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Thoughts on how Anglicans became Episcopalians

The first Anglican service in North America was conducted by a chaplain on Sir Francis Drake's ship in what is now California in 1579. With the founding of Jamestown in 1607 came the founding of Anglican parishes in the New World. By 1700 there were over 100 parishes, but not one Bishop. Most parishes had no full time clergy. The American colonies were under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of London and dependent on the Bishop of London and the Society of the Propagation of the Gospel to recruit and send clergy to their parishes.  For well over a hundred years this system continued, until the American Revolution. As part of their ordination vows Anglican clergy vowed to obey the ruler of England, creating a dilemma for them as the colonies broke from England. Should they stay and break their vows, or abandon their charge and return to England? Most returned to England, leaving the already underserved parishes without clergy and now without hope of priest to serve. In 1783, a group of clergy elected Samuel Seabury to seek consecration as a Bishop from the Bishops in England. Without support from the King, the English Bishops refused, however Seabury had another option. Seabury turned to the Bishops in Scotland who agreed to consecrate him the first Bishop of the Episcopal (from the Greek word for bishop, episcopos) church in America. The only request of the Scottish Bishops was that the newly minted churches use the Scottish Book of Common Prayer instead of the English one.

Date: 
Thursday, November 15, 2012
Author: 
Linnae Peterson, M. Div.