Difference between the Anglican and Episcopal Church

By: | Updated: Nov-16, 2023
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Together, the Anglican and Episcopal churches form the largest single Protestant group and the third largest communion, in the world. Anglicans and Episcopalians have contributed much to science, culture, and world history. While Anglicans and Episcopalians share some attributes, there are also some glaring differences between the two denominations. This article will enumerate those differences.

Summary Table

Anglican Church Episcopal Church
Broke away from the Roman Catholic Church and was founded in the 1530s Broke away from Church of England and was founded in 1789
Led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, appointed by the British Crown; term is indefinite Led by the Presiding Bishop, elected by the General Convention for a nine-year term
England, Wales, Europe United States, Taiwan, Micronesia, Latin America
First ordained women priests in 1994; first bishops in 2014 First ordained women priests in 1974; first bishops in 1989
Generally against same-sex marriage Informally supports same-sex marriage


Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral, the mother church of Anglicanism

The Anglican Church is a worldwide association of churches descended from and aligned with the Church of England. The word “Anglican” comes from Anglia, the Latin word for “England.” The Church was founded by King Henry VIII when he renounced his allegiance to the Catholic Church in the 16th century. The central document that governs Anglican worship is The Book of Common Prayer. The Church of England is led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is appointed by the reigning English monarch.

Anglicanism has spread throughout the world, with dioceses all over Europe. Since 1994, women have become Anglican priests, and in 2014, the first female Anglican bishop was ordained. As a whole, however, the Anglican Communion is opposed to the notion of same-sex marriage.

Episcopal National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.
The Episcopal National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

The Episcopal Church, in its current form, is an offshoot of the Church of England. “Episcopal” comes from the Greek word for “overseer” or “bishop.” The name of the church has to do with the type of government used by the church. While a bishop oversees all the Episcopal churches in a region, each church can make decisions on its own. However, they are not self-governing.

The American Episcopal Church was founded in the aftermath of the American Revolution, when Anglican adherents set aside the name “Church of England.” Like all members of the Anglican Communion, Episcopalians use The Book of Common Prayer as the basis for their worship services. The Episcopal Church is led by its Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, who holds a term of nine years after being elected by the General Convention.

The church has dioceses all over the United States, Taiwan, Latin America, and Micronesia. In 1974, the first women received their ordinations to the priesthood, while the first female bishop was consecrated in 1989. The Episcopal Church has informally recognized same-sex marriage; due to this, they have been temporarily suspended from the Anglican Communion since 2016.

Anglican vs Episcopal Church

What are the differences between the Anglican and Episcopal Church? The main differences lie in their origins, leadership, geographical reach, and stance towards female ordination and same-sex marriage.


The Anglican Church traces its roots to the 1530s, when King Henry VIII renounced his allegiance to the Pope and the Catholic Church, therefore founding the Church of England. The Episcopal Church, on the other hand, began after the American colonies declared their independence from England in 1789.


The Archbishop of Canterbury, who is appointed by the reigning King or Queen of England, leads the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. Meanwhile, the Episcopal Church is led by a Presiding Bishop, who is elected by the General Convention for a term of nine years.

Geographical coverage

The Anglican Church, or Church of England, covers England, Wales, and Europe. It has also directly contributed to the founding of the churches of Canada and Australia. Under the Anglican Communion, it also has primacy over similar churches all over the world. The Episcopal Church, in contrast, has churches in the United States, Taiwan, Micronesia, and certain countries in Latin America.

Female Ordination

The Anglican Church ordained its first women priests in 1994, and consecrated its first female bishops in 2014. The Episcopal Church, however, ordained women as members of clergy earlier; the first female Episcopal priests received Holy Orders in 1974, while the first woman bishop received her consecration in 1989.

Same-sex Marriage

Collectively, the Anglican Church and other members of the Anglican Communion do not support the idea of same-sex marriage. However, the Episcopal Church recognizes same-sex marriages; this has led to their suspension as a voting member of the Anglican Communion as of 2016.

Number of Churches & Members

The Episcopal Church today has about 7,098 congregations, with 1.7 million active members (as of 2021). On the other hand, the Anglican Communion has over 85 million members around the world.

View of the Bible

The Anglican Church believes the Bible is the authoritative text for faith and practicing the Christian faith. However, the church also accepts the teachings of the Church Fathers and creeds, as long as they agree with the Bible.

On the other hand, the Episcopal Church believes the Bible contains all the information needed for salvation. The church believes the Holy Spirit inspired the Old and New Testaments, along with the apocryphal books.

Doctrinal Position

Both the Anglican and Episcopal churches have a similar doctrine in that they are somewhere in the middle between Roman Catholicism and Reformed Protestant beliefs. The churches follow the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed.

Both Churches also have three groups of doctrinal practice, including:

  • High church: the services are more formal and closer to a Roman Catholic worship service.
  • Low church: the services are less ritualistic than the high church services.

Salvation Beliefs

Anglicans believe that salvation comes from Jesus Christ alone and everyone in the world is a sinner who needs salvation. Salvation comes through faith in Christ; they also don’t believe that works can make them righteous, but only faith in Christ.

Episcopalians believe in a slightly different version of salvation. They hold that Jesus is their savior and that He redeems them from sin and death. Episcopalians also believe that in spite of their sins, they are made righteous and justified in Christ.


Play the video below to watch how the Anglican and Episcopal Church are in conflict in the United States.

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