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Episcopacy refers to the regime of church government by bishops (Lat. episcopus), a form common to Roman Catholic, Orthodox and many Protestant churches, but opposed by those Protestants such as Calvinists, mainly on the grounds that it could not be justified from scripture.

Where episcopacy was the settled rule, or, for that matter, where it was not, doctrinal issues did not arise. It became an issue, however, in denominations where certain groups felt that the Reformation had not gone far enough, particularly in Anglicanism.