An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Glossary of Terms

Augustine of Hippo

(354-Aug. 28, 430). Bishop and theologian, widely regarded as the greatest of the Latin Fathers and one of the major theologians in the history of Christianity. He was born in Tagaste in North Africa and was influenced greatly by his Christian mother, Monica. He studied Manichaeism and Neoplatonism and struggled with his personal morals. In […]


A cupboard or secure receptacle in the side wall of the sanctuary or sacristy. Aumbries traditionally have been used to keep sacred vessels, books, reliquaries, and oils for anointing. Aumbries may also be used for the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament.

Auricular Confession

Verbalized confession of sin by a penitent to another Christian. Absolution may only be pronounced by a bishop or priest. The BCP provides two forms for the Reconciliation of a Penitent (pp. 447-452). See Reconciliation of a Penitent.

Authority, Sources of (in Anglicanism)

The threefold sources of authority in Anglicanism are scripture, tradition, and reason. These three sources uphold and critique each other in a dynamic way. Scripture is the normative source for God's revelation and the source for all Christian teaching and reflection. Tradition passes down from generation to generation the church's ongoing experience of God's presence […]

Autocephalic Churches

“Autocephalic” denotes independence or autonomy. Literally, it is “self-headed.” The autocephalic churches are understood to be the fourteen autocephalic churches of the Byzantine or Eastern Rite which are not in communion with the Church of Rome.


1) Bulletin of the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin in New York City. It was first published in Jan. 1932. 2) Newsletter of the Society of Mary.

Ave Maria

See Annunciation, The.

Ayres, Anne

(Jan. 3, 1816-Feb. 9, 1896). The first American nun in the Anglican tradition. She was born in London and came to the United States when she was twenty years old. She was deeply influenced by William Augustus Muhlenberg. At his Church of the Holy Communion, New York, she made monastic vows on Nov. 1, 1845. […]


Bachelor of Divinity. The degree presupposes a first bachelor's degree and was designed to prepare persons for ministry in the church and synagogue. It has been supplanted by the M.Div. (Master of Divinity).

Baby Bishop

An informal term that refers to a newly ordained bishop. It reflects the assumption that a period of time will be required for the newly ordained bishop to gain experience and grow into the new position.

Bach, Johann Sebastian

(Mar. 21, 1685-July 28, 1750). Dominant figure in the history of church music whose output embraces practically every musical genre of his time except opera. His reputation during his lifetime was earned principally as organ virtuoso and expert in organ construction and design. Bach's musical production falls into three principal categories corresponding to the posts […]

Baldachino (Baldaquin)

A canopy used to cover an altar. It may be made of wood, stone, metal, or fabric. The term is also applied to the canopy over a bishop's throne, a canopy over statues, and the canopy carried in processions such as processions of the Blessed Sacrament. See Blessed Sacrament.

Baldwin, Mary Briscoe

(May 20, 1811-June 1877). Missionary to Greece and Syria. She was born at Belle Grove, Frederick County, Virginia. When she was twenty-four, Baldwin went to Athens, Greece, to teach at the girls' school established by the Rev. and Mrs. John Hill. She was part of the Athens Episcopal Mission School family and its leadership from […]

Baltimore Declaration

A manifesto issued on May 26, 1991, the Feast of the Holy Trinity, by six Episcopal priests in the Diocese of Maryland. It was patterned after the 1934 Barmen Declaration of the Confessing Church in Germany. The Baltimore Declaration charged that the leadership of the Episcopal Church was intent on abandoning the Christian faith. Alvin […]

Banner of the Church

This journal first appeared on Sept. 3, 1831. It was published in Boston, and it represented high church views. Its motto was “In the Name of Our God We will Set Up Our Banner.” It was edited by George Washington Doane and William Croswell. The last issue was published on Nov. 24, 1832. Its subscription […]

Banner of the Cross, The

This weekly publication continued the Protestant Episcopalian and had the Latin motto, Pro Deo, Pro Ecclesia, Pro Hominum Salute, and the English slogan, “Gospel Truth, and Primitive Ecclesiastical Order.” It was published in Philadelphia. It began publication on Jan. 5, 1839. Its last issue was published on Oct. 31, 1861.

Banns of Marriage

Public announcement during a church service of an intended marriage. The Banns are “published” on three occasions to determine if any matrimonial impediments exist. The practice is optional in the Episcopal Church. A form for publishing the Banns of Marriage is provided by the BCP (p. 437).


This is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body, the church. God establishes an indissoluble bond with each person in baptism. God adopts us, making us members of the church and inheritors of the Kingdom of God (BCP, pp. 298, 858). In baptism we are made sharers in the new life […]

Baptism in (of) the Spirit

John the Baptist baptized in water but announced also the coming of a “Strong One” who would baptize with the Holy Spirit (Mk 1:7-8). John focused primarily on the need for repentance and the importance of the future (eschatology). The early Christian community saw the fulfillment of John's promise in the Pentecost event (Acts 1:5). […]

Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry (BEM)

This is Faith and Order Paper No. 111, published by the World Council of Churches in 1982. It is sometimes referred to as the “Lima Report,” since the 1982 meeting of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches was at Lima, Peru. BEM represents what divided Christians can affirm in common […]

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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.