Protestant Episcopal Church In the USA

The first Anglican services on North American shores took place during Martin Frobisher's Hudson Bay expedition in 1578, when Chaplain Wolfall preached and administered the sacrament. In June 1579, in the course of Sir Francis Drake's voyage along the west coast, a similar service was held near San Francisco, at which Drake's chaplain, Francis Fletcher, officiated. Various attempts to establish colonies on North American territory during this period were, however, unsuccessful. In 1607 a small band of colonists succeeded in settling at Jamestown, Virginia. There they built the first Anglican church in America, and public worship was regularly conducted by their chaplain, Robert Hunt. By 1624 Anglicanism was firmly established in Virginia.

The colonial clergy and parishes were under the jurisdiction of the bishop of London. In America there was prolonged and sometimes fierce opposition to the appointment of bishops (though not generally to the Prayer Book and its worship) on the part of non-Anglicans, in which some Anglicans shared, particularly in the South. Many of the early settlers had left England in order to escape from Laudian intolerance and the combined might of church and state, and to win for themselves freedom and independence, ecclesiastical as well as civil, in the New World. They feared that the appointment of bishops would mean the extension across the Atlantic of the lordly prelacy and royal dictation from which they had fled-hence to the present day the unremitting American insistence on complete separation of church and state. Because of this, Anglicanism suffered heavily during the American Revolution. Many ministers went over to the English side.

On 14 November 1784, Samuel Seabury* was consecrated the first bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Connecticut and Rhode Island, by bishops of the Episcopal Church in Scotland. A general convention held in Philadelphia in 1789 drafted a constitution and canons and the revised Prayer Book for the PEC. The election of its bishops and the government of the church were organized along democratic lines. The church's highest council is its general convention, which meets ordinarily every three years, and its highest officer is the presiding bishop, who is elected by the general convention. The church has a membership of 3 million members (baptized persons), of whom over 2 million are communicants. There are some 11,000 clergy.

The general convention's approval of the ordination of women in 1977 spawned the Schismatic Anglican Church in North America amid considerable controversy.

J.S.M. Anderson, History of the Church of England in the Colonies and Foreign Dependencies (3 vols., 1845); W.S. Perry, The History of the American Episcopal Church (2 vols., 1885); A.L. Cross, The Anglican Episcopate and the American Colonies (1902); W.W. Manross, A History of the American Episcopal Church (2nd ed., 1950); G. MacL. Brydon, Virginia's Mother Church and the Political Conditions under Which It Grew (2 vols., 1952); E.A. White and J.A. Dykman, Annotated Constitution and Canons (1952); C. Bridenbaugh, Mitre and Sceptre (1962); W.A. Clebsch (ed.), Journals of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America (1962); R.W. Albright, A History of the Protestant Episcopal Church (1964).