An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Episcopal Church, The

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." On Aug. 13, 1783, the Maryland clergy met at Annapolis and adopted the name "Protestant Episcopal Church." At the second session of the 1789 General Convention, Sept. 29-Oct. 16, 1789, a Constitution of nine articles was adopted. William White was one of the chief architects of the new church. He was Presiding Bishop from July 28, 1789 to Oct. 3, 1789, and from Sept. 8, 1795 until his death on July 17, 1836. White had previously served as chaplain to the Continental and Constitutional Congresses and the United States Senate from 1777 until 1801. The new church was called the "Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America" (PECUSA). The word "Protestant" noted that this was a church in the reformation tradition, and the word "Episcopal" noted a characteristic of catholicity, the historic episcopate. The first American BCP was based on the Proposed Book of 1786 and the 1662 English BCP. It was ratified by the 1789 General Convention. Alterations or additions to the BCP require the approval of two successive General Conventions. BCP revisions were ratified in 1892, 1928, and 1979. 

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. 
Over the years there were numerous efforts to change the name of the church and to drop the word "Protestant." Among the names suggested were "The Reformed Catholic Church," "The American Catholic Church," "The American Church," and "The American Anglican Church." 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.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.