The Episcopal Church in the United States was organized as a branch of the Anglican Communion immediately after the Revolution in 1789, having been planted on these shores by missionaries of the Church of England in 1607. As a daughter of this church, the Episcopal Church is an heir to a continuing Christian tradition dating from the second century when the Faith was first brought to the British Isles. The Church is at present made up of approximately 2,500,000 baptized persons. It is united with 17 other national churches throughout the world to make up the Anglican Communion. As an Anglican Church, it has been profoundly influenced by the great religious movement of the Reformation, but still continues in the unbroken line of the Holy Catholic Church since Apostolic times. The Church's reason for being is to continue the ministry begun by Jesus Christ. It strives to continue this ministry by proclamation and by witness, both in its corporate life and in the lives of its individual members.
A Believing Church
The Episcopal Church states her faith in the historic words of the Nicene Creed, written by the three Church Councils meeting at Nicea in A.D. 325, at Constantinople in A.D. 381 and in Chalcedon in A.D. 451. This is the one statement of faith officially adopted by all Christendom. Recognizing, however, that there is always more to the nature of God and His continuous revelation of Himself than can be set forth in any human statements about Him, the Church encourages the pursuit of truth in all areas of life. The Church stands for the use of the mind and reason as God-given faculties, and it places no crippling limitation on any human endeavor to study and investigate.
A Teaching Church
The Episcopal Church teaches that all persons ought to know in what and in Whom they believe. It was the English Church that was in the forefront of the long struggle to have the Bible printed in the language of the people and to make it possible for everyone to read the Gospel and to hear it publicly read in the language they understood. Perhaps the greatest achievement in the English language is the King James translation of the Bible, which was given to the world by the Church of England. In addition to encouraging the study of the Holy Scriptures, and providing instruction in the customs, history, and traditions of the Church (which stem from the earliest days of Christendom), the Episcopal Church strives to provide opportunity for people of all ages to receive and discover truth as it is revealed in history, in philosophy, and in science.
A Sacramental Church
The central acts of worship in the Episcopal Church are sacraments. They express the Church's belief in the sacramental nature of the universe and life-the belief that God is not divorced from His creation, but is present and always at work in all aspects of it. Through the sacrament of Holy Baptism, sinful man is cleansed; he is made a new creature in Christ, and is received into the Christian fellowship. In receiving the consecrated Bread and Wine of the sacrament of the Holy Communion, man's spirit is nourished and strengthened by the Body and Blood of Christ. Other rites which the Episcopal Church recognizes as sacraments are Confirmation (laying of the Bishop's hands on the baptized believer and endowing him with the power to assume personal responsibility for his baptismal vows), Penance (confession and absolution of sins), Ordination (to the ancient orders of the ministry-bishops, priests and deacons), Matrimony (creating a lifelong union of husband and wife), and Unction (for the healing of the sick).
A Worshipping Church
A basic principle of the Episcopal Church is that congregation is made up participants, not spectators. Members of the Episcopal Church attend services to worship God, not to be lectured or entertained. The Book of Common Prayer, used throughout the Anglican Communion, is a devotional manual by which the worshiper may, together with others, participate actively in the services of the Church. It is a product and development of Christian service books used down through the centuries and also contains elements from the services held in the Temple at the time of out Lord.
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