About the Episcopal Church
The Episcopal Church welcomes all who worship Jesus Christ, in 109 dioceses and three regional
areas in 17 nations. The Episcopal Church is a member province of the worldwide Anglican
Communion. The mission of the church, as stated in the Book of Common Prayer’s catechism (p.
855), is "to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ." The 2012 General
Convention established the Anglican Communion Five Marks of Mission as a mission priority
framework for the 2013-2015 triennium:
- To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
- To teach, baptize and nurture new believers
- To respond to human need by loving service
- To seek to transform unjust structures of society
- To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth
What is the Anglican Communion
The Anglican Communion is the gathering of Anglican and Episcopal churches from around the
world. Today, the Anglican Communion comprises more than 80 million members in 44 regional
and national member churches in more than 160 countries. The Episcopal church is part of the
Anglican Communion, and is comprised of 109 dioceses in 16 nations. At the head of the Anglican
Communion is the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.
The Episcopal church, established shortly after the American Revolution, has its roots in the
Anglican Church. The Anglican Church, known as the Church of England, had a strong following
in colonial America. But when the colonies won their independence, the majority of America’s
Anglican clergy refused to swear allegiance to the British monarch as was required. As a result, the
Episcopal Church was formed.
The vibrancy of the Anglican Communion reflects the lives of its congregants and their commitment
to God’s mission in the world.
The Book of Common Prayer
Unique to Anglicanism is the Book of Common Prayer, the collection of worship services that all
worshipers in an Anglican church follow. It’s called “common prayer” because we all pray it
together, around the world. The first Book of Common Prayer was compiled in English by
Thomas Cranmer in the 16th Century, and since then has undergone many revisions for different
times and places. But its original purpose has remained the same: To provide in one place the core
of the instructions and rites for Anglican Christians to worship together.
The present prayer book in the Episcopal Church was published in 1979. Many other worship
resources and prayers exist to enrich our worship, but the Book of Common Prayer is the
authority that governs our worship. The prayer book explains Christianity, describes the main
beliefs of the Church, outlines the requirements for the sacraments, and in general serves as the
main guidelines of the Episcopal life.
Scripture, Tradition, and Reason
The Anglican approach to reading and interpreting the Bible was first articulated by Richard
Hooker, also in the 16th Century. While Christians universally acknowledge the Bible (or the
Holy Scriptures) as the Word of God and completely sufficient to our reconciliation to God, what
the Bible says must always speak to us in our own time and place.
The Church, as a worshiping body of faithful people, has for two thousand years amassed
experience of God and of loving Jesus, and what they have said to us through the centuries about
the Bible is critical to our understanding it in our own context. The traditions of the Church in
interpreting Scripture connect all generations of believers together and give us a starting point for
our own understanding.
Episcopalians believe that every Christian must build an understanding and relationship with God’s
Word in the Bible, and to do that, God has given us intelligence and our own experience, which
we refer to as “Reason.” Based on the text of the Bible itself, and what Christians have taught us
about it through the ages, we then must sort out our own understanding of it as it relates to our
Why do so many Episcopal Churches have red doors?
It's because red doors traditionally mean "sanctuary" -- the ground beyond the doors is holy, and
anyone who goes through them is safe from physical (and spiritual) harm. In ancient times, no one
could pursue an enemy past red doors into a church, and certainly no one could be harmed or
captured inside of a church. Today, the red reminds us of the blood of Christ and that we are
always safe in God's care!
The Compass Rose Anglican Emblem
The emblem of the Anglican family of churches is the Compass Rose. The compass rose in its
original form is well-known to many as it has appeared on charts and maps since the 1300’s. It is
the familiar north, south, east, west cross-symbol used to show direction. Its many compass points
indicate the many directions of the winds.
In its Anglican form, the red cross of St. George sits on a silver shield at the center, a reminder of
the origins of the Anglican Communion and a unifying link of the past within the communion today.
Encircling the cross is a band bearing the inscription “The Truth shall make you free” in the original
New Testament Greek. From the band radiate the points of the compass. The compass
symbolizes the worldwide spread of the Anglican faith. Atop the shield is a mitre, the symbol of the
Apostolic Order (the role of the Episcopate) which is essential to all the churches which
constitute the Anglican Communion.
The Episcopal Shield
Several crosses appear on the shield. The large, red cross that divides the shield is a cross of St.
George, the cross of the Church of England, and it represents our ties with our mother church.
There are nine small crosses in the upper left quadrant arranged in a St. Andrew's cross, the cross
of the Church of Scotland. When no Anglican bishop would ordain a bishop for the fledgling
Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA, bishops of the Church of Scotland agreed to lay hands
on Samuel Seabury, ordaining him the first bishop of the ECUSA. This cross honors the part the
Church of Scotland played in the birth of our church.
Each of the nine small crosses that comprises the St. Andrew's cross represents one of the nine
dioceses that in 1789 founded the ECUSA.
The shield's layout, which is reminiscent of the American flag (the founding fathers of the
ECUSA were also the founding fathers of our country), and its red, white, and blue motif
signify that the ECUSA is the American representative to the Anglican Communion. The colors
each have a symbolic meaning: Red is for the blood Christ shed for us and for the lives of the
martyrs of our faith; White is the color of purity; Blue is the traditional color of the Virgin Mary, the
mother of the Son of Man.