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Episcopal -

The Episcopal Church in Summary
The "Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America", or what is known as The Episcopal Church is the American arm of the Anglican Church of England. During the 1500's, King Henry VIII needed a male heir and his current wife of over 20 years, Catherine of Aragon had only given him one child that survived past infancy, Mary. He felt he needed a male heir and for this reason wanted to divorce Catherine and marry someone who he hoped could give him a male child. The Roman Catholic Church who was the only church recognized in England at the time refused to allow this new marriage. The result was the split of the Church of England with the Roman Catholic Church with King Henry at its head. The new church that was formed, the Church of England, also called the Anglican Church doesn't claim to trace its roots back to Henry VII, but goes back to the first English bishop, Saint Augustine who had been sent to England by the pope in the 6th century. He was the first archbishop of Canterbury. Because they can trace their roots back to Saint Augustine, they consider their church to have Apostolic Succession from the time of Christ.

Over the centuries, the Episcopal Church's beliefs and practices have been refined to be somewhere between Protestant and Catholic. Some in the church even consider themselves to be one of the Catholic branches, although this is not how the Catholics view them. The most notable difference between Episcopalianism and Catholicism is the Book of Common Prayer adopted during the reign of King Henry VIII's only son, Edward VI. They also split from Catholics on doctrines such as celibacy of clergy, divorce, transubstantiation, and more modern issues such as abortion, homosexuality, and women clergy.

The term Episcopal comes from the use of bishops as the authority in the church. They are currently led by the Archbishop of Canterbury who is considered the spiritual leader of the "Anglican Communion" or community of Anglican Churches worldwide. While he is looked to as a spiritual guide, his teachings are not seen as binding or authoritative. The Church today is comprised of approximately 2.3 million members throughout the United States and over 70 million worldwide. There are many notable Episcopalians, including many US Presidents. The church tends to be very open-minded when it comes to differing viewpoints with parishes varying greatly on many different practices. One practice, however that the church is greatly divided on is the issue of homosexuality. This came about when an openly homosexual priest, Gene Robinson, was elected bishop of New Hampshire. There has been a strong division on whether or not the church should support him as a bishop and whether it should give blessings to homosexual marriages in general.