Christianity is the world’s largest religion, with upwards of 2 billion followers on every continent. It is based on the teachings of Jesus Christ who lived in the Holy Land 2,000 years ago. Anglicanism is one of the traditions, or expressions, of this Christian faith. Other Christian traditions include Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Protestant Churches, which include Lutheran, Baptist, and Pentecostal Churches. The word Anglican originates in ecclesia anglicana, a medieval Latin phrase dating to at least 1246 that means the English Church, but in the past two centuries the tradition has been adopted around the world. Now 85 million members are part of national or regional Churches that call themselves Anglican (or Episcopal in some countries) which collectively are known as the Anglican Communion. Anglicans and Episcopalians the world over share aspects of their history, tradition and ways of worshipping.
The Episcopal Church is a province of the Anglican Communion. A conference of three clergy and twenty-four lay delegates met at Chestertown, Maryland in 1780 and resolved that “the Church formerly known in the Province as the Church of England should now be called the Protestant Episcopal Church.” In 1783, the Maryland clergy met at Annapolis and adopted the name “Protestant Episcopal Church.” At the 1789 General Convention, a Constitution of nine articles was adopted. William White was one of the chief architects of the new church. He was Presiding Bishop in 1789, and from 1795 until his death in 1836. White had previously served as chaplain to the Continental and Constitutional Congresses and the United States Senate from 1777 to 1801. The new church was called the “Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America.” 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 church 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 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 Episcopal Church in West Tennessee invites all people, as God’s beloved, into communities of Christian faith, love, and service. The Episcopal Church in West Tennessee is a welcoming community of believers with many voices, yet one faith in Jesus Christ, united in the Book of Common Prayer, nurtured by the sacraments and empowered by the Word of God for our ministry in the world. The Diocese of West Tennessee has six priorities: 1) Know and proclaim our identity as Christians, building on common foundations that shape us as Episcopalians; 2) Honor diverse expressions of our common mission; 3) Promote the understanding that each parish and mission is the Diocese serving in their community; 4) Identify, develop and sustain lay and clergy leaders; 5) Build and strengthen relationships through communication and collaboration; and 6) Invite and include all people into community where all may be transformed by the Gospel.
The Book of Common Prayer is the official book of worship of the Episcopal Church. The BCP provides liturgical forms, prayers, and instructions so that all members and orders of the Episcopal Church may appropriately share in common worship. Anglican liturgical piety has been rooted in the Prayer Book tradition since the publication of the first English Prayer Book in 1549. The first American BCP was ratified by the first General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 1789. It was based on the Proposed Book of 1786, and the 1662 English Book of Common Prayer, as well as the Scottish eucharistic rite of 1764. The BCP is ratified by General Convention, with alterations or additions requiring the approval of two successive General Conventions. The process of Prayer Book revision led to publication of editions of the BCP for the Episcopal Church in 1789, 1892, 1928, and 1979. The BCP notes that “The Holy Eucharist, the principal act of Christian worship on the Lord’s Day and other major Feasts, and Daily Morning and Evening Prayer, as set forth in this Book, are the regular services appointed for public worship in this Church.”
A lectionary is a collection of readings or selections from the Scriptures, arranged and intended for proclamation during the worship of the people of God. Lectionaries were known and used in the fourth century, where major churches arranged the Scripture readings according to a schedule which follows the calendar of the church’s year. This practice of assigning particular readings to each Sunday and festival has continued through the history of the Christian Church. The Revised Common Lectionary is the work of two ecumenical bodies who provide resources for the churches that send representatives to them, namely, the North American Consultation on Common Texts and, later, the International English Language Liturgical Consultation. Responding to widespread interest in the Roman Lectionary for Mass of 1969, many North American churches undertook adaptations and revisions of it for their own use during the 1970s. Consultation on Common Texts produced a harmonization and reworking of these in 1983 on a trial basis and then revised that for publication in 1992 as the Revised Common Lectionary.
Participation in the Daily Office is an essential part of Anglican spirituality. The Daily Office is the proper form of daily public worship in the church. The reading of Holy Scripture has served as a foundation for the Daily Office since its creation. After the Anglican Reformation, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s revision of the Daily Office for the first English language Prayer Book in 1549 reduced the many monastic offices to two, one for morning and one for evening. These services were printed in vernacular English and intended for use by all members of the church. The principle function of Morning Prayer is the worship of God at daybreak. At Evening Prayer, we gather to offer praise and thanks to God for the day that is past.
The mission of the Christian Classics Ethereal Library is to build up the church by making classic Christian literature widely available and promoting its use for edification and study by interested Christians, seekers, and scholars. The Christian Classics Ethereal Library accomplishes this by selecting, collecting, distributing, and promoting valuable literature through the World Wide Web and other media. The values guiding the collection and activities of the Christian Classics Ethereal Library include selectivity, orthodoxy, ecumenicity, community,efficacy, efficiency, and sustainability.