The Episcopal Church is one of 38 self-governing churches or provinces in the world-wide Anglican Communion. Located in 160 countries on five continents, the churches are linked by their proclamation of the catholic and apostolic faith; their grounding in scripture, tradition and reason; their common liturgical tradition derived from The Book of Common Prayer; their recognition of the Eucharist as the central act of worship; and through their historic ties to the Archbishop of Canterbury, primate of the Church of England and spiritual leader of the 70-million member communion. The present Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. and Rt. Hon. Rowan Williams, was nominated archbishop by Queen Elizabeth II in July 2002 and enthroned in February 2003.
The basic unit of organization in the Episcopal Church is the diocese, a geographic group of at least six parishes under the leadership of a bishop. The Episcopal Church comprises 100 domestic dioceses and 13 overseas dioceses, most of which are in Central and South America. Massachusetts is the largest with over 91,000 members, while the smallest, in the United States, is Eau Claire (Wis.) numbering just over 2,500. The total number of congregations stands at 7,305, while the church's total membership numbers 2.3 million. Incarnation is a member of the Diocese of Chicago led by Bishop Jeffrey Lee.
The Episcopal Church recognizes three orders of ordained ministers: bishops, priests, and deacons. There are 162 active bishops in the church, serving as diocesan, coadjutor, assistant and suffragan bishops, and over 150 retired bishops. There are around 14,000 priests and 1,700 deacons.
The General Convention is believed to be the largest bicameral legislative body in the world, numbering over 900 deputies and 300 bishops. It meets every three years to approve the church's program and budget; address resolutions and legislation affecting the church's faith and order, and its position on issues before the church and wider society; and, if necessary, elect a presiding bishop. The House of Deputies meets only during General Convention, while the House of Bishops meets twice a year, though it cannot enact legislation during these interim meetings.
The House of Deputies consists of four lay and four clerical deputies from each diocese of the church. All bishops, active and retired, make up the House of Bishops. Other Anglican bishops can be admitted to non-voting membership in the House of Bishops. Legislation and resolutions can be introduced in either house, but both houses must concur for the measures to take effect. The General Convention next meets in Denver in July 2000.
The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, previously Bishop of Nevada, is the 26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. She is chief pastor to the Episcopal Church's 2.4 million members in 16 countries and 110 dioceses, ecumenical officer, and primate, joining leaders of the other 38 Anglican Provinces in consultation for global good and reconciliation. Jefferts Schori was elected at the 75th General Convention on June 18, 2006, and invested at Washington National Cathedral on November 4, 2006.
The presiding bishop serves as the chief pastor and primate of the church, president of the House of Bishops, president of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, and president and chair of the Executive Council. The House of Bishops elects the presiding bishop, whose election must then be confirmed by the House of Deputies. Presiding bishop's duties include:
Initiating and developing the policy and strategy of the church Representing the church and the episcopate to the world Providing Episcopal ministry in dioceses without bishops Convening meetings of bishops Serving as chief consecrator at ordinations of bishops Visiting all dioceses of the church Reporting annually to the church through the General Convention The presiding bishop is assisted by a staff of over 200 at the Episcopal Church Center, 815 Second Ave., New York City. The church also operates field offices in Washington, DC, (Governmental Relations Office, Jubilee Ministries), Oklahoma City (Multicultural Ministries), Richmond, Va. (Office of Pastoral Development), Chapel Hill, N.C. (General Board of Examining Chaplains), and Paris (American Convocation of Churches in Europe).