An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Character (Sacramental)

The term transliterates the Greek word which literally means an impress or impression, as on a coin or a seal. It is used metaphorically in Heb 1:3 to refer to Christ as having the “exact imprint” of God's very being (hypostasis). Clement of Alexandria, developing the thought of Eph 1:13, speaks of the “shining character of righteousness” imprinted on the soul of the Christian by Christ himself, a quality of life which participates in the Holy Spirit. This idea was amplified by St. Augustine. In medieval scholastic theology baptism was said to confer an indelible character upon those who received it. The BCP states that “The bond which God establishes in Baptism is indissoluble” (p. 298). It is this character, this indissoluble bond, which makes baptism unrepeatable. In the same way, medieval scholastics held that confirmation and ordination conferred indelible character. Contemporary Anglican theology appears to reject this view in the case of Confirmation, recognizing no separate character of Confirmation apart from the baptismal character. Although the Episcopal Church makes no such specific claim about ordination, it acts as though ordination were indelible. One who has abandoned or renounced the ordained ministry, or even been deposed from it, is not reordained if he or she is reinstated. Instead, the person is formally restored to the order already held.

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.