St. Mark's Episcopal Church

124 North Sylvia Street - Montesano, WA, 98563

The Episcopal Church

Episcopal Church USA

A conference of three clergy and twenty-four lay delegates met at Chestertown, Kent County, Maryland, on Nov. 9, 1780, and resolved that "the Church formerly known in the Province as the Church of England should now be called the Protestant Episcopal Church." The new church was called the "Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America" (PECUSA).


The church has grown from thirteen dioceses to more than one hundred dioceses. It is divided into nine geographical provinces. It is governed by a bicameral General Convention, which meets every three years, and by an Executive Council during interim years. The General Convention consists of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies. The House of Bishops is composed of every bishop with jurisdiction, every bishop coadjutor, every suffragan bishop, every retired bishop, every bishop elected to an office created by General Convention, and every bishop who has resigned because of missionary strategy. All members of the House of Bishops have seat and voice in the House of Bishops. The House of Deputies is composed of up to four lay and four clerical deputies from each of the dioceses. The two top leaders of the church are the Presiding Bishop, who is also called Primate and Chief Pastor, and the president of the House of Deputies. 


The 1967 General Convention voted to add a preamble to the Constitution, which states, "The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, otherwise known as The Episcopal Church (which name is hereby recognized as also designating the Church)...." The title page of the 1979 BCP states that the Book of Common Prayer is "According to the use of The Episcopal Church." The Episcopal Church in the United States of America is sometimes called ECUSA. The Episcopal Church is a province of the Anglican Communion. 


General Convention 

The national legislative body of the Episcopal Church. It consists of a House of Bishops, which includes all active and retired bishops, and a House of Deputies, which includes four lay persons and four clergy from each diocese, each area mission, and the Convocation of the American Churches in Europe. The Convention meets every three years. The Houses meet and act separately, and both must concur to adopt legislation. The General Convention alone has authority to amend the Prayer Book and the church's Constitution, to amend the canons (laws) of the church, and to determine the program and budget of the General Convention, including the missionary, educational, and social programs it authorizes. A majority of bishops may request the Presiding Bishop to call a Special General Convention. The General Convention elects twenty of the forty members of the Executive Council, which administers policy and program between the triennial meetings of the General Convention. 



·         Presiding Bishop

Chief Pastor and Primate of the Episcopal Church. The office evolved originally from a rule of the House of Bishops in 1789 making its presiding officer the senior member in terms of date of consecration.  In 1967 the duties of the office were significantly enhanced. As "Chief Pastor," the Presiding Bishop is charged with initiating and developing church policy and strategy, speaking God's Word to the church and the world, and visiting every diocese of the church. The title "Primate" was added in 1982. The Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Washington, D. C., is the official seat of the Presiding Bishop. The office of the Presiding Bishop is located at the Episcopal Church Center in New York City. The present term of office for the Presiding Bishop is nine years. 


·         Bishops, House of 

This second house, along with the House of Deputies, of the General Convention is composed of all bishops, active and retired, of the church. It meets concurrently with the House of Deputies during General Convention, and also holds yearly meetings between conventions. 


·         Deputies, House of 

The House of Deputies is the oldest of the two Houses of General Convention. It has equal numbers of clergy and lay deputies selected by the dioceses of the church. The first session of the first General Convention, held in 1789, consisted only of the House of Deputies. It adopted a constitutional provision establishing a separate House of Bishops, which joined the Convention at its second session in 1789. 



Constitution of the Episcopal Church 

This document of church government was first adopted by the General Convention of the Church in 1789. The Constitution contains regulations for General Convention, election and jurisdiction of bishops, Standing Committees, the formation of new jurisdictions, the establishment of provinces, ordinations, ecclesiastical courts, and the BCP. 




The word is derived from the Greek kanon, a "measuring rod or rule."  Canons are the written rules that provide a code of laws for the governance of the church. The canons of the Episcopal Church are enacted by the General Convention. Canons of the Episcopal Church may only be enacted, amended, or repealed by concurrent resolution of the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops at General Convention. The canons of the Episcopal Church are organized by titles or sections concerning Organization and Administration, Worship, Ministry, Ecclesiastical Discipline, and General Provisions.




Episcopal polity describes a church in which the source of authority is the college of bishops, typically bishops within the historic episcopate. Presbyterian polity describes a church in which the source of authority is considered to be a synod of presbyters. In Anglican churches, bishops share power with presbyters and laity under a constitution. Eastern Orthodox churches exemplify episcopal polity in its purest form because their source of ecclesial power is a synod of bishops. 



Episcopal Life 

This monthly journal is an official publication of the Episcopal Church "that seeks faithfully and fully to support the whole life of the Church and its mission, encouraging all people in their commitment to Jesus Christ." It began publication in Apr. 1990, and replaced The Episcopalian. It is primarily a news journal.


Holy Orders

The ordained ministries of bishops, priests (presbyters), and deacons. Canonical provisions concerning ordination to these three orders are equally applicable to men and women in the Episcopal Church. 



·         Bishop 

One of the three orders of ordained ministers in the church, bishops are charged with the apostolic work of leading, supervising, and uniting the church. Bishops represent Christ and his church, and they are called to provide Christian vision and leadership for their dioceses. Bishops stand in the apostolic succession, maintaining continuity in the present with the ministry of the Apostles. Bishops serve as chief pastors of the church, exercising a ministry of oversight and supervision. Diocesan bishops hold jurisdiction in their dioceses, with particular responsibility for the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the church. Bishops serve as the focus for diocesan unity and for the unity of their dioceses with the wider church. Since the bishop's ministry is a ministry of oversight, the term "episcopal" (derived from the Greek episcopos, "overseer") is applied to matters pertaining to bishops. An "episcopal" church is a church governed by bishops, and "episcopal" services are led by bishops.

Bishops also preside at services of Confirmation, Reception, or Reaffirmation. Bishops bless altars and fonts, and the blessing of chalices and patens and church bells are traditionally reserved for the bishop. In the Episcopal Church, diocesan and suffragan bishops are elected by Diocesan Convention. Bishops-elect are ordained and consecrated after consents have been received from a majority of the diocesan standing committees and from a majority of the bishops exercising jurisdiction in the Episcopal Church. If the episcopal election takes place within three months before General Convention, the consent of the House of Deputies is required instead of a majority of the standing committees. Three bishops are required to participate in the ordination and consecration of a bishop. Diocesan bishops may be succeeded by bishops-coadjutor upon resignation of diocesan jurisdiction. Diocesan bishops may also be assisted by suffragan and assistant bishops, who have no right of succession upon the resignation of the diocesan bishop.

Assistant Bishop 

A bishop who assists the diocesan bishop by providing additional episcopal services. An assistant bishop is appointed by the diocesan bishop, with the approval of the Standing Committee of the diocese. The assistant bishop must already be exercising episcopal jurisdiction as a diocesan bishop, or serving as a suffragan bishop, or a qualified bishop who has previously resigned all previous responsibilities, or a qualified bishop of a church in communion with the Episcopal Church. The assistant bishop serves under the direction of the diocesan bishop, and may not serve beyond the termination of the appointing bishop's jurisdiction.


·         Suffragan Bishop 

A suffragan bishop is an assisting bishop who does not automatically succeed a diocesan bishop. A suffragan bishop may be elected bishop or bishop coadjutor. The 1910 General Convention enacted "Of Suffragan Bishops." A diocese may elect a suffragan bishop, but no diocese may have more than two suffragan bishops except with the special consent of a General Convention. 



·         Priest 

Derived from the Greek presbyteros, "elder," or "old man," the term is used as a synonym for presbyter. Presbyters constituted a collegiate ruling body of institutions in Judaism. The Catechism notes that "the ministry of a priest or presbyter" is "to represent Christ and his Church, particularly as pastor to the people; to share with the bishop in the overseeing of the Church; to proclaim the gospel; to administer the sacraments; and to bless and declare pardon in the name of God" (BCP, p. 856). The term "priest" is more frequently used than "presbyter" in the Episcopal Church.  After the Reformation, the Anglican Church used the term "priest" for the second order of ministry. Some Protestant churches began to use the term "presbyter" for the minister who preaches the Word and administers the sacraments. The 1979 BCP uses both terms. Some members of the Episcopal Church have favored use of "presbyter" because of historic association of the term "priest" with a narrow eucharistic piety or with OT sacrifice.  


·         Deacon 

Deacons are members of one of three distinct orders of ordained ministry (with bishops and presbyters). In the Episcopal Church a deacon exercises "a special ministry of servanthood" directly under the deacon's bishop, serving all people and especially those in need. This definition reflects the practice of the early church, in which deacons were ordained "not to the priesthood but to the servanthood [diakonia, "ministry"] of the bishop". Christian deacons were agents of the bishop, often with oversight of charity. Since ancient times the liturgical functions of deacons have suggested the activity of angels. As they proclaim the gospel, lead intercessions, wait at the eucharistic table, and direct the order of the assembly, deacons act as sacred messengers, agents, and attendants. The revival of the order of deacons in the twentieth century has emphasized social care and service. Many bishops in the Episcopal Church expect their deacons to promote care of the needy outside the church. In addition to those ordained deacon as a permanent vocation, there are also "transitional deacons" who are ordained deacon as a preliminary step toward ordination as a priest. This practice is required by the canons of the Episcopal Church, but its theology and usefulness has been questioned by those who favor direct ordination to the order for which one is chosen.



The people of God. The term is from the Greek laos, "the people." The laity has been defined negatively to indicate Christians who have not been ordained. However, all baptized Christians are the people of God, the church, a royal priesthood, a holy nation (1 Pt 2:9-10). All baptized persons are members of the Body of Christ, the church, but with different functions and ministries (Rom 12:4-8; 1 Cor 12:12). All Christian ministries and vocations represent specific ways of living out the baptismal covenant. The ministers of the church are lay persons, bishops, priests, and deacons. The ministry of the laity is "to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be; and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ's work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church". Increasing appreciation of lay ministry has accompanied a renewed emphasis on the significance of baptism, and a growing understanding that the various ministries of the church can support and uphold one another. The ministries and orders of the church are to be complementary, and not mutually exclusive. Accordingly, the 1979 BCP encourages the participation of all orders of ministry in the worship of the church. 


Lay Order 

The laity are the people of the church, those who have been baptized. The term "laity" generally refers to those who have not been ordained. In a vote "by orders" at a church convention, clergy and laity vote separately. An affirmative decision requires a majority of votes in each order to pass.


Lay Ministry 

The term refers to the many ways the laity of the church live out their baptismal covenant. The laity are the people of the church, those who have been baptized. It generally refers to those who have not been ordained. The term "laity" is derived from the Greek word for "people." Lay ministry is exercised in the "gathered" church through the organizations of the church (e.g., vestry, Christian education, parish programs, etc.) and in the "scattered" church as the ministry of the baptized is expressed in the home, in the marketplace, and in the many places where there are opportunities to live the Christian faith. The ministry of lay persons includes bearing witness to Christ wherever they may be. The Catechism notes that "the ministers of the Church are lay persons, bishops, priests, and deacons" (BCP, p. 855). The laity is also know as the Lay Order. The various ministries of the church are complementary, not mutually exclusive or competitive.



An internal division of an autonomous national (or multi-national) church of the Anglican Communion. The churches of England and Ireland, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Anglican Church of Australia, and the Episcopal Church are all divided into internal provinces. There are two each in England and Ireland, four in Canada, five in Australia, and nine in the Episcopal Church, including overseas jurisdictions. Article VII of the Episcopal Church Constitution provides for internal provinces.



The territorial jurisdiction of a diocesan bishop. The term also refers to the congregations and church members of the diocese. Before the church adopted the word it had a long secular usage. As the church expanded out from the cities, it adopted the use of the word "diocese," and ecclesiastical dioceses tended to correspond to civil units. For example, at first the Diocese of Georgia corresponded with the State of Georgia. Later, many statewide dioceses were divided into smaller dioceses for pastoral and practical reasons. For example, the State of New York includes six dioceses. In more recent years, some dioceses have been formed from portions of more than one state. The Diocese of the Rio Grande includes all of New Mexico and part of west Texas, and the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast includes portions of southern Alabama and western Florida.  Every diocese in the Episcopal Church has a Standing Committee. When there is a bishop in charge of the diocese, the Standing Committee is the bishop's council of advice. When there is no bishop, bishop coadjutor or suffragan bishop, the Standing Committee is the ecclesiastical authority of the diocese. A diocese usually meets annually in a diocesan convention. Each diocese is entitled to representation in the House of Deputies by not more than four ordained persons, presbyters or deacons, canonically resident in the diocese, and not more than four lay persons, who are confirmed adult communicants of the Episcopal Church and in good standing in the diocese. Dioceses also elect clerical and lay deputies to the Provincial Synod. The Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church provide guidelines for the division of a diocese. Some persons insist that the diocese is the primary unit in the Episcopal Church. 


Bishop and Council 

In some dioceses, Bishop and Council is the group which exercises all powers of the diocesan convention between meetings of the convention. It consists of the bishop; bishop coadjutor, if there is one; bishop suffragan, if there is one; and a designated number of clergy and lay persons. Bishop and Council may not elect a bishop, may not amend the constitution and canons of the diocese, may not take any action contrary to the actions of the convention, and may not elect any canonical officers of the diocese. 


Standing Committee

The ecclesiastical authority of the diocese in the absence of a bishop. The Standing Committee is elected by the diocesan convention. Half of its members are clerical, half lay. It serves as the bishop's council of advice. The Standing Committee is requested to give consent for all bishops elected in the Episcopal Church. It recommends persons for ordination. It gives the bishop advice and consent on the purchase, sale, or encumbrance of any property held by a congregation or the diocese. It gives the bishop advice and consent as to any judicial sentence given to a clergy person or concurs in allowing a clergy person to cease functioning as a member of the clergy. It investigates and reports to the bishop on the charge that a deacon or priest has abandoned the Episcopal Church. It also receives the bishop's resignation. 



In the Episcopal Church a chancellor is a legal adviser appointed by the Presiding Bishop or a diocesan bishop. A chancellor advises the bishop and diocese on matters of secular and ecclesiastical law. A chancellor is usually an attorney at law. 


Dean (Cathedral, Seminary, College, Deanery) 

At a cathedral, the dean is the member of the clergy in charge, although the cathedral is the official headquarters of the bishop. Assisting clergy at a cathedral have the title "Canon." At a seminary, the dean's function is like that of the president of a college or university. The dean is responsible for spiritual, academic, and fiscal aspects of the seminary's mission. The title is sometimes "Dean and President." The dean of a college is responsible for curriculum as well as securing and supervising faculty. The dean of a deanery is a priest, usually rector of one of the deanery parishes, who is elected or appointed to oversee the work of the deanery. The dean is responsible for convening the clergy and at times the lay representatives of the congregations of the deanery. Clergy who serve as deans use the title "The Very Reverend." They may wear a distinctive piping (colored trim) on the cassock.



The bishop's throne or chair. The term is from the Latin, "seat." The episcopal throne is a symbol of the bishop's authority and jurisdiction. It is typically located in the cathedral of the diocese. By extension, the location of the cathedral or church with the bishop's throne is known as the bishop's see.



In the Episcopal Church, a meeting of clergy and lay representatives from a section or area of a diocese. The term may also indicate the section or area of the diocese that is represented by the assembly. The name may be used by other church gatherings or assemblies.


Parish (or Mission-church still tied to a diocese) 

The term is used in the 1979 BCP and earlier editions, and means a self-supporting congregation under a rector, as opposed to a mission or other congregation under a vicar. Some state laws provide for the incorporation of Episcopal parishes, and the election of rectors, wardens, and vestry members. Many diocesan canons distinguish between a fully self-supporting congregation with a full-time priest and one which is not, calling the former "parishes" and the latter "missions." However, other Episcopal dioceses call all congregations "parishes," or simply "congregations." The term is used without any specific definition other than a "Congregation of this Church" in the canons of the Episcopal Church. 



The priest in charge of a parish. Typically, a rector is the priest in charge of a self-supporting parish, and a vicar is the priest in charge of a supported mission. The rector is the ecclesiastical authority of the parish. The term is derived from the Latin for "rule." The rector has authority and responsibility for worship and the spiritual jurisdiction of the parish, subject to the rubrics of the BCP, the constitution and canons of the church, and the pastoral direction of the bishop. The rector is responsible for selection of all assistant clergy, and they serve at the discretion of the rector. The church and parish buildings and furnishings are under the rector's control. The rector or a member of the vestry designated by the rector presides at all vestry meetings. 



In the Episcopal Church, the title generally applies to the priest in charge of a mission congregation. The diocesan bishop is the rector, and the priest representing the bishop is the vicar. The term is derived from the Latin vicarius, "substitute." Historically, as early as the twelfth century in England, clergy known as vicars were appointed to act as substitutes or vicarious representatives of the bishop to serve congregations. The use of terms such as vicar, priest in charge, and rector is not consistent in the dioceses of the Episcopal Church. 


Vestry (or Bishop’s Committee for a mission) 

The vestry is the legal representative of the parish with regard to all matters pertaining to its corporate property. The number of vestry members and the term of office varies from parish to parish. Vestry members are usually elected at the annual parish meeting. The presiding officer of the vestry is the rector. There are usually two wardens. The senior warden leads the parish between rectors and is a support person for the rector. The junior warden often has responsibility for church property and buildings. A treasurer and a secretary or clerk may be chosen. These officers may or may not be vestry members. The basic responsibilities of the vestry are to help define and articulate the mission of the congregation; to support the church's mission by word and deed, to select the rector, to ensure effective organization and planning, and to manage resources and finances. 


Parochial Report (Annual Report) 

This report is the official data-gathering instrument of the Episcopal Church. Each parish or congregation files this report annually with the diocesan bishop. A copy of each Parochial Report is sent to the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church. The Parochial Report includes information concerning the number of baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and burials during the preceding calendar year; the total number of adult baptized members, baptized members under sixteen years of age, and total number of baptized members; and the total number of confirmed adult communicants in good standing, the total number of confirmed communicants in good standing under sixteen years of age, and the total number of confirmed communicants in good standing. The Parochial Report also provides a summary of all the receipts and expenditures of the parish; a statement of all real or personal property held by the parish, with an appraisal of its value; a statement of the parish's indebtedness, if any; and a statement of the amount of insurance carried. Preparation and delivery of the Parochial Report is the joint duty of the rector and vestry of the parish. In other congregations, preparation and delivery of the report is the duty of the member of the clergy-in-charge. The Parochial Report provides important information for the use of parishes, dioceses, and the whole Episcopal Church. 


Team Ministry 

A cooperative approach to parish ministry in which the entire ministry team shares responsibility for formulating the overall vision of ministry. The ministry team may include youth ministers, Christian education directors, secretaries, musicians, and others, along with the parish clergy. Team ministry emphasizes the importance of each member's perspective and contribution. Maintaining the integrity of the group and open sharing within the group are priorities for team ministry. 


Total Ministry 

A model of pastoral oversight based on the development of the ministry of the whole church, lay and ordained. This model seeks to provide a comprehensive program for the education of the laity for ministry. It also seeks to insure that the laity are able to exercise their ministry by sharing fully in the power and authority of the church. The term came into official use in the Episcopal Church at the 1976 General Convention through various reports and resolutions. In Sept. 1978 forty-five lay and clergy participants met in Cincinnati, Ohio, as members of the informal support network for the Office of Lay Ministries of the Episcopal Church Center. They noted that Total Ministry is the ministry of all God's people in all areas of life, carried out through the interdependent and mutually affirming ministries of laity and clergy. Total Ministry is, therefore, correctly understood as Mutual Ministry. The drafters of this outline recognized that the local parish has the primary responsibility to develop Total Ministry. 



Catechism or Outline of the Faith 

Outline for instruction in the Christian faith presented in a question and answer format. The Catechism appears in the BCP as "An Outline of the Faith" (pp. 845-862). Although the Catechism serves as a commentary on the creeds, it is not intended to be a complete statement of belief and practice. It provides a brief summary of the church's teaching. The Catechism is intended to serve as a point of departure for discussion by the catechist (lay or ordained) with those who seek to understand the beliefs and practices of the Episcopal Church. 



Derived from the Greek word meaning "general" or "universal," the phrase "the catholic church" was first used by Ignatius of Antioch in the early second century. The BCP Catechism states (p. 854) that "The Church is catholic, because it proclaims the whole Faith to all people, to the end of time." The catholicity of the church means the wholeness and universality of Christian doctrine in continuity with the undivided early church, the fullness of Christian life and worship, and the inclusion of all kinds of people in the church. 


Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit 

The gifts are 1 ) wisdom, 2) understanding, 3) counsel, 4) fortitude, 5) knowledge, 6) piety, and 7) fear of the Lord. This list is based on Is 11:2. The imparting of the gifts of the Spirit is associated with baptism, as well as Confirmation and Ordination. The "sevenfold" gift of the Holy Spirit is mentioned in the hymns Veni Sancte Spiritus, "Come, thou Holy Spirit bright" (Hymns 226-227) and Veni Creator Spiritus, "Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire" (Hymns 503-504). One of these hymns precedes the period of silent prayer and the prayer of consecration at each ordination.


Spiritual Gifts 

Also called charisms, and partially listed in 1 Cor 12:4-11, these are graces granted by the Holy Spirit to empower the faithful to perform specific tasks. Called gratiae gratis datae (freely given graces) by the scholastics, they are at the service of charity (1 Cor 13:13). Given over and above the fundamental gift of faith and friendship with God (or, gratia sanctificans, sanctifying grace) they are neither necessary nor sufficient to salvation, but they characterize the specific call of God to each believer.  


Gifts of the Spirit 

At baptism, at the sanctifying of the water, the celebrant prays that by the power of the Holy Spirit "those who here are cleansed from sin and born again may continue for ever in the risen life of Jesus Christ our Savior" (BCP, p. 307). In a general sense, the life of faith-including forgiveness and renewal-can be understood as a gift of the Spirit. After the action of baptizing with water, the celebrant prays for specific gifts for the newly baptized from the Lord in the Spirit, including an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and love God, and the gift of joy and wonder in all God's works (BCP, p. 308).



Five NT texts form the basis for understanding the gifts of the Spirit, known as the charismata in Greek. These texts include 1 Cor 12:1-14:40, Rom 12:8, Eph 4:11-12, Rom 1:11, and 1 Cor 2:14. The lists of gifts in the NT passages are neither exhaustive nor entirely consistent. Apostles, prophets, and teachers are mentioned in 1 Cor 12:28-30. Those who exhort, give, preside, and show mercy are mentioned in Rom 12:6-8. Evangelists and pastors are mentioned in Eph 4:11. These gifts may be understood as charismatic ministries rather than offices. Some gifts, on the other hand, refer to functions or activities. Knowledge, healing, working of miracles, prophecy, tongues, and interpretation of tongues are mentioned in 1 Cor 12:7-10. Some contemporary charismatics consider tongues to be the essential gift of the Spirit, despite Paul's statement in 1 Cor 14:18-19 that he would rather speak five words with his mind in church to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue. Paul declares that he intends to share his gifts with the Christian church in Rome (Rom 1:11), indicating that gifts can be shared with others. In 1 Cor 12:7, each believer is said to have a gift, which suggests that there are many gifts. These points are prominent in contemporary discussion of the gifts of the Spirit.