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Episcopal Church Fast Facts

By CNN Library
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1719 GMT (0119 HKT)

(CNN) -- Here's a look at what you need to know about the Episcopal Church, which has been a self-governing autonomous body since 1785. The United States Episcopal Church has approximately 1.9 million members.

Other Facts:
The Anglican Church originated when King Henry VIII split from the Roman Catholic Church in 1534, when the pope refused to grant the king an annulment.

The Anglican Communion is made up of 38 independent churches, of which the U.S. Episcopal Church is one.

The Anglican Communion represents over 85 million people in over 165 countries.

More than half of the members of the Anglican Communion live in Africa.

The churches of the Anglican Communion are bound together by similar liturgies based on the English Book of Common Prayer.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is viewed as the spiritual leader of the Anglican Community, but is not viewed as being the "pope" of the Anglican Communion. The Archbishop cannot reverse decisions made by a national church.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is the head of the Church of England, which is the largest denomination in Britain. Four in ten in England consider themselves as members of the church.

Timeline:
August 5, 2003 - The Episcopal Church USA, at its meeting for its General Convention in Minneapolis, votes to ordain openly gay Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire.

August 8, 2003 - The Archbishop of Canterbury invites 38 church leaders to the October 2003 Primates meeting in response to the "recent General Convention of the Episcopal Church USA and events in Canada and England."

October 7, 2003 - Over 2,000 clergy and parishioners meet in Plano, Texas, to consider splitting from the Episcopal Church USA.

October 15-16, 2003 - The leaders of the Anglican Episcopal Church meet in London to discuss the Episcopal Church USA's vote to ordain an openly homosexual bishop.

October 17, 2003 - The U.S. Episcopal Church will risk a break with the Anglican Church if it allows the consecration of an openly gay bishop in its New Hampshire diocese, says the president of the American Anglican Church. Rev. Canon David Anderson said the diocese's decision to go forward with the consecration - after Anglican primates released a statement saying they "deeply regret" such an action - was unfortunate.

November 2, 2003 - Rev. Canon Gene Robinson is consecrated as a bishop.

January 20, 2004 - A group of dissident Episcopal church members meeting in Texas approve a charter for a new protest organization challenging the authority of the Episcopal Church. The aim of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes is "to stand within the (Episcopal) constitution and reclaim the Episcopal Church," the group's leader says. Under the charter, organizers said bishops would have the authority to "minister" and provide sacraments to any parish in the United States without the permission of the presiding bishop, something which is normally required.

March 7, 2004 - Robinson officially takes over as Bishop of New Hampshire, with his investiture ceremony.

October 18, 2004 - An Anglican church commission calls on the U.S. Episcopal Church to apologize and refrain from promoting clergy living in a same-sex union.

February 20-25, 2005 - The Anglican Communion's primates meet in Newry, Northern Ireland. On February 24th, they issue a statement asking the Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada to withdraw from the Anglican Consultative Council, a key governing body, until the Lambeth Conference in 2008.

June 21, 2006 - During its convention in Columbus, Ohio, the Episcopal Church approves a resolution calling on church leaders involved in picking bishops "to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate ... whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion."

November 4, 2006 - The Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Bishop of Nevada, is installed as presiding bishop, elected to a nine-year term, becoming the first female to head the Episcopal church nationwide.

December 17, 2006 - Eight conservative Episcopal congregations in Virginia announce their plans to leave the US Episcopal Church.

December 3, 2008 - At a meeting in Wheaton, Illinois, leaders of the new Anglican Church in North America announce they have formed a new province and drafted a new constitution for their church. The new church will have about 100,000 members.

May 15, 2010 - Mary Glasspool is consecrated as a suffragan bishop, the second openly gay person to be ordained as a bishop in the Episcopal church.

July 11, 2012 - The Episcopal Church approves same-sex blessing service called "The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant." The church becomes the largest U.S. denomination to officially approve same-sex relationships.

November 9, 2012 - Bishop Justin Welby, a former oil executive, is confirmed as the next archbishop of Canterbury. He is considered an outspoken critic of the excesses of capitalism, a supporter of women bishops and an opponent of gay marriage.

March 21, 2013 - Bishop Welby is enthroned as the 105th archbishop of Canterbury.

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