An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Church, The

The community of faith headed by Christ, the body of Christ in the world (see 1 Cor 12:12-27; Eph 1:22-23, 4:12, 5:29-30). Baptism is full initiation into the church, and all baptized persons are members of the church (BCP, pp. 299, 854). The church is the community of the New Covenant, the People of God, the New Israel, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, a holy nation, a royal priesthood, and the pillar and ground of truth (see BCP, p. 854). The church is described in the Nicene Creed as one, holy, catholic, and apostolic (see BCP, pp. 358-359). It is described as one because it is one body headed by Christ; holy because the Holy Spirit dwells in it, consecrating and guiding the members of the church; catholic because the church proclaims the whole Christian faith to all people, to the end of time; and apostolic because it continues in the teaching and fellowship of the apostles, and it is sent to fulfill Christ's mission to all people (BCP, p. 854). We believe that Christ's presence is available in the life and sacraments of the church for our salvation, even though the church does not yet embody or represent Christ in a perfect way, and the four characteristics or "marks" of the church have not yet been perfectly realized. The fallibility of the church was recognized in Anglicanism by the Thirty-Nine Articles in the sixteenth century (see Articles XIX and XXI, BCP, pp. 871, 872).

The Episcopal theologian William Porcher DuBose noted that Christ in the NT frequently means humanity in Christ or humanity in the church, as Adam in the NT frequently means humanity or the human race. Christ is the head of the church, and we are to share Christ's salvation in and through the church. We are to be one in Christ and one with each other in Christ through the church. The mission of the church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other. The church pursues its mission through prayer and worship, proclaiming the gospel, and promoting justice, peace, and love. The church completes its mission through the ministry of all its members (BCP, p. 855).

The term "church" is from Greek words kyriakon, "belonging to the Lord," and ekklesia, "assembly." Church can also indicate a particular church body or denomination, such as the Episcopal Church; or a particular congregation or parish; or the building or place where a congregation gathers. The Hymnal 1982 provides sections of hymns for "The Church" (Hymns 517-527) and "The Church's Mission" (Hymns 528-544), including "The Church's one foundation" (Hymn 525), "Let saints on earth in concert sing" (Hymn 526), and "Spread, O spread, thou mighty word" (Hymn 530).

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.