Difference between the Anglican and Episcopal Church

January 19, 2017 by Editorial Team

Together, the Anglican and Episcopal churches form the largest single Protestant group and the third largest communion, in the world. Anglicans and Episcopalians have contributed much to science, culture, and world history. While Anglicans and Episcopalians share some attributes, there are also some glaring differences between the two denominations. This article will enumerate those differences.

Definitions

Canterbury Cathedral, the mother church of Anglicanism

The Anglican Church is a worldwide association of churches descended from and aligned with the Church of England. The word “Anglican” comes from Anglia, the Latin word for “England.” The Church was founded by King Henry VIII when he renounced his allegiance to the Catholic Church in the 16th century. The central document that governs Anglican worship is The Book of Common Prayer. The Church of England is led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is appointed by the reigning English monarch.

Anglicanism has spread throughout the world, with dioceses all over Europe. Since 1994, women have become Anglican priests, and in 2014, the first female Anglican bishop was ordained. As a whole, however, the Anglican Communion is opposed to the notion of same-sex marriage.

Episcopal Church
The Episcopal National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

The Episcopal Church, in its current form, is an offshoot of the Church of England. The American Episcopal Church was founded in the aftermath of the American Revolution, when Anglican adherents set aside the name “Church of England.” Like all members of the Anglican Communion, Episcopalians use The Book of Common Prayer as the basis for their worship services. The Episcopal Church is led by its Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, who holds a term of nine years after being elected by the General Convention.

The church has dioceses all over the United States, Taiwan, Latin America, and Micronesia. In 1974, the first women received their ordinations to the priesthood, while the first female bishop was consecrated in 1989. The Episcopal Church has informally recognized same-sex marriage; due to this, they have been temporarily suspended from the Anglican Communion since 2016.

Comparison

The main differences lie in their origins, leadership, geographical reach, and stance towards female ordination and same-sex marriage.

Origins

The Anglican Church traces its roots to the 1530s, when King Henry VIII renounced his allegiance to the Pope and the Catholic Church, therefore founding the Church of England. The Episcopal Church, on the other hand, began after the American colonies declared their independence from England in 1789.

Leadership

The Archbishop of Canterbury, who is appointed by the reigning King or Queen of England, leads the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. Meanwhile, the Episcopal Church is led by a Presiding Bishop, who is elected by the General Convention for a term of nine years.

Geographical coverage

The Anglican Church, or Church of England, covers England, Wales, and Europe. It has also directly contributed to the founding of the churches of Canada and Australia. Under the Anglican Communion, it also has primacy over similar churches all over the world. The Episcopal Church, in contrast, has churches in the United States, Taiwan, Micronesia, and certain countries in Latin America.

Female Ordination

The Anglican Church ordained its first women priests in 1994, and consecrated its first female bishops in 2014. The Episcopal Church, however, ordained women as members of clergy earlier; the first female Episcopal priests received Holy Orders in 1974, while the first woman bishop received her consecration in 1989.

Same-sex Marriage

Collectively, the Anglican Church and other members of the Anglican Communion do not support the idea of same-sex marriage. However, the Episcopal Church recognizes same-sex marriages; this has led to their suspension as a voting member of the Anglican Communion as of 2016.

Comparison Chart

Anglican ChurchEpiscopal Church
Broke away from the Roman Catholic Church and was founded in the 1530sBroke away from Church of England and was founded in 1789
Led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, appointed by the British Crown; term is indefiniteLed by the Presiding Bishop, elected by the General Convention for a nine-year term
England, Wales, EuropeUnited States, Taiwan, Micronesia, Latin America
First ordained women priests in 1994; first bishops in 2014First ordained women priests in 1974; first bishops in 1989
Generally against same-sex marriageInformally supports same-sex marriage

Video

Play the video below to watch how the Anglican and Episcopal Church are in conflict in the United States.