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English Speaking Protestantism

Protestant Episcopal Church

Doctrines The Protestant Episcopal Church emerged out of the Anglican Church and derives many of its doctrines from Anglicanism. Like the Anglican church, its adherents generally fit within low church, high church and broad church categories. There is also a prominent charismatic or Pentecostal wing. In general it favours modern liberal theology.

History The first Anglican church in North America was established in 1607 in Virginia and it remained one of the most widespread churches in the colonies up to the American Revolution. The Anglican church's connections to the British establishment and the fact that many of its ministers were trained and/or born in Britain meant it was one of the most prominent links between the colonies and Britain. In many of the colonies it received state backing and substantial lands. As a result during the Revolution it was Anglicans who formed a majority of those who remained loyal and with the collapse of the British cause many ministers and prominent lay supporters left the county. The church was left in chaos due to a shortage of ministers and lack of funds.
Committed Anglicans in the United States addressed these problems by creating a Church which preserved most of the forms of Anglicanism, but without its links to the British Crown. Three Americans were ordained Bishops in Britain, Samuel Seabury in 1784 and two by the Archbishop of Canterbury, William White and Samuel Provost in 1787. The Episcopalian Church's most radical innovation was a ruling structure which had no supreme head and included elements of lay participation as well as a Council of Bishops, a structure appropriate to the ideals of the new nation. The taint of loyalty to Britain still hung to the new church and it was not till the nineteenth century that the Church really began to recover lost ground. But it never could rival the success of the Baptists and the Methodists and remained a church of the established middle and upper classes in the East.
That connections with Britain remained strong is shown in the way the mid-nineteenth century Oxford movement, which caused controversy in England, sparked off similar disputes amongst the Episcopalians. In the late 1970s, many years before the issues really arose in England, concern about the liberal position of the church on questions like the ordination of women priests, the revised Book of Common Prayer, and accusations of laxity over sexual and moral issues caused a large number of splits from the church by conservative splinter groups. The church faces a declining membership base, but remains committed to addressing modern social issues and participating in inter-church co-operation.

Symbols The Episcopalian Church, like the Anglican Church, is far more concerned with ritualistic and symbolic elements than most other Protestant churches. Many Episcopalian Churches built in the Victorian era are ornate buildings, influenced by the Gothic revival, and have a large central altar. High Church Episcopalians emphasise the real presence of Christ in the sacrament and their services have many ritualistic semi-Catholic elements. On the other hand, Low Church Episcopalians tend to minimise such elements, sometimes even focusing on a Pentecostal style service.

Adherents Membership in the USA is 2,471,880 (World Almanac 1995, 729).

Main Centre
 815 Second Ave., Jersey City, NJ 07304