From Canterbury to Philadelphia

From Canterbury to Philadelphia

Just as the Church of England was the product of the missionary work of the Roman and Celtic Churches, the Episcopal Church in America is the product of the missionary work of the Church of England. The first permanent English settlement was established at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607 and was supplied with an Anglican priest. The direct successor of this congregation still exists today as the Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Through the work of Anglican missionary societies like the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge (SPCK) and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG), Church of England parishes were established in all thirteen colonies by the time of the Revolutionary War.

At the end of the Revolutionary War Church of England parishes in America had no bishops and few clergy (since many clergy remained loyal to England and left during or after the war).

Samuel Seabury became the first American to be consecrated a bishop; in 1783 he was consecrated as bishop of Connecticut by Scottish bishops in Aberdeen.

He was followed in 1787 by Samuel Provoost, who was consecrated bishop of New York, and William White, who was consecrated bishop of Philadelphia. Both were consecrated by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and two other English bishops. These consecrations were significant in that the apostolic succession passed to America and the American church was then able to consecrate its own
bishops. (By tradition, three bishops in the historic succession are required to consecrate a new bishop.)

The Episcopal Church in America was officially formed in 1789 at the first General Convention in Philadelphia. This General Convention adopted a constitution for the Church, authorized the first American Book of Common Prayer, and established an official name — The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America.

Today the Episcopal Church has approximately 7,500 parishes and missions and about 2,500,000 members in the United States.

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