Episcopal History

A Brief History of the Episcopal Church

The beginnings of the Church of England, from which the Episcopal Church derives, date to at least the second century, when merchants and other travelers first brought Christianity to England. St. Alban is venerated as the first Christian to be martyred in the British Isles, in 305. It is customary to regard St. Augustine of Canterbury’s mission to England in 597 as marking the formal beginning of the church under papal authority as it was to be throughout the Middle Ages.

In its modern form, the church dates from the English Reformation of the 16th century, when royal supremacy was established and the authority of the papacy was repudiated. With the advent of British colonization, the Church of England was established on every continent. In time, these churches gained their independence, but retained connections with the mother church in the Anglican Communion.

SPREAD OF THE CHURCH: From the time of the Reformation, the Church of England followed explorers, traders, colonists, and missionaries into the far reaches of the known world. The colonial churches generally exercised administrative autonomy within the historical and creedal context of the mother church.

As the successor of the Anglo-Saxon and medieval English Church, it has valued and preserved much of the traditional framework of medieval Catholicism in church government, liturgy, and customs, while it also has usually held the fundamentals of Reformation faith.

By the 18th century, the Church of England was well-established in the American colonies, but after the Revolutionary War, Anglicans in the newly-constituted United States founded their own national church in 1789–The Episcopal Church.

Today, The Episcopal Church is constituted of nearly 2 million members in 111 Dioceses in the United States and around the world. The Church is governed by the General Convention–a bicameral legislative body comprised of the House of Bishops, constituted of all bishops in the Church; and the House of Deputies, constituted of four clergy (priests and deacons) and four laypeople from every Diocese in the Church. The body meets every three years. The Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church is The Most Reverend Michael Bruce Curry, and the President of the House of Deputies is The Reverend Gay Clark Jennings.