When The Church of England came into existence it was, officially, The Church of England. Anybody  who tried to be a different church in England had to be very quiet about it or they risked being disappeared very quickly and, usually, very painfully. So, although I think it is now time we change this misleading name for ourselves, at least we have an excuse for our original pomposity. The same can not be said for The Church in Wales. When a Convention of the Anglican Church in Wales met in 1920 and adopted the name "The Church in Wales," they were definitely not THE church in Wales. At the time they were no longer even an established church. As for The Church of Ireland they have to have the most ridiculously inaccurate name of any church on the planet (both in Ulster and Ireland).

I am posting about this now because I am having a conversation with Mark at PRELUDIUM about his referring to  his church as "The Episcopal Church" when it is, in fact, officially still The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America (PECUSA). Of course, Mark is merely following current convention. Most Anglicans in the United States refer to their church as The Episcopal Church or T.E.C. But I am suggesting that they stop doing so. They are not the only episcopal church in America and they are not THE episcopal church in the world, not even in the Anglican Communion as there are two other provinces who use the word "episcopal" in their name and all Anglican provinces are episcopal.

Does any of this matter? I think it does. As a non-Romanist Anglo-Catholic I hate it when the Roman Catholic Church refers to itself as just The Catholic Church (or even just The Church). They are not THE catholic church (perhaps none of us are as there is no ONE CHURCH). Members of PECUSA got really pissed off when schismatics recently set up their own denomination in the States and called themselves "The Anglican Church in North America." They are not THE Anglican church in North America. They chose the title to insult their former home and confuse the media into thinking they were an official expression of Anglicanism, which they are not. I can't see how we can get upset about such hijacking of words such as "Anglican," catholic and orthodox, when we were previously guilty, and are still guilty, of choosing the names of our churches with exactly the same sneering propaganda motives in mind.



  1. It does matter and it was rude and unhelpful of the Americans to start using the name “The Episcopal Church”.

    I’m reduced to calling them “The [US Based] Episcopal Church”.

  2. Sigh! Is there no length you guys will go to to
    pick a squabble with this side of the Pond? To avoid offending, to avoid emphasizing the word “Protestant” I suppose we could call it something like “The Having Bishops Offshoot of the C of E in The USA”. Sub title JMA (Just Muddling Along)
    Please delete the second copy of this if it posts x2, can’t figure why that happens, Grandmere M says that Blogger does it to her also.

  3. As a non-roman catholic myself, I agree with your frustration when the RC folk start tossing about Catholic as if they own the thing. They’re not even the first catholic faith, for crying out loud (talk to the Patriarch, not the Pope, for that).

    Would it make you feel better if the Episcopals in the US started calling themselves ‘the Real Anglican Church’ or ‘God’s Chosen people within the Anglican Community (USA)’?

  4. Hey! It doesn’t bother me. But as I use words manipulatively on my blog I know how it is done. I also know how to avoid offending my brothers and sisters in Scotland and I am scrupulous about avoiding using terminology that might offend. But then I don’t believe my country is THE country, so it’s easier for me not to make foolish and arrogant mistakes.

  5. Do you get upset when the Greeks and Russians and Ukrainians and Romanians and Serbs refer to themselves as “The Orthodox Church” instead of “The Greek/Russian/Ukrainian/Serbian Orthodox Church”?
    This is just a hangover from “Apostolicae Curae”; the Orthodox believe just as strongly as do the Catholics that theirs is the only true church. But since there are as many of them in northwest Europe and you didn’t have nearly as many historical and financial problems with them, you let their claims slide.

  6. Well, that’s certainly more imaginative, Susan, and hardly likely to offend anybody else. Perhaps we should use adjectives that have nothing to do with church and contain no implied value. The Orthodox could become The Bearded Church. The Roman Catholics could become The Church of Pizza. Scotland – The Tartan Church. PECUSA could become the Supersize Me Church. And so on.

  7. A most righteous rant, Jonathan, and I entirely agree. Mind you, they have a purely north American baseball competition that they call ‘The World Series’, too, so what can we say?

    Also, they persist in pronouncing it ‘teck’, not even acknowledging that there was a wonderful cursillo-type youth movement called ‘Teens Encounter Christ’ that went by the name ‘TEC’ (pronounced ‘teck’) long before the Protestant Episkies elbowed them out of the use of that title…

  8. There was some nastiness a while back involving William Wantland, which necessitated changing from PECUSA to ECUSA, but maybe that was only in Wisconsin. I don’t remember the details. I blame the spread of “TEC” on SMS, source of most linguistic corruption, IMHO. 😉

  9. I really dislike the use of TEC too. What was wrong with PECUSA, I’ve wondered? When did it become “TEC” anyway? Some Episcopalians don’t like to think of themselves as Protestant apparently. When I started taking courses at an Episcopal seminary this year my fellow students would refer to some point of biblical interpretation (e.g.) as “Protestant.” Being a newbie, I wondered, is there something wrong with being “Protestant”? I get it now. But having been raised in a typical suburban low-church parish, I still think of myself as belonging to the “Protestant” Episcopal Church in the USA. I’m sure someone in your following can explain when and why the name change.

  10. The name mess in the US goes way back. The first corporate entity established was, “The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.” As near as I can tell, and the records of this are far from complete, that entity existed, the corporate taxes were paid so the founders simply used it. At some point, the General Convention adopted the name, “Protestant Episcopal Church USA” which at least was a bit more descriptive. In 2003 Bp. Wantland attempted to move through what he saw as a loophole, and legally file the “PECUSA” name, litigation ensued. We eventually won, but it was a mess.

    That mess caused the legal types to look at the issue of how we are named. Remember our first documents are filed as the foreign and domestic missionary society. Any road, the process of defeating Bp. Wantland (a good guy by the way, whose former admin assistant was a dear friend of his and mine) they found a mess. The church had used all sorts of shorthand, various names, and the like over the years. To clear it all up, GC 2006 passed a legal addendum to all of the incorporation documents adopting The Episcopal Church as an accepted and legal pseudonym for all the other names.
    At the time, the presiding bishop pointed out to Dr. Williams that one advantage was that the initials can be recycled as “The Episcopal Communion” if necessary. I do not think the convention considered the potential insult to the Scots and Sudanese. Typical American arrogance (we get it from the Brits) we did not think of it.
    Several deputies to General Convention read you blog. I suppose one or more of them might introduce yet another resolution changing the one from 2006 to my preferred usage,: TEC-USA.
    The problem is it is not true. Haiti is our most populace diocese, we exist in 15 countries besides Haiti and USA. Which is why the last change did not include USA. In fact on any given Sunday, the most used languages for our services are French and Spanish.
    Incidentally we stole “frozen chosen” from the Presbyterians who use it as a humorous reference to their historic founder, John Knox. It has never been widely used by Episcopalians in the US.

    (himself a bit pedantic I guess)

  11. Yes, JimB’s explanation is the right one. TEC (US-based) has dioceses in 14 other countries, and Haiti is our most populous diocese. As I understand it, the name change had to do with respecting our non-US dioceses. I do think it is unfortunate, as it seems to set us up in opposition to, say, the Scottish Episcopal Church. But that’s the genesis of it. Better suggestions for names that would respect our non-US dioceses while not seeming arrogant to other Anglican provinces?

  12. The TEC thing was just the trigger that got me thinking about this subject. As you will see in the above post I started by emphasising that this use of “names” to big ourselves up is something we are all guilty of. And it is not the word “episcopal” that concerns me (although I can see why some are annoyed with it), it is the word “The.”

  13. TEDAFMS (The episcopalian domestic and foreign missionary society), an international episcopal church. TEDAFMS,AIEC.
    Oh, the initials don’t make a word, so that won’t do.
    Got it – The Multinational Episcopal Church, with No National Distinction.
    TMECWNND – oops, still no word. I give up. And I do understand the actual meaning of this article, that we are all tarred with the same colonialistic brush. Can no one save us from this quandary? (By the way, I refer to church headquarters in NYC as “815, TEC world headquarters” Sigh.)

  14. I don’t think it is a colonialistic thing, Lois. I think it’s about saying “we are the best,” or “we are the one true church,” or “we are right and the rest are wrong.” And I emphasise that I’m talking about all of us, not just TEC. It is the commenters to this podt who have insisted on focussing on TEC, not me. I started with the Welsh and they don’t have a history of colonialism or empire building.

  15. I really doubt we thought we are somehow superior. I suppose however when we when we consider what “the Church of England meant to dying Roman Catholics about 450 years ago, I can see your concern. I think “The Episcopal Church but not to exclude other bishop led churches” is sort of longish.

    I can sort of see the problem, but given that we are using English, I do not see a ready solution.

    And to be fair, we wanted “The” when we were fighting off Bp. Wantland. He has gone over to the dark side ACNA, so that is settled now. The future of course is not so sure. I doubt GC is going to want to tip toe back into that water.

    I agree that the casual, incorrect assumption by Roman Catholics that they own the name “Catholic” and the equally arrogant assumption by American Fundygelicals that they own the word, “Christian” are annoying. In fact, I find the later more jarring than the former.

    Ah well, sometimes I think Babel is alive among us!


  16. Unfortunately, the fact that you didn’t choose such an arrogant name deliberately is a worse condemnation of your attitude than ACNA’s reasons for choosing their name. I am sure The Church in Wales didn’t choose their name to piss off the methodist majority in their land. Both TEC and The Church in Wales did not think about how their name would put down others and that is what is wrong with us. We are oh so careful to not upset women and black people and (increasingly) gay people but we still act patriarchally and chauvinistically in our use of language when we are being little Englanders or little Americanars. The word “methodist” describes a denomination without putting down other denominations. It is perfectly possible to come up with a name for ourselves without claiming a characteristic of the universal church just for ourselves.

  17. Ah, trolls. I still do not have an answer on what the troll itself (since we don’t know if it’s male or female) gets out of these comments. I know what we think, but I don’t know what the troll thinks it gets out of this.

  18. Hmmm. How did I miss this thread earlier?

    Someone once said that the opposite of Catholic is not protestant; it’s heretic. And the opposite of Protestant is not Catholic; it’s papist. I’m not sure if that’s pertinent at all but I was reminded of it just now.

    I’m thinking of that word “the”. When I lived in Virginia, there was a certain snide recognition of young men (it used to be all MEN, of course) who graduated from THE high school (Episcopal High School) and THE university (University of Virginia) and THE seminary (VTS, of course). People poked fun at that attitude and, yet, anyone who accomplished all three was certainly on his way to a bishopric.

    All this probably doesn’t illuminate the conversation here but your post and the various comments reminded me.

    (Again, probably apropos of nothing: I taught at St. Stephen’s School in those days which was just down the road from Episcopal High School and rather in competition with it.)

  19. I think your comments are very pertinent, Ellie. It is known, I’m embarrassed to say, that it is known for staff at Newcastle University to refer to Northumbria University (the former polytechnic) as The Early Learning Centre. They will all, almost certainly, refer to their own academy as THE University.

  20. “The Episcopal Church” was officially adopted as an alternative name to “The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America” at the 1967 General Convention.

    The proferred reasons for it were (1) concern about popular misunderstandings of the word “Protestant” in the U.S. and (2) concern that the term “United States of America” did not accurately reflect the number of countries in which the church was located — which included a number of areas that it does now since several of them have become independent provinces of the Anglican Communion.