Episcopalians take a global view, accept diversity, nurture those who seek, and view a spiritual journey as a communal activity. An Episcopalian is a member of a worldwide fellowship of Christians, drawn together by certain common beliefs: the authority of the Bible, the value of tradition and respect for reason. While traditional in its liturgy and worship (our Book of Common Prayer was first published in 1549), The Episcopal Church is modern in its practices and theology. We have always been at the forefront of social reform movements in the United States, such opposing the death penalty, supporting the civil rights movement and affirmative action, and now calling for civil equality of gay and lesbian people. Women are ordained to the priesthood, and 34% of our active clergy are women. Our presiding bishop (chief pastor to the Episcopal Church’s 2.4 million members in 16 countries) is Katharine Jefferts-Schori, the first woman ever to hold this title.
We are governed by Bishops ordained in an unbroken chain stretching back to the apostles of Jesus Christ, and we are a part of the worldwide Anglican Communion led by the Archbishop of Canterbury. While hierarchical in structure, our church is democratic in its decision-making. Bishops, clergy, and lay persons gather together to make major policy decisions determining our future course and direction.