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Saint John the Divine is a member of the Episcopal Church USA and part of the world-wide Anglican Communion. What this means is that we believe ourselves to be a part of the historical, continuing community of faith that finds its origins in the Apostolic or first Church. We have four foundational or essential beliefs:
What is the Episcopal church?
The Episcopal church is part of the Anglican Communion. The Episcopal church, established shortly after the American Revolution, has its roots in the Anglican Church. The Anglican Church, known as the Church of England, had a strong following in colonial America. But when the colonies won their independence, the majority of America’s Anglican clergy refused to swear allegiance to the British monarch as was required. As a result, this led to its reorganization on an independent basis in the 1780s. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it was characterized sociologically by a disproportionately large number of high status Americans as well as English immigrants; for example, more than a quarter of all presidents of the United States have been Episcopalians. Although it was not among the leading participants of the abolitionist movement in the early 19th century, by the early 20th century its social engagement had increased to the point that it was an important participant in the Social Gospel movement, though it never provided much support for the Prohibitionist movement. Like other mainline churches in the United States, its membership decreased from the 1960s. This was also a period in which the church took a more open attitude on the role of women and toward homosexuality.
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What is the Anglican Communion?
Today the Anglican Communion is 39 autonomous national and regional Churches plus six Extra Provincial Churches and dioceses; all of which are in Communion - in a reciprocal relationship - with the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is the Communion's spiritual head. There are approximately 85 million members world-wide
There is no Anglican central authority such as a pope. Each Church makes its own decisions in its own ways, guided by recommendations from the Lambeth Conference, Anglican Consultative Council, the Primates' Meeting and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Anglicans and Episcopalians have always worked and worshipped together across national borders to support each other’s lives and ministry. The insight, experience and wisdom contributed to joint endeavors by Anglican Communion members from all provinces means that the Communion can pack a real punch at national and international levels. Examples of such collaboration can be found in the Communion's Networks, in projects such as Anglican Witness, the Anglican Alliance, in its International Commission on Unity, Faith and Order and on the Anglican Communion News Service.
It has always been a strength of the Anglican Communion that such co-operation continues and flourishes despite significant disagreements on certain issues. Other Christian traditions look to the Anglican Communion to learn from its ability to have good disagreements. Projects such as Continuing Indaba and Living Reconciliation testify to how reconciliation is at the heart of our Communion.