The Rt. Rev. Henry Knox Sherrill (1890-1980) founded the Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF) in 1949 at a time when the Church, much like the country, was growing in numbers and developing centralized, corporate models of governance and administration. A product of his times, yet a visionary and Christ-centered role model, Sherrill was passionate about the mission of the church and a committed leader of the ecumenical movement at both the national and international levels.

Upon his election as Presiding Bishop, Sherrill sought creative ways to access resources to support the mission of the wider church and founded ECF as an independent organization. With the exception of the Presiding Bishop, the Board of Directors was composed of lay persons of national prominence in the Church, business, and state. To this day, ECF maintains this tradition as it lives into its commitment to the ministry of all the baptized and promoting effective lay–clergy partnerships.

Initially, the resources from ECF were used both to build up the infrastructure of the Church and extend its work across the nation and around the world. ECF established a revolving loan fund that assisted with the construction of hundreds of Episcopal churches in the United States and abroad. In addition, through its Fellowship Program, ECF supported students in doctoral programs who planned to teach in Episcopal seminaries. ECF also funded multiple local outreach ministries in all parts of the country. For close to four decades Sherrill’s original vision for ECF would inform and motivate new levels of giving, resulting in significant financial resources for important programs that would otherwise have gone unfunded.

In the late 1980’s ECF transitioned to a more programmatic portfolio. ECF turned over its responsibilities for church building loans to The Episcopal Church Building Fund and focused on new areas of work, including clergy health and wellness which later became the CREDO program now administered and funded by the Church Pension Group (CPG). ECF launched and spun off other initiatives that built a network of individuals, congregations, and dioceses, all dedicated to the support and advance of healthy and strong leadership throughout the Church.

In 1995, ECF inherited primary responsibility for planned giving throughout The Episcopal Church and began a new commitment to stewardship and philanthropy which now also includes consultation and support for endowment management and general fundraising. At the same time ECF developed educational and training events, published Vestry Papers, conducted Church-wide research, and enhanced its growing role in the broad area of leadership development. As the new century emerged and ECF approached its 60th anniversary, it articulated and implemented a renewed mission of supporting Episcopal faith communities in visioning and planning, developing leadership, and raising financial resources for ministry. The original fellows’ grants became the Fellowship Partners Program, Vestry Papers was incorporated in ECF Vital Practices, and the Endowment Management program continued to grow and thrive, now managing over half a billion dollars for hundreds of Episcopal entities.

Over the last ten years, ECF has become a major resource center for the entire Church – creating tools and resources for multicultural, underserved, and underrepresented faith communities, and addressing emerging topics such as racial justice, reproductive rights, and LGBTQ+ issues. More recently ECF has embraced the core values of Inclusive Leadership, Expansive Community, Racial Justice, and Creation Care – striving to incorporate these values into all its program areas and operations.

As ECF celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2024, it continues to discern new ways to meet the needs of an ever-changing Episcopal Church through collaboration, convening, problem solving and experimentation.

Since its founding, ECF has been involved with the following programs and initiatives:

  • Established the Revolving (Church Building) Loan Fund
  • Helped Develop:
  • Sponsored the:
    • Pusey Report on Theological Education
    • Fresh Start Program (including management and archiving)
    • Zacchaeus Project on Episcopal Identity and vocation
    • Search for Coherence
  • Helped to Support and Sponsor the:
  • Launched the Doctoral Fellows Program (now the Fellowship Partners Program)
  • Seeded Listening Hearts and Journey to Adulthood, two major formation programs for adults and children
  • Funded and nurtured Godly Play, a program that enhances the spiritual life of children
  • Strengthened campus ministries through Ministry on the Frontier and CampuSource
  • Created the Cornerstone Project to explore issues of clergy and congregational health and wellness
  • Provided assistance in the development of the CREDO wellness program
  • Began the Emmaus Project to explore new patterns of Episcopal leadership
  • Served as Secretariat for the Global Anglicanism Project (GAP)
  • Piloted the:
    • Barnabas Project to train new clergy and lay leaders
    • Diocesan Vitality Initiative (DVI) partnering with dioceses to identify systemic adaptive processes for revitalization
  • Responded to the Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders pursuant to a Lilly Endowment grant creating the Congregational Leadership Initiative, Diocesan Leadership Initiative, Finance Resource Guide, and Ministerial Excellence grants
  • Forged partnerships to promote vitality assessment and church innovation
  • Designed Pivot, an online learning cohort for underserved communities

Learn about more prior initiatives from ECF.