Diocese of Olympia
St. Paul’s is a part of the Diocese of Olympia, consisting of over 31,000 people worshiping in over 100 communities of faith. The Episcopal Church in Western Washington traces its history to the establishment of the Missionary Jurisdiction of the Oregon and Washington Territories in 1853. Admitted by General Convention in 1910, the Diocese of Olympia is made up of more than 31,000 Episcopalians in 106 faith communities in Western Washington. Our geographic area stretches south from Canada to Oregon and west from the foothills of the Cascade Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.
The Rt. Rev. Gregory H. Rickel was elected bishop on May 12, 2007 and became the eighth Bishop of Olympia in September 2007. He embraces radical hospitality that welcomes all, no matter where they find themselves on their journey of faith. He envisions a church that is a safe and authentic community in which to explore God’s infinite goodness and grace as revealed in the life and continuing revelation of Jesus Christ.
The Diocese of Olympia is one of 100 dioceses in the 2.4 million-member Episcopal Church, one of 38 provinces in the 77 million-member Anglican Communion, which spans 164 countries worldwide.
St. Paul’s Church is a parish in the Diocese of Olympia, a part of the Episcopal Church, which in turn is affiliated with the worldwide Anglican Communion. The Episcopal Church came into existence in 1789 after the American Revolution as an independent branch of the Church of England. It was and is a church rooted in the Holy Catholic Church and profoundly influenced by the religious Reformation of the 16th Century.
Today the Episcopal Church has between 2 million and 3 million members in the United States, Mexico, and Central America. The Most Reverend Michael Curry is Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, with The Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, also known as Washington National Cathedral, functioning as the Presiding Bishop’s seat.
The mission of the Episcopal Church is “to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.” In terms of beliefs, the Episcopal Church subscribes to the historic Creeds (Nicene and Apostles), considers the Bible to be divinely inspired, holds the Eucharist to be the central act of Christian worship and considers baptism to be the way that people become full members of the Christian Church. Episcopal and Anglican theology depends on scripture, tradition, and reason, in perpetual dialogue with one another.
The Episcopal Church grants great latitude in the interpretation of doctrine. In that the church is a liturgical church which sees worship at the center of its identity, it tends to stress the use of the Book of Common Prayer in public worship over the confession of particular beliefs. The Book of Common Prayer, first published in the sixteenth century and last revised in 1979, stands today as a major source of unity for Anglicans around the world.
The Most Reverend Justin Welby serves as the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury and the leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The Anglican Communion is comprised of 38 provinces in communion with the See of Canterbury, a total of about 70 million members throughout the world.
Anglicanism grew out of the unique historical circumstances of late 16th and 17th century England, which was marked by a powerful sense of national identity and whose populace was split between Roman Catholics and Protestants. Long before the Protestant Reformation, the English church was notorious for its sense of independence. Finally severed from Rome under Henry VIII, the Anglican Church took shape theologically under Henry’s three children: Edward VI, a firm Protestant who reigned for six years, long enough to institute the first Book of Common Prayer, a decidedly Protestant document; Mary I, a devout Roman Catholic who reigned for five years, long enough to reinstate certain Catholic practices that Edward had proscribed; and finally the pragmatic Elizabeth, who in her forty-year reign labored brilliantly to forge not only a society but an established church that was broad enough to include all but the most extreme Catholics and Protestants.
The result was and is a church of astonishing theological breadth. But it is not breadth in a lax, anything-goes sense. The Anglican Church, when truest to its own theological traditions, views the mind not as a potential instrument of the devil but as a gift from God. And it takes seriously the idea of the community of faith as the context within which people from different backgrounds and with varying perspectives can openly share their experiences of God, can attend to one another in a spirit of love, and can thereby gain insights that may help every member of the community to move somewhat closer to God’s truth. (From Stealing Jesus by Bruce Bawer)