The word is derived from the Greek kanon, a “measuring rod or rule.” It has several different meanings in the church. 1) [Scripture] The canon of scripture is the list of inspired books recognized by the church to constitute the Holy Scriptures. 2) [Church Law] Canons are the written rules that provide a code of laws for the governance of the church. The canons of the Episcopal Church are enacted by the General Convention. Canons of the Episcopal Church may only be enacted, amended, or repealed by concurrent resolution of the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops at General Convention. The canons of the Episcopal Church are organized by titles or sections concerning Organization and Administration, Worship, Ministry, Ecclesiastical Discipline, and General Provisions. 3) [Ecclesiastical Title] A canon may be a member of the clergy on the staff of a cathedral or diocese. A canon on a cathedral staff assists the dean, and a canon on a diocesan staff assists the bishop. Members of the clergy and laity have at times been made honorary canons of a cathedral in recognition of significant service or achievement. Historically, canons were secular clergy who were connected to a cathedral or collegiate church, sharing the revenues and a common rule of life at the church. 4) [Liturgy] The canon designates the fixed portion of the Great Thanksgiving or the prayer of consecration at the Holy Eucharist, including the institution narrative. The canon does not vary with the liturgical season. 5) [Church Music] A musical composition, with a note-for-note imitation of one melodic line by another that begins one or more notes later than the first, also known as a round. The Hymnal 1982 includes a section of rounds and canons (Hymns 710-715).
Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.