The Episcopal Church or the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America is the American Church of the Anglican Communion. It includes dioceses in the United States, the US Virgin Islands, Haiti, Taiwan, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Honduras, and has an extra-provincial relationship with the dioceses of Puerto Rico and Venezuela. It is sometimes known as the Episcopal Church in the USA, abbreviated ECUSA.
The Episcopal Church was founded in the late 18th Century after the American colonies proclaimed independence from Great Britain. Prior to the American Revolutionary War, the Episcopal Church was part of the Church of England, whose clergy are required to accept the supremacy of the British monarch. When the clergy of Connecticut elected Samuel Seabury as their bishop, he sought consecration in England. The oath of supremacy proved too difficult a problem, however, and he came to Scotland, where the Scottish bishops (at the time being persecuted by the state) consecrated him in Aberdeen on November 14, 1784, the first Anglican bishop outside the British Isles.
The American bishops thus descend in the Apostolic succession from the bishops of Scotland, and to this day the nine crosses which symbolise the nine provinces in the arms of the American Episcopal Church form a St Andrew's cross, commemorating the Scottish link. In Scotland, the Episcopal Church is so known because unlike the national state Church of Scotland (which is Presbyterian, i.e. governed by Elders), it is governed by bishops (in Latin episcopi). The word "Anglican" comes from the Latin word Anglicana which literally means English.
Other than the name difference the national churches are roughly the same, however the different groups (i.e. High Church, Broad Church, & Low Church) within the national branches of the Church may be proportionally different in numbers. Like many other Anglican churches, it has entered into a full communion relationship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
In the United States the Church has a membership of approximately 3 million, and has had such notable members as more than a quarter of all presidents of the United States and Supreme Court chief justices as well as roughly half of the members of Congress and Supreme Court associate justices.
The full incorporated name of the denomination in the United States is "The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America," but this name is not used to refer to the church as an ecclesiastical whole.
In 2003, the Church was embroiled in a controversy over the confimation of its first openly homosexual bishop, the Rev. Canon Gene Robinson. This controversy is threatening to tear the Episcopal Church apart.