The Episcopal Church owes its foundation to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and strives to live by his message of love and his practice of justice and healing. Walking a middle way between Roman Catholicism and Protestant traditions (hence, we are often described as the via media, or middle way), the Episcopal Church is both reformed and catholic with a small “c.”
The Episcopal Church is related to the Church of England, which broke its connection with the Roman Catholic Church during the 16th century Protestant Reformation. The Episcopal Church organized itself independently from the Church of England around the time of the American Revolutionary War, and chose a form of government similar to that of the new nation. Our highest governing body is a bicameral legislature that meets triennially, composed of a House of Bishops and a House of Deputies. Bishops and Deputies are elected by diocesan conventions, and both clergy and laity serve as deputies. Our polity is democratic in its ethos and practice.
The Episcopal Church is a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion, the churches around the world that trace their roots to the Church of England and maintain “communion” with it. The member churches of the Anglican Communion are autonomous, bound together by a shared history, faith, and mission. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Church of England, is acknowledged as the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion, but does not have direct authority over any Anglican Church outside of England. The Episcopal Church is headed by a “primate and presiding bishop,” currently the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori. She is the first woman to hold that position and to head a church within the Anglican Communion.