Episcopalian and Presbyterian Clergy Unite to Endorse Legislation at Upcoming National Gatherings

Episcopal and Presbyterian leaders sit around a table in the Mercer School of Theology

In a historic initiative, Episcopalians and Presbyterians in New York City and Long Island are forging ahead to explore opportunities for deepened collaboration between their denominations. Known as Episcopalians and Presbyterians in Conversation (EPIC), this joint local effort has brought together clergy from both traditions in a series of reflective gatherings aimed at fostering understanding and dialogue. The momentum gained through these meetings has led to an important moment as they endorse and rally support for the passage of legislation at their respective national meetings this summer: General Convention and General Assembly

The proposed legislation sets forth a framework for a two to four-year exploration of shared ministry initiatives. These could encompass a variety of collaborative ventures, such as clergy sharing, joint Eucharists, and joint Sunday School or youth programs. It also encourages regular occasion for planning and discussion around a shared educational and liturgical life. For Episcopalians, any partnership would require the approval of the diocesan bishop. 

Since its inception in September, EPIC has convened four times, engaging in conversations and worship while examining historic documents and agreements spanning a century. Bishop Bill Franklin, assisting bishop of the Diocese of Long Island, says, “This rich series of conversations has simultaneously deepened our faith and ministries, while reminding us of our unity in Christ. At the upcoming General Convention in Louisville, Episcopalian members of EPIC will be asking our fellow delegates to deepen their curiosity around the fellowship and joy that this shared ministry could bring to our church. We will seek to continue this important dialogue and envision together what a more unified church could look like.” 

EPIC acknowledges the structural challenges ahead while also identifying common ground and opportunities for collaborative work. The Rev. Kate Salisbury, Canon for Christian Education at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Long Island, says, “Parishes, priests, and ministers will need to establish an atmosphere of sincere trust at the outset of any shared ministry. Mechanisms should be set up to continually ensure people have a way to communicate if they feel their faith tradition is being compromised. It may help for congregations to articulate, ahead-of-time, positive reasons they are choosing to participate in interdenominational leadership, and why this is consistent with the mission of their church.” 

Presbyterian minister Rev. Kate Jones Calone agrees, “Joint ministry requires trust and humility. Any agreements on paper must be lived out, and that isn't always easy. Life together in any faith community involves openness, grace, listening, and learning.” 

As they prepare to meet with regional delegates and engage local churches in shared ministries, EPIC remains steadfast in their commitment to fostering unity and understanding. Plans are underway for an Episcopal delegation to visit the Presbyterian national headquarters in Louisville where this summer's General Convention of The Episcopal Church is to be held.  

Fr. Matt Tees, Executive Director of Camp DeWolfe is one of the co-conveners of the group, has a personal connection to the legislation as a former Presbyterian and grandson of a Presbyterian minister. Tees says, "We are on the cusp of a new moment. Through EPIC, we are beginning to reshape the relationship of our two churches and embody the spirit of unity and cooperation that lies at the heart of our faith."