An Episcopalian is a member of the Protestant Episcopal Church - one branch of the Anglican Church or Church of England. Today there are forty million Anglicans throughout the world. They all use the Common Book of Prayer. This religious group has been called the "bridge church" between Roman Catholic and Protestant. It preserves the Catholic sacraments and creeds, but rejects the authority of the Bishop of Rome (the Pope).
The Episcopal Church had its beginning from 1531-1539 when Henry VIII, King of England, resorted to political necessity in order to accomplish and justify his divorce from Catherine, and his subsequent marriage to Ann Boleyn. He had passed the "Act of Supremacy" which made him "the only supreme head in earth of the Church of England." Thus was severed the tie with papal communion, and was established an independent body in England. Henry soon abolished monastic establishments and confiscated their wealth (amounting to 38,000,000 pounds). It was common knowledge that his break with Rome was not prompted by doctrinal reform or differences. Henry VIII in this way became for all practical purposes the "Pope of England." The Thirty Nine Articles of Faith and their Prayer Book govern the church.
Episcopalian clergymen deny that Henry VIII founded the Episcopalian Church. They simply affirm that it was during his time that "freedom of the English Church from the authority of the Bishop of Rome was achieved, " and that then was ended a long period of protest and agitation against the Roman pope's usurpations of authority.
The ecclesiastical connections between the Church of England and the English colonists in the new world were broken during the War of Revolution and the Church of England in the colonies became known as the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States. The word 'Episcopal' comes from the Greek 'episcopos,' meaning overseer.
Rosten, Leo. Religions of America. Article: What Is An Episcopalian? by Nornman Pettinger, p. 48-49
Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia. Vol. 1, p. 726.
Rosten, op. cit.