The beginnings of the Church of England, from which The
Episcopal Church derives, date to at least the second century, when
merchants and other travelers first brought Christianity to England. It
is customary to regard St. Augustine of Canterbury's mission to England
in 597 as marking the formal beginning of the church under papal
authority, as it was to be throughout the Middle Ages.
modern form, the church dates from the English Reformation of the 16th
century, when royal supremacy was established and the authority of the
papacy was repudiated. With the advent of British colonization, the
Church of England was established on every continent. In time, these
churches gained their independence, but retained connections with the
mother church in the Anglican Communion.
1517: Martin Luther publishes 95 Theses, sparking the Protestant Reformation.
1521: Pope designates Henry VIII "Defender of the Faith." English monarchs to this day retain the title.
1529-36: Henry VIII and Parliament overtake the administration of the Church in England. Destruction of monasteries ensues.
1547: Henry dies. He is succeeded by Edward VI, with Edward's uncle as Lord Protector.
1549: The first Book of Common Prayer is approved, with Thomas Cranmer as principal author.
1552: The second Book of Common Prayer is approved.
Edward VI dies at age 16. Mary becomes Queen, restores Roman
Catholicism, and burns Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley at the stake. She
marries Philip II, the Roman Catholic monarch of Spain.
Elizabeth I becomes Queen upon Mary's death and re-establishes the
Church of England, with the English monarch as its highest earthly
1559: The third Book of Common Prayer is approved. Puritans protest.
1563: The Thirty-Nine Articles are prepared; they are approved by Parliament in 1571.
The first English-language Communion service is held in the Western
Hemisphere (California) by Sir Francis Drake's chaplain.
1603: Elizabeth I dies at age 70; James I, of Scotland becomes king and authorizes a new translation of the Bible.
The Church of England is established in the first permanent
English-speaking settlement in the New World, Jamestown, Virginia. The
Church of England is then also established in other mid-Atlantic and
1611: King James Version of the Bible is published.
1620: Pilgrims (Puritan religious refugees) land at Plymouth Rock.
1636: Harvard College is founded to train Congregational (Puritan) clergy.
1645: The Book of Common Prayer is outlawed by Puritan-controlled Parliament.
1649: King Charles I is executed in a revolution led by Puritan leader Oliver Cromwell, who became Lord Protector in 1653.
1658: Oliver Cromwell dies, and is succeeded by son Richard.
1660: Richard Cromwell is overthrown, and Charles II becomes king.
1662: The fourth Book of Common Prayer is approved, which is still in use by the Church of England.
1693: The College of William & Mary ( in Williamsburg, Virginia) is started by Church of England.
1699: The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge is founded.
1701: Yale College is founded to educate Congregational clergy.
1701: The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts is founded.
The Church of England in New World is overseen by the Bishop of London.
The vestry system develops. Clergy are paid from taxes. George
Washington and Thomas Jefferson serve on vestries.
Declaration of Independence is signed. Most Anglican clergy, who have
sworn loyalty to the King in their ordinations, stay loyal.
1783: The Treaty of Paris ends the Revolutionary War.
Samuel Seabury of Connecticut is consecrated the first overseas
Anglican bishop by Scottish non-juring bishops, after being elected in
Connecticut and rejected by Church of England bishops, who, legally,
could not ordain him. Seabury promised to use the Scottish 1764
Communion service, based on the Eastern Orthodox service.
The First General Convention of Episcopal Church is held, with clergy
and lay representatives from Delaware, New York, New Jersey,
Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia. The General Convention
authorizes the preparation of an American Prayer Book and names itself
the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America.
1786: The proposed American Book of Common Prayer is approved for use on a state-by-state basis.
Samuel Provoost of New York and William White of Philadelphia are
consecrated bishops by the Church of England. Seabury's Scottish
consecration helped motivate Parliament and the Church of England to do
this. Both continue to be rectors. The second General Convention adopts
basically the present Episcopal Church structure. A revised Book of
Common Prayer, prepared by White, is adopted; this version of the Book
of Common Prayer is based on the 1662 Prayer Book with the exception of
the 1764 Scottish Communion Service.
1804: Absalom Jones is ordained the first black priest in the Episcopal Church.
1800s: Bishop Provoost of New York secures for New York a fair share of
inheritance left by Queen Anne (d. 1714). Methodism gains strength in
England and United States.
1817: General Convention authorizes the founding of the General Theological Seminary in New York City.
1823: The Diocese of Virginia establishes a second Episcopal seminary, Virginia Theological Seminary, in Alexandria.
The Diocese of Virginia establishes the first high school in Virginia,
Episcopal High School (adjacent to Virginia Theological Seminary).
The Oxford Movement (Anglo-Catholic) begins in England. In the
following decades, many new Religious Orders (i.e., monastic
communities) were formed.
1861-65: During the American Civil War,
Southern Episcopal dioceses join the Protestant Episcopal Church of the
Confederate States of America, but are welcomed back after war ends.
Other denominations experience long term (100+ years) splits.
1873: Evangelical, "low church"-oriented Reformed Episcopal Church is founded.
1885: The House of Bishops adopts the Chicago Quadrilateral.
1886: General Convention approves the Quadrilateral.
1888: The Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops adopts the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral.
1892: Minor revisions made to the Book of Common Prayer.
The National Council (now the Executive Council) is established by
General Convention. The Office of the Presiding Bishop is established to
oversee national church programs.
1928: The revised Book of
Common Prayer includes language updates and a new translation of Psalms.
"Love, honor, and obey" is dropped from the bride's vows in the service
of Holy Matrimony.
1940: A new Hymnal is approved.
1944: Henry St. George Tucker becomes the Episcopal Church's first full-time Presiding Bishop.
John Hines of Texas is elected Presiding Bishop. Strong social justice
commitments elicit negative reaction from conservatives.
1970: The first authorized women members join the House of Deputies.
1973: John Allin of Mississippi is elected Presiding Bishop for 12-year term.
1974: The first eleven women are ordained to priesthood in an “irregular” service in Philadelphia.
General Convention approves the ordination of women, and "regularizes"
1974-75 ordinations. First reading on new Prayer Book.
1979: Second reading approves new (present) Book of Common Prayer.
1982: A new Hymnal is approved.
1985: Edmond Browning of Hawaii is elected Presiding Bishop for a 12-year term.
1989: Barbara Harris is consecrated the first woman bishop in the Anglican Communion.
1995: $2.2-million embezzlement by the church's treasurer, Ellen Cooke, is uncovered. She is subsequently imprisoned.
1997: Frank Griswold of Chicago is elected Presiding Bishop for a 9-year term.
General Convention approves "Called to Common Mission," a revised
version of the Lutheran Concordat, establishing full communion between
the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Episcopal
Church, effective January 1, 2001.
2003: General Convention
approves the Diocese of New Hampshire's election of the Rev. Canon Gene
2006: Katharine Jefferts Schori of Nevada is
elected the 26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church for a 9-year
term. She is the first and only woman to be a church wide leader in the
2011: The Episcopal Church
inaugurates a full-communion relationship with the Northern and Southern
provinces of the Moravian Church in North America.