* Membership: 2.3 million.

* Churches: 7,305 parishes.

* Structure: 112 dioceses headed by bishops, grouped regionally into nine provinces.

* Hierarchy: The top elected figure is Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold, elected in 1997 to a nine-year term.

* Governance: The church gathers every three years -- the last time in 2003 -- to set policy and doctrine. The General Convention is divided between a 301-member House of Bishops and an 800-member House of Deputies consisting of clergy and lay members.

* History: The Episcopal Church is the autonomous U.S. branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion, whose spiritual leader is the archbishop of Canterbury. Episcopalians arrived in North America in 1607 at the Jamestown settlement and weathered the American Revolution to emerge as the Protestant Episcopal Church. Episcopalians held their first General Convention in 1785.


* Membership: Approximately 77 million.

* Provinces: 38 autonomous churches in 164 countries. Each church has a presiding bishop or archbishop, also called a primate.

* Hierarchy: The archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is the de facto head of the Anglican Communion, although he is considered only the first among equals.

* Governance: The primates and bishops of the Anglican Communion gather once every 10 years -- the last time in 1998 -- at the Lambeth Conference for consultation and to offer guidance on issues facing the church. It does not have legislative authority. The primates also gather annually for discussion.

* History: The Anglican Communion has its roots in the Church of England, which was formed in 1534 when King Henry VIII split the church from Rome because the pope refused to grant him a divorce. Anglicanism expanded along with the British Empire and as the result of missionary efforts elsewhere, eventually developing into autonomous provinces.