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Church of Saint Mary the Virgin

139 West 46 Street, New York, NY 10036
(212) 869-5830 Fax No. (212) 869-7039
Tim Chang

History of the Episcopalian Church

This is a short summary of the history of the Episcopalian Church, explaining its relationship with the Protestant Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church.

The Episcopal Church, founded in America, is based on Roman Catholic and Anglican ideals. Spiritual discipline and worship services are identical to the Catholic Church. Thomas McKee Brown, the founder of St. Mary the Virgin Church says, "The Episcopalean Church is worked upon a thoroughly Catholic basis...both in ritual and teaching. The ritual resembles of that of a Roman Catholic church, and it is frequently mistaken for one passers-by."

In 1789, the Protestant Episcopal Church (or just Episcopal Church) officially organized in Philadelphia. To date, the Episcopal Church is still affiliated with the Church of England which is Anglican. However, since the Episcopalians have many Roman Catholic ideals like its ritualistic practices of parish members receiving communion, they have been considerable controversy with the Church of England and the Protestant heritage that is deeply embedded in England. The main reason why the Episcopalians have such similar principles with the Catholic Church is because of a movement in the 1840s called the Oxford Movement, which stressed the Roman Catholic heritage. During the later years of the Episcopalian Church, however, the tensions between the Protestant England diminished. The rift subsided mainly because the Episcopal Church evolved into a liberal theology, which involves criticisms of the bible.

The Church accepted most of the beliefs and doctrines of the Church of England. It embraces both the Apostles' and Nicene creeds. Also, the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, are integrated into its own prayer book. The clergy or laity do not have to agree with all of these principles derived from the Church of England.

As far as its organization and leadership, the bishops run the parishes much like the Roman Catholic Church only in areas where the Congregations are not self-supporting missions. However, in each self-supporting parishes, they elect a lay governing board or vestry for temporal affairs, which are things like handling the finances of the church. Furthermore, the spiritual affairs are of course, headed by the rector and the clergy.

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