by public tax in certain colonies, and in others it was in the minority and was supported by the Church of England through the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, and technically under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of London. After the American Revolution, the Episcopal Church was formed in 1789 and secured a succession of bishops and approved a Book of Common Prayer. After the difficulties of the Revolutionary period, the church grew steadily along with the new nation. With the outbreak of the Civil War, there was a temporary division in the Episcopal Church which was reconciled immediately thereafter. A dispute rising out of the Oxford Movement resulted in the separation of a small group into the Reformed Episcopal Church in 1873, but otherwise Episcopal unity held fast. The church's domestic mission was westward in the United States and overseas missions resulted in the establishment of dioceses in Asia, Latin America and Liberia, many of which have now achieved autonomy.
The Episcopal Church's form of government is a federal union, consisting of 111 dioceses, which have substantial autonomy so long as they do not contradict the national church's constitution or canons. The dioceses associated originally for the maintenance of common doctrine, discipline and worship, to which have been added church unity, the prosecution of missionary, educational and social programmes on a national scale, and development. The church accepts two creeds: the Apostles' and the Nicene. The old distinction between high church people with elaborate ritual and ceremony and low church people with more of an evangelistic emphasis has been replaced with eucharistic practice influenced by the liturgical movement and other movements of renewal.
The primary concerns of the church as expressed in the 1979 revised Book of Common Prayer are missionary, that is "to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ". It pursues mission through prayer and worship, proclaiming the gospel, and promoting justice and peace. For these purposes it seeks to equip all its members for ministry. The tasks of ecumenism are stressed, as are issues of hunger, peace, development, economic justice and family life.
Full communion has been established among other churches of the Anglican Communion, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Old Catholic Church, Philippine Independent, Mar Thoma, and the Churches of South India, North India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Full communion is expected to lead to regular organs of consultation and communication, including episcopal collegiality to express and strengthen the fellowship and enable common witness.