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The Episcopal Church has more than 2.1 million members in 7,670 congregations in 109 dioceses, one mission area, and one similar geographic convocation situated in 15 countries plus the United States.

The Episcopal Church was formally organized in 1783 when representatives of the Church of England in the United States of America met in Maryland and organized the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States. A year later Samuel Seabury traveled to Scotland to be ordained the first Episcopal bishop by three Church of Scotland bishops. In 1785 the church’s first General Convention, consisting of a House of Deputies, met in Philadelphia. The General Convention became a bicameral body in 1789 when the House of Bishops was formed. The first American Book of Common Prayer, modeled on the Church of England prayer book, was adopted by General Convention in 1790. The church’s corporate organization, The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, was founded in 1820.


Bishop William White of Pennsylvania was the church’s first presiding bishop. Until 1919 the presiding bishop’s office was held by the church’s most senior bishop. The first bishop to be elected presiding bishop was John Gardner Murray, bishop of Maryland, who served from 1926 to 1931. In 1946 the General Convention designated the presiding bishop as the chief pastor and primate of the church, and removed the requirement that the presiding bishop also function as a diocesan bishop. In 1994 the presiding bishop’s term of office was reduced from twelve years to nine years. The current presiding bishop, the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, was elected June 2006. More information on the Presiding Bishop's page.

 

The church has grown from thirteen dioceses when it formed in 1789 to more than one hundred dioceses. It is divided into nine geographical provinces. It is governed by a bicameral General Convention, which meets every three years, and by an Executive Council during interim years. The General Convention consists of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies. The House of Bishops is composed of every bishop with jurisdiction, every bishop coadjutor, every suffragan bishop, every retired bishop, every bishop elected to an office created by General Convention, and every bishop who has resigned because of missionary strategy. All members of the House of Bishops have seat and voice in the House of Bishops. The House of Deputies is composed of up to four lay and four clerical deputies from each of the dioceses. The two top leaders of the church are the Presiding Bishop, who is also called Primate and Chief Pastor, and the president of the House of Deputies.

About the name:  The Episcopal Church has known many variations for its name since its formation in 1783. Until recentlly it was known as the Episcopal Church USA (or ECUSA), a name which did not adequately account for the church's international reach. In 2005 The Episcopal Church became the official title, a name more accurately reflecting its presence in both hemispheres. The basis for the change is found in the 1967 General Convention decision to add a preamble to the Constitution, which states, "The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, otherwise known as The Episcopal Church (which name is hereby recognized as also designating the Church)...." The title page of the 1979 BCP states that the Book of Common Prayer is "According to the use of The Episcopal Church."

 

RESOURCES                                                                                                               

Presiding Bishop's Letter on a Season of Prayer for Sudan    September 21, 2010

Easter Message from the Presiding Bishop     April 4, 2010

 

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